Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Hiring a mediator does not mean you don't need to hire an attorney!!

I keep receiving phone calls from people that think that if they hire a mediator that they do NOT need to hire an attorney.

Obviously many people do NOT understand the role of a mediator!

They think that if they hire an attorney/mediator that they do not need to hire an attorney to assist them.  They are wrong, wrong, wrong.

If I assume the role of a mediator then I must take off my "hat" as an attorney.  I cannot function as an attorney.  I cannot provide legal advice.  I cannot prepare legal paperwork.  I cannot do the legal paperwork necessary to finalize a divorce.  After practicing law for 20 years I have avoided greviences against me.  I intend to continue my clean record!  I also as a "credentialed" mediator in the State of Texas.  I am held to a high standard of conduct as a mediator.  Therefore, I don't intend to start letting my ethics start slipping as an attorney or as a mediator!

If I assist a couple if coming to terms with the the final outcome of their divorce I am unable to assist them with preparing the paperwork to be submitted to the judge to sign the final paperwork! 

Therefore, the couple must still retain the service of a Texas attorney to assist them in preparing the final paperwork.

So what can a couple do to avoid hiring an attorney? 
The answer is not much.

They cannot use the services of a paralegal to do the final paperwork -- it is illegal for a paralegal to do so in the State of Texas.  In fact, it is a felony for a paralegal to do so!  The District Attorney's office as prosecuted paralegal's for doing paperwork for people.  Why?  Because often a paralegal has been known to do the final paperwork WRONG!  FYI:  There is one Harris County family cout associate judge that has personally called the District Attorney's office and given the DA's office the name of a paralegal and their contact information in order to aide in the prosecution of paralegals that do bad paperwork! 

Also, please don't waste your money with the kits advertised on radio, television and the internet.  If you listen carefully to their ads they state that they are not prepared by attorneys!  That is how they State Bar of Texas has avoided suing them for the unlawful practice of law in the State of Texas!  Also, their "guarantee" is worthless!  I believe their guarantee is for 60 days and a divorce in Texas takes over 61 days -- so you don't get your money back.  Plus, they don't give you the REQUIRED forms that the judge will want in order the finalize your divorce in Harris County and in the State of Texas.  Plus, they don't sell you the required Employer Wage Withholding Order and other necessary forms that you will need if you have minor children.

If a couple is broke, busted, and on a limited income then there are pro bono (free) legal services available.  Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program at 713-228-0732 comes to mind.  I worked there many years ago.  There is also Lone Star Legal.  The 3 law schools in town also have services.  You can go to the State Bar of Texas website and look for their pro bono list of programs in the State of Texas.  Be prepared to wait since the free programs are overwhelmed and understaffed.  Their funding has been drying up.  The demand for free services is swelling & there just are not enough people to handle the demand.

Many attorneys offer payment plans. 

Patricia Bushman at 713-807-9405 offers payment plans.

You can look for a recent law school graduate.  However, I would suggest that you find someone that has a couple of years experience.  A recent graduate does not know what they are doing and you don't need to be their first case!  Many times someone with 5-10 years experience can do the job much quicker and right the first time -- for less money since they know what they are doing!

You can always go to the Family Court house -- there are now courts at 2 courthouses -- the Family Courthouse at 1115 Congress & the Civil Courthouse -- both are downtown just a couple of blocks away from each other -- and you can look around and try to find an attorney that looks like they are "hungry" but smart.  I'd go down in the morning -- usually on a Monday morning when there is docket call.  I'd pick someone with a few wrinkles in their face.  Pick someone that is nice.  It's your money -- so don't pick someone that treats your rudely! 

You can check the Greensheet.  I advertised in there for years approx. 15 years ago but I quit.  There is just too much competition these days & too many shoppers.  Plus now everyone has the internet.  I found that most people use the internet to find an attorney.  The Greensheet was not as popular for hiring a family law attorney. 

You can look on and for many family law attorneys.Both sites allow you to post free questions.  Read the attorney answers & find someone that sounds nice. 

There are many, many free websites for attorneys to advertise on these days.  I used to pay to advertise but now there are literally probably 25 free attorney sites that I appear on.  I've had a website over 15 years so I'm a really old, old internet presence. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

New television show - Suits

I really like the new television show - SUITS!

However, it is totally unrealistic -- which is why I probably like it.

Like last week, the judge said he was starting a jury trial the next day!  LOL!  A jury trial takes months to get on the docket in Harris County, Texas.  There is no way that a case would be the next day.  Plus, to get a jury "seated" and for a jury to get started the next day would be impossible.  There is a process of picking a jury that normally takes at least one day - usually more.  Of course, this is television and everything is super fast.

Plus, the guy with no law degree has not been caught!  (I've been known to check the background of my opposing counsel.)  Things like -- Where is his bar number?  Where did he rank when he took the bar?  No one would think to check that he's a licensed attorney?  These things a public knowledge & on the web. 

The guy pretending to be a lawyer is committing a felony so when he gets caught it's going to be jail for him. 

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do not expect me to personally reply to posts!

If you post a reply to this blog -- I cannot reply to you! 

Therefore, do not expect a reply if you post a question to my blogs!

Blogger does not have anyway for me to reply to you!  Additionally, I do not want to answer your personal questions in this open forum. (I'm sure that you do not want me to do this either -- if you think about it. Plus, most of you do not give me enough information for me to even attempt to answer questions!)

Also, if you read my blogs, I am no longer offering free consultations or litigating family law cases.  My practice is now 100% mediation based.

If you want an attorney for litigation or any area of family law -- this includes name changes, please contact PATRICIA BUSHMAN at 713-807-9405 or ROSE CARDENAS.

The voice mail on my office phone clearly states that I am not accepting litigated cases.  I'm trying to return all telephone calls.  However, often people's voice mail messages are not clear and I'm unable to return their telephone calls.  If I'm unable to understand a person's voice mail message then I cannot return a telephone call.  I do attempt to return all telephone calls within 48 hours IF I can understand the message.  Many times all I receive is a "garbled" message -- I'm sure that you think that you leave a perfectly clear message but your "background" noise (kids, music, wind noise) totally blocks your voice out. 

I've asked my web guy to revise my website to reflect the change in my practice.  Unfortuantely, he's not made the changes I've asked.  Hopefully, he will get it done soon. 

If you don't want to use Pat or Rose -- I recommend looking on or  -- ignore's rating system -- it can be manipulated -- many good lawyers don't "claim" their listing or keep their listing updated so their points drop.

If you need a pro bono aka "free" lawyer then call HOUSTON VOLUNTEER LAWYERS at 713-228-0732.  However, you need to be prepared for a long wait since they have overwhelmed by requests for help & they don't have enough volunteer attorneys. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

I am not accepting litigated cases

Due to a death in my family, I am no longer accepting litigated cases.

I am no longer offering free consultations or offering $2/minute consultations.

I have also decided to stop offering the Do It Yourself Legal Kits.  After offering the DIY kits for over the past 10 years, I found that people just did not want to pay for them.  People would rather pay for the "Legal Zoom-type kits" being sold on the internet, radio and television and then want me to "fix" their crummy forms and complain about being "ripped off". I tired of arguing with people & I don't have the time or energy to "fix" garbage.  It's easier to start fresh rather than to fix "junk". 

I have decided to only to family law mediations. 

In the spring of 2011, I took an elder law mediation training, so I will also offer elder law mediation for families that need that sort of assistance.  With the aging US population, I believe, that elder law mediation will be growing in popularity. 

Do not post a comment & expect me to answer you!

Please do not post a comment and expect me to answer you on this blog!

You must send me an email directly!

Also, please be advised that I am no longer accepting contested cases & am no longer offering consultations.  I have decided to focus my practice on mediation only.

I am referring all cases to PATRICIA BUSHMAN at 713-807-9405 or ROSE CARDENAS at 832-419-4110.  Both are excellent attorneys.  Pat is cheaper and will go to counties farther than most attornies in the Houston area.    Rose is more hands on and speaks Spanish & she will go to Ft. Bend county too.  Their styles are very different. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Adult Name Changes in Harris County, Texas

Here is the adult name change process in a nutshell:
1. Before you come see an attorney - You pay for finger print cards – you need 2 finger-print cards that are prepared at the Houston Police Department on Main Street & Rusk Street in Downtown Houston. It costs under $50 to have these 2 finger print cards made. You pay HPD for these cards. Then you call me for an appointment.
Warning: If you have any outstanding arrest warrants, you will be arrested when you try to enter the building so be sure that you do not have any outstanding tickets or any other legal problems before you attempt to enter the building!
2. There is some legal paperwork (Title of the Document -- Petition for An Adult Name Change) to be filed at the courthouse in Downtown Houston. The filing fee to do an adult name change is approximately $300 payable to the Harris County District Clerk’s office. This is the only fee that Harris County collects.

3. Then one of the finger print cards must be sent to Austin Texas and that costs under $100 for the agency in Austin to do a state and federal background check to make sure that you are not a “terrorist” and that you do not have a state or federal felony criminal record.  (If you do, the court is not going to issue you a name change & you have wasted your money.)
4. After Austin agency has done their criminal background check, they send their paperwork directly to the Judge. This agency can take up to 4 months to get this paperwork done. (FYI: From my past experience with this agency, it is not in your best interest to attempt to hurry this agency.  They don't like being "rushed".)
5. Then you and I must appear before the Judge and you must swear under oath that you are not a terrorist and that you are doing asking for a name change to avoid criminal prosecution or avoid creditors. You must briefly explain why you want a name change. 

Do It Yourselvers Beware:  I have found that most Harris County judges prefer that you have an attorney present when you are trying to do a name change.  You can certainly try to do this pro se, however, most judges put you at the end of the daily court docket. 

Also, if you purchase the paperwork sold on the internet, radio or television by companies outside of the State of Texas, you are probably wasting your money.  These companies are not using paperwork that the judges in Harris County are used to seeing.  They are not using forms prepared by Texas attorneys.  These forms are prepared by attorneys that have probably never set foot in the State of Texas. 

Also, do not purchase forms from office supply stores.  If you look carefully on the back of the kit, it says "state forms not included".  Therefore, why would you purchase a kit that does not include the forms that you need? 

Lastly, do not call "411" and ask for legal aide.  There is no such "animal" in the Houston area.  The phone number that you are given is not located in the State of Texas and is owned by a person that has numrous BBB complaints against him.  This company sells worthless forms and you will not get your money refunded. 
6. After the judge signs the paperwork, it must go through Harris County “processing”. Then approximately 2 weeks later you get a certified copy of the final document that the Judge signed that approved the name change. 

In order to receive a certified copy you must pay $1 per page.  You go back downtown to the courthouse and stand in line at the certified copy window.

7.  Actually changing your name.  You take that paperwork that the judge signed to the Social Security Administration to get a new Social Security card. Then you can go to the Texas Driver’s License Bureau to get a new driver’s license. After that you can get a new bank account and other accounts with the new name. 

8.  Think carefully before beginning this process.  Before you think about changing your name, remember a name change is a major change.  You must change everything! 

Just to name a few of the things are: Your employer, all of your medical providers, your medical insurance, utilities, car insurance, car title, life insurance, professional licenses, schools, diplomas, bank, real estate, credit cards, all legal documents, etc. 

It is going to impact your credit rating.  Don't be surprised if credit file gets lost in the shuffle! 

Changing your name takes a lot of time and effort. 

True horror story: A major hospital in the Sugarland area lost my chest x-rays because some clerk filed them under my "old married name" (I'd been divorced over 20 years!)  and I almost died when I had a pulminary embolism.  My doctor had to release me from the hospital and sent me to back to try to locate the missing x-rays because she needed to review them.  So a name change can be a life-threatening experience.  (To make matters worst there is another Fran Brochstein & they kept trying to give me her records from her broken arm -- I've never broken my arm!)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A woman wants to have my child but says she will never ask for money from me

If you believe this, then I have some magic seeds that I would like to sell you!!

If a child is born and the DNA test says that the child is yours, then you are going to pay child support. 

In fact, all of the Attorney General offices throughout the entire United States have agreed to work together in order to collect child support for minor children.  The Attorney General offices will only establish child support - they don't care about your visitation rights! 

Plus, in the State of Texas the court can go back 4 years and get retroactive child support.  It does not matter if you did not know that the child existed or if the mother "hid" the child from you. 

Plus, you get to pay 6% interest on all past-due child support.  Pretty soon you are paying interest on the interest you owe!  (The interest rate in Texas was 12% so be happy that the TX Legislature reduced it to 6%!)

Here are a few other depressing facts about child support:

Child support is not dischargeable in bankruptcy. 

If you ever inherit any money the Attorney General can intervene in the probate court & "grab" any money you owe in past-due child support.

The Attorney General  will "grab" any refund money due with the IRS if you owe past-due child support.

The Attorney General can auto-debt any bank account they find with your Social Security number attached to it - checking or savings accounts.  This includes even accounts in your children's names!  They do not notify you before they do this!  Then your checks bounce. 

All credit reporting agencies are notified of your debt & it ruins your credit rating -- you won't be able to purchase a home or automobile!

Your driver's license can be suspended -- bad news for professional truck drivers!

If you have a professional license -- lawyer, doctor, dentist, real estate agent, etc. -- it can be cancelled -- which puts your out of business!

Child support can be deducted from your Social Security check when you retire.

If you die, the money becomes due.  So if you have an estate to needs to be probated, your heirs have to "deal" with this debt! 

If you have re-married, your spouse has to "deal" with this outstanding debt. 

Child support is the obligation that does not go away!

I encourage you to think a long time before "sleeping" with that woman -- is she truly worth it?
Is one night of pleasure worth a lifetime of financial obligation?

Adults dating minors

If you are over 18, please don't date, hang out with, or befriend a minor child (anyone under the age of 18).

I don't care how mature the child seems or looks. 

The only thing that matters is the date they were born. 

I would check their driver's license.  If they are under 18 -- run, run, run. 


Well, the criminal charge of statutory rape comes to mind. 

You will have to register as a convicted sex offender for the rest of your life. 

Sex offenders usually don't do very well in prison!  Generally, fellow prisoners don't like sex offenders. 

I am not a criminal lawyer, but but here it is in a nutshell -- a minor child cannot consent to sex.  Therefore, if you have sex you can be arrested and charged with a crime.  You can go to jail.
If you watch the news, this goes for boys and girls. 

Even if one parent likes you, remember that there are probably two parents.  So the other parent can call the police, constable or sheriff and have you arrested.

Therefore, if you are an adult, don't hang around with kids (anyone under 18)!

Friday, January 28, 2011

T.V. Series - Fairly Legal -- what a novel & fabulous idea -- a show about mediaiton!

I've seen 2 episodes of the new television series, Fairly Legal. 

I've talked to a few mediators about this new tv series.  One gentleman refused to watch it! However, I was really excited when I heard that there was going to be a tv show about a mediator.  What a novel idea! I want to personally thank the creator of this t.v. series for coming up with this great idea!  What a great way to let the general public get to learn more about mediation.  It's going to create some unrealistic expectations from the general public about what a mediator can actually do in a case -- but what the heck!  This tv series could actually educate the public about mediation better than anything else out there.  It could be the best advertisement for alternative dispute resolution.  I suspect I'll soon be referencing FAIRLY LEGAL in my mediation introduction! 

The best thing about the television series, Fairly Legal, is that it is getting the word out about mediation.  If nothing else, that is the very best thing about this TVseries.  The general public will get an idea about what mediation is and about what it can do for them when they have a problem. 

Unfortunately, it is going to give the public a false idea about mediation.  It reminds me of the television series, LA Law.  Everyone wanted to go to law school because of LA Law.  It made lawyers sexy.  Sure they were scummy sharks that wanted to win at all costs, but they sure were sexy! 

I believe the series takes a lot of liberties to build the drama in the show, such as having the character not be a lawyer any more.  In Texas, a mediator can be an attorney and a mediator.  A lawyer does not have to turn in their bar card in order to be a mediator.

Also, in the initial episode the judge appeared to dislike the mediator.  The judges that I know appreciate and respect mediators because they know that some cases, especially cases involving family disputes, are better resolved between the parties than at the courthouse.  I think FAIRLY LEGAL  will give a false impression about the relationship between judges and mediators. 

Additionally, the primary character's ability to mediate is somewhat unorthodox.  She is able to resolve the nastiest cases in less than a minute.  She reminds me of how Perry Mason was able to get guilty people to confess by just looking at them!  Perry Mason gave the person that stare and the person just had to confess -- they could not help themselves. 

Plus I really like how she is able to be at the right place at the right time. 

And, her assistant is a miracle worker! 

She does show that a mediator's job is to think outside the box - to look at the issues and try to make mediation a win-win for everyone involved. 

I do like her passion for her mediations.  It will be interesting to see if each episode continues to feel like she is on a "mission from God". 

I like this character because she is able to say just the right thing and people that we about to choke each other 60 seconds ago suddenly are able to hug each other and resolve all issues!  Damn I'm jealous!  I wish I had such great script writters when I am doing a mediation! 

I've often commented to my clients in litigated cases that the courtroom is just not like television because we don't have commercials and we don't have script writters that can resolve all issues in less than 50 minutes. 

The characters in Fairly Legal seem really messed up and barely functioning.  This show might be a success just because they all seem to human.

I hope that this show lasts long enough to develop a following. 

I am planning to marry someone in the military & move away with my minor child -- can I?

I would immediately take a certified copy of your current court order to an experienced family law attorney in your county. 

You need to talk to an attorney and see if you are restricted to the county that you currently live in.

Technically only the child can be restricted to a specific county and/or counties.

You, as the primary parent, are free to live anywhere. 

Only the child is restricted where the child can live.

If the child is thriving then why should the child's life be disrupted because you are getting married?  If the child has friends, family and is established in this area, then why should the child's life be turned "upside down" and be moved?  Why should the child's life be totally changed because you want to get married?  If the child is in school, then why should the child be moved away from the life that the child knows?

If the other parent is very active in the child's life, the other parent can object to you moving the child. 

In the State of Texas, many judges will not allow the child to be moved away from the other parent just because one of the parents is re-marrying. 

The other parent can ask the court to allow that parent to become the primary parent and then you would be ordered to pay child support and you would then visit the child.

If the other parent is an absentee parent, the the judge would probably allow you and the child to move.  You need to talk to an attorney about the defination of an absentee parent.  

So before you set a wedding date, I would set an appointment with an experienced family law attorney in your county!

Often the other parent will allow you to move away if you are willing to negotiate -- such as (1) reduce child support to a token amount (2) you pay all costs of transportation for the additional costs of visitation  (3) you give the other parent expanded visitation to make up for moving so far away -  such as every Spring break, all summer and every Christmas (4) buying the child and the other parent high-tech computers so that they can keep in touch via the internet.  

I always suggest mediation rather than litigation.

True Story:  One mother remarried and moved the 3 teen-age kids to Hawaii.  A judge in Harris County made the children move back to Houston to live with their Dad. 

I own a home & am about to marry. How can I keep it my separate property?

If you do things right you can make sure to keep it your separate property. 

I highly recommend that you talk to an real estate attorney in order to make sure that it remains your separate property.
Otherwise, you could "accidentally" do the wrong thing and create a "mess"!
I might not cover every possible way that you could "slip up" so do not rely on this blog to cover every possible way in which to convert separate property into community property!

It could cost you a lot of money and heart-ache later down the road!

Spend a little now & save a lot later!

If you put your spouse's name on the title, it becomes community property.

If you use community funds to pay the taxes or make improvements, then you are asking for trouble!

If you re-finance  or take out a loan on the property, it becomes community property.

You might want to have an attorney prepare a pre-nup. (and a post nup.) agreement for both of you to sign.  These legal documents must be done absolutely properly and both of you must make full disclosure or they are not valid. 

I do not recommend using the "do it yourself" kits that are sold on t.v. and on the radio!  (I would definately avoid the kits sold at office supply stores - they clearly state on the back of the box that they do not include the state  appropriate forms -- so they are a complete waste of money.)

Please talk to a real estate attorney and make sure to do it right!

Do I have to give the other parent my phone numbers?

Reasonable people share contact information so that the other parent will be able to communicate with their children.
Reasonable people work together to raise their children.
Reasonable people keep their children out of their "adult" conflicts.
Reasonable people co-parent together and raise healthy, happy children.

Reasonable people recognize that they will be co-grandparenting.

Reasonable people put aside their anger & eventually find a way to be civil to one another.

If your children were in an accident or there was some sort of emergency, I'm sure you would want to be called.

A few suggestions if you marry a person that pays child support

You are a wise person to be thinking about possible problems BEFORE you get married!
You need to make sure that you both have wills in place in order to protect yourselves. 

Please talk to an attorney that handles wills and probate. 

For example, if your spouse does not have a will in the State of Texas and you purchase a home together, you could end up owning a home with his minor children from his prior marriage.  I'm sure that this is not something that you would enjoy doing since you would then have to interact with their mother!

Also, if your spouse dies, then his/her child support becomes an obligation of his/her estate.  Yes, that means that his ex-spouse would intervene in the probate of the estate.  You and any children that you have with your deceased spouse would be "punished" since the older children would probably have a superior interest in the assets of his estate.

You should also talk to an attorney that handles family law matters about possible problems if the parent ever gets behind in his or her child support obligations in the future. He or she might be current in his (or her) child support NOW but if he/she  ever falls behind it could definately impact any property (or bank accounts) that you might purchase together in the future.

What would I do?
Here are just a few things that come to mind...

You probably don't want to keep all of your finances separate.

So no joint bank accounts.

File your taxes separate.

Consider signing prenup (and post nup.) legal paperwork that had been prepared by a family law attorney.

Review your wills every 5 years.
Review your finances every 5 years.
Put assets in your name only.

Run your credit and your spouse's credit annually.

In summary, you might want to just together and not marry.

Remember, if you have any children with this person, they take a "back seat" to the children that are already alive.  The Courts will always "favor" the older children.  Why? Because you knew that these children were alive and their parent had a legal obligation to support them.  The judicial system will have no sympathy for you or the younger children. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Can a minor child come live with my family?

Can a minor kid come live with my family?

I'd call your local policing agencies and see if they care.

I'd also talk to both parents and/or the person who has legal custody of them.

I would not want someone banging on my door in the middle of the night wanting to arrest me for interfering with custody or making some sort of false criminal charges!

This is a true horror story:

I know of a school teacher that lost her job because she took in a teen-ager boy, CPS got an anonymous called and "sexual" allegations were made.

The next thing she knew the school district terminated her contract due to the "allegations".

The allegations were later "dismissed" but she lost her job and could not find any other employment in her field! Her career was ruined.

She had to hire an attorney and incurred thousands in legal fees.

She eventually lost her home because she could not make her mortgage payments.

Her credit is ruined, she can no longer find a teaching job, she has a "file" with CPS.

Eventually, her husband filed for divorce and got primary custody of their minor children.

Was her good deed worth it? 

I don't think so.

I'm 17 and I want to leave home questions

It seems that almost every 17 yr. old wants to leave their home and go live somewhere else!

Here is the bottom line:

1.  Call your local police, sheriff and constable. See the policy of your local policing agencies.
Their policies vary.  They are free to change their policy on a daily basis.  Most are under-staffed and over-worked.  Most don't have time to chase 17 yr. old kids. 

2.  For criminal purposes you are an adult in the State of Texas.

3.  For civil purposes (signing a lease  or buying a car - for exmaple) you are still a minor.
No one will lease to you or sell you a car on credit.

4.  Emancipation in the State of Texas.  This is called "removed of disabilities" in the TX Family Code.  It is available on-line.  You can read it. 

It costs money to be emancipated - the filing fee is approximately $300.  If you can't afford to pay the filing fee and the associated costs then most judges won't even consider emancipating the minor . 

Will a judge sign it?  Depends on the judge.  Also, usually takes a couple of months to get in front of a judge. 

I suggest that you hire an experienced family law attorney to assist in the process since it's a complicated process and requires a lot of paperwork.  In Texas, you must do the paperwork exactly as required by the judge so don't waste your money with the kits sold on t.v., radio or at office supply store -- total waste of money!

Usually the only teenages emancipated are athletes and musicians so that they can sign legal contracts.

5.  Can a minor kid come live with my family?  Again, I'd call your local policing agencies and see if they care.  I'd also talk to both parents and/or the person who has legal custody of them.  I would not talk someone banging on my door in the middle of the night wanting to arrest me for interfering with custody or making some sort of false criminal charges! 

For example, I know of a school teacher that lost her job because she took in a teen-ager boy, CPS got an anonymous called and "sexual" allegations were made.  The next thing she knew the school district terminated her contract due to the "allegations".  The allegations were later "dismissed" but she lost her job and could not find any other employment in her field!  Her career was ruined.  She had to hire an attorney and incurred thousands in legal fees.  Now she's lost her home because she could not make her mortgage payment.  Was it worth it?  Her credit is ruined, she can no longer find a teaching job, she has a "file" with CPS.  Eventually, her husband filed for divorce and got primary custody of their minor children. 

Post termination of parental rights questions

I've been getting several questions from people that have either (1) had their parental rights terminated years ago or (2) want to pursue back child support against the parent who had their rights terminated.

Here is the bottom line -- once a person's parental rights are terminated that person's rights are permanetly severed.  That person is no longer has any sort of legal relationship to that child.  That person is "dead" to the child.  That person has no more right to that child than any stranger. 

People need to take termination very seriously before they sign the paperwork.  They need to understand what they are doing.

Often people sign the paperwork because they want their ex-spouse to go away.  The person wants the harrassment from their ex-spouse to stop.  They are tired of their ex-spouse from telling them they are a "bad parent".  So they sign the paperwork.  The parent does not understand the full implication of what they are signing.

Several years later, the terminated parent remarries and has more children.  Then the parent wants the new children to get to know their older half-siblings.  This is never going to happen.  Why?  Because the parent has no legal relationship with the older half-sibilings.  The younger children ask about the older children and they don't understand why their older half-siblings are not visiting.  Now the parent feels guilty.  What are the options?  Wait until the older children are 18 and hope that the older children want to come back into their lives. 

I urge people to think a long time before signing termination paperwork.  This is not something that can be revoked later. 

Remember that any verbal promises are not enforceable.  Also, often verbal promises are made to entice you to sign the paperwork and these promises will be forgotten as soon as the judge signs the final paperwork! 

On the other side of the coin, the other parent needs to understand that once the paperwork is signed terminating the parental rights then you can never go back and ask for more money!  So if the parent wins the lottery or inherits money -- you won't see a penny!  In the future, if you need money, this biological parent is under no moral or legal obligation to give you a penny! 

Again, I urge parents to think about the future before signing these termination papers. 

Fast forward into the future.  People lose good jobs and money gets tight.  The healthy kids gets sick and has mega medical bills.  Suddenly, the former deadbeat has a great job and has accumulated a nice nest-egg and lots of adult "toys".  Now he is living high!  Now the terminated parent gets threatened with child support!  Sorry!  Too late!  The terminated parent has NO obligation to provide any money to his former child.  No judge can order this guy to give one penny!  It does not matter if this terminated parent hit the lottery and is now worth billions!  There is no legal obligation.  You cannot go back into court and ask a judge to order the terminated parent to pay child support.  This person is no longer obligated to pay any money.  This man is a "stranger' to this child. 

So be careful what you wish for!  Think long and hard.  Once the papers are signed by the Judge they are final.  They are written in stone.  They cannot be changed.  It does not matter if circumstances change - for good or bad. 

Plus, once the step-dad adopts the kid -- he is the NEW DADDY for all purposes!  If the couple later divorces, this is the "father" that will visit the kids and pay child support!  He is the legal father of the children!  In this case, blood is NOT thicker than water!  (In a later divorce, the terminated father's rights, do not matter at all!)