Friday, December 17, 2010

How do I answer a pro se litigant that wants to prepare discovery in his/her divorce.

I strongly encourage you to hire an attorney. What you are trying to do is just not easy!
The Harris County Law Library is available to the public.  The law schools also have law libraries.  I don't know if they are available to the public.  You would have to call and see if they would let you use them.

You can go to any law library and look for books that contain information on preparing discovery.  Please only read about "discovery" in the State of Texas.  Please don't read about discovery in federal court.  Divorce is a state issue.  There are many books. There is a set of books called the TX FAMILY PRACTICE MANUAL that family law attorneys use.  You will immediately notice that discovery is not easy.  There is not a form that you can just download and print out -- no such thing exists.

You will quickly determine that attorneys really to "practice" law.  They "craft" documents.  There is not one document out there that every attorney uses.  There are master forms.  But for each divorce an attorney must develop the discovery for that particular case.  It requires thought and strategy.  This is what an attorney gets paid for! 

This is why I recommend that people hire an experienced family law attorney.  When an attorney gets out of law school they know the law but they don't know how to practice law!  They have to learn how to apply what they have learned. 

There are the Texas Rules of Evidence plus Harris County local rules of court. 

For example, when you issue interrogatories, you can only issue a certain number of them.  Why? Because you cannot overwhelm the other side.  If necessary, you can issue more than one set of interrogatories.  Again, you must follow all of the applicable rules.  (All of this is confusing to attorneys too!)

Many years ago, we were required to send a copy of everything to the court's file.  The court's got tired of their files getting so thick and heavy.  Now you no longer have to send them a copy of everything.
If you violate these rules, bad things can happen to you, such as, the judge strike your pleadings (and that is very, very serious) or order you to pay your spouse's attorney fees.  If you don't understand what "striking" your pleadings means, that means you really need an attorney.
Even though it is a remote possibility, you could be looking at contempt by the court, that includes monetary fines and/or jail time.  Yes, it can happen! 

I don't try to do my own dental work and I don't do my own plumbing work, I hire someone that knows what they are doing. A plumber once told me that he "loved" guys who tried to fix their own plumbing and the made a lot of money off the "do it yourself" guys, he charged them 3x a much because they made a huge mess!  He admditted the handy men kept him in business! 

Remember, if you make a mess then you are going to have to pay a lot more in legal fees to an experienced attorney to  "fix the mess" you are creating.  Plus, you might make a bad impression on the Judge and that is not a good idea!

Please don't buy anything at an office supply store, sold on the radio, t.v. or internet by a company outside of the State of Texas!  There kits were not designed by a Texas attorney.  They do not comply with Texas laws.

Plus, please do not call 411 and ask for "legal aide".  That company is a for profit company that has a horrible BBB rating.  The man changes his name every few months and has lots of unpaid claims against him.  It's a total rip-off.
If you need a referral, call or email me at

Monday, November 22, 2010

Hints on hiring a family law attorney in Texas

Here are a few hints on finding a decent and reputable family law attorney:

1. Check out websites like or 

Attorneys answers questions for free so you can read their answers and get a "feel" for them before you call them.

Most family law attorneys offer payment plans. 

How much is a down payment?  This can vary dramatically.  Anywhere from $500 - rarely $100,000.

Some attorneys will let you make a down payment of $1,500 if the case is a "basic" case. 

If the case is complex or there is a hearing pending, then you should anticipate paying closer to $5,000. 

Why?  The attorney is going to need to do a lot of work to get ready for the hearing. 

(You expect to get paid for the work you do and so does your attorney.)
On the website beware of their rating system -- many excellent attorneys have never "claimed" their profile so their rating might be low -- don't necessarily trust a high or low rating!
Should I hire a board certified attorney?

If money is an issue for you, you don't need to hire a board certified attorney -- their prices are much higher per hour than a non-board certified attorney Most board certified attorneys charge at least $400 per hour - so expect your legal bill to add up quickly.  If you hire a board certified attorney, expect your legal bill to easily run $20,000.  Some "high profile" attorneys charge a one-time fee just to accept your case!  And, these fees are non-refundable if you have a change of heart later!  Remember, if name dropping is important to you, then you are going to pay for this privilege.  FYI:  There are many excellent attorneys in Houston that are not written up in the press or are not known by the public.  These attorneys are just as respected by the Judges and their peers. 

What sort of experience should I look for in an attorney?

Try to hire an attorney that does at least 70% family law and has at least 5 years experience. I personally would prefer someone with at least 10 years experience, but try to avoid someone with less than 5 years experience -- they are too new!

You might want to call PATRICIA BUSHMAN at 713-807-9405.
She will go outside Harris County. She offers payment plans and accepts credit cards. Her deposits are reasonable.  I thinks she takes a common sense approach to practicing law.  She does only what is required.  She does not try to do a lot of extra work to charge extra money.  She represents both men and women.
She has represented men and has gotten men custody. 
She has handled several jury trials. 
She is not afraid to go to trial.
(Believe it or not, many attorneys will NOT go to trial & they will withdraw right before trial.)
I rent space in her office so tell her that I sent you to her!

2. You can read my blog. and read about my comments on family law. Of course, the TX legislature changes the law every 2 years so really old blogs might be somewhat out of date, but you can get an idea of Tx family law.

There are many attorneys that "blog". Of course, it's our opinions. So "filter" every attorney's comments and blogs!
3. Do your research. I always say that knowledge is power!  The TX Family Code is availabe on-line. There are many law libraries around the State of Texas.  Many are located inside small courthouses.  Be aware that they may NOT contain the most recent form books and/or up-to-date books.  However, they are free and open to the public.

The Houston Bar Association has an excellent basic, free brochure on their website called "family law".  It's approximately 50 pages - available in English, Spanish and Vietnamese.

The Office of the Texas Attorney General has a website that contains lot of information on family law for free.

You can go to my website at and look under "links" for some website links.

If you "google" family law or divorce law be sure to only look under TEXAS LAW.  Texas courts do not care what California law says!

What most people don't understand is that divorce law (also known as family law) is a states right issue.  Divorce law is regulated by the state and it varies from state to state. 

Therefore, a Texas attorney does not know what a Louisiana court will do!

4. You can go to your local courthouse and visit the courthouse. It's usually open to the public and you can usually visit the any courtroom. It's very educational and informative. 

If the baliff asks you what you are doing, tell him that you have a family member involved in a family law matter and that you are observing.  You must turn off your cell phone, not wear a hat, not chew gum, cannot wear a hat, etc.  You must dress appropriately and observe all court rules. 

While you are visiting the courthouse, pick up a copy of the local court rules.  Your relative will need to know the local county rules.  Also, does that court have their own court rules?  Each judge is allowed to set their own set of rules to follow.

Be sure to stand when the judge enters and leaves the bench!

5.  If an attorney PROMISES you anything, run.  No decent family law attorney can promise you that you will win custody, etc. 

6.  Ask your friends and family for a referral.  If your friend recently went through a divorce, ask him/her who the opposing attorney was in their case!  I received many referrals from an FBI agent who was the opposing party in a divorce I handled many years ago!  He thought I handled his difficult divorce in a respectful manner and he sent many people to me over the years! 

7.  If an attorney says that he/she has WON 100% of their cases, run!  No family law attorney ever actually WINS a case!  A family law attorney is dealing with the death of a family.  There are no "winners" in family law - except the attorney who is making money on this case! 

If an attorney "won custody" for a father who sexually abuses his children, would that be a "win" for those children? I don't think so. 

I've been on cases where there were issues of drug abuse and the attorneys worked together to protect the children.  This is what professionals do when for the "best interests of the children."

As a mediator, I'm often put in a horrible position of gently letting the party know that all outrageous promises their attorney told them at the beginning of the case will NOT happen. 

8.  Hire an attorney BEFORE you need one.  It's easier to pay for a consultation & receive peace of mind.  I'm an attorney and when I need legal advice in an area of the law that I'm not familiar with, I talk to an attorney that is knowledgeable in that area of the law. 

It's a lot like going to the dentist every 6 months for a dental cleaning, it's cheaper and easier to go every 6 months then to wait until it's a major dental emergency! 

Or, it's a lot like getting my oil changed every 3,000 miles rather than waiting until the engine blows up! 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Houston TX helpful numbers to know

Here are some helpful numbers for the Houston & Harris County Texas are:

Certified Public Accountant Referral

Chamber of Commerce
Greater Houston

City of Houston Deed Restrictions

Copies of State and Federal Laws
Austin, Texas

Federal Public Defenders

Greater Houston Fair Housing Center
for housing discrimination

Houston Apartment Association

Houston Association of Realtors

Landlord Dispute Hotline
City of Houston
sends inspectors to check out complaints with apartments

Harris County Law Library
Downtown Houston
Open to the public

Harris County Tax Assessor & Collector

24 hour emergency & crisis intervention services

Here is a list of emergency & crisis intervention services from the Houston Bar Assocation's Resource & Referral Guide of 2010:

Center for Disease Control & Prevention

Crime Stoppres

Crisis Hotline

Harris County Sheriff's Office

Harris County Family Domestic & Sexual Assault Unit

Houston Police Department
Non Emergency Line

Houston Police Dept.
Family Violence Unit

Mental Health & Mental Retardation
Authority Crisist Line

Harris County Medical Examiner's Office
open 8-5 only Monday-Friday

Rape Crisis Hotline

Runaway Hotline

Star of Hope Mission

Teen Crisis Hotline

Texas Department of Protective & Regulatory Services
Abuse Hotline
Report abuse or neglect or children & the elderly

Texas Youth Hotline

United Way Information

Pro Bono Services in Houston, Texas

With the economy down, more and more people are looking for free (pro bono) legal services.

Here is a brief list of the pro bono services that I'm aware of in the Houston and Harris County area:

Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program
This agency is overwhelmed - anticipate a 6 month waiting period

Lone Star Legal Aid
This agency is overhelmed - it is difficult to even get accepted by this agency

University of Houston Law School
Accepts easy cases for law school students to get experience

South Texas College of Law
Accepts easy cases for law school students to get experience

Texas Southern University  Law School
Accepots easy cases for law school students to get experience

Protective Orders
Harris County District Attorney's Office
Falmily Violence Unit
Criminal Law Division

Harris County Domestic Relations Office

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

Texas Attorney General's Office
Several locations around Houston & Harris County
Anticipate 6 months minimum - this agency is overwhelmed

A V D A - Aid to Victims of Domestic Dispute


HOUSTON BAR ASSOCIATION puts out a list - Resource & Referral guide of non-profit agencies in the Harris County area that helps low income people

Go to your local public library for ideas & help

United Way Information

Friday, October 1, 2010

Question "I make minimum wage & I can't pay child support"

On law I just answered a common question so I thought I'd post it here.  I've answered this question approx. 100 times and I thought I'd post it here.

The "basic" question is this:
The father makes minimum wage.
The mother makes $75,000/year
Father can't afford to pay the court ordered child support.
Father is complaining that Mom does not need his child support.
Father can't afford to pay his rent or buy food.

Here is my quick answer since is a free place for people to ask lawyers questions.
Child support is based on YOUR income.
In fact, child support is NOT based on income.
Child support is based on NET RESOURCES.
Net resources is your income from ALL SOURCES OF INCOME - so if you do any odd jobs, have any investments, pawn a watch to get cash, sell a car to get cash, get any money from friends, family, girl friends, etc. it goes toward your child support.
Mom's income is irrelevant.
For one child - child support is 20% of your net resources.

I suggest that you go to the TX A G child support website and read about child support.  There website is written for the general public and it is actually very informative.

There are many websites on TX Child support. Be sure to read only about Texas child support.

There are even child support "calculators" that are even "somewhat" accurate. Do not rely totally on these free "calculators". However, they will give you a general idea of what you should be paying in child support in the State of Texas.

The more minor children that you can prove to the Judge that you financially support, you get to reduce the percentage of support for the child(ren) in front of the Judge in this case.

 The TX A G website had the "official" chart that attorneys use to calculate child support.
Believe it or not, The TX A G is the agency appointed by the Texas Legislature to set the child support chart each year. 

The chart is in the TX Family code.  The TX Family Code is on the internet.  Go to any major search engine, like GOOGLE, and look for it. 
You cannot get c.s. lowered - you pay c.s. based on YOUR income - not hers.

Child support comes BEFORE anything else - rent, food, etc.
Child Support survives YOUR death.
When you die, it becomes a debt of your estate.
If you inherit any money, the TX A G will intervene and "grab" the money if you are seriously past-due in your child support.
you cannot declare bankruptcy and make your past-due child support "disappear".
Also, be careful with anything using your social security number (bank accounts, etc) the TX A G computer will "grab" the money if you are EVER late with a payment WITHOUT ANY NOTICE!!! Then you will have checks bouncing!! (Yes, it happens all the time!!!)
When you retire, if you owe any child support, it will come out of your Social Security check!
In summary, child support is the debt that NEVER goes away!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Changing a Minor Child's Name

In order to change a minor child's name on his birth certificate you need to get a judge's permission.

You need to get a judge to sign a piece of paper ordering the birth certificate agency to issue a new birth certificate.
The birth certificate agency is not going to issue a new birth certificate without an order signed by a judge ordering them to do it.
It costs money to file a document called a "Petition for Name Change of a Minor Child". This fee to the county is usually around $300. It varies from county to county in the State of Texas.

Then you need to have a document called "Order" for the Judge to sign.

FYI: These legal documents are NOT available at any courthouse. 
You need to have these legal documents with you when you go to the courthouse. 
You can find samples of these forms in a set of books called the TEXAS FAMILY PRACTICE MANUAL.
You must fill in these forms. 
This is one of the reasons you need to hire an attorney.
An attorney knows how to fill out these forms. 
The forms advertised on t.v. and radio sold by companies outside of Texas are NOT correct Texas forms that Judges are used to seeing. 
If you puchase these forms be prepared for the Judge to reject them! 
(You are probably wasting your money - so buyer beware!)

The Judge wants all parents (and/or parties with court ordered standing regarding this child) to be notified about this pending name change AND to agree IN WRITING to it.

There is a form called WAIVER OF SERVICE that must be properly notarized so that the other parent does NOT need to come to court to tell the judge that they agree to the name change. 

I also like the other parent to sign the ORDER on the last page also confirming that they agree to the child's new name - that way the Judge knows that the other parent agrees to the child's name change. 

Many people ask me if a judge will grant the name change because the other parent is behind in child support or for some other reason. Many judges will NOT grant a name change just because the other parent is behind in child support.

If you want to do a name change of a minor child, I recommend that you hire an experienced family law attorney that practiced in your county for many years and trust his/her advice.

If everyone agrees, most name changes can be done fairly quickly.  There is no required waiting period lawsuits require in Texas. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I married a person from another country to get his/her green card. Now I want a divorce.

Ok, it sounds like you have committed a federal crime.  This is a BIG DEAL!

First, keep your mouth shut. 

Second, contact an experienced attorney (not someone right out of law school) that does immigration law and family law.

Third, plan on paying some money.  This is not going to be cheap.  You need someone sharp.  You need to listen to your attorney.  You need to keep your ears sharp and your mouth shut!

Fourth, he/she lied to me.  He/she has a lover.  He/she used me.  Well, I'm not surprised. I hear this a lot.  It happens all the time.  But you need to be careful.  You might be hurt and mad.  But you don't want to make things worst for yourself.  You need to take things slowly and carefully.

Get to an attorney's office NOW!

I live in Alaska and I owe $50,000 in TX in past due child support. What can happen to me?

Here is my answer:

You realize that this debt will never go away.
What does that mean?
If you have a bank account, it will eventually get "hit"

Any tax refund will go to her.
If you ever inherit any money, the Attorney General will intervene and get it.

If you die, the Attorney General will intervene and get anything you own.
When you retire, your Social Security will be reduced and money will be sent to your ex-wife.
You might want to go back and ask to reduce your child support if you cannot pay the $450.
Will you ever be arrested? The short answer is yes. So don't ever get stopped in case there is a arrest warrant issued for you.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Transition in my law practice

Effective September 1, 2010, my law practice is going to be focused on mediation. 

This year was my 20th reunion at South Texas College of Law, it has been a time of reflection for me. 

I decided that I need to focus on my passion - mediation. 

I'm very good at it and I find it rewarding and fulfilling. 

I am referring callers to the following 2 attorneys:

Patricia Bushman
8978 Kirby Drive
Houston, Texas 77054

She has been licensed over 15 years -- less than 20 years.
Pat recently hired a young lawyer to assist her that speaks Spanish. 
Pat has a competent office staff and is able to handle complex litigation.
Pat is in court almost everyday. 
She has handled many jury trials.
I call her my pit bull.  She is tough.
She is exceptional at analyzing complex legal issues and knowing what the judge will focus on.
She is well respected by the judges because she is in the courtroom regularly.
She is willing to go to surrounding counties - including Montgomery County. 
She is also a mediator.
I rent space in her office.
Her first meeting is free and she quotes her price at that time.
She offers payment plans and accepts credit cards.
She meets afternoons, nights and week-ends.
Please mention that I referred you - I will get a discount on my rent.

Rose Cardenas
She has been licensed over 25 years.
She is in the courtroom on a daily basis.
She is well respected by the judiciary and by her fellow lawyers.
She offices with her brother, Robert Cardenas, and he does criminal law primarily.
She is very hands on and takes a limited number of cases.
She is compassionate, but is not a push-over.
She speaks Spanish.
She returns all of her own phone calls, so you must be patient.
Leave a message and she will call you back.
Her brother's website is
You will need to talk to Rose about her fee schedule.

Both of these attorneys will be able to assist you if you are interested in uncontested matters and in "creative" solutions to your family law problems.

There are many excellent attorneys in the Houston area. 

Generally speaking, for the average family, no uncontested legal matter should cost more than $4,000 if the parties are willing to work together and not spend hours talking the attorney's ear off! 

I have had a divorce with no kids, no property cost over $6,000, but the couple fought over everything and we spent 6 hours at the courthouse fighting over a used Timex watch! 

I recommend that you check out and  However, do not trust the rating.  Many excellent attorneys have never "claimed" their avvo profile.  I just happened to click on their email and be on the first attorneys to claim my profile!

Please do not send me an email through

I cannot reply to any email sent to that website.  I can read the emails but I cannot reply to them!
It is very frustrating. 

Their website requires that I pay they over $89 a month to reply to emails!  It just is not worth it for one or two emails a month.  Additionally, most of the people on this website are from all over Texas.  I am only interested in cases in the Houston area.  I have no interest in cases in Dallas, El Paso, the Valley, etc.  I have been listed on this website for many years and it used to be free to answer questions.  The questions never generated any new business for me but I considered it a public service. 

When I receive an email from Rocket Law it does not contain any identifying information such as a phone number or email so that I can contact the person directly. 

It is frustrating to read about a person's problem and then not be able to reply to them.

Therefore, please don't get angry at me for not replying to your emails through

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Social Study Evaluations

I've read some Social Studies by caseworkers that are very scary. Some workers put in all sorts of "gossip" and heresay. Some of the workers are good and some are bad.

For example, if a person is nervous, they might put in that the person is "hiding things" "frightened" or other negatives adjectives that might alarm the judge.

The judges read these social study evaluations carefully.

In one case, maternal grandmother was the primary caregiver of the minor children.  The father's family all reported that the maternal grandmother gambled a lot and was not present to care for the children.  The maternal grandmother's family claimed that grandmother never gambled and that they were all lying.  (It is difficult to prove the negative.)  But since grandmother did not drive it was difficult for her to travel to Louisiaina for her to gramble. 
What should you do to prepare for a social study evaluation?

Make sure that your home is spotless.

Be sure there is food in the refrigerator and pantry

Look good when the worker visits.

Make sure the kid(s) look good.

Offer the worker something to eat and drink

Give the worker a list of friends and family to contact - be sure that these people know that they will be contacted and/or visited and be sure they have a "script" of what they are going to say
You need to include each persons name, address and phone number along with a brief descripton of what they can tell the worker about you and the other party

Have a photo album available to show the worker of you and the child(ren) of happy times (birthdays, holidays, vacations)
It's nice to include photos of the other parent when the family was still together

Be sure you interact with the child(ren) appropriately

Be sure you appropriately discipline the child(ren) in his/her presence if the child(ren) misbehave


Be sure to act lovingly to the child(ren) & touch them -- but don't hold the child(ren) the entire visit

Don't bad mouth the other person (and family) totally -- remember that at one time you chose to be in a relationship with this person and to have child(ren) with this person!

If you have written evidence (recordings, emails, etc.) give a copy to the worker for their records

Everything you say to them can go into their report

Don't make casual remarks ("I could just kill myself" or "sometimes I cry myself to sleep I'm so depressed") because it will be in their report!

The worker is going to ask you a lot about you and your past - be prepared to answer it & be prepared to have a list of references to give to worker to verify what you are telling the worker
Your age
Your family
Your education
Your employment
Your health
Your religious background
Places you have lived
You need to be prepared to discuss your entire life in a few short minutes

Friday, July 16, 2010

Do It Yourself Divorce Kits from Radio orTelevision Ads

I have seen many of them.

Most of them are "trash". Sorry! You get what you pay for.

If they are from California, Washington, Florida, New York, or Colorado they do not contain the right information that the Texas judges want.

They don't look right and they don't have the "Texas wording" the Judges are used to seeing.

You need to listen to the spokesman in the ad carefully.  The ad is carefully written.  These companies are making millions of dollars on people trying to save money!  They are laughing all the way to the bank.  They are counting on your fear of attorneys and your desire to save money.

The first thing I would want to know is - how long is their guarantee?  If it is less than 90 days - FORGET IT.  Their gurantee is worthless for a Texas divorce. 

A divorce in less must be on file for more than 60 days.  So you won't know if their kit works if their gurantee is less than 75 days! 

Do they use the word "matrimonial"? If so, that shows that it was not prepared by a Texas lawyer. We just don't use that word in Texas.
Do you have a BVS form? It is required in Texas for your divorce to be finalized in Harris County. The kits sold on the internet, radio and t.v. don't include it. Why? Because those guys have never set foot in Texas
Have I scared you yet!

Do check off the "right" answers? 
Do you have any idea how much the judges hate these forms?
Do you have any idea how many people can't even fill these forms out correctly?
Do you realize that if you fill these forms out wrong - you are struck with the answers?

If you own any real estate, you are really doing setting yourself up for disaster in the future that require thousands of dollars in legal fees to "fix" the mess you are creating in this "quicky" divorce.

Many people think they are saving money by using an on-line divorce form.  However, in reality, they are actually going to be spending a lot more money by having to hire an attorney later to fix their legal mess later!

It's easier to hire an attorney early than to hire an attorney later to fix a legal disaster!

If you can't figure it out, then I charge $150 an hour, to sit down with you and try to figure what what you are trying to do.

Or you can go to my website WWW.FAMILYLAW4U.COM and look at my DO IT YOURSELF will kits.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

ADR Conflict Resolution & Mediation Exchange Comments on

I am a member of the group on ADR, Conflict Resolution & Mediation Exchange.

This week an interesting question was posted that generated a lot of interesting answers.

The question that was posted was: “What single phrase or mantra do you use to support yourself when the going gets tough in supporting others to resolve conflicts or when you are in conflict with others?"

Here are samples of some of my favorite answers – some serious and some not so serious:

• “Trust the process” is one I have found useful

• “Stay curious” – especially when I am in conflict with others. I will also sometimes adopt the Alice in Wonderland phrase “curiouser and curiouser” to do “deepening work” in a mediation

• Anger is a vehicle of communication that always carries a message. The person who expresses anger is trying to present information. Often it is information that, without the anger, he wouldn’t have the courage to express…

• I try to focus on the underlying message, not necessarily the expressed emotion or the surface message. I guess my mantra would be “I wonder what is underneath this”

• If this were easy, anyone could do it

• Expect emotion, not logic and respect emotions of others

• I have found that emotions are 80% and logic is 20%, and when we negate the emotions of the other we are insulting and irritating the persons more. Respect their feelings, feelings are never right or wrong, so don’t use logic to analyze the feelings. Show empathy and compassion for them, and slowly the logic will surface.

• Anger is like quicksand; the more you fight or try to control it, the deeper you sink…Bottom line, personal perspective of the situation is paramount. What am I feeling? What am I thinking? My mantra is “It’s all good”

• Think outside the box

• Conflict is usually emotionally driven and not logic driven

• I take my ego out of the process and let the “magic” happen

• I am visualizing my hands slowly closing around your neck

• Lets take a step back and evaluate how you would advise someone if they were in the same situation – evaluative role playing at its best

• My primary role is to actively listen. Most people just want someone to HEAR them and acknowledge their pain in a safe environment.

• It will unfold

• I am the guardian of the process; I am not in charge of the outcome

• Breathe

• Goddess, let me be a channel for your peace, your love and your clarity

• Stay present and pay attention

• KISS – keep it simple & short

• Patience is a virtue

• I think to myself after I just heard something alarming…take a couple of deep breathes, remain calm, do not let my face show any strong reaction, don’t say anything to inflame the situation, be thankful that this is one mistake that I chose not to make in this life & remember there are 2 sides to every story

• I’ve observed that for some people I am exposing them to a completely new way of conflict resolution that they have never tried before

• The alternative to resolving this dispute is playing the mutual game of death by a thousand bleeding wounds inflicting on each other – day after day – month after month – year after year. One of you wins a bloody victory not worth winning – the other a loss – marked by pain, suffering, financial loss and the empty feeling of frustration. This war needs to be ended now.

• When I have finished listening to someone in a conflict, I say that I understand the complainant’s point of view and then look for common threads in all arguments to reach a mutually acceptable resolution. You know you have been successful in mediation when both sides are a little bit on happy. One of my clients stated that after a successful mediation.

• Take light things seriously, and seriously things lightly

• As self talk, “stay calm, be courageous, and watch for the signs”

• My favorite is “trust the process”

• Do I have a dog in this hunt?

• The 2 most liberating phrases for me are “I don’t know” and “you may be right”

• I like one my mother used to say – “this too shall pass

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Can you sue the person your spouse has an affair with?


Texas eliminated this type of lawsuit called "alienation of affection" many years ago.

Instead be mad at your spouse. 

I always find it interesting that it's always the wife that is mad.  Your husband had the affair.  No hussy forced him to have the affair.  He knew what he was doing.  He was an ACTIVE PARTICIPANT. 

There is something wrong in your marriage if he had an affair.  You need to focus in on that and not focus on the other woman.  You need to be mad at your husband.  He violated your trust.  He violated your marriage vows.

Most of the wives defend their husband's behavior and get angry at me for suggesting that they participated in the affair! 

Important Form for Unmarried Owners of Real Estate

If you are unmarried and own real estate with someone else I suggest that you consider signing and filing with the real estate records of your county a documetn called a SURVIVORSHIP AGREEMENT that states that the survivor of the relationship owns the property 100%.

That means that it does NOT belong part of the person's estate.

The property passes directly to the other person WITHOUT a will to the other owner.

I sell this form for $250 and then I file it at the courthouse in Harris County to make sure that its recorded.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The certified letter I sent was refused - what do I do now?

1.  Keep this certified letter in a safe place.  In fact, put it in a zip-lock storage bag to keep it clean and safe.  

2.  Do NOT open it.  Do not tamper with it in any way. 


4.  You now have evidence to present to the Judge at a future hearing.

5.   Let the Judge open it when you go to Court.  The Judge can then determine what the letter (or package) contained when you originally mailed it.

My decree states that I must do XXX, do I have to do it?

If you were ordered to do something, then you must do it!

I often get the question, I was ordered to attend mediation BEFORE applying for a modification, do I have to do it?

The answer is...yes.

You must attempt to go to mediation before filing for a modification.

You must have proof that you tried to do what you were ordered to do.  If the other party won't reply or won't cooperate, then you are allowed to move forward with the modification.

FYI:  Be sure to keep all documentation (paperwork) that proves you attempted to fulfill what you were ordered to do.   Merely making a phone call is NOT enough!

If the TX Statute says XXXXX does it really mean that?

If a Texas Statute says something like "you must be 16 years old to emanicpate" then you must be at least 16 years old to file a lawsuit to emancipate.

If you are 15 years old and a millionaire, you don't qualify.

The statute is clear and concise, you must qualify for each and every requirement in order to file a lawsuit.

You cannot pick and choose your qualifications.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Harris County Family Courts- Major Changes are Coming in 2011

In November, 2010, Harris County voters are going to make major changes that will impact families for the future of the Harris County Family Courts.

All the Family Courts have contested elections this year!!

The following 4 judges are retiring/leaving the bench:
245th Judicial District Court - current judge leaving benc
308th Judicial District Court -- current judge leaving bench
309th Judicial District Court -- current judge leaving bench
311th Judicial District Court -- current judge leaving bench

The courts where the judges have opponets are:
246th Judicial District Court
247th Judicial District Court
257th Judicial District Court
310th Judicial District Court
312th Judicial District Court  -- Robert Hinojosa won this judicial seat away from David Pharr 2 years ago and David Pharr is trying to regain this seat.  However, David Pharr is stationed overseas in the military so he is unable to actively campaign for this judicial position.  (His political campaign is very quiet since he cannot do anything while on active military duty.)  It will be interesting to see how many votes he gets & will show that the general public has no idea who they vote for -- they vote for the party -- not the candidate. 
This is the first time in approximately 10 years that the family courts are looking at such a "sweeping" change! 

But, we could have a total of 9 NEW family court judges if all the judges up for re-election do not win their seats! 

I doubt that all 9 judges will be replaced but it could happen.  At the present time, all the judges are Republican except for Judge Hinojosa (312th). 

If a huge Democratic sweep occurs, a lot of faces are going to change in the Family Law Center! 

If you don't know, Harris County is now a majority of minorities.  Many Republicans (behind the scenes) are nervous about this election and its outcome.  They are worried if there is a large voter turn-out. 
The new judges will take the benches effective January 1, 2011. 
Therefore, 2011 is going to be a very "interesting" year in the Harris County Family Courts.  No one can predict how the new judges will handle their dockets. 

From past experience, it takes awhile for a new judge to settle into their bench and develop a real feel for the courtroom.

Did you know that new judges have to go to "judge school" to learn to be a judge?  Yes, it's true.  Several years ago, some bright sole determined that even an experienced attorney needed to learn how to be a Judge so judge school was started.  The judges claim it is a very "enlightening" experience.  They have to learn a things that most attorneys never come in contact with -- such as identifying mentally illness or the reality of getting around in a big city via public transportation.

Therefore, if you are planning on having a contested matter in the Harris County courts, I would immediately file your case and attempt to get it settled BEFORE December 31, 2010.  After January 1, 2011, there will be many new faces at the courthouse and probably many new policies and procedures.

Interesting Tidbits:
Only 2 candidates are Black - Sandra Peake and Bill Rice.
Only one candidate is Hispanic -- Robert Hinojosa.
It appears all the rest of the candidates are White.
I could be wrong -- if I am -- I apologize! 

Did you know that Houston has more diversity that New York City?  Yes, it's true.  It's unfortunately that our family courts do not reflect this diversity.  I would think that we would have at least one Asian person running.  I'm wondering how many of these people speak Spanish?

I was sorry that some very fine candidates got "cut" at the primary level.  There were just too many candidates running this year in the primaries.  It seems that everyone "threw their hat" into the ring this year with so many judges leaving the bench.  Unfortunately, some fine potential judges did not get the chance to advance to the finishing line.  It's a loss for people of Harris County.

Loren Jackson -- Harris County District Clerk -- highly recommended

I want to highly recommend LOREN JACKSON - HARRIS COUNTY DISTRICT CLERK  -- for doing an outstanding job the past 2 years.

He has taken the Harris County District Clerk's office from the stone age into the computer age.

His staff is always courteous and professional.  His staff is responsive to email questions and problems.  He is trying very hard to make the Harris County District Clerk's office effecient and productive using less taxpayer money -- something we can all appreciate! 

The Harris County District Clerk's website is

I can now download most family law final decrees for free as un-certified copies.  It comes in very handy when a new client comes in.  I can also view most family law case summaries on-line.

The website is not error free -- but it's come a long way!

Thanks Loren Jackson!

Threats, threats, threats, and more threats

I wish I had a $1 for every phone call that starts..."my ex calls me and threatens me with...."
If I did, I could already be retired!

After all these years, it's pretty boring. 

The threats are pretty common.

Here are the basic list of threats...

(1) Do what I say or you will be sorry.
(2) Don't ask for any more child support, or you will be sorry.
(3) Give me extra money, or you will be sorry.
(4) Change your visitation, or you will be sorry
(5) Pick up your kids when I say, or you will be sorry.
(6) Skip your vistation, or you will be sorry.
(7) Have sex with me, or you will be sorry.
(8) Fix my (insert broken item), or you will be sorry.
(9) Appear to suffer a lot, or you will be sorry.
(10) How dare you seem to be having a nice life, so you will be sorry.
(11) I have a miserable life, so you will be sorry.
(12) My dating life sucks, so you will be sorry.
(13) My job sucks, so you will be sorry.
(14) I need money for (fill in the blank), so you will be sorry.

Do you begin to see a pattern?

Basically, it's things are bad in my life so you are doing to pay.

It truly does not matter if it's male or female, it goes both ways.

So who suffers the most...easy...the kids.

I want my husband's ex-wife to do....

I just love it when the new wife wants the "evil" ex-wife to do something. 

Today I got an email from the "new" wife demanding that the "old" wife (now ex-wife) legally be required to change her name!  She wanted to know how to go about suing the woman so that a court of law would order her to change her name! 

She claimed that she was worried about getting credit rating confused, but that would not be a problem since credit rating systems use social security numbers and birth dates.

She then admitted that it was mainly that she just did not want tto share the same last name as the ex-wife.

She wanted to "force" the woman to have to change her name.  She could not understand why the woman wanted to keep the name she'd used for the past 20 years! 

I said that after 20 years every knew her with that name.  That changing her name with numerous government agencies such as -- social security, driver's license, as well as her employer, insurance, credit cards, doctors, credit reporting agencies, etc. was a real pain and her records could be potentially lost.

The woman was very upset that she could not legally force the ex-wife to change her name.

In Texas, there is no law that can force a woman to not use her ex-husband's name.

This woman was not very happy with me.

I'm so sick of the drama of summer & non-custodial parents acting badly!

It's summer, it's hot and people are acting stupid.

I often wonder if it is the heat that makes people act really stupid.

Yes, stupid.  I mean...really stupid.

Ok, let me give you one short example...

How about...Telling a 17 yr. old kid about to be a senior in high school that he/she cannot go back to their high school and graduate with their class and "just to get over it".  That it's no big deal.  That they will never see their friends or the rest of their family again.  They can just get their GED. They will never see their clothes, games, and the rest of their "stuff".  That they are now going to live in **** with this non-custodial parent and there is nothing that anyone can do to stop them. 

Wow!  What a loving and caring thing to do to a senior in high school! 

First, what I tell the person calling me is...TAKE A DEEP BREATH. 

The person behaving badly has got to go to sleep sometime.  I find that 75% of the people "re-set" after a good night's sleep.  They wake up and are back to normal.  Or, they sober up.
Or, they go back to work.  Or, they realize that it's not fun to have a really unhappy 17 yr. old in the house and how hard it is to keep an unhappy 17 yr. old in the house.

Second, I tell the person to have the person with custody get a certified copy of the court order and to have that person show up at the door with the police, constable or sheriff when the court order visit is over if the person has not returned the child.

Third, just call the local policing authority and have them go by and ask the person to return the 17 yr. old after they have mailed or faxed a cert. copy of the court order to the policing agency showing that the person does NOT have legal grounds to keep the person.

In reality, everyone wants a 17 yr. old to graduate from high school.  Society wants this kid to graduate from high school.  None of us wants an unhappy 17 yr. old running away from home and living on the streets.

Generally, within 4 days everything settles down.  Normally the drugs or booze wears off.  And the non-custodial parent realizes that their kid is not going to be loving if they are held against their will.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Changing TX Family Law

The TX legislature meets every 2 years.

If you are unhappy with a current law or wish to propose a new law, you need to begin NOW to advocate the TX legislature with your idea.

Then it is really too late.

The TX legislature met in 2009.  They will meet again in 2011.  Now is the time to begin thinking of the changing you want to make in that next session.

The lawyers that work in the family courts work together to try to educate our TX legislature to   improve our current laws and to not create bad new laws. 

I encourage interested people to get involved in the Texas politics.  I'm sure it's very interesting.  I'm sure it's also very frustrating.  Texas is behind many other states in Family law issues.  With science (like DNA testing) and technolgy growing so rapidly, the law just can't keep up fast enouh.

For example, when I was licensed almost 20 yr. ago, there was no such thing as DNA testing. When it first appeared it was expensive and no one understood it initially.  It slowly evolved and was perfected.  Now it's cheap and used daily.  But our laws have not kept up because the TX legislature has so much to cover and not much time to cover it.  The TX Family Code is only a small portion of what the TX legislature covers every 2 years.

I'm a stay-at-home spouse getting a divorce

In Texas we have gender neautral laws. 

Yes, I've represented women that had stay-at-home husbands that had not worked for over 10 years.  FYI:  It's interesting to watch women complain that they are going to have to pay spousal support (aka alimony) to their husbands! 

Yes, I've represented stay-at-home spouses that had not worked over 20 years. 

Unfortunately, getting a divorce is a real shock to a stay-at-home spouse.

Generally, spousal support is designed in Texas to compensate spouses when there is not enough community property to get them by after the divorce.  Many times it's limited to 3 years maximum.  This is a shock to most people.  However, the legislature is now beginning to relize that many stay-at-home spouses are disabled and need more than a couple of years of help. 

Unfortunately, many people divorcing in Texas just don't have enough income to support to households.  The stay-at-home spouse gets dose of reality when they realize that their income is going to drop dramatically after the divorce and that the laws of the State of Texas do not protect them!  This is especially true when they are not within Social Security ages! 

In cases I've mediated, I've actually encouarged some couples to stay married and just live apart.  Most times this is not what the healthy spouse wants.  The healthy spouse wants to get re-married and have a life.  The sick spouse is "clinging" onto their spouse for the health insurance benefits. 

Unfortunately, most legislatures lag behind in what is happening in our society.  If you want to change our current laws, you need to get involved NOW in writing and communicating with our TX legislature.  Don't wait until the legislature meets -- then it's too late. 

My spouse is a real bum!

Many people come to me and tell me what a bum they have as a spouse!

What they don't realize that the Judge wonders what is wrong with them that they married that person!

If you marry such a bad person, what is wrong with you?  Why did you stay married to this person for 10 years? 

If he is a drug dealer, then how did you meet him? 
Are you invovled in drugs? 
Why did you marry him? 
How did you not know that he was involved in drugs and dealing drugs? 
When you learned he was dealing drugs, why did you not leave? 
Why did you have a child with this person? 
Why did you have many children with this person?

Are you beginning to get the idea?

If you are married to such a bad person, what is wrong with you?

I had one client that was married to a very successful drug dealer.  (He was the drug delivery guy.)  He was really upset that when they separated she still made all the money with her new "honey" the new drug delivery guy.  (He just wanted the money to keep coming in.)  She had been the "bright" one.  He could not understand how their drug dealing "family" did not help him get custody.  Unfortuntely, she was very bright and was able to "test clean" on all the drug tests the court ordered.  My client could not test clean -- he was just not that bright!  He just did not get it.  I suggested that he get her "busted" but she was still too bright to get busted! 

One judge in Harris County within the past year, got tired or hearing how bad each parent was, so she just called CPS remove the chidren from both parents and put them in foster care.  The judge wanted to protect the chidren from both parents.  If both parents were doing what the other parent alleged, then the children's lives were in danger.  I got a call from one of the parents, she was livid at the judge.  I agreed with the judge.  If her husband was doing what the mom alleged, the judge was right.  Remove the children and protect the children.  The law in the State of Texas is to do what is in the children's best interests.  The law is NOT what to do what is the parent's best interests.

So if you are in a relationship with a real bum, don't expect the judge to have any sympathy -- especially if you stay more than a couple of years.

How has everyone been the past 2 years?

What is important is what has been happening for the past 2 years.

We have all made mistakes in our lives.  The important question is -- have we learned from our mistakes and have we cleaned up our lives?

There are people that have been in prison, drug dealers, etc. that now have great jobs, live in nice homes, and have custody of their kids.  They are involved in their kids lives, making sure they do their homework, involved in their church, etc.

What the courts (judge) wants to know is what has been happening for the past few years?

So if you have a bad past but if you have cleaned up and are now a respectable citizen and doing the right thing with people that are willing to testify on your behalf, you are in great shape.

Just keeping doing what you are doing!

He wanted me to have an abortion

Many women say to me "he wanted me to have an abortion!"

Sorry!  It's just not that big a deal.  Especially when the kid is 10 years old! 

Many men just "freak out" when they first hear that they are going to be a dad.  They have a moment of panic and fear.  But once the baby is born they are a great dad. 

So mom, get over it!

No court is going to "terminate his parental rights" or whatever because for 5 minutes he behaved badly!

Especially, if he's been behaving fine for the past 2 years!


I would always ask for DNA testing, even if I was married to the woman.

Now in Texas, you can be ordered to pay child support the rest of a child's life -- if a child is disabled! 

Therefore, it's worth a few moment's of potential awkwardness or possible anger to ask for a DNA test! 

Be sure it's your kid! 

Once you are on the birth certificate, it's difficult to get your name off.  Yes, it can be done but it's much easier to just never have your name on it in the first place!

She got pregnant on purpose

Ok guys, if you claim that she "trapped" you into getting pregnant and you should therefore not be ordered to pay child support, it won't work in Texas.

The State of Texas legislature has determined that you voluntarily "participated" so therefore you are responsible for the "fruits" of your labor -- the kid.

If it's your DNA, it's your responsibility.



Having sex with a teen-ager

If you are more than 1-1/2 years older than the teen-ager, please don't have sex with that person!

If so, you could end up a registered sex offender in Texas.

A minor cannot give permission to have sex with you!

Their parents cannot give permission to have sex with you!

So, just walk away

Can my 17 yr. old girl friend come live with me?

17 yr. olds are "strange animals" in Texas.

For ciminal purposes they are adults.

For civil purposes, they are still minor children.

Normally CPS won't get involved in these cases.  CPS is focused on protecting children.  Babies and small children cannot protect themselves.  17 yr. old kids can normally protect themselves so CPS is usually not that worried about them.

What I normally suggest is that the 17 yr. old wait until the moment they turn 18 and they leave the house. 

At midnight on they 18th birthday they can walk (or run) out of their parent's home and they are an adult.  Their parents cannot stop them.  They are free! 

However, they might not be able to take their "stuff" with them.  They can take anything they inherited or they received as a "gift".  That is their "stuff".  Anything their parents gave them (furniture, cell phone, etc.) belongs to their parents.  If their parents don't want them to take their computer, cell phone, etc. then that "stuff" stays.

However, I recommend that if you have any questions that you call your local policing agencies (police, sheriff or constable in Texas) and talk to their dispatcher.  Find out their local policies.  Yes, their policies can vary depending on their superior's orders.  Find out IN ADVANCE what their officers will do if they are called.  In fact, let me know if you are planning to leave, they will put that in the system and be prepared for a phone call.  You can call them when you are leaving and let them know that you are leaving and that you want to leave without any problems.  They will come and watch you leave to make sure there are no problems. 

There is an excellent free pamphlet called "Now that you are 18" that was written by a Texas lawyer's group several years ago.  I can't find my last copy.  You might "google" it and see if you can find it.  It was very informative.

When can a kid decide to vist (or live with a parent)?

In Texas, the answer to when a minor child can decide which parent they want to live with (or even visit their other parent) is 18!

That's it!

18 YEARS OLD!!!!!

I get this question via and on a daily basis!

I don't know who or where people get the idea that kids get to make a decision about who they get to live with or when they get decide if they get to visit their non-custodial parents.

There USED TO BE a document that the kid could sign that stated who they wanted to live with but it was NEVER binding on the judge.  The judge ALWAYS had the final say on what the minor child had to do -- up to the age of 18!! 





Now the Juge must interview the child in the Judge's chamber -- alone!! That means --  one on one -- to determine what the child wants to do.  Many judges don't like this.  Many judges just don't have the time to interview every child involved in litigation!  It is just impossible for the judge to interview each child involved in litigation! 

Why?  Since kids attend school and the courts normally close around 5pm.  That gives judges from approximately 4-5 pm (one hour) to interview all the minor children.  That technically means children from age 0-18.  Most judges are not trained to interview small children.  Most small children cannot adequate communicate and many cannot tell fiction from reality.

Most judges are not going to have children removed from school to interview them.  In large cities, like Houston and Dallas, if a child is removed from school they are going to miss a full day or 1/2 day of school.  Many judges don't want to be responsible for a kid missing that much school!

New look to blog

Josh Peterson - don't know you but I love you new template!  Now my blog looks like my website.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Protective Orders

Chapter 81 - TX Family Code


Child's Name Change - Chapter 45 of the TX Family Code

If the child is over the age of 10, the child must submit in writing that they really want the name change.  The reason for the name change must be stated. 

Adult Name Chapter - Chapter 45

A lot more information is required.  You can read the requirements in the TX Family Code.
A finger print card is required.  I have clients get 2 finger print cards.  The reason for the name change is required.  If a person is trying to avoid creditors or has a serious criminal record, the court will NOT do a name change. 

Some courts will NOT do a name change without an attorney.  It's up to the Judge.

In Harris County, the civil courts require all the paperwork when the petition is submitted.

In Harris County, the family courts do NOT require all the paperwork when the petition is submitted.

Some judges handle adult name changes a bit different than other judges. 

Several pro se petitioners have ended up hiring me after trying to do an adult name change on their own.  I have been able to get an adult name change finalized after they have been unable to do it on their own.  Why?  I know what the individual judge wants and the pro se petitioner does not understand the legal system.  Each client has said that my fee was worth every penny.
They each said that they wished they had hired me at the beginning instead of trying to do it themselves.

Civil Liability for Interferring with Child Visitation

It does not happen often by Judges can "punish" people that get involved in "parental kidnapping" or "interfer" in "child visitation".

The law states that a person who aids or assists in conduct for which a cause of action is authorized by this chapter is JOINTLY AND SEVERALLY LIABLE FOR DAMAGES.

This means that if you are involved in ANYWAY then you can be held LIABLE for any DAMAGES THAT OCCUR if anything happens! 

This means that if you get involved with a dog and you get up with fleas you might get a flea bath and anything that is required to get rid of the fleas! 

So if you get involved with a dirty dog be prepared for a taking a bath -- financially!

Damges may include -- actual costs and expenses incurred -- including attorney fees!


Parental Liability

Chapter 41 of the TX Family Code

A parent can be held liable for up to $25,000 in damages for negligent or malicious acts of a child. 

A parent or any other person who has the duty of control and reasonable discipline of a child is liable for any PROPERTY DAMAGE proximately caused by THE NEGLIGENT CONDUCT OF THE CHILD if the conduct is reasonably attribuable to the negligent failure of the parent or other person to exercise that duty OR the wilful and malicious conduct of a child who is at LEAST 10 YEARS OLD but is under 18 YEARS OLD.

Damages can be $25,000 per occurrence plus court costs and reasonable attorneys fees.

Damages to a hotel or inn - per occurrence means one incident in a single day in one hotel room.  This term does not include incidents in separate rooms or incidents that occur on different days!

Parents beware of prom week-ends and groups of hotel rooms!

New 9/1/2009 Chapter in the TX Family Code - Chapter 34

Authorization Agreement for Nonparent Relative

Chapter 34 allows a parent to provide specific authorization to a grandparent, adult sibling or adult aunt or uncle of a child to provide medical, educational, and other parental consents in a parent's absence. 

Texas Family Code - Notice of Abortion

Chapter 33 - Notice of Abortion

Consent to Treat a Child by a Non-parent

Chapter 32 of the Texas Family Code

Consent to Medical, Dental, Psychological, and Surgical treatment and consent to immunize a minor child

Also contains a section on emergency shelter or care for minors.


Chapter 31 of the Removal of Diabilities of Minority or Emancipation in TX

In Texas you must be 16 or 17 to be emancipated.  Read Chapter 31 (available on-line) which states what must be listed.  The parent of the child MUST verify the petition or an amicus attorney or attorney ad litem shall verify the petition. 

The Judge shall appoint an amicus attorney ro attorney ad litem to represent the interest of the child at the hearing.  Someone (the child) has to pay for this attorney.  They usually charge a minimum of $1,000 (or more) for their legal fees.  Again, most kids can't afford their legal fees.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

First Holistic Lawyer

I am often asked who was the first holistic attorney.

Abraham Lincoln’s name is often mentioned as being the first “holistic” attorney.

Below are some quotes from a law lectures from around 19850 that reflects Abraham Lincoln keen wit and outlook about the legal profession…

“Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser – n fees, expenses, and waste of time. As a peacemaker the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough.”

“Never stir up litigation. A worse man can scarcely be found than one who does this. Who can be more nearly a fiend than he who habitually overhauls the register of deeds in search of defects in titles, whereon to stir up strike, and put money in his pocket? A moral tone tough tot be infused into the profession which should drive such men out of it.”

“The matter of fees is important, far beyond the mere question of bread and butter involved. Properly attended to, fuller justice is done to both lawyer and client. An exorbitant fee should never be claimed. As a general rule never take your whole fee in advance, nor any more than a small retainer. When fully paid beforehand, you are more than a common mortal if you can feel the same interest in the case, as if something was still in prospect for you, as well as for your client. And when you lack interest in the case the job will very likely lack skill and diligence in the performance. Settle the amount of fee and take a note in advance. Then you will feel that you are working for something, and you are sure to do your work faithfully and well. Never sell a fee note -- at least not before the consideration service is performed. It leads to negligence and dishonesty -- negligence by losing interest in the case, and dishonesty in refusing to refund when you have allowed the consideration to fail.”

“There is a vague popular belief that lawyers are necessarily dishonest. I say vague, because when we consider to what extent confidence and honors are reposed in and conferred upon lawyers by the people, it appears improbable that their impression of dishonesty is very distinct and vivid. Yet the impression is common, almost universal. Let no young man choosing the law for a calling for a moment yield to the popular belief -- resolve to be honest at all events; and if in your own judgment you cannot be an honest lawyer, resolve to be honest without being a lawyer.”

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

If you die without a will in Texas

If you die without a will in the State of Texas, the legislature has determined how your estate will be divided.

Many people think that the State of Texas will "take" your property.  That is untrue. 

What is true is that the State of Texas has determined who will receive your property.

What I mean by property is "real property" -- also known as real estate. 

It's hard to "hide" real estate and property that has a "title" -- things like a boat or vehicle. 

Stuff like -- clothes, jewelry, papers, furniture, etc. can easily "disappear" -- just "vanish". 

If you have a properly written will in Texas, probate in Texas is easy and inexpensive.  I strongly urge you to hire a TX attorney to do your will. 

I don't like a will sold in an office supply store or on-line.  Many of the wills sold at these places are not prepared by TX attorneys. 

TX wills MUST be done just a certain way in order to be valid in TX in order to be probated so that they are easy and inexpensive. 

So why save $200 on a kit and spend $2,000 on probate?
That is penny-wise and pound-foolish. 
Do it right the first time!!

Horror story:
My friend's mom did a codicil (minor change) by hand and totally messed up up the will.  She wanted to leave my friend the bulk of the estate because he was the "good son"  & restrict his sister because she was a drug addict.   After mom died, the sister, ended up with everything and the "good son" ended up with nothing.   Mom's eye sight was poor and her minor change removed the son from the will and gave everything to the daughter -- oops!  Mom could have easily paid a lawyer to accomplish what she wanted.  Son did not even get his Dad's pocket watch! 

Are you a 2nd wife -- does your husband pay child support -- if so be afraid -- very afraid if he dies --

IF YOUR HUSBAND PAYS CHILD SUPPORT -- remember that his children by his previous marriage comes first!! 

READ HIS COURT ORDERED CHILD SUPPORT -- it clearly states that his child support obligation continues AFTER his death -- THAT MEANS THAT HIS ESTATE OWES THE MONEY after his death....



Do you have a will?

Do your relatives know if you want to be put on life support if you are in a horrible accident?

Don't wait -- act today!!


Elderly or sick family members

Do you have elderly or sick family members?

You need to talk to me

I charge $2 per minute to talk to you or to you and your family.

I might give you some peace of mind.





Consultation $2 a minute

I have been practicing law for almost 20 years.  I am over 55 years old.  I have led a colorful life.  I am a former business owner.  I've been married twice.  I am taking care of my elderly parents.  I like to think outside of the box.  I try to avoid going to court.

If you might have a potential problem, come see me.  Let's just talk for $2 per minute.  Within 30 - 90 minutes, perhaps I can help you.  Or, perhaps I can point you in the right direction.

I never got guardianship over my father.  I did things that avoided needing a guardianship over him.  I might be able to help you too. 

If you have aging parents or you are single, you need more than a will.  You don't just need a living will or a living trust.  You need to think outside the box.  Let me help you. 

Probate in Texas is not scary if you plan ahead!

Call me at 713-847-6000 or email me

Adoption by another person

If you are over the age of 18, it is very easy to be ADOPTED by another person.

Many people that could not be formally adopted as children for some technicality can finally finish the process quickly, easily and CHEAPLY after they turn 18.

For some families that spent thousands of dollars and years of frustration, waiting until the child turns 18, is the answer to their prayers.

If the adoption process is not an option for your family, please consider doing it AFTER the child becomes an adult.

Most people have not be made aware of this option. 

This is one reason I offer a consultation for $2 a minute.  Often there are solutions that people just aren't aware of or never considered.

Call me for an appointment.

Changining a minor child's name

Changining a child's name requires the consent of BOTH parents. 

If both parents do NOT agree, most judges just won't do it.

It's just easier to wait until the child is 18, then the child (now considered an adult) can do it without anyone else's consent.  The adult needs to get a finger print card and fill out some paperwork.  If the person does NOT have a criminal record and is NOT avoiding creditors, it's easy.  Most judges are glad to do it. 

The biggest pain is to to the SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION office and then the TX Driver's License Office and get new identification. 

The person will need to get all things changed -- passport, credit cards, etc. 

It takes several weeks to get new id's issued.

Children having children

I had an interesting question the other day.

A 15 year old girl was pregnant.  The girl's father wanted to know who was going to have to pay for her maternity clothes and her hospital bills.

The obvious answer was -- her parents! 

The Texas legislature never anticipated minor children having children.  Our state laws just are not written for minors having babies.

Parents are responsible for the acts of their children.  

The odds are the father is also a minor and does not have the money to pay for her pregnancy expenses. 

In most cases, most people are not wealthy.  If the families have a lot of money, then 2 attorneys are going to get wealthy and having a lot of fun fighting in court by fighting in court by trying to prove to a judge in court which parent was more negligent by not watching their children and "allowing" these kids to get "too close" to reproduce! 

Of course, it won't be until AFTER the baby is born and DNA testing can be done to determine who the bio. daddy is and litigation can begin!  So the parents are going to have to save all the receipts and hope that the Judge will reimburse their expenses.  I've seen judges reimburse for prenatal vitamins.  I don't know if a judge will reimburse for the costs of "reasonable" maternity clothes.  And what would "reasonable" maternity clothes be? 

Of course, the costs to hire attorneys to fight all of this might exeed the out-of-pocket costs.

But, if the man is much older than the 15 year old girl, he might be charged with statutory rape and be looking at criminal charges...if so...he'll be in prison and a registered sex child support and reimbursement of pregnancy expenses will be the least of his problems.

After practicing law for almost 20 years, it never gets boring!

Why do so many 17 yr. olds want to leave home?

It seems that many 17 yr. olds want to move out of their parent's home!!  They are in a hurry to move in with their boyfriend's home.  It is rare that a boy wants to move in with his girl friend.

At 17 they are an adult for criminal purposes!  However, they are still a minor for civil purposes.  Landlord's don't want to rent to them.  No one wants to sign a contract (car loans) with them.

What they don't realize is that they cannot take their furniture and their stuff (cell phones, computers, games, etc.) with them when they leave.  Technically, their clothes, money, etc. belong to their parents.

The moment the clock strikes midnight on their birthday, they are an adult and they can leave their parent's home.  They can leave with the clothes on their back -- and they can take anything that they have received as a gift or inherited.  Everything else still belongs to their parents.

Of course, the moment they turn 18, their parents no longer have to support them -- with things like money, food, clothing, housing, soap, gasoline, electricity, cell phones, Toilet paper, water, etc.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Some Excuses that Don't Work as to Why you Missed Court

Judges hear a lot of Excuses as to Why People Don't Show up to Court -- Here are a Few of the Most Common - They Don't Work:

I did not know that I could ask for DNA testing.  You MUST ask for DNA testing at the beginning of a case or your lose the right forever. 

NOT showing up to court, is NOT an excuse.

NOT hiring an attorney is NOT an excuse.  If you are trying to hire an attorney show up with business cards and names and phone numbers. 

Showing up on the wrong date to court is NOT an excuse.

Showing up in the wrong court is NOT an excuse.

If they serve the wrong address and you did NOT know about a court case, it is NOT an excuse.

If they serve your mother's address and you don't really live there and you don't show up to court, is NOT an excuse.

If the custodial parent told you "everything was taken care of" and not to show up to court, that is NOT an excuse.

I had a flat tire.  Call and tell the court.  Then get it fixed and show up late.  Don't just get it fixed and go home.

If you are in a traffic accident on the way to court -- then send a relative to court and have them appear in front of the judge and tell the Judge what hospital emergency room you are at.  The Judge will probably have someone call the hospital to verify that you are in the hospital.  Why?  Because people use this excuse all the time.

Child Support Obligation - The debt that never goes away

Here is the basic Texas law regarding a parent's obligations regarding child support:

A parent is obligated by Texas law to support their minor children.

There is no excuse NOT to support your children according to Texas law.

Even Texas inmates are obligated to support their minor children.

Not working is NOT an excuse.

Even if the custodial parent hides the children from you, you are still obligated to pay child support.  Yes, this is not fair,  but, it is the law.

If you lose your job, it is YOUR obligation to go before a Judge and get the amount of the child support lowered.  Yes, this is NOT fair, but, it is the law.
Being disabled is not an excuse.

Being injured is not an excuse.

Being a student is not an excuse.

Being mentally ill is not an excuse.

If you are married, then your spouse can make the child support payments.

It is assumed in Texas that you can work a minimum wage job of 40 hours a week.  That translates into a monthly child support payment of at least $200 a month for one child.

This monthly obligation is determined by the Texas Attorney General and is revised each year by their office. 

If Social Security sends money to the other parent, the judge can still order the non-custodian parent to make an additional child support payment.

Child support obligations cannot be discharged be bankruptcy.

Past due child support will be reported to the credit reporting agencies & will ruin your credit.  That means that you will not be able to buy a car or a house.  You will have bad credit and you will pay a higher interest rate.  If you are married, it will impact your spouse's credit.

You can lose your driver’s license.  If you are a truck driver, you can lose your professional license. 

If you are a professional (hair dresser, doctor, chiropractor, etc.) you can lose your license and there is nothing you can do about it.

If you are owed a tax refund, the IRS will take the refund and send it to the custodian parent.

All past-due child support incurs a 6% penalty.

Once the children are over the age of 18, you cannot go to jail but the child support is still owed and the 6% penalty still grows! 

If you ever inherit any money, the TX A G will intervene and get the money in probate court.  And, yes I've seen them do it. 

When you die, they will intervene in the probate of your estate and get the money before your heirs get any money.

In summary, child support is the debt that never goes away.

Friday, March 26, 2010

To the person who sent me a comment - here is my reply

To the mother that just posted the following on my blog...

applies and an over 18-year old CONTINUES to be unemancipated?

Can an over 18 year old continue to be unemancipated due to inability to independently care for himself?

My son has a learning/developmental disability and recently dropped out of school. He is really lacking in the life skills needed to become emancipated (IMO).

I'm working with him on that, but his father says that now he can stop paying child support on him!!


First, you need to email me directly at so that we can discuss this matter privately.  Second, your questions really don't make sense to me.  If the "child" has turned 18, he is now an adult.  Since he dropped out of high school and is over the age of 18, his father no longer has to support him, the child is now a legal adult.  He might be your child but in the eyes of the law in the State of Texas he is now an adult. 

You can try to have your child declared "incompetent" by a court.  You will need to be declared his legal guardian.  It is very difficult to do.  Just being irresponsible and not having life skills is not enough to be declared incompetent.  Yes, the boy might be irresponsible and not "street smart" but that is not enough in the eyes of the judge and the laws of the State of Texas.

I don't do adult guardianships.  You will need an attorney that specializes in adult guardianships.  These sort of cases are handled in courts called PROBATE COURTS.

I only handle family law cases -  like divorce, custody of children, child support, etc. 

Your child is no longer a minor child.

I hope this helps.

Good luck!

If you want to just talk, I charge $1 per minute to do so - minimum charge $1 per minute.

Friday, February 5, 2010

How do I get my spouse out of the house?

In Texas, you must go to court and have a judge order that person to move.  Texas does not recognize legal separation like many other states.  Therefore, you must file for divorce and file a document asking for a temporary order hearing.  At the hearing, the person filing (hopefully the Petitioner's attorney) will ask the Judge to order the person to move.  The judge will probably give the person a date to be out.  Then the Judge normally also gives a date and time that the spouse is allowed to remove their belongings from the residence.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Can child's mother make her live with dad?

This is a great question!

Pre-teen daughter is making mom and step-dad's lives a living hell.
Mom decides to make father take her.
Father and step-mom don't want her because of the problems she causes.
Step-mom emails me -- can we be forced to take her?

Answer: No

But, thinking outside the box, I had some other thoughts.  This child is in crisis.  Something needs to be done.  How horrible that either biological parent wants this child in their home!
That is a red flag that something is seriously wrong. 

I suggested (1) family counseling for parents and steps (2) sending kid to boarding school (3) sending her to live with another relative that wants her or (4) as a last resort, giving custody of the kid to CPS. 

I don't like bringing CPS into the case but I've seen parents voluntarily turn their kids over when they are totally out of control.  I suspect that no one wanting you must horrible.  However, if the kid is out of control, on drugs or alcohol, running away from home, physically hurting themselves or others, there might not be any other choice.

My ex wants me to legally change my name

Boy, I love this question.  I get it 2 or 3 times a year. 

In a divorce, a husband cannot force his wife to change her name!  Her married name is her legal name and it is her decision if she wants to keep it or go back to any other name she has ever used.

I had one lady that liked her first husband's last name so when she divorced husband #2 she went back to husband #1's last name! 

She was not doing it to avoid creditors or criminal prosecution so it was ok.

You cannot make everyone happy!

It's been a very "interesting" day. 

Got several nasty emails from a client's wife.  She's been very busy for the past 2 days trying to "ruin me". She's been calling and emailing numerous people.  I tried to call and talk to her today, but I went directly to voice mail and she never called me back.  (She is very bold in emails but I'm sure she does not walk to actually talk to me!) 

Someone called me because they were concerned about me.   As soon as the person's name was mentioned I just said...I represent her husband in their divorce...then...all I heard was laughter. Seasoned attorneys always want to know - the rest of the story!

It's hard to defend yourself against this sort of "attack".  I have determined that it is easier to just let the person vent.   As a family law attorney, I have tried to develop a tough skin when this sort of thing happens.  It does not happen often, but it does happen.   I figure it's just part of the job.  Making a big production only "fuels the flame".  Taking the high road and behaving in a calm reasonable mode seems to be the best solution for everyone involved.   

I find that people that are "on a mission" eventually find a new mission or lose momentum when they can't get a "fight" going.  Most just need a good night's sleep and time to "re-set" themselves.

Why are her complaints not bothering me?
Because she admitted in an email to me that...
I am not her attorney
She admits that I told her that I could not ethcially represent both the husband and wife in a Texas divorce
She admits that I represent the husband in the divorce
She agrees that we have no "contract" or "legal services contract"
I have never received any money from her - She admits that her husband gave me the money
I was allowed to communicate with her since he was pro se (no attorney representing her)

I wish I could say more but I won't,,,


Quick Update:  The attorney mentioned above was so upset by the emails and phone calls received that this person strongly advised me to file for a restraining order immediately for my safety and to retain legal counsel to sue for defamation and slander.  I certainly hope this won't be necessary!  What this woman does not understand is how her untrue and exaggerated statements (now in oral and written form) plus witnesses that are willing to testify against her -- could really hurt HER.  If I won a defamation or slander lawsuit, I could be awarded $$$.  Even if she does not have any money, I could then get a financial judgment that would prevent her from ever buying anything on credit in the future -- even a used car!  A judgment can also hurt her future employment.  Plus, many employers won't hire people that have restraining orders against them! 

I hope she gets some sleep and calms down.

In a sad way, it is amusing... she thinks I'm running scared.  Instead, I'm backing up and printing all communications from her and the people she has been contacting.  To be safe, I am storing them away from my home and office for safe keeping. 

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Check out my blog on IAHL.

As a board member of the International Alliance of Holistic Lawyers, I've been asked to write a blog entry once a month.  Here is my first entry:

After IAHL’s North Carolina conference three years ago, I ordered new business cards that said “holistic attorney, counselor at law & mediator”. I came out of the closet as a holistic attorney.

Soon after I began using the term “holistic attorney” I received a phone call from an opposing counsel on a difficult family law case. This attorney is a successful attorney with the reputation for being an overly aggressive and for pulverizing his opposing counsel. He was known for never settling a case and for refusing to attend mediation. He is also known as being a total control freak and has a reputation for filing contempt actions for minute matters that are normally settled between the attorneys. If this attorney is opposing counsel on a case, it is assumed that the divorce will run thousands of dollars.

After I said “hello” the first words out his mouth was something like “how dare you tell your client…” and he went on for several minutes accusing me of doing all sorts of irrational and unethical things. I almost laughed because I had done none of the things I was being accused of doing. However, I knew that laughing would only escalate his aggression toward me. My initial reaction was to fire back at him with a barrage of accusations about his client. At the beginning of the conversation, he tried to “bait” me into a verbal battle. No matter what I said, he would fire back with even stronger accusations and he hinted that he would “wipe the courthouse floor with me”.
I decided this was an opportunity to act as peacemaker and to put my holistic practices into play. I took a few deep breaths and asked him some questions from my heart. I then actively listened to his answers. I calmly kept asking him for additional information. No matter what he said I remained calm and respectful. I refused to fight with him. Gradually he began to calm down. His tone softened. He started talking slower. By opening my heart and responding in a non-aggressive manner, I gradually took control of the conversation. At the end of the telephone conversation, he actually apologized to me for jumping to conclusions. He also said that he knew we would be able to settle this case without going to trial. I was shocked due to his reputation for never backing down and for never admitting he was wrong.
When I hung up the phone, I felt peaceful and at ease. I recognized that I had all the power in the telephone call because I remained calm and did not attack him. Instead of being upset, I was felt good and energized. I had now had proof that being a peacemaker (aka holistic attorney) could work.