Friday, July 26, 2013

Need Divorce - No Money

It is common for the party without access to money, a job or at home with the children to feel isolated and powerless.  Hiring a lawyer is expensive. Knowing you need a lawyer but don't have the money is frustrating and frightening. Family lawyers recognize the desperation in a person's voice when their story unfolds and they describe lots of problems, fears and no access to money.   When I get a call like this in my practice, I walk the caller through different scenarios to see what options they may have available.   

Many counties provide resources like LegalAid or a Community Justice Program. These programs provide attorneys who either work for the agency or who volunteer their time to help those in need.  Most attorneys take cases on a pro bono (without charge) basis and the challenge is to find one who has time to devote to your case.  If you qualify for a program such as Legal Aid, you go through an application process and if accepted, you may be placed on a waiting list before you get an attorney assigned to you. Call your local county bar association and ask what is available for people who need an attorney but can not afford to pay.  

If you hit a dead end, call every family lawyer in your city or surrounding cities until one agrees to take your case.  That attorney may ask the court to order the other party to pay your attorney's fees. If an attorney agrees to take your case at no cost, be respectful of his/her time, ask whether emailing is acceptable to ask questions and promptly respond to whatever the attorney needs from you to move your case along. Also, find a support group or a counselor to help you get through this very emotionally challenging time. 

I am family law attorney with a solo practice in San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas.    

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Simply put - it works! If your case settles (and the vast majority do) it saves you thousands of dollars. Mediation offers you the opportunity to talk through differences with a mediator who is often an experienced family law attorney.  The mediator listens to both sides and then begins to work on narrowing down the contested issues.  The parties generally go to different rooms and speak freely about the problems and obstacles.  The mediator will not reveal what is said unless given specific permission.  The ultimate goal is to give the parties one last chance to come to an agreement by participating in reaching a solution to their specific issues.  

The process is emotional and sometimes looks like it is not going to work. The mediator uses his/her skills and experience to get the parties moving toward resolution of the issues rather than face an unknown judge who will issue orders no one likes or wants.

Mediation can take a couple of hours, half a day, all day and then some are marathons and go on for hours and hours.  The mediator keeps working as long as he/she sees progress.  That may mean letting the parties cool off for a bit.  When it works, the parties sign off on a binding agreement and walk out knowing the fight is over.  There may still be some bumps in the road getting used to the other party as a former spouse, but it generally is a great weight off of your shoulders signing off on the agreement.

Consider mediation.  Get your lawyer to set it up or get an order requiring the other side to show up and mediate in good faith.  It is a great way to get your case off the litigation track and get you moving toward the next phase of your life.  Click here for additional  FAQs regarding mediation.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The dying Hybiscus

South Texas is rough on flowering plants.  My spring pilgrimage to the nursery results in a payload of beautiful robust flowering plants for our front yard.  I take pictures, water, apply Miracle Grow and then watch as they wither and die in the Texas sun.  By the middle of July, it is a wasteland of parched grass and
dust. I am particularly attached to the hybiscus plant this year.  The large lush flowers, dark  green leaves are a joy to see every morning.   The plant thrived until a business trip took me away for 10 days.  My college kids were home and admitted to watering it once. Upon my return I was horrified to see curled brown leaves and dead bulbs on the ground.  Before unloading luggage, I grabbed the hose and began resuscitation efforts.   For a week I pulled off the dead and dying and hoped for the best.

"As is the gardener so is the garden" echoed in my head.  With attention, food and stability - the buds began appearing.  The leaves are sprouting and one day soon I will see the lush orange-red beauties again.  Close call - but it is only early July.  The flowers make me smile.  The buds bring me hope.  I admit - I am attached and invested in its success.  Its me and the hybiscus this summer - and both are going to thrive.   For more information on this beautiful plant, click here.   Happy watering.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Child Support Increase for High Earners

On September 1, 2013 the cap increases to $8,550 net.  Currently, any net income over $7,500 is not  used in calculating child support for most people.  If your income exceeds the cap, the burden shifts to the other parent to prove additional funds are needed to support the child's expenses (private schools, travel, a nanny, etc.)  Child support is calculated based on the number of children, health insurance premiums and your monthly net income.  If you are at the top end of the pay scale, September 1 may mean an increase in your current child support.  An excellent article explaining this adjustment by the Texas Legislature appears here.

The adjustment is not automatic.  The parent seeking an increase must file a petition for modification and ask the court to set child support per the new guideline amount. Defenses to an increase in child support must be carefully discussed with your attorney. Bonuses and over-time are topics that should be addressed as well as lump sum pay-outs or cashing out 401Ks.

Be aware.  If you fit into the category of a high earner, you should consider making an appointment with an attorney whose law practice specializes in child support cases.