Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Get 2 large ziplock storage bags -- put the following information in one bag and then put that bag into the other bag incase the first one gets punctured and wet. Put a photo of yourself in the bag. List your full legal name, date of birth, social security number, full home address and phone number. List people that you want contacted in case of an emergency along with their full name, date of birth, Driver's License Number, address, and phone number. Be sure to include cell phone numbers and employer's information if you have that too. If everyone is evacuated in case of a hurricane, many people will not be at their home phone number or address. If you include additional information about them, perhaps the police can locate them if they have been evacuated too. If you know people that live out of state, be sure to list them too. Be sure to let your friends and family know that you are listing an out of state person that will be your contact in case you have to evacuate and then everyone can call that person and find out where everyone has been moved to. Be sure to inclue a list of all your doctors and their phone numbers and addresses. Also, list all prescriptions you are taking along with the dose and how often you take the pills. Also, list all your medical conditions as specifically as possible. If you know your blood type include that too. Include anything that you think a doctor might need to know about you if you were unconscious and about to die. If you have a power of attorney for health care, directive to physican include copies of those documents in the ziplock storage bag. Why? Say you are unconscious and taken to a hospital. If you have all of this information, it could literally save your life. In a hurricane, most electricity will not be working. Therefore, many doctors will not be able to be located because of equipment failure or they have also been evacuated. Say you are taking a blood thinner and you are bleeding severely from an injury, the staff at any hospital needs to know what medications you are on so that they can save your life. Have this information in one or two ziplock storage bags and have it close to your body -- not in a suitcase or your purse. If you are really effecient, take this information and have it sealed in plastic so that it is permanent and cannot be damaged. A little bit of work now could save your life later!
If you have a special need and might need help in case of a hurricane or flooding, please call 211 It is free! If you register and there is a disaster (man-made or natural) in your area, the emergency management offices will be notified of your address and that you will need help to leave the area. If you are in a wheelchair, have difficulty walking, etc. and you do NOT have transportation that can you have access to in an emergency, please call 211 and register. It is easy and free.
The Houston Bar Association's Elder Law Committee (I'm a member) is sponsoring a free will-a-thon open to all Harris County low-income seniors (over the age of 60) who wish to have a simple will prepared. You must call the number beginning Monday, March 3, 2008 until Monday, March 31, 2008, between the hours of 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. 713-228-0735 Actual Will preparation dates are April 17 and May 8. Location: Third Ward Multi-Purpose Center located at 3611 Ennis, Suite 118, Houston, Texas. If you need documents like a power of attorney for health care or a living will, the volunteers are also doing those documents too. FREE IF YOU ARE LOWINCOME AND OVER 60!
In the January/February 2008 magazine of WOMEN IN BUSINESS (a publication of the American Business Women's Association) I just learned of a new book -- The Power of Nice by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval. They have major points: 1. Positive impressions are like seeds - they grow. 2. You never know how a small act of kindness can reward you many times over. 3. People change - You need to be nice to everyone you meet -- plumbers, security guard, cleaning person and NOT just your superiors and peers. The cabdriver today maybe a wealthy businessman in the future and he might use your services if you were nice to him when no one else was! 4. Nice must be automatic - faking nice won't work. It must be an automatic response in order to be sincere. 5. Negative impressions are like germs. You might not see the immediate impact of your negativity but it might fester and grow into something really nasty. 6. You will know -- Niceness is a powerful force and it can literally take on a life of its own. Random acts of kindness spread and grow. You will be repaid many times over for your random acts of kindness. We should all do 5 nice things each day. Such as say thank you, ask your friends about their lives, donate money to charity, compliment a stranger. See how good you feel! Model yourself after the kind of person you admire. Be the person you admire. When I was a kid my dad had a plaque that said -- IT'S NICE TO BE IMPORTANT BUT IT'S MORE IMPORTANT TO BE NICE. I still have that plaque. It seems that my dad was way ahead of his time!
Sunday, January 27, 2008
There is an old joke at the family courthouse -- RAIDS is rampent in the family courts -- RECENTLY ACQUIRED INCOME DEFECIENCY SYNDROME! If you are a doctor and you decide to quit practicing and go to school or just be a grocery stocker, the courts are NOT going to be sympathetic. You have the ABILITY to learn more than minimum wage. Yes, education is wonderful but your children need to eat. They cannot wait 2-3 years until you graduate from school and begin a new career. Is it fair? No, but you brought these children into the world and it is not fair for taxpayers money to support them!
If you were ordered to pay child support and you've permanently lost your job or for some reason you can no longer work, you need to modify your current child support order. Say you were ordered to pay $1,000 per month and you are a nurse. You are in an accident and you lose your hand and can no longer ever be a nurse again. Then you need to go to court and get a signed order lowering your child support. Until you modify, the $1,000 is owed each month. It is your burden to find the money to modify the amount. You must prove that you are not purposely under-employed or just temporarily unemployed.
Yes, past due child support will appear on your credit report. You will never be able to purchase a home or a new vehicle. What can you do? Nothing. It is a valid debt that you are ignoring and you need to pay it. Also, at 6% (it used to be 12%!!) interest on past due child support, you are looking at the debt growing and growing. Soon you will be paying interest on interest.
I strongly urge divorcing parents to take out a term life insurance policy in case they die while the children are still minors. If you die, the entire future child support that you would have paid, comes due immediately. If you remarry, your new spouse and children, comes AFTER your first born children. Please take out a separate term life insurance policy to cover any unpaid child support and protect your new family! For example, if your first child is 3 and you pay $1,000 per month, your estate will owe $180,000 if you die.
Child support is NOT dischargeable. You cannot discharge it in a bankruptcy. After all the children turn over 18 or graduate from high school, you can no longer be jailed! However, you still owe the money. You owe the money to the person you were ordered to pay -- NOT the child. You might eventually use your driver's license and passport. If you receive Social Security, it will be withheld from that. If you die, your estate owes it. It is the debt that never goes away.
The older children come first. You knew that you already had children when the new babies were born. You receive a reduction in the percentage of child support for each new baby that is born. However, it is not much!
Even if you don't work, you will be ordered to pay child support for your minor children. If you have no skills, then you will be ordered to pay minimum wage at 40 hours per week. If you only work 20 hours per week, your child support will still be figured at 40 hours. Why? Because the judges are elected in Texas. Taxpayers are tired of their tax dollars going to support your minor children. Judges don't care if you stay home. However, you are going to be required to support your minor children!
My first question is - which Supreme Court -- the US or Texas? This usually pisses them off! When I hear this or "IT'S THE PRINCIPLE OF THE THING!" I immediately see dollar signs! "The principle of the thing" usually means that the person won't settle no matter how reasonable. It means that we are going to trial. Therefore, I anticipate these clients are going to use a lot of my time and energy. Trials to the Judge usually start at $10,000 - up. Jury trials normally start around $20,000 - up. Losing at the trial court requires transcriptions and appealing. This is going to start running into more money -- anticipate $10,000 - up. I don't handle appeals but I know several attorneys that I refer these people to for assistance. Appellate work is totally different from trial work! Then if you lose at the appealate level, you are looking at more money to appear to the TX Supreme Court. Then you can appeal to the US Supreme Court. Recognize that they only takes a very small number of cases each year. Again, thousands of more dollars. Therefore, when I hear "I'll take this to the Supreme Court" or "it's the principle of the thing" -- I send them to someone else. Most people want to fight but they are unwilling to pay the huge legal bills involved.
The Texas Legislature eliminated alienation of affection years ago. So if your spouse is having an affair and you want to sue that person, tough luck! You can have them testify in court but getting money out of them for taking your spouse away, won't work in Texas.
In my divorce petitions, I usually use the Texas No Fault grounds -- we don't get along and there is no chance that we are going to reconcile. Why? Because it is a public record. Because your kids might decide to read your divorce file when they grow up. Because "grounds" only are used in the property division part of the divorce in Texas. Because to prove the nasty grounds -- like adultery, is more difficult that most people realize. If there is no money and nothing to divide, why include it if it won't get you anywhere.
This week I received a fax from an attorney I know setting a hearing for a client that was firing me and hiring her! I immediately picked up the phone and called her. I said just send over the forms and I'll sign everything so that the hearing won't be necessary. Also, once she's the attorney of record, I need to send her all the documents in my file so that she can be on-top of the case. Of course, I did not tell her that he owes me money and has not followed the terms of our Legal Services Agreement! He only made one payment and he's missed 2-3 monthly payments. I was getting ready to withdraw from his case due to his lack of paying and lack of returning my phone calls! My Legal Services Agreement clearly states that a client can file me at any time and I will withdraw at any time they are unhappy with my representation. Of course, my contact also includes that I can file a client at any time they refuse to honor their promise to me to make their monthly payments or they refuse to respond to my letters or phone calls. Obviously the client is unhappy for some reason (since he has not talked to me I don't know the reason) but I never try to hold onto a client that wants to use another attorney. I don't have this happen often but when it happens I try to make the transition as smooth as possible. In this case, I've known the new attorney for years and I like her very much. We have always had a very cordial relationship at the courthouse. We have always been able to work together on cases where we are opposing counsel. I want her to have everything she needs in order to finish this case. If you are not happy with your attorney, contact him/her. Let her/him know why. Perhaps there is an explanation. With everyone using cell phones, perhaps he tried to call me and he thought he left me a message but I did not receive it. That is why I try to call someone (or email someone) and if I don't hear from them I follow up with a written letter. I don't just email or voice mail. Sometimes there are "gremlins" tinkering with our technology!
You must be truthful with any attorney you are considering hiring. We have all done "silly" or "stupid" stuff in our lives. No attorney likes to be in the courtroom and learn of the true facts of the case! Hire an attorney that you feel you can communicate with openly and honestly. Also, if your attorney intimidates you -- you have the wrong attorney! I've had several people come to my office after getting a divorce with another Houston attorney and pay me money to explain their divorce decree. They did not understand the legal document when their attorney tried to explain it to them. Or, they felt too intimidated to talk to the attorney that they were paying their hard earning money! Then they find me and pay me for an hour of my time to go over everything with them. I'm glad to do it but it seems very sad to me that people spend their money then end up coming to me to hear it explained in simple English! I try very hard to explain difficult concepts in simple terms. After I graduated from law school, I had to force myself to use everyday terms instead of the $10 words I'd learned in law school!
As a lawyer, my response is -- Whenever you have a question even remotely legal in nature! Don't trust your friends or family! Did they go to law school? If not, how can you trust your answer. My plumber loves people that try to fix their own plumbing! He and I came to an agreement - I won't try to fix my plumbing and he won't practice TX Family Law! If you have some paperwork (say closing papers for the first house you have ever purchased) and you don't understand it -- talk to a professional! Their fee will be worth your peace of mind!
Americans with old analog t.v.s which receive signals by antenna, must switch to digital by February 17, 2009! Subscribers to cable or satellite service should ask their providers if they need special equipment for digital reception. If you have an old analog t.v. a convert box will change digital signals back to analog. The boxes will cost from approx. $50 - $75. Beginning January 1, 2008, each American household may request up to two (2) $40 coupons, to apply toward the purchase of the boxes. Go to www.dtv.gov or call 1-800-225-5322. Good luck!
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
To learn more about elder abuse or services available to elderly adults, the State of Texas has TEXAS DEPARMENT OF FAMILY & PROTECTIVE SERVICES, If you feel your situation is an emergency, please contact 911 or your local emergency hotline. To report elderly abuse or neglect, call 1-800-252-5400. For situations that do not require a response within 24 hours you may report through our secure web site: https://www.txabusehotline.org
Saturday, January 5, 2008
Common Law marriages are actually called informal marriage in the State of Texas. The Texas Family Code is available on-line. Section 2.401 covers informal marriages or common law marriages in Texas. Remember: You have 2 years from the time you separate to file for divorce and easily claim a common law marriage existed. After 2 years, it is rebutably presumed that the parties did NOT enter into an agreement to be married.
Thursday, January 3, 2008
May 15 - 18, 2008 The 2008 conference of IAHL (International Alliance of Holistic Lawyers) is going to be May 15 - 18, 2008 at the Retreat Center at St. John's in Plymouth, Michigan. This year's theme is heart based lawyering. Our keynote speaker is going to be WARD POWERS - the Director of the movie "ONE". Lorraine Webber, head of the Detroid Metro Bar Association, and a shaman will open the conference. To join or learn more about IAHL go to our website at www.iahl.org Students cost approx. $150 Attendees cost approx. $250 if you belong to IAHL (or $350 for non-members) You do NOT have to be an attorney to attend. Rooms are approximately $40 per night. I attended the 2006 and 2007 conferences and they were both wonderful. I returned from the conference energized and refreshed. Our keynote speaker is going to be WARD POWERS - the Director of the movie "ONE".
I have clients that call me everyday to ask me questions. I'm glad to try to calm their fears. However, when they receive their bill they are shocked at how quickly their calls add up. (I normally give a new client 2 "free" calls because in the beginning many people are scared and a quick answer calms them down). If you think about it, all an attorney has to sell is their knowledge and their time. Many people want a flat-rate fee -- however, they also want to be able to call on a daily basis and talk to their attorney. Most flat-rate attorneys will NOT accept your phone calls. I don't think that most people recognize how much time each phone calls takes. Today, I received over 75 emails and 10 phone calls. I did not get the chance to deal with everyone that contacted me! When someone leaves a message that it's urgent and to call "anytime" I often want to call them at 2 a.m. and see if they appreciate my call! I'm a night person and a couple of weeks ago someone called me at 1 a.m. and I picked up the phone. She was shocked to reach me ,but I figured that if someone called that late it must be important. I referred her to somone in her county for legal help.
Several years ago, a U S Supreme Court case (commonly known as Troxel) limited grandparent rights. Every state since this U S Supreme Court ruling has been reviewing their state laws and conforming with the U S Supreme Court case. Grandparents in TX (generally speaking) only 2 ways to see their grand-children: 1. if their child is in prison or 2. their child is deceased If you want to see your grand-children and your adult child is married and they won't let you see your grand-children, you can sue but you probably won't get to see the grand-children. If the grand-children have lived with you for over 6 months and the parents do NOT live with you, then file for custody and get some sort of legal relationship established with these children you are raising. Most grandparents don't call an attorney until it's too late. If you have been raising the children for over 6 months AND THE PARENT(S) DO NOT LIVE WITH YOU -- then you have legal standing in TX to sue for custody. If in doubt, pay an attorney for one hour of their time and get the facts! Many attorneys will meet with you for around $150-$250. That is a small price to pay for peace of mind. With knowledge comes power!
Please do NOT waste your money on office supply store or internet websites that sell powers of attorney(s) forms! You need to hire an attorney that knows what they are doing! Many people execute these forms BEFORE they have major surgery or if they are terminally ill and they think they are safe! These forms do NOT work for custody of minor children! If you are terminally ill and want to make sure that your minor children go to a certain person, you need to go to court and have that person added to the list of conservators! Family courts are sympathetic to families that are experiencing a major crisis and will work with you if they feel that adding another conservator would be in the best interests of the children.
Tuesday, January 1, 2008
In addition to www.familylaw4u.com, I also own www.txholisticlaw.com and www.texasholisticlaw.com I'm determined to make attorneys respectable again and not be treated like the scum of the earth! Attorneys need to remember that we were once considered attorneys and counselors at law! We need to listen to our client's needs and wants. We need to be a profession again and not just a job!
I have found that people that try to save money usually end up paying more! Many people are "afraid" to serve their spouse. I don't understand why. You get the person served and if they do not answer within the required time, then you can do a default case! Many attorneys that don't do a lot of family law, don't understand how to do a divorce by publication or a service case. I encourage everyone to hire an attorney that does a lot of your area of the law. When I need an elder law attorney or a criminal attorney, I hire one. I don't try to do it myself. I went to law school over 20 years ago and the laws have changed since then. I don't try to do everything! I don't refer friends to attorneys that claim they can do it all! No one can. You need someone up-to-date and familiar with the courts. If I don't handle the kind of law you need, I refer you to a person I know and respect. Many of these people are not personal friends and I don't get a kickback! I have a lot of loyal clients because they know I do what's best for them and they refer all their friends, family and people they work with to me. Satisified clients are my best form of advertisement.
People keep calling me and wanting to get a divorce by publication when they don't know where their spouse is. In Harris County, the judges met and decided that they will not longer approve a divorce by publication until they have ample proof that the person cannot be found. I've been appointed by several courts in Harris County to find missing spouses, my success rate is approximately 75%. If the person have utilities in their name or a credit card, I can find them. Only a person that lives on a cash basis can stay below the "radar screen" these days. Don't waste your money on a $200 internet search to find your missing spouse. I can do it for under $100! My access is better than anything you can find because I use websites restricted to law enforcement, p.i.s and attorneys. I can easily do a publication divorce but they take longer and cost more. If you can find your spouse, it is definately cheaper to just serve the person and get it done.
People keep calling me after they have paid for a on-line do it yourself divorce kit and they want me to fix it for FREE! I've talked to an attorney on the State Bar committee for the unauthorized practice of law about these kits and the State Bar has determined that they cannot do anything because these companies are located outside of Texas. If you order a kit from California, Colorado, Florida, Washington or New York, don't be surprised if they don't work in Texas. Two signs that they were not designed by a Texas attorney are -- 1. they use the term "matrimonial law" and 2. they use a lot of "exhibits". Also, if the kit has a lot of "check the right answer" it won't be approved in Texas. These kits are expensive, I've seen several people pay over $400 for a do it yourself kit with no kids, no property, nothing -- I charge $175 for a kit that works & I make all the copies! Also, be aware that you are going to have to pay the county filing fee. These costs are usually over $200. The attorney does not get the money -- the county gets the money! This is definately a BUYER BEWARE issue! If you waste your money, don't expect any attorney to have sympathy for you. It is quicker for me to use my forms and to do the work. Don't expect an attorney to fix the mess you've made for free! I'm not the cheapest lawyer in town but I do the work right and I get the job done! Thanks for letting me vent!