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Divorce can get expensive, especially when you have people that won’t agree to things. So attorneys get involved and expenses skyrocket. One of the ways that you can consider in reducing your attorney fees during the divorce process is to communicate via email to your attorney when you have questions and concerns. At my office, we request that you actually send them, questions one through five or so, in an email, so that they can be addressed and dealt with. We have an office policy to return all emails within a 24 hour period.

Another way is for you to gather documents, and do as much homework as you can do on your own to provide for us. The less amount of time that we have to actually work on your case, the less expensive it is for you, or another thing you can do to reduce the expenses would be to create a timeline of your case for me. I need a story. Your divorce case is a story, and the only way I’m going to be able to give that story, or to relay that story to the judge is to know what exactly is going on. This is your case, this is your marriage, these are your children, this is your life.

I need to know as much of the detail as possible so that I can relay that same concern to the judge. It’s like drawing a picture in a coloring book, and then coloring it in with as much detail as possible. We as people actually learn through pictures. And if I can portray that picture and that story to the judge, or the finder of fact, I am in a better position, better reach the goals that we have set out in your case for you. You’re my client, and I plan on fighting for you and your case.

Ramos Law Group, PLLC, your family team of experts.

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Do we even need to go to court?

As soon as we file some type of response, we notify the opposing counsel, and from that point we will then attempt to see if we can do something by agreement, put temporary orders in place, have temporary injunctions in place that say that neither party will cancel insurances or accounts or transfer moneys. That just is to maintain everything status quo until we can actually divide the community estate between the parties.

Once we do that, we may have an option to attend mediation. Mediation is required on all cases before a final trial is heard before the judge, but most of the times it is very helpful to have the parties mediate as soon as we get started and obtain financial information about the parties and their divorce situation.

Ramos Law Group, PLLC, your family law team of experts.

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There is a parenting class that’s required, a four hour parenting class, and some courts require different classes, depending. Now this is a class that I ask my clients to take from the beginning, so that they have that knowledge and information to utilize during the case. The parenting class normally doesn’t teach you how to be a parent, but it teaches you how to communicate now in two different households. It is very difficult to discipline in one household when you have kids. Now that we’re in two separate households, it makes it extremely difficult. And children learn how to manipulate their parents, and parents need to be on the same page with how they’re gonna go forward and address these issues.

Parents that don’t talk to each other, children will pick up on that, and they’re gonna manipulate their parents and say what each parent wants to hear. So if you are on the same page with the other parent, you can address all parent concerns with the other parent and not through your child. It’s just a better way to protect your child from being impacted with the divorce process and let them be free and be a child, as they should be. Co-parenting is very important because you will both be parents for the rest of your natural lives.

You’re my client, and I plan on fighting for you and your case. Ramos Law Group, PLLC, your family law team of experts.

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Normally when parents have an issue with communicating with each other, there is a great website that a lot of attorneys and judges use, called OurFamilyWizard. Now this is an online calendaring program where both parties can actually log in and create an account for their children. On this website, they can post the children’s extracurricular activities, doctors’ appointments, they can even include requests for exchanges of weekends and whether or not the other custodial parent will actually accept or deny those exchanges. And you can post uninsured medical expenses all to the same website.

One of the benefits is that you can’t go in and change the information from the website and if a judge wants to, they can always log in, and look, and review the communications between the parties. If you have a disagreement about whether or not you exchanged weekends, or agreed to a different schedule other than your order that’s in place, you can also refer to the website as a means of documenting what happens.

I also like clients to consider using this website because when you come in for a divorce, you have to create a story and a history of your relationship, and address the concerns that you’ve had with the other parent, regarding your children or any other situation. If you maintain participation through Our Family Wizard website, then that’s all been documented for you, and you can just hit print and we will have all of that documentation ready to go, and it’s in admissible form for the court. The courts now are actually requiring a lot of parties to participate through Our Family Wizard, and this is a good way to keep everybody accountable for their actions.

Ramos Law Group, PLLC, your family law team of experts.

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The Supreme Court of the United States released their opinion on Obergefell v. Hodges. The decision came down to a 5-4 vote, with Chief Justice Roberts dissenting, joined by Justice Scalia and Thomas. Justice Alito also filed a dissenting opinion in which Scalia and Thomas also joined.

Chief Justice Roberts’ dissent delivers his opinion that the Supreme Court over –stepped their boundary as a Court, and thus have stolen this issue from the people of the United States. He dissents that the Constitution gives the Supreme Court the power to say what the law is, not what the law should be.  This statement really seems to portray the entire center of his dissent.  Further, he calls the decision of the court an “extraordinary step” and “ an act of will, not legal judgment.” He brings forth the realization that it can be tempting and an onerous job for Justices to rule on controversial issues, as they can easily confuse their own personal preferences with the requirements of the law.

He states that the Court is “not concerned with the wisdom or policy of legislation and the majority neglects that restrained conception of the judicial role.” Basically, Chief Justice Roberts again forces his theory of over-step, as the Court interpreted what the law “should be.”

Further, he makes clear that his dissent is not about his personal views on same-sex marriage, but rather it is about our democratic republic and the theory that this decision rests with the people of the United States and not with the Supreme Court of the United States. He also delves into a long list of precedential cases and historical cases such as Loving vs. Virginia, which gave interracial couples the right to marry.

He continues in his dissent to reference the majority, who provided definitions for marriage, as well as the historical and societal views of marriage and the marital relationship.  His two cents regarding the union of marriage seem to boil down to the idea that marriage is fundamental and did not come about as part of a political movement. He further states that, “marriage arose in the nature of things to meet a vital need: ensuring children are conceived by a mother and father committed to raising them in the stable conditions of a lifelong relationship.” Further on this thought, he states and implies that procreation is a societal need and that society has recognized the act of procreation between a man and a woman as marriage.

He again explains that the majority’s view and decision is more of a social policy than of a matter of constitutional law. He explains that the majority’s argument “stripped of its shiny rhetorical gloss  is that the Due Process clause gives same- sex couples a fundamental right to marry because it will be good for them and for society.”

To make his dissent even more forthright and impactful, he read his dissent from the bench, something that he has never done in all of his ten year term as a Justice!

Justice Antonin Scalia, a fellow dissenter of the Chief, characterized the decision as a “judicial Putsch” and suggested that, before he signed on to an opinion like the majorities, “I would hide my head in a bag.”

Obergefell v. Hodges, No. 14-556, slip op. at 28 (Sup. Ct. June 26, 2015).

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Last Friday, the Supreme Court of the United States released their opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges.

Obergefell consists of a number of consolidated cases that originated from Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee, all states that limited marriage to a union between a man and a woman.  The petitioners in Obergefell are fourteen same-sex couples and two men whose same-sex partners are deceased.

The petitioners sued the state officials who are responsible for enforcing the state laws in question.  All of the trial courts, the individual United States District Courts in the petitioners’ home states, ruled in favor of the plaintiffs.

The respondents appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which consolidated the matters and reversed the decisions of the trial courts.  From there, the Petitioners sought review by the Supreme Court of the United States.

The Supreme Court review considered two issues on review:

  • Whether the Fourteenth Amendment requires a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex; and
  • Whether the Fourteenth Amendment requires a state to recognize a same-sex marriage licensed and performed in a state that does not grant that right.

The Supreme Court held that the Fourteenth Amendment does require both.  Justice Kennedy authored the majority opinion in the 5-4 decision, in which Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan joined.

The Court held that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment extends to certain personal choices.  Examining numerous previous decisions regarding the right to marry, the court held that such analysis requires conclusion that same-sex couples have the right to marry.  The Court notes that the reasons that marriage is fundamental apply equally to same-sex couples.    First, the Court addresses how the right to marry is central to personal autonomy.  Second, the Court notes that the right to marry is fundamental as it promotes the two-person union over others because of the level of commitment.  The third basis is that it protects children and families.  The Court notes that all parties are in agreement that same-sex couples provide children with loving and nurturing homes and that the children of same-sex couples, without the protections of marriage between their parents, suffer.  Finally, the Court notes that marriage is an integral part of social order in our country.  Justice Kennedy notes that, although limiting marriage to opposite-sex unions may have seemed natural and just, such limitation conflicts with the central value of the fundamental right to marry.

After discussing that the right to marry is fundamental, the court holds that under both the Due Process and the Equal Protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, same-sex couples may not be deprived of the right to marry.

Next, Justice Kennedy turns to the second question presented.  As the Court held that same-sex couples have the fundamental right to marry in all states, there is no legal basis for a state to fail to recognize a marriage based on its same-sex nature when lawfully performed in another state.

In conclusion, Justice Kennedy writes:

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family.  In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.  As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death.  It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage.  Their plea is that the do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves.  Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions.  They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law.  The Constitution grants them that right.

Obergefell v. Hodges, No. 14-556, slip op. at 28 (Sup. Ct. June 26, 2015).

Immigration and DivorceThe state of Texas and the Texas Family Code do not mandate that a person be a citizen of the United States to receive a divorce or pursue a custody case. The only residency requirement is that a person must have resided in the state of Texas for the previous six months and resided in the county of filing for the previous 90 days. There is no distinction in the Texas Family Code between a legal or an illegal resident.

A court will not consider immigration status when awarding child custody, child support, property division, spousal maintenance, or any of the other various family law issues one may encounter in the family law court system.

There are immigration status implications for those going through a divorce so it is important to discuss your facts with an attorney if your case involves immigration issues.

Child Support in TexasIf there has been a material and substantial change in the circumstances of the child, three years since the last child support order and a difference in the month child support amount by either 20% or $100 from what is currently ordered, then you are entitled to ask the Court to increase the amount of monthly child support ordered.

This cannot be done by a simple agreement by the parties; a new order must be signed and approved by the Court for the increased amount to go into effect. You can achieve this by either working with the Office of the Attorney General or hiring a family law attorney to file a modification suit for you.

The party who receives the monthly child support (called the Obligee) can contact their local Office of the Attorney General Child Support office to request that a review be done and increased child support be ordered. The upside to using the Office of the Attorney General is that the services offered are free and can be done without hiring an attorney. The downside is that the Office of the Attorney General is inundated with thousands of cases per year and it can take some time before your case is set for trial on the court’s docket for a child support modification.

Child Support ModificationThe potentially faster method would be retaining private counsel. An experienced family law attorney will be able to tell you how much of an increase in child support you can expect to receive. Private counsel will also likely be able to set the matter for a hearing faster than the Office of the Attorney General would be able to do so.

If you think you are entitled to an increase in child support, contact the Ramos Law Group, PLLC and schedule a consultation to discuss the facts of your case.

Same-Sex Marriage in Texas

06/26/2015 – Same-sex is now legal across the nation. – Alfredo

Texas is currently one of twenty states in the United States which ban same-sex marriage via a constitutional amendment. In October 2014, the US Supreme Court let stand a ruling held by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals finding Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. The resulting effect was that same-sex marriage bans are effectively voided in states such as Utah, Virginia, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Oklahoma. By declining to rule on the issue, combined with the changes in attitude toward same-sex marriage throughout the country, it can be inferred that the Supreme Court believes that same-sex marriage will become the norm throughout the United States.

Texas, along with Mississippi and Louisiana, comprises the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has not yet ruled on the issue of same-sex marriage. It appears the tide is changing on the ban however. On November 10, 2014, Texas lawmaker Rep. Farael Anchia (Democrat) introduced a bill into the 2015 Legislative Session that would revise the current state law language specifying that a marriage is between a man and a woman. A similar bill introduced by another lawmaker would add an amendment to the state Constitution. Both of these bills could be voted on by the citizens of Texas in the 2015 elections.

For now, same-sex marriages from other states are not recognized as valid marriages in Texas. A same-sex couple previously married in another state will not be able to procure a divorce from a Texas court, as the Texas court system does not recognize that a valid marriage exists. This has overreaching effects on many family-law related cases other than divorce, including child custody disputes and adoptions.

It is possible for a same sex couple to adopt a child or have a custody arrangement through the family courts however conservative values are still pervasive throughout many small-town court systems and even to some extent the metropolitan court systems and until the ban on same-sex marriage is overturned, it will continue to be exceedingly difficult for same sex couples to receive recognition of their marriages, divorces, or family law needs.

Since there are family law issues that can be settled in the Texas Family court systems, it is important to be represented by a family law attorney who is sensitive to the challenges same sex couples may face and has experience in the area. Contact the Ramos Law Group, PLLC and schedule an appointment to discuss your case and ask questions relating to the legal process.

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