The reality of any family law matter is that the costs associated can be very high. This is problematic for low income parties who still need competent representation. If you are in need of legal representation but can’t afford a retainer and attorney’s fees, the Houston area has several organizations which offer pro bono or reduced cost legal representation.

Two Houston area law schools, the University of Houston and South Texas College of Law, offer legal services at a reduced cost for Houston residents in several areas of law, including family law. The clinics are staffed by students who are under the supervision of licensed attorneys. You may reach the University of Houston Clinic at (713) 743-2094 or the South Texas College of Law Clinic at (713) 646-1743.

The Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program (HVLP) helps low-income citizens that other programs often cannot serve, such as those who may not meet the financial criteria of other legal assistance programs or non-US citizens. HVLP coordinates referrals to attorneys willing to do pro bono cases and works with a diverse clientele.  HVLP can be contacted at http://www.hvlp.org/home/default.aspx  or at (713)228-0732. HVLP also has an assistance booth in the basement of the Family Law Center located at 1115 Congress, Houston, Texas 77002.

Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse (AVDA) is a nonprofit organization offering legal services to victims of domestic violence in the Houston area. If you are a victim of domestic violence you can contact and AVDA representative who will go over your case with you and you may be eligible for services. AVDA can be contacted at http://avda-tx.org.

Marriage can be confusing enough on its own, but several states still have laws on the books that may make you scratch your head.

  1. In Kentucky, it’s illegal to remarry the same person four times.
  2. In Tennessee, a person may file for divorce on the grounds that their spouse made an attempt on their life by poison or other means showing malice.
  3. Adulterers beware! New Mexico and Mississippi each have a divorce law that allows the victim of adultery to sue the paramour of the cheating spouse for damages.
  4. California, Colorado, Montana, and yes, even Texas, allow for the practice of marriage by proxy, which means someone stands in for a bride or groom who can’t be present at his or her wedding. This is limited to members of the U.S. Armed Forces, but is still in practice today.
  5. In South Carolina, under the Offenses Against Morality and Decency Act, it is illegal for men over the age of sixteen to propose marriage as a joke.  If they don’t mean it when they say it, they have committed a misdemeanor

If a court has determined that you have met the burden of proof for needing spousal maintenance, the next step is determining for what period of time you may be eligible to receive spousal maintenance. The Texas Family Code previously stated that a party could only receive spousal maintenance for a maximum of three years. The Code was recently amended and now states that a person is eligible to receive spousal maintenance for the maximum of:

  1. Five years if the parties were married less than ten years and the maintenance is awarded due to family violence;
  2. Five years if the parties were married more than ten years but less than twenty years;
  3. Seven years if the parties were married more than twenty years, but less than thirty years;
  4. Ten years if the parties were married for more than thirty years

The judge will take your specific circumstances into account when deciding whether to award spousal maintenance and how long to award spousal maintenance. The underlying idea of spousal maintenance is to help a divorced party get back on their feet in the wake of a divorce, not to permanently provide a source of income for a party.

If you believe you are eligible for spousal maintenance, please call to schedule a consultation with an experienced Houston Divorce Lawyer at (713) 225-6200 or visit us on the web at RamosFamilyLaw.com.

Under the Texas Family Code, the right to receive child support and the right to visitation are two independent rights that do not have any weight on the other right. The ability to visit with your children is not dependent on your ability to pay child support. The obligation to pay child support does not disappear if the responsible parent is denied visitation or chooses to no longer possess the child during their periods of visitation.

Texas family law courts look at what is in the best interest of the child, and having a continuing relationship with a parent, even if that parent is not current on child support, is in the best interest of a child. You may file an enforcement action against a non-paying parent but you cannot prevent that parent from visiting with their child. Doing so would be a violation of your order. If you refuse to allow a non-paying parent visitation you are giving that parent cause to take you to family court for violating an access and visitation order.

If you are having issues with a parent who is failing to pay child support, please call to schedule a consultation with an experienced Houston Child Support Lawyer at (713) 225-6200 or visit us on the web at RamosFamilyLaw.com.

  1. Transfer of property
  2. Your Final Decree of Divorce will include language awarding property to you and your ex, however that is not the final step in the process of awarding property. Make sure that, if relevant to your case, documents such as Special Warranty Deeds, Deeds of Trust or Powers of Attorneys are signed, notarized and filed with the proper entities. Don’t wait until an issue pops up down the road to discover that you never transferred the title to a piece of property, make sure it’s all handled quickly after your divorce is finalized.

  3. Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO)
  4. If you were awarded part of your ex’s retirement benefits in a 401k, you will need a QDRO to effectuate being awarded that money. A QDRO is a separate document from your final decree of divorce that is directed to the 401k’s plan administrator. It will also need to be signed by a judge before the money can be removed from the account. This cannot be done until after your final decree of divorce has been signed, but be prepared to get this finished soon after the divorce is granted.

  5. Name Change
  6. If you restored your last name to your maiden name you will need to take a certified copy of your decree to the DMV, social security office, banks, schools, etc. It can be daunting so it is best to deal with it as soon after your divorce as possible.

  7. Insurance Beneficiaries
  8. A divorce can impact your current life insurance policies if your former spouse was named as a beneficiary. Make sure to update all your policies, including any policies through your employment, to reflect a new beneficiary.

  9. Children-Related Issues
  10. Provide your child’s school a certified copy of your final decree of divorce in case any custody issues arise. Contact the Texas Disbursement Unit to set up your child support payments account or start making payments if you were ordered to pay child support. Update any medical professionals with your new name, address and relevant information.

If you need to schedule a consultation with an experienced Houston Divorce Lawyer, please give us a call at (713) 225-6200 or visit us on the web at RamosFamilyLaw.com.

1. Don’t involve the kids

Just don’t. Divorce is hard enough on children without added pressure or emotional blackmail coming from the parents. Don’t use your kids as pawns, don’t disparage your ex and don’t involve them in any pending litigation. It reflects poorly on you, your judge won’t appreciate it and it will have harmful effects on your children.

2. Don’t make unreasonable demands

You’re probably hurt and upset with your soon-to-be ex right now, but be reasonable in your expectations. Don’t insist on being name sole custodial parent when there is no evidence to show your ex is a bad parent. Don’t insist on being awarded a disproportionate share of the community estate or spousal maintenance just to “get back” at your ex. Unrealistic expectations make the process more litigious, increase legal fees and usually leave unhappy parties.

3. Don’t be adversarial

Divorce is emotional enough without being litigious and cutthroat. The majority of divorces are settled through informal settlement agreements or mediation. While sometimes extensive court battles are the only way to settle a divorce, more often than not it’s through agreement and you need to be open to that process. It’s not about winning in court; it’s about looking at the bigger picture and focusing on closing one chapter of your life as painlessly as possible.

4. Don’t refuse to communicate

This is especially important if you have kids or shared finances that require some level of communication while your divorce is pending. Don’t insist on going through your attorneys to schedule exchanging the kids or making sure your mortgage is timely paid. This only serves to increase legal fees and annoy the other party. If you absolutely cannot speak with your spouse then your attorney can facilitate communications, but try to be open to communicating with your spouse.

5. Don’t spend a lot of money or incur a lot of debts

A divorce forces couples to go from being supported by two incomes to just one income. It can be a very difficult time financially for some couples, don’t increase your burden by incurring additional credit card debt or make big purchases. This is also an issue for community property states where any assets or debts accrued, even while a divorce is pending, are considered part of the community estate and your spouse is entitled to their community share. Make smart financial decisions during the pendency of your divorce.

If you need to schedule a consultation with an experienced Houston Divorce Attorney, please give us a call at (713) 225-6200 or visit us on the web at RamosFamilyLaw.com.

1. Think before you call or email

Your family law attorney is there to guide you through the process of a divorce or family law dispute and understands that you are going to have questions about the process. But every communication with your attorney will result in being billed, so save your small questions for a weekly status email with your attorney. This does not mean you should avoid communicating important information to your attorney, just think twice before you send off a quick email asking for information that could be found elsewhere or saved for another time.

2. Be an active participant in your own case

Family law cases require the production of lots of information. This can include financial documents, photographs, timelines of events, etc. Don’t make the attorney feel as if they are pulling teeth trying to get this information from you. Be proactive and provide your attorney with copies of any documents, photographs or other items you believe may be pertinent to your case.  If there is an update or an incident occurs that could have an impact on your case, let your attorney know.

3. A therapist is cheaper than your attorney

Going through a divorce or a child custody dispute can be an emotional rollercoaster and your attorney understands the pain you may be going through. Family law attorneys are there to defend your case to the best of their ability, not to be a sounding board for your issues. A good family law attorney will always be supportive and often will lend an ear to your troubles, but you must understand you are being billed for their time. Turn to your friends or families if you want to vent about your ex.

4. Respond to requests from your attorney in a timely fashion.

Many aspects of your family law case, such as discovery, are time sensitive in nature. If your attorney sends you a document and tells you it needs to be notarized or sends discovery requests and gives you a deadline it is very important you respond quickly. Your lack of response can cause the attorney to make multiple attempts to contact you, all of which are being billed to you.

5. Make the paralegals your friends.

You’re entitled to speak to your attorney about issues relevant to your case, but paralegals are often just as informed about your case and can provide the same amount of information that your attorney can but for a lower billable rate.

If you need to schedule a consultation with an experienced Houston Divorce Lawyer, please give us a call at (713) 225-6200 or visit us on the web at RamosFamilyLaw.com.

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