The Texas Supreme Court issued an an emergency order to address parents' visitation (legally called possession and access) with their children during Spring Break and school closures. Parents should look to the original published school schedule to determine their times of possession and access. Parents possession and access shall not be affected by the school’s closure that arises from an epidemic or pandemic, including COVID19. The full article is located on the Texas Supreme Court's website, but difficult to find. Here is the link: https://www.txcourts.gov/media/1446106/209043.pdf
A retainer is a specific amount of money requested from a lawyer to begin representing you in a legal matter. Those monies are placed into a special checking account called an IOLTA account. Any interest accrued on monies deposited into a lawyer’s IOLTA account is distributed to the State of Texas Indigent Defense Fund. This fund represents people in situations that involve taking away an inherit liberty given to us by the Constitution. For example, crimes that involve jail time, involuntary mental health commitments, and termination of parental rights.
Lawyers that require a retainer work on an hourly basis. A lawyer's hourly rate is determined by their experience and the normal hourly rate in the counties they practice. As the lawyer works on your case, they deduct the monies from your retainer. The following are some tasks you might see on an invoice from your lawyer: drafting pleadings letters, or emails; researching a legal issue; talking to you, opposing counsel or an expert; and attending court hearings, depositions, and mediations. A lawyer’s Legal Assistant and Paralegal also bill for the time they spend on your case, but at a much lower rate. Legal Assistants and Paralegals should be utilized whenever possible as it is cost effective for the client. Usually, the retainer is paid all at once, but on rare occasions, the retainer can be paid in payments. Once your retainer is reduced down to $500.00, the lawyer will require you to replenish your retainer so that your case can be completed.
A flat fee is an amount of money the lawyer will accept to complete your case from beginning to end. Flat fees are not common for divorce, custody, child support or probate cases. However, if a client can convince the lawyer that he/she has an agreement with the opposing party, a flat fee would be appropriate in that situation. The following are usually flat fee cases: chapter 7 bankruptcy; chapter 13 bankruptcy; criminal cases only involving plea deals; name changes; estate documents (Will, Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Power of Attorney, and Health Care Directive/Living Will); and probating a Will as a Muniment of Title.
Hiring a good lawyer is a very important decision. In looking for the right lawyer, consider the following: do they regularly practice in the area you need representation, do you know someone who has used the lawyer you are considering, do you feel as if you can trust the lawyer’s advice, do your personalities mesh? It isn’t always necessary for your lawyer to have the most experience in the area of law you need help in, but you want to make sure that the lawyer has a moderate amount of experience in the area or knows how to conduct legal research efficiently. A more experienced lawyer will cost more, but if you are on a budget, a less expensive lawyer can also get the job done. Finding a lawyer that you trust, in my humble opnion, is more important than their experience because if you do not trust them, you will not follow their advice. If you do not follow their advice, you sabotage your own case and there will be hard feelings for sure! Ask yourself: If this lawyer asked me to do something that I didn’t think I needed or wanted to do, would I still do it? Lastly, when determining if a lawyer is right for you, consider the way you normally communicate and how you best receive information. If at the initial meeting with the lawyer, you are confused and leave with unanswered questions, you will always feel confused and have unanswered questions throughout the case. Lawyers are usually hired as a last resort and more times than not, deliver bad news. I say if you don’t like the news being delivered, you should at least like the person delivering the news!
Reviewing your credit reports annually is very important to help prevent identity theft. You can obtain a FREE credit report from all 3 credit bureaus at: www.annualcreditreport.com If you see something reported incorrectly on one of your reports, you can immediately dispute the negative reporting with just a few clicks. This process can help you increase your credit score without paying a service to do it for you!
One last tip, if you suspect someone attempting to steal your identity or maybe a spouse might want to open an account in your name without your permission, then you should request that all 3 credit bureaus call you before allowing any new applications to be processed in your name. I learned the hard way, no need for you to do the same! Happy Investigating!!
Upon filing a Petition for Divorce, there is a minimum waiting period of 60 days, unless there is some type of family violence exception. However, very few divorces are completed in less than 90 days and those cases usually involve little to no property and usually no children of the marriage. If you have children or property, you will have what is called a Temporary Hearing within 14 days of filing your Divorce Petition. At that hearing, the parties will figure out who lives where, who drives what, who pays what bills, and when each party will have possession of the children. After the Temporary Hearing, hopefully we have a cooling off period for 45 to 60 days for everyone to adjust to their new life before we discuss long term settlement or begin the discovery process. Next post will explain the discovery process.
That question cannot be answered in a blog because I need more facts. Why did you get behind on your house payments? Do you have income to make the payments now? Do you have any other debts that you are unable to pay?
When you file a chapter 13 or chapter 7 bankruptcy, all collection efforts stop. That means creditors cannot foreclose on your home or repossess your car. Most people want to file a chapter 13 bankruptcy so they can keep their home, but many times I recommend that my clients abandon ship and I will tell you why! In a chapter 13, all of your debts are put into a big pot, you make a monthly payment to the chapter 13 trustee, usually for 3 to 5 years, and he pays all of your creditors a little bit every month. Now, this is the problem, most people could not afford to make their regular house payment before, but now they not only have to make the house payment, but they also have to make a payment to the chapter 13 trustee. When you come into my office, I will ask, can you afford to make the house payment and all your necessaries to live (electric, food, gasoline, etc.) If the answer is yes, then you might be a good candidate for a chapter 13. The next question is, after paying your house payment and all your necessaries do you have any money left over at the end of the month to make a payment to the chapter 13 trustee? Remember, you have to pay back all of those missed house payments over 3 to 5 years, along with any other debts thrown into that big pot. So, if you or your spouse lost a job for a while and got behind on your house payments, but now have a way to make the current house payments then you could be a good candidate for a chapter 13 bankruptcy. However, many people file a chapter 13 bankruptcy when their income has not increased nor has their expenses decreased and by filing a chapter 13 bankruptcy they are only putting a band aid on a gushing wound! Trust me, 2 years later you will be upon foreclosure again and asking me, did I file bankruptcy for nothing? And I will say, I told you 2 years ago you couldn't afford this home and you need to abandon this ship!! Please don't let your pride get in the way because you will only be more disappointed that you didn't abandon ship sooner.
The real question is: do you want to regret not getting a lawyer? The Texas Supreme Court released standardized forms to help pro se litigants (that's you without a lawyer) file a divorce without retaining a lawyer. The good news is that if you are married for a short period of time and have not accumulated many assets, then the forms will work for you. However, there are many things to think about: 1) Are you splitting retirement accounts, if so, you will need a QDRO, which is not provided in the standardized forms; 2) Are you transferring real property or personal property to another spouse, if so, you will need additional legal documents; 3) Is one spouse taking on the full indebtedness of a loan on real property (your homestead), if so, you will need additional language in your decree to insure your name is removed from the loan and additional legal documents to insure you can retrieve the property back if the spouse fails to make payments to the creditor; 4) Do you really believe your spouse is telling you the truth when he/she says the settlement is fair. There are many other variables to think about that cannot be discussed in a blog. At the very least, pay a lawyer for a real consultation, remember, you get what you pay for! We will meet with you to discuss your situation and if we believe you can obtain a divorce with the standardized forms, we will assist you in filling out those forms for a fee. Visit the following website for more information on the Texas Supreme Court Divorce Forms: http://texaslawhelp.org/resource/divorce-in-texas.