RamosFamilyLaw.com Website Down Due a Technical Issue With Godaddy.

Website Down

Earlier today our site was down for approximately 4 hours due to a technical issue associated to the server where our website is hosted. On initial report, Godaddy estimated about 1-72 hours to fix this issue. However, they would not release specifics as to the exact cause of the issue. That said, our firm has decided to move to a more reliable hosting provider in the near future.

If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to contact us at info@ramosfamilylaw.com.

Update:

09/09/2013 @1:08 PM CST – Website was down for another 15 minutes.

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Texas Child Support Cap Increase From $7,500 to $8,550 Effective 9/1/2013

Texas Child Support Guidelines Change – Effective 09/01/2013

On September 1, 2013 Texas law changed in respect to child support guidelines. In Texas, the legislature promulgates a series of guidelines to help determine the appropriate amount of child support that should be paid by the child support obligor. While the guidelines are not absolute and it is possible to receive above guideline child support, the guidelines do form the basis of most child support determinations in Texas.

Under the child support guidelines, the obligor must pay a certain percent of his/her ‘net’ monthly income in child support. It is important to remember that net income as defined for child support is different than actual ‘take home pay’ for most people. Previously, the amount of ‘net income’ considered under the guidelines was capped at $7,500 per month. Even if a parent made $50,000 per month, under the guidelines, only the first $7,500 would be considered as ‘net income.’ For example, for if there was one child, the parent paying child support would be required to pay 20% of no more than $7,500 under the guidelines, or about $1,500 per month in child support.  This is often referred to as ‘max’ guideline child support.

As of September 1, 2013, the cap increased to $8,550 per month and the first $8,550 of net monthly income will now be considered for child support. In the example above, child support for one child would increase from $1,500 per month to $1,710 under the new guidelines. In order to determine whether you are eligible to pay or receive ‘max’ child support, it is important to refer to the tax charts calculated by the Office of the Attorney General. Under the tax charts, a person makes $8,550 ‘net monthly income’ if they make $11,828.81 in gross income per month, or about $141,945.72 gross per year.  The previous cap reflected a gross annual income of about $124,086. A change in child support amount does not happen automatically, if you are currently receiving ‘max’ guideline child support or believe you may be eligible, please contact the Ramos Law Firm to discuss modifying your support order to reflect the new law.

If you need more information regarding child support, please visit our main site:

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New Client – Invoice Quick Start Guide

Statement Overview

This article is intended for our clients to provide a quick overview of our invoices. Should you still have questions please feel free to contact us directly. Thank you for trusting us with your family law matter.

Services

This area includes details about the work performed by one of our staff members.  It includes the date the item was completed, initials for the resource completing the task, quantity in hours, rate and total cost for line item.

Expenses

This area includes any expense including but not limited to filing fees, process server fees and any 3rd party fees.

Totals

At the end of the Expenses area you’ll see the totals for both the services and expenses area.  It will be displayed in the following format:

  • Total – All charges for entire invoice.
  • Payment – If applicable will display payment applied to specific invoice.
  • Balance Owing – If applicable, this value will be the amount due to the firm.   A value of zero only indicates that you have a zero balance for this specific invoice.

Detailed Statement of Accounts

This area will display current invoice and any previous invoices with an outstanding balance.

Accounts

This area will display the current amount available in your trust account.  If the value is less than $1,000 you will be required to replenish your retainer.

Sample Invoice

Ramos Law Firm Sample Invoice

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Guideline Child Support Doesn’t Make Sense For My family. What Other Factors Does The Court Consider?

Texas has specific guidelines related to the amount of child support that should be paid each month. The guidelines consider the income of the obligor, or the person paying child support, and the amount of children to be supported. While the amount child support is ordered is based off of these guidelines in most cases, child support can be increased or decreased from the guideline amount depending on a series of factors listed in Texas Family Code §154.123. The Court must consider all relevant factors when deviating from child support. These factors include:

  1. The age and the needs of the child;
  2. The child’s educational expenses beyond high school;
  3. Health insurances provisions and payment of uninsured medical costs;
  4. Extraordinary educational, health-care, or other expenses of the child or of the adult parties to the suit;
  5. The resources available for the support of the child;
  6. Whether either party has possession of or acts as managing conservator for another child;
  7. The possession and access each party has to the child;
  8. Travel costs for one party to visit or have possession of the child;
  9. Child care expenses that allow either party to maintain employment;
  10. The respective abilities of each party to contribute to the child’s support;
  11. The net resources of the person receiving child support;
  12. Spousal support paid or received;
  13. Any benefits provided by an employer such as a car, housing, or other benefits;
  14. Paycheck deductions including
    1. Federal income taxes;
    2. Social security taxes;
    3. Non-discretionary retirement plan contributions;
    4. Union dues;
    5. Child’s health insurance or cash medical support.
    6. Cash flow from real and personal property;
    7. Debts assumed by either party;
    8. Any other reason consistent with the child’s best interest, taking into consideration the parents’ circumstances.

Ultimately, the court will consider all of these factors, but will make a final decision based on the needs of the child. A child’s needs, for support purposes, are more than life’s bare necessities, and are based on the best interest of the child. The best interest of the child will be a critical factor for any judge ordering a deviation from guideline support.

For more information, please visit our main child support information page or review other child support blog articles.

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My child lives with me, but the other parent hasn’t been providing any support for our child. Can I get back child support for all the time I’ve been supporting our child by myself?

Texas Courts may order what is known as ‘retroactive child support.’  This means that in addition to requiring a parent to pay child support going forward, a parent may be ordered to pay back child support for previous times when that  parent was not helping to support the child. In order for a court to order retroactive child support, the court must first find that no previous order regarding child support was in place, or that the previous order in place was terminated prior to the time frame for which back child support is requested. If someone is ordered to pay child support and fails to do so, those missed payments are known as arrears, not retroactive child support, and a different process is in place for collecting back payments.

If no child support order is in place, the judge then has discretion to determine whether retroactive child support is in the best interest of the child. It is up to the judge to make a decision based on the specific facts of each individual case, however, judges often consider the type of help and support given by the non-possessory parent when making a decision about retroactive child support. If the court finds that the parent has been providing some form of support, the judge may decide that retroactive child support is unnecessary.

If a judge decides to order retroactive child support, the amount of the retroactive child support payment will be calculated using the same guidelines used to determine child support payments going forward. The Court will look at the net monthly income of the person ordered to pay child support (the obligor) and order the obligor to pay a certain percent of that income every month, depending on the number of children the obligor has and several other factors.  The Court will then add up the number of months in which child support should have been paid to determine a total amount of retroactive child support.

There is a presumption that the Court can only look back 4 years when determining the total amount of child support, however, that presumption can be rebutted in several ways. The Court can order retroactive child support for a period longer than four years if there is evidence showing that the obligor attempted to avoid the establishment of child support obligation even though the obligor knew (or should have known) that he was the parent.

For more information regarding child support please contact us or visit our main site child support page by clicking here.

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What Happens After Divorce Mediation In Texas?

Quick Overview

  1. Prove up MSA (Mediated Settlement Agreement) in front of Judge
  2. Schedule an entry date for the final order
  3. Drafting Final Documents
  4. Enter signed final order and supporting documents with the court
  5. Post-Divorce Checklist  (Not optional)

Process After Mediation

In Texas, many cases are settled during mediation.  A mediation agreement is a binding agreement signed by all parties and their attorneys that resolves all of the issues in case.  Once an agreement is reached, the most difficult part of the case is over, but there are still several steps that need to be taken to finalize the agreement.

First, the mediator files the agreement with the court. In most cases, the agreement is filed within twenty-four hours.  In many courts, especially in cases involving child custody, one party must “prove up” the mediated settlement agreement in front of the judge. This means that one party appears before the judge and briefly explains that the parties have reached an agreement and what that agreement contains. The judge will then examine the agreement to ensure that it comports with Texas law and in most cases approve the agreement. Following the “prove up”, the attorney will request an entry. An entry date can also be requested in instances where a “prove up” is not required.  An entry date is a date by which the final decree or order must be signed by all parties and submitted to the court.

Once an entry date is set, one of the attorneys begins drafting the decree or order. Generally, mediated settlement agreements are only a few pages long. They contain all of the agreements of the parties, but not the legal language necessary for a final decree. For example a mediated settlement agreement may state simply that the parties agree to a standard possession order, the final draft will then need to specify over several pages the exact terms of visitation in standard possession order. One attorney must to draft a longer document with the appropriate language. Once the draft is completed, all parties and their attorneys have an opportunity to review the document prior to entry. Sometimes, one party does not agree to the final language. If there is a dispute regarding drafting, in most cases the parties will return to the mediator, who will then act as arbitrator, and make a final decision regarding which language best reflects the agreement of the parties as written in the mediated settlement agreement. If the parties still disagree then the judge will hear the parties’ arguments on the entry date and make a final determination regarding the decree or order.

The final decree order or order is not the only document submitted to the court. Several supporting documents must also be filed. In most cases involving minor children child support withholding orders and medical support orders are generally required. Personal information sheets must be filed with the Bureau of Vital Statistics. In cases involving property division, special warranty deeds, which transfer interests in real property, titles, and qualified domestic relations orders, which are used to divide retirement accounts, must be filed as well.  In addition to filing documents regarding the division of property and payment of support, depending on the terms of the agreement, the actual exchanges of property and payment must be made. Often the entry date is used a deadline for the exchange of property or money, however, parties may agree to other dates of exchange as well.

After the judge signs the final order or decree the lawsuit is complete.  However, if this is a divorce, then you still have many outstanding issues left to address.  Please use the linked post-divorce checklist to help sort through any outstanding matters.

Posted in Divorce, Mediation | Comments Off

Just Divorced? What Next? Post-Divorce Checklist!

First and foremost, after your divorce has been finalized, several steps remain to be completed.  The list below will help you sort through the many outstanding issues that may need to be addressed shortly after entering final orders.

Post-Divorce Checklist:

  1. Ensure that all documents related to the division of property are filed with the Court, including a qualified domestic relations order or special warranty deed.
  2. After the documents relating to the division of assets have been signed by the court, submit your documents to the appropriate parties, like the fund administrator of your 401K, or the Registrar of Deeds for your home.
  3. Change the titles on your vehicles and other property.
  4. Prepare new wills and other estate planning documents.
  5. Change the beneficiary on your life insurance, 401K and IRA account, unless you are ordered to leave it in your former spouse’s name.
  6. Change your tax status to reflect that you are no longer married and/or to alter the number of exemptions.
  7. If you have moved, update your mailing address with credit card companies, banks the department of motor vehicles and insurance companies.
  8. Obtain auto insurance in your name only.
  9. If you were awarded any debts associated with property, refinance the debt so that it is solely in your name.
  10. Contact your bank and close any joint accounts that you were awarded and reopen the accounts in your name only.
  11. If child support is ordered, begin making payments directly to the San Antonio Disbursement Unit until the wage withholding order has been processed and money begins coming directly out of your paycheck.
  12. Close any joint safety deposit or PO Boxes.
  13. Keep copies of all social security documents related to your previous spouse. If you were married for more than ten years you may still be eligible for your spouse’s social security benefits.
  14. Revoke all powers of attorney that you may have granted to your spouse in writing.
  15. If you were previously receiving health insurance through your spouse, ensure that you have continued coverage through COBRA or obtain health insurance through other means.
  16. If you changed your name as a result of the divorce, obtain a new driver’s license, passport and social security card.
  17. If you were ordered to use OurFamilyWizard.com in a divorce with children, set up your account.
  18. Begin keeping copies of all your child’s medical records and expenses. Remember to send a copy of any uninsured medical expenses to your former spouse so that you can be reimbursed for 50% of the expense.
  19. If you have any issues visiting or accessing your children following your divorce, create a detailed calendar of all incidents to be used in a later modification or enforcement of your divorce decree.
  20. Scan and copy family photos in your possession and give a copy to your former spouse.
  21. Ensure that all property awarded in the divorce has been exchanged.
  22. Obtain a certified copy of your decree.
  23. Create a new budget based on your change in income and expenses.
  24. You must 30 days prior to applying for another marriage license in Texas.
  25. Take care of yourself. If you are struggling with the emotions of your divorce seek support from friends, family and mental health professionals.

These are just some of the things you need to complete during this period of transition in your life.  If you have some additional suggestions email us at info@ramosfamilylaw.com.

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What Happens When We Go To Court To finalize An Adoption In Texas?

Finalizing an adoption in Texas is one of the few joyous occasions in a family law courtroom.

Most of the family law judges in Harris County require a pretrial hearing prior to the final trial to ensure that all requirements have met and that the parents don’t show up the day of the adoption hearing only to be sent home disappointed. Once the pretrial hearing has been held and all necessary requirements have been completed, including a social study and background check of the adoptive parents, then all necessary parties will appear before the judge to finalize the adoption.

Necessary parties include the child, the adoptive parents, the attorney for the adoptive parents, the amicus attorney, an ad litem attorney if one was appointed as well as any potential government agency parties, such as caseworkers from CPS if applicable. Extended family such as siblings and grandparents are also encouraged to join in on this momentous occasion for a family.

The parties will go before the judge and testify as to the facts necessitating the adoption. The attorneys will question the adoptive parents as to their understanding that they are becoming the legal parents of a child and whether they believe the adoption is in the best interest of the child. Often times, age permitting, the child is allowed to speak to the judge and attorneys about their adoptive parents and desire to be adopted.

Once the attorneys have elicited the necessary testimony and the judge has reviewed all the relevant pleadings, the judge will sign an order granting the adoption and pronounce the child to legally belong to the adoptive parents. Often times a judge will allow the adopted child to bang the gavel or bestow a small toy or stuffed animal to the child. The family is also allowed to take pictures with the judge on the bench to memorialize the special day.

If you are contemplating legally adopting a child and would like to partake in an occasion as described above, please contact the Ramos Law Firm and one of the competent family law attorneys can assist you with any adoption-related inquiries.

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How Do I Change My Child’s Name In Texas?

If you desire to change your child’s last name, there are procedural steps that must be followed. In Texas a parent must petition a court to legally change a child’s name. This petition must include the present name and residence of the child, the reason the name change is requested, the full name requested for the child, whether the child is subject to continuing exclusive jurisdiction of a court, and whether the child is subject to the registration requirements under Chapter 62 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. If the child is ten years of age or older, the child must provide written consent for his or her name to be changed.

Once the petition has been filed and all the parties properly served, a hearing will be scheduled. The other parent will be given the opportunity to contest the proposed name change; if that is the case then the Court will decide if the name change is in the best interest of the child.   In most cases, the court will require that both parents consent to the name change.

If the Court grants the name change request, the judge will sign the order granting the name change and you will be able to take a certified copy of the order to the necessary agencies to have all identification and governmental documents changed to reflect your child’s new name.

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If I Decide To Divorce, Do I Have To Share My Lottery Winnings With My Spouse?

In Texas, income created during the marriage is considered community property. Community property must be shared with one’s spouse during a divorce. Gambling winnings gained during the marriage are considered community property even if the gambling was funded by one spouse’s separate property. In other words, even if a lottery ticket is purchased with one spouse’s separate money, the winnings must be shared with the other spouse. Additionally, interest payments received during the course of a marriage are also considered community property.  If you win big before you are married, your spouse is entitled to share in the interest gained on your winnings from the date of marriage until the date of divorce (unless a carefully drafted prenuptial agreement is entered into by both parties prior to marriage). Winnings received after the marriage, however, belong completely to the spouse who purchased the ticket, even if the ticket was purchased the day after the divorce.  In a 2003 Texas case known as In re Marriage of Joyner, 196 S.W.3d 883 a man purchased a winning lottery ticket following the final hearing of divorce and won $2,080,000. The money was held to be his separate property.

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