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Consultation Corner

Knowledge is Power: Prepping for Your Case Early

by Gilbert De La Garza on 10/31/14

Divorce can be a simple process or it can be extraordinarily difficult.  As harsh as this may sound, sometimes divorce can be the best thing to happen to two people, as it can allow them to go on with life and gain their happiness and sanity once again. Other times, the process can be very painful and an emotional roller coaster, with many people finding  it very difficult to deal with their new reality and spending  most of their time trying to cope with the process of losing everything that has been normal to them for years. It is an unfortunate reality that marriages, once perfect and happy, can grow into something that can make one or both spouses miserable and angry.  Either way, whether the divorce is agreed to or not, there is really never an easy way to handle the divorce process. It takes patience, fortitude, strength and the ability to adjust just to get it started. What comes after it begins though, especially in divorces with child custody disputes involved, takes much more than any of those things.  It's hard to be prepared for a process that can have lifelong consequences and one which can make even the strongest of us break. Property disputes and spousal support, albeit important issues, in my professional opinion, take a back seat to issues dealing with child custody and visitation; however, all issues contained within a divorce case, whether small or large, require a spouse to know the laws and processes which are the basis of every single divorce case. Because of this, it is vital to gain knowledge, and to formulate one’s ideas about this process well before it begins and the paperwork gets filed. Taking early action to be prepared for the upcoming legal issues can be extraordinarily beneficial.

It is very important for one to understand that when dealing with the prospect of upcoming divorce, his or her present actions can have consequences on the outcome of the case. Familiarization and preparation is the key to using that to one’s advantage. Knowing the laws as they apply to property distribution and child custody and support issues will greatly help one to formulate a plan and course of action sometimes months before the divorce commences. Once that plan is formulated, taking appropriate and reasonable actions can have a tremendous effect on how a court rules on particular issues down the road. 

For example, knowing that a court favors maintaining the status quo of the marital estate during the separation phase, it would be beneficial for a spouse to set up the marital bills, expenses and bank accounts in such a way that they would like them to be throughout the divorce period. Once the divorce is filed, the court’s standing orders normally state that all bills and accounts should remain paid and maintained as they have been before the case was filed. Without having that knowledge, and failing to prepare appropriately, one could easily find themselves having no money in their bank account and being responsible for all of the marital bills until they are able to have a judge order otherwise. Setting up those affairs beforehand can save you time, effort, and thousands of dollars both in marital expenses and attorney’s fees. 

Likewise, as to child custody issues, preparation can be vital before the divorce action is filed.  Assume that one parent, during the marriage, has a good job and has some marital income, and in addition, this parent is the one who normally takes most of the responsibility for the children. This parent does all of the caring for the children at home, takes them to and from school and activities and primarily takes care of their medical and personal needs, while the other parent who makes more income does not do those things, and leaves those responsibilities for their spouse. Later, when the divorce is filed, the non – involved parent can easily request that the court award them primary custody of the children despite their poor prior involvement in the children’s care. This is very common that a parent assumes because he or she makes most of the money in the marriage, he or she can better provide and care for the children despite not having been involved in their caretaking for years. In this scenario, prior to filing the divorce, it would be extremely beneficial for the more involved parent to maintain school and medical records showing that he or she has been the parent who is involved in those things with the children, and in addition, to maintain a journal or diary of all of the caretaking and activities he or she has been involved in and in which the other spouse has not been involved. To that end, Facebook or other social media material is of great use in these types of circumstances, and saving or printing posts and comments regarding their involvement or the other spouse’s lack thereof is very useful. Social media posts that illustrate a parent is with the children at extracurricular activities or at a doctor’s visit, for example, while the other parent’s posts indicate being out with friends, can go a long way in winning a custody case. These materials can all be used as evidence later in the case, and can be quite persuasive to the courts in determining which parent is awarded primary custody. 

These are only two simple examples of how preparation and knowledge is vital to the outcome of a divorce proceeding. If a divorce or custody case may be on your horizon, sit down and gain knowledge of the process by speaking with an attorney who knows the laws and procedures that will be forthcoming in your case. A good attorney will not only advise you of the laws, but will outline for you all of your options and alternatives, and should give you a ‘game plan’ of how to handle your affairs before the case is filed in an effort to put you in a better position than you otherwise may have been in without this information. And while not every case requires this type of action, knowledge of even the basic legal procedures can be of great benefit when navigating through your case. 

Navigating The Family Law Waters: It's Your Choice and Your Future

by Gilbert De La Garza on 09/30/14

Nobody ever thinks that they will be asking for advice from an attorney regarding divorce, child custody and other family law issues. Going through a legal family issue is not a fun thing to do, but it is very common. The process can be trying for even the strongest of people and it takes a toll on everybody involved - especially single parents and children. Divorce, child custody, child visitation, child support, grandparents' rights, adoptions, termination of parental rights, parents' duties, geographic visitation issues, retirement pensions, property division among spouses, alimony, injunctions, health insurance issues, attorney general cases, military benefits, protective orders - all part of this area of law that so many of us deal with daily.

99% of the people who walk through my office door have some type of problem that they need help with. The other 1% come there to talk about someone they know who does. Family law issues compose a vast majority of those problems. I learned many years ago that not only is it the people who call on me for my services and come in for a consultation that have these types of problems, but also, everyone from the cleaning lady vacuuming my office after hours, to the accountant down the hall with whom I speak at the mailbox, to the  computer guy coming in to fix my network, to the sales rep coming in to sell a service,and even my secretary and friends who come visit me in the office. They all have had family law issues. It is a very common occurrence for a new acquaintance to learn I practice in this area and bring up a question they have about child support or child custody for either themselves or a 'friend'. It is highly likely that anybody reading this presently knows somebody with an ongoing issue of this nature.

I only came to this realization after I began practicing  family law - likely because I began letting people know I could help with these problems and I started paying attention. But thereafter, I soon found out just how many people face those types of issues, and that many people I would have never realized were involved in legal battles were going through just that. Hence, I hear "Let me ask you something.." quite often, and many, many times, the question is related to Divorce, Custody, Visitation, and Child Support.
For that reason, and the fact that I enjoy helping others, I have made a conscious effort to study this area in depth in order to give the best advice possible to those who are facing these problems. These laws that can affect your family's future change every few years, and are ever-expanding. They can be frustrating and confusing.  Nobody should have to face these things on their own. It is true that support from friends and family is a great source of help and information and solace in cases such as these. Getting through the process seems an easier prospect with good, solid support from people one loves and trusts. However, getting through the process with the help of somebody who can navigate you through the legal issues and answer all of your questions in order  to help with making good long term decisions is vital.

Good legal representation is a combination of many things - knowledge, skill, good advice and hard work coupled with understanding, moral support, strength and respect. This will all make for a good working relationship between an attorney and client. Speak to several attorneys, ask questions about your case and get to know them and how they will work for you before committing to hire one on something as important as an issue dealing with you, your family and your future. It will be an investment well spent and one you will appreciate when it comes down to knowing what to do, making good decisions,  and fighting for the results you desire. Remember, not every family law case ends well, but having someone on your side who can assist in getting you into the best position possible to maximize your results will always be a good move.

Understanding and Dealing With Attorney General Child Support Matters

by Gilbert De La Garza on 09/23/14

Including Setting Support, Modification and Enforcement of Child Support
The Attorney General’s office of the State of Texas has built within its agency several units that deal exclusively with Child Support matters, including setting present child support based on income, modification of child support amounts, enforcement of prior child support orders for back child support, and health insurance matters including Medicaid and CHIPS (Children’s Health Insurance Program). Many parents apply and qualify for child support services through this agency, and in fact, the Office of the Attorney General handles hundreds of thousands of Child Support cases monthly through the Texas courts. Because of their presence in this area, thousands of people deal with the Attorney General’s office daily for their child support issues, attending meetings (CSRP’s) at the administrative offices of the Attorney General,  and attending special administrative courts for the purposes of setting , modifying and enforcing child support and medical support issues. It is a very large area of the family law arena in Texas as a vast majority of child support cases are monitored through the Attorney General’s State Disbursement Unit of Texas. Being such, this agency also maintains a website which allows  parent s to pay their child support online, monitor their payment records and review their cases efficiently. However, not all of these issues can be easily handled through the website or through dealings with this agency at the several offices across Texas. Many times, these cases require the help of private attorneys to assist the agency in its efforts to set and modify child support,  to help clients navigate their cases through the Attorney General’s Child Support Review Process, and more importantly, to assist them in navigating through the courts that handle these cases. These hearings are a very common occurence in courthouses acrosse Texas, and many times, custodial parents, although being helped by the Attorney General's office to set, maintain and modify child support, become at odds with the agencey due to lack of service on the non custodial parent, requests for modifications too frequently, or dismissal of their child support case completely. These as well as many other issues are very common in this arena of family law due to the high numbers of cases existing through the agency. It can be a tedious process to be sure, but the process is definitely designed with the best interest of children in mind. Custodial parents should understand that they can at any moment hire private attorneys to handle these issues much more efficiently, and without the necessity of dealing personally with the Attorney General's case workers and/or State's attorneys who may not have their best interests at heart.

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Attorney Gilbert De La Garza offers free monthly seminars on Attorney General and Family Law Issues as a public service. For questions on such seminars,