Recent changes in the legislation as related to child custody evaluations require greater scrutiny in determining whether someone is qualified to be a child custody evaluator. The 2015th Legislative Session established qualifications for an expert to be appointment as a custody evaluator. The following information is helpful and necessary in determining whether an evaluator is trained and qualified to conduct the evaluation. If a child custody evaluation has been ordered in your case, you should ensure your attorney does the following to ensure you have a trained and qualified person conducting your evaluation according to the new child custody evaluation statue (TFC Section 107.101).
1. Get a Resume
It may sound elementary, but your attorney should ask the evaluator for a Curriculum Vitae/Resume.
2. Check Evaluation Experience
Confirm that the evaluator has a minimum of two years full-time experience in conducting contested child custody evaluations. If not, ensure that the evaluator has conducted a minimum of ten contested custody evaluations under the supervision of a qualified professional. Your attorney should also ask how many contested child custody evaluations the evaluator has completed to date. If the evaluator has conducted adoption evaluations and child custody evaluations, request that they identify the number of cases for each category.
3. Check Trial Experience
Additionally, your attorney should ask the evaluator the number of times he or she has testified and/or has been deposed in contested child custody proceedings. On average, professionals who complete evaluations tend to testify on ten to twenty percent of their cases, including depositions.
4. Check the Percentage of Work
Your attorney should determine what percentage of the evaluator's practice is dedicated to child custody evaluations and/or forensic work. If the evaluator engages in other forensic work, inquiring as to work other forensic work.
5. Find Out the Total Costs
Determine the fees to be charged by the evaluator, to include any retainers required, the evaluatorr's hourly rate, as well the evaluator's rate to testify in court or at a deposition. The average range is extreme and can be as low as $1,000 per evaluation and as high as $20,000 plus per evaluation. In determining whether an evaluation should be conducted in your case, you should be mindful of whether you can actually afford the evaluation.
Texas's new custody evaluation statute has placed Texas family law on the cutting edge nationally. Texas is one of the few states with an actual statue related to child custody evaluations. This new statue was written to assist attorneys in effectively evaluating custody evaluators PRIOR to their appointment. You should make sure your attorney is knowledgeable about the new statute and is using it effectively to ensure you get a fair and professional custody evaluation.
If you have any further questions, you can contact us at www.the palmerlawfirm.com
SOURCE: "Direct and Cross of a Child Custody Evaluation Expert", 42nd Annual Advance Family Law Course
There are many ways to enforce child-support orders in Texas. Here is a listing of the top five methods used by attorneys.
5. Judicial writ of withholding.
This method is used when the obligor's (one who owes) is behind in their child support in an amount that is greater than or equal to the total support for one month OR if a wage withholding was not ordered at the time child support was originally set. A judicial writ of withholding deducts current child support and child-support arrearage (back child support) is taken our directly from the wages of the parent who owes. Obviously if the obligor's is self-employed, this method won't do any good, but if the obligor's gets a paycheck- this method can be very useful.
4. Levy on financial institutions.
This method applies when the obligor's misses a child-support payment and the obligor's has some property. This method places a lien on any real or personal property that is owned by the obligor's. There are some limits on this method because some kinds of property are exempt.
3. License suspension.
This method can be used if the obligor's is in arrears in the amount equal to or greater than three months of support AND the obligor's has been given the opportunity to make payments under a repayment schedule AND the obligor is not keeping that repayment schedule. This method is really a "nuclear option" and so as you can see there are several conditions that have to be met before a judge will order it. However, it can be a VERY effective method to get the obligor's attention if they repeatedly fail to pay child support.
2. Levy on financial institutions.
This method is also very effective to get the attention of an obligor because it freezes the obligor's financial accounts until the financial institution pays the child-support arrearages from the accounts. This method can be tricky because you have to first have the amounts owed judicially determined AND to be effective, you need to know which accounts have money in them- which can be difficult to determine.
This is the most common, and often the most effective method. This is used any time an obligor misses a payment or makes a late or partial payment. It subjects the obligor to incarceration (jail time), community supervision and/or payment of a fine. There are two kinds of contempt- civil and criminal and you should talk to an attorney about which method is the best to do what you want- which is to get the obligor to pay.
When seeking to enforce a child support order, obliges (parents owed the money) have to be aware that there are often strict deadlines that have to be followed. It is important to IMMEDIATELY seek the assistance of licensed family law attorney to make sure that you don't miss your deadlines.
For more information, you can contact us at www.thepalmerlawfirm.com.
Three years after the U.S. Supreme Court forced the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages, and one year after the justices told holdout states to do the same, (Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ___(2015)) droves of LGBT Americans are taking advantage of their new rights.
A Prudential Financial Inc. survey of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans has found that far fewer are single—and far more are married—than four years ago. While the drumbeat of coast-to-coast legalization was undoubtedly a driving force, the speed of this nationwide sprint to the altar has been remarkable, the study showed. Overall, 30 percent of LGBT respondents said they were married, up from 8 percent in 2012. That's more than triple.
Adoption is a court procedure by which one or more persons enter into a legal parental relationship with another, establishing legal obligations of child support for food, clothing, education, inheritance, and custody rights. Adoption laws have undergone great changes in recent years to accommodate the needs of all the parties involved- that is, the adopting parents, the natural parents, the child or other adopted person (sometimes an adult or a lover), private investigators, lawyers and judges. Traditional agency adoptions arranged by licensed charities and publicly funded social service agencies, or county adoptions conducted by state agencies were once the norm. Now independent adoptions, arranged privately between natural mothers and adoptive parents and requiring court approval, have become more common. People thinking about adoption in Texas should first think about the following considerations before taking action. Doing so first will help facilitate the adoption process.
1. Contact a lawyer who practices primarily in the area of family law for an initial consultation.
The lawyer can help you better prepare for the interview with the adoption agency. Ask the lawyer about the eligibility requirements and for an explanation of the various petitions and legal documents that must be filed in court to consummate the process.
2. Know the eligibility requirements.
Texas imposes age and lifestyle requirements. Some judges are reluctant to grant adoptions to elderly coups or grandparents for reasons of age. Others are unwilling to grant adoptions to unmarried or homosexual couples. However, such decisions may be successfully appealed where circumstances dictate it is in the best interest of the child.
In response to growing frustration with the length of time children resided in foster care and concern about decisions involving returning children to dangerous home settings, Congress passed the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA). sdf The law requires states to implement programs insuring that reasonable efforts to place a child for adoption or with a legal guardian be made. Social workers must quickly identify, recruit, process, and approve qualified families for an adoption, or risk losing federal aid.
3. Consider a private adoption.
Texas allows adoption through private agencies, but there are limits on the fees that can be charged by natural parents, surrogate mothers, and lawyers. In private adoptions, you have to locate a birth mother willing to give up her child for adoption. This may be easier than you think, but in any event, in Texas an attorney CANNOT assist you with locating a birth mother. Typically a Texas adoption attorney will handle all other legal and financial aspects of the adoption.
4. Consider the legal implications of an adoption
Before you being the process, you should consider the various legal rights and responsibilities that arise with a complete adoption:
Change of name. Request the name change be made part of the final adoption decree and be sure to include this request in the petition for adoptions that is filed with the court.
Inheritance. Typically, a child loses all rights involving the natural parents, including the right to support and the right to inherit from a biological parent who dies without a will.
Sealed Records. Usually a court order must be obtained to open the file, an this may be granted only for a good reason such as a medical emergency.
5. Consider the concept of an open adoption, which allows the adoptee to have ongoing contact with certain blood relatives.
This is occasionally provided for in an agreement with older children; the proposed agreement is introduced at the adoption proceeding, and the judge carefully scrutinizes the document and weighs all the factors to determine whether this should be granted.
Facilitating the creation of a new families through adoption is a great honor and one of the most professionally and personally satisfying aspect of my job as a family law attorney. If you have any questions about the adoption process in Texas, or if I can be of any other assistance, please do not hesitate to book a personal appointment of call me at 832-819-3523.
Modern Texas Lawyers are mobile and agile. They are doing a lot of advocacy right from their cell phones and are always on the lookout for applications that will make them more efficient. Here are the top five practical apps that can help Texas Lawyers on the go.
Whether it is keeping up with the latest news or reading a business book, the long stretch of Texas roads can be opportunities for the mobile lawyer to get up to speed. Audible is the best and largest audio book/newspaper/magazine source. Stream or download to your phone, plug in to your truck's audio jack and you are good to go!
4. Texas Constitution and Statutes.
It's not a code book, just the law. A great asset when you need to quickly throw down code numbers.
3. Calendars by Readdle.
The best I've found. The monthly view actually displays text- even on your little phone screen. Invaluable when you are standing at the bench picking an entry date that doesn't interfere with you son's baseball game.
You wanna get paid don't you? This app tracks your time from your phone and generates serviceable invoices directly from the app that you can email or print. This ain't Time Slips. It's just drop dead simple- which what I love about it.
All your files. At any time. At any place. Need I say more?
Apps come and go and lawyers have to keep looking to find the best ones. Of course there are all the considerations about security and confidentiality in the use of apps- but that's a topic for different day.
1. Act quickly and decisively.
Most victims of domestic violence submit to an abusive spouse because of social pressures, or their own idealistic expectations. Others feel they cannot afford to leave their marriages for economic reasons. However, a failure to act may only prolong the misery and produce increasingly violent attacks. Seek help from friends, religious organizations, victims' services agencies, crisis intervention centers. If a situation is serious, it may be necessary to leave home and temporarily stay in a battered women's emergency shelter.
2. Save Evidence.
Take color photographs of injuries as soon as possible to prove the extent of the abuse. Have the pictures signed and dated by a witness or the person who took them.
3. Seek immediate medical attention immediately after a beating.
Ask the doctor or nurse to document the injuries in a written report. Be sure the name of the person causing the injury is mentioned in the report. A doctor's visit can help prove that injuries were caused by the beating, and the medical records can be used in court to prove a case. Other evidence, including torn or bloody clothing, pictures documenting damage to a house or a car, and the testimony of witnesses, should also be saved for future use.
4. Seek legal assistance as soon as possible.
First, do NOT take the law into your own hands. In Texas to prevail with a self-defense claim, a battered spouse who fights back must prove a reasonable apprehension of imminent danger of bodily harm. Some lawyers use evidence of past beatings and threats to prove reasonable apprehension. Others argue that it is a reasonable response for a woman of slight build to use a lethal weapon (gun or knife) even if a man attacks her with just his fists. In Texas, a spouse who has a reasonable and immediate fear of sexual assault is permitted to use deadly force. In most other cases, women who fight back with deadly force can expect to face criminal charges.
Next, get legal help. You can seek the help of volunteer services, or a private attorney. With domestic relations services you may be able to obtain a protective order that requires your spouse to either leave the house and/or stay away from you and the children. A private attorney may additionally help you:
5. Seek Emotional/Psychological Counseling
Systematic patterns of abuse dis-empower the victim and often make them psychologically and emotionally impaired to the point where they are incapable of making sound decisions for themselves or their children. IT IS VITAL to begin the road to mental health by seeking professional counseling. Your legal struggles will require you to have sound judgement as you make very significant decisions about your legal and financial future as you move beyond a life of abuse.
Divorce not only can hurt the heart, but also the wallet. The financial fallout can be even worse for those who divorce later in life as carefully managed retirement plans quickly unravel.
So-called gray or late-life divorces have steadily risen since 1990. The divorce rate among those between 55 and 64 has more than doubled, while the rate among couples 65 and older has tripled. Overall, about one in four couples over 50 divorce.
That has some serious financial implications, especially for women. More than a quarter of women who went through a gray divorce fell into poverty, versus 11 percent of gray divorced men. Expectations for a comfortable retirement have to be adjusted when couples split near or during their golden years.
Source: Financial Times
The practice of family law is unique because in no other area of law is the character of a party so important to the outcome of a case. Especially in cases involving children, the “best interest of the child” standard that courts use means that the parties’ lifestyle is especially relevant, and will likely be put on full display in the courtroom by the lawyers in the case.
How does an attorney get such personal information about the party he is working against? Traditionally, a lawyer could go through a long process called discovery that requests answers under oath to prying questions about relationships or the production of tangible things like embarrassing photographs. But in the modern world all of these things (and more) may be served up on a silver platter by the opposing party themselves. More and more people are getting into the habit of broadcasting their status updates, tweets, and Instagram photos by convenient putting them on the internet for easy, 24/7 access by lawyers hungry to find dirt on them. It is a regular feast of evidence.
And that is not all. The ubiquity of Facebook has grown over the years, so has it’s standing as legitimate communication device. A few months ago, a posting on Facebook was successfully used to serve a party. The judge in the case called social media the “next frontier” as “forums through which a summons can be delivered.”
How does a lawyer get into an adverse party’s account? I’ve seen some people with their privacy settings completely turned off. Another route might be if the spouse has not removed my client from her friends list, or through close family and friends.
Another method followed by some (not I) is to create a profile of an attractive person who shares a high school or employer with “the target” and then you add the target’s friends. Once a few of them accepted (and many will), the common background and the mutual friends will convince most people to accept the profile as a friend. This however is an ethical grey area that I personally choose not to go down. In the courts I practice in – this behavior would not sit well with the judge.
At a minimum, a good family law attorney needs to be aware of how to access public profiles. A good family law attorney also needs to warn their clients to stop Facebooking and Instagramming and Tweeting unless the posts would look fine on the homepage of their grandmother’s church.
Contrary to popular belief, marriage isn’t dead. It’s not even dying.
The institution is probably more respected and admired than ever before — just not in a way that encourages millennials to partake in it.
You can see this in national survey data, recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about Americans’ views of various family arrangements.
At first glance the report suggests that Americans may indeed be less devoted to the sacrosanctity of marriage — or at least that we’ve become more tolerant of once-stigmatized non-marital sexual behaviors . In 2002, for example, slightly more than 6 in 10 Americans said they thought it was okay for a young couple to live together without being married. By 2011-2013, the period of the most recent survey, the share had jumped to more than 7 in 10.
Similarly, the report finds that Americans have gotten more accepting of women who bear and raise children out of wedlock, of unmarried 18-year-old couples who decide to have sex and of same-sex couples who adopt children.
On these and other familial and procreative arrangements, Americans have become measurably more liberal. But on one crucial measure, they have become much more conservative.
That measure is divorce.
Respondents were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement that “Divorce is usually the best solution when a couple can’t seem to work out their marriage problems.” In 2002, about half of Americans disagreed. Within a decade, the share had risen to more than 60 percent. In the most recent data, younger Americans — a cohort with the lowest marriage rates on record, mind you — were especially likely to perceive divorce as an unacceptable response to marital strain.
Source: The Washington Post
Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 21c Privacy Protection for Filed Documents has had a substantial impact on family law cases.
A divorce with children could, and oftentimes will, have filings that include all of the types of sensitive data this rule addresses. Rule 21c became effective January 1, 2014, and it states:
(a) Sensitive Data Defined.
Sensitive data consists of: (1) A driver’s license number, passport number, social security number, tax identification number, or similar government issued personal identification number; (2) a bank account number, credit card number, or other financial account number; and (3) a birth date, home address, and the name of any person who was a minor when the underlying suit was filed.
(b) Filing of Documents Containing Sensitive Data Prohibited.
Unless the inclusion of sensitive data is specifically required by a statute, court rule, or administrative regulation, an electronic or paper document, except for wills and documents filed under seal, containing sensitive data may not be filed with a court unless the sensitive data is redacted.
(c) Redaction of Sensitive Data; Retention Requirement.
Sensitive data must be redacted by using the letter “X” in place of each omitted digit or character or by removing the sensitive data in a manner indicating that the data has been redacted. The filing party must retain an unredacted version of the filed document during the pendency of the case and any related appellate proceedings within six months of the date the judgment is signed.
(d) Notice to Clerk.
If a document must contain sensitive data, the filing party must notify the clerk by: (1) designating the document as containing sensitive data when the document is electronically filed; or (2) if the document is not electronically filed, by including on the upper left hand side of the first page the phrase: “NOTICE: THIS DOCUMENT CONTAINS SENSITIVE DATA.”
(e) Non-Conforming Documents.
The clerk may not refuse to file a document that contains sensitive data in violation of this rule. But the clerk may identify the error to be corrected and state a deadline for the party to resubmit the redacted, substituted document.
(f) Restrictions on Remote Access.
Documents that contain sensitive data in violation of this rule must not be posted on this rule. Texas Family Code Section 102.008 “Contents of Petition” subsection (a) requires that the petition and all other documents filed in all suits affecting the parent-child relationship, except suits for adoption, be entitled “In the interest of______________, a child.” Section 102.008 (b) requires that petitions include the name and birthdate of the child. If the child’s name must be in the title of all documents filed in a suit affecting the parent child relationship, and the child’s name is sensitive data, aren’t all filings going to include sensitive data? It is entirely possible that a Judge could reach that conclusion.
Many attorneys use the child’s initials in place of the child’s full name in the style of all documents filed after the original petition. However, this would not comply with a strict interpretation of Texas Family Code Section 102.008 (a). It is best that you contact the court clerk to determine if the Judge in your case has a stance on this issue and if so, how they want you to style your filings. Texas Family Code Section 105.006 (a) lists the information that must be included in a final order in a suit affecting the parent child relationship, except for terminations and adoptions. This information is as follows:
(1) the social security number and driver’s license number of each party to the suit, including the child, except that the child’s social security number or driver’s license number is not required if the child has not been assigned a social security number or driver’s license number; and
(2) each party’s current residence address, mailing address, home telephone number, name of employer, address of employment, and work telephone number, except as provided by Subsection (c). This means that in all final orders in suits affecting the parent-child relationship, other than termination and adoptions, there will be numerous types of sensitive data.
Many attorneys will redact social security numbers, and driver’s license numbers and leave only the last three to four digits in the final order. A strict interpretation of Texas Family Code Section 105.006 (a) and Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 21c (b) is that the driver’s license numbers and social security numbers are required by statute and therefore should not be redacted. Again, the best way to determine how to address this situation is by calling the court clerk to determine the court’s preference.
Emotional divorce can happen years before a legal one. An emotional divorce is when a husband, a wife, or both become convinced that they are no longer the top priority in their spouses’ lives. Long before someone seeks out a lawyer, they may have already emotionally separated from their spouse. Here is a list of the top five types of emotional divorces.
1. The “Honeymoon” Divorce
This is the type of emotional divorce that begins almost immediately after the wedding ceremony. It is a sinking “what have I done?!” feeling when all the excitement of the wedding gives way to the reality that you have just married someone who you are really not compatible with. Differences of religion, spending habits, and other value differences that didn’t seem to matter in the courtship suddenly become inescapable as you realize you will be with this person forever. Power struggles erupt soon after the honeymoon is over and you become emotionally divorced.
2. The “My Relatives Come First” Divorce
Here, the top priority for a spouse is their family and the spouse comes second. When family events come before your spouse’s needs, or when a spouse has failed to mature their childhood attachments into an adult relationship, then an emotional divorce is the result.
3. The “My Career Is More Important” Divorce
Today, most people have begun careers that they are passionate about prior to getting married. As single people, many chose to dedicate much of their personal lives to advance in their careers. However, once married, your personal life is no longer your own. If a spouse fails to adjust their priorities and continues to work late hours, and on weekends at the expense of spending time with their spouse- then their real love- work is revealed and an emotional divorce has occurred.
4. The “Baby Makes Three” Divorce
When pregnancy and birth brings a new member to the family, it is natural for some adjustment in the marriage relationship. However, some women (and some men) devote all their love and attention to the baby and save nothing for the marriage. Babies demand immediate attention but when caring for the needs of the newborn ALWAYS takes precedent over the needs of the spouse, then the child becomes a substitute for the relationship and the parents become emotionally divorced.
5. The “Great Expectations” Divorce
Some people view a potential spouse as “good husband” or “good wife” “material”. They see a life of material wealth as the main benefit of the marriage. When this expectation is the number one priority, then it is a sure bet the marriage is doomed. Inevitably, disappointments or financial set-backs will precipitate a divorce, but this type of emotional divorce happened even before the marriage. Such unions may be financially solvent, but they are emotionally bankrupt and therefore- D.O.A.
If you and your spouse have already had an emotionally divorce, it may be time to move on. If you need more information about this topic, contact the Palmer Law Firm at www.mydivorcefirm.com to schedule your free divorce consultation.
In the old days, a spouse who was suspicious that their partner was hiding assets from them would hire a private investigator in hopes of turning up information, lawyers say. But now, funds are transferred electronically and many clients never set foot in the offshore jurisdiction where they have their accounts. So today, most lawyers wait for the court to order ‘‘discovery,’’ a process in which both parties exchange information pertinent to the case, and then look for instances where assets have mysteriously disappeared.
Experts in the industry say that Americans are still hiding money offshore from litigious spouses and tax officials alike, but that it is getting harder for them to do so. In the last few years, the Obama administration and the Treasury department have erected staggering penalties for those who hide their wealth offshore, as well as many new reporting requirements.
India’s Supreme Court is considering petitions that challenge Muslim laws governing marriage on the grounds that they discriminate against women, a charged issue that risks angering the country’s orthodox Muslims. A panel headed by the chief justice that is hearing the petitions directed the government this week to release an official 2015 report that looks at the impact of some of India’s religion-specific laws on women’s rights and recommends legal reform.
Attorney Sean Y. Palmer has over 18 years of legal experience as a Texas Attorney and over 24 years as a Qualified Mediator in civil, family and CPS cases. Palmer practices exclusively in the area Family Law and handles Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, Adoptions, and other Family Law Litigation cases. He represents clients throughout the greater Houston Galveston area, including: Clear Lake, NASA, Webster, Friendswood, Seabrook, League City, Galveston, Texas City, Dickinson, La Porte, La Marque, Clear Lake Shores, Bacliff, Kemah, Pasadena, Baytown, Deer Park, Harris County, and Galveston County, Texas.