The Firm would like to congratulate Diana Larson and Erik Larson for being selected to H Texas Magazine’s annual list of Houston’s Top Lawyers for 2014.
In its July 2014 issue, H Texas Magazine states that it compiles the list of Top Lawyers in Houston based on “nominations from clients and peers as well as rigorous background checks.”
To contact Diana or Erik about retaining them to represent you in your case, contact them at (713) 221-9088.
The continued profitability of a successful business can be put at risk if a business owner fails to anticipate the following key legal issues that often arise. Business people need to be prepared on the front side for these challenges. Otherwise the results of legal mistakes businesses make can be costly.
1. Not Having Agreements with Employees.
Businesses often have trade secrets or confidential information such as customer lists. This information needs to be protected from employees who may go to work for a competitor or open a competing business. Non-disclosure, non-competition (non-competes), confidentiality and non-solicitation agreements can be valuable tools to a business.
2. Lack of a Corporate Structure.
Owners of businesses often expose their personal assets to business liability by failing to incorporate their businesses. (I am not talking about merely having a DBA). Having the correct business entity for your business purposes and needs is critically important to protect personal assets. Also, failing to follow certain corporate formalities, such as not commingling personal assets and business assets can expose your personal assets.
3. Lack of an Owners’ Agreement.
When there are multiple owners of a business, life changes in the lives of owners will occur that will affect the business. These include divorce, death, parting of ways between owners that result in the need for a buy-out and many others. Unless the owners have an agreement in place before these transitions occur, it is often very difficult and sometimes impossible for owners to reach agreement without the matter resulting in litigation.
4. Not Using Written Contracts.
Relying on oral agreements is typically a bad idea for many reasons. As time passes, memories fade, expectations change and the potential for disagreement increases. It is much better to address all issues directly and in writing at the beginning so that all parties are clear as to what is expected on all performance issues.
5. Using Incorrect Contracts.
Just as important as using a written contract is using the right contract. Standardized contracts should be carefully tailored to the needs and issues in the specific engagement.
6. Not Understanding the Contract.
The business owner should understand every provision of the contract before entering into the agreement. There are times when a business must sign a contract to get an account, or job and the other side will not negotiate the terms of the contract. However, Even if a business owner is not practically able to negotiate the terms of the contract with the other party, the business owner needs to understand each provision of the contract.
7. Underestimating the Time, Risk and Cost of Litigation.
Lawsuits also frequently involve much more time than owners initially expect – time that would otherwise be spent on growing the business. Litigation can also be much more unpredictable and expensive than most business owners anticipate at the beginning of a case.
For more information on protecting your business from these and other legal mistakes businesses often make, call your business attorneys in Houston – Erik Larson or Diana Larson – at 713.221.9088.
There are several ways to help protect children in divorce cases from being negatively affected. A divorce will certainly affect a child in concrete ways, such as the child needing to adjust to one parent no longer living in the family home. However, much of the trauma, disruption and even guilt that children often feel during and after a divorce are avoidable, or can at least be minimized, if both parents take concrete steps to truly put the children’s emotional best interest first. Unfortunately, even though most Texas parents truly want to protect children in divorce, the emotionality of the divorce for a parent often spills over into that parent’s relationship with the children in negative ways. Fortunately, there are concrete ways to lessen the impact of divorce on children to help them transition more smoothly.
Avoiding unnecessary hostility toward the other spouse in Houston divorce litigation can be helpful to reduce the stress and trauma often involved in a divorce. Once the divorce petition is filed, the property division process becomes somewhat like the wind-up of a business – there are assets to be divided and liabilities to be allocated between the parties. Regarding child custody, there is a parenting plan to decide on, a visitation schedule to put into place and child support to be implemented. These things can be done with an acrimonious, vicious, take-no-prisoners attitude or they can be accomplished in a reasonable, methodical way. It should be clear which way tends to protect children in divorce, is better for the well-being of child and helps the child transition to a new normal more quickly and smoothly.
Mediation in a Texas Divorce
Mediation early in a case can help accomplish such a positive result. Mediation is a formal settlement conference where a neutral third party helps the parties to achieve a settlement of the issues in a case, including property, conservatorship (custody) and child support. Mediation can be helpful in resolving cases quickly and less expensively than through a more complicated litigation process in a Texas divorce. For mediation to be successful, all appropriate information should be disclosed beforehand – such as the scope of marital property and marital debt for property division. Income taxes and compensation information should also be exchanged by the parties to determine child support or alimony.
By the time a divorce case reaches mediation or court, the parties should realize and accept that if one spouse wants a divorce, it is going to occur and their focus should be on steps they can take to protect children in divorce. At this stage, parents are well-served if they recognize this fact, try to set their own feelings aside about their spouse when discussing divorce with the child, realize that both parents will keep co-parenting their children for many years to come, and focus their attention on getting through the divorce process with minimal negative impact on the children.
To discuss mediation, custody issues or any matters related to your Texas divorce, call The Larson Law Office at 713-221-9088 to speak with Diana Larson or Erik Larson.
Each divorce case shares some issues in common. However, it is important to keep in mind that just as every divorce case is different, the ultimate cost of a divorce lawyer in Houston will vary case by case as well. The amount in legal fees that a divorce will ultimately cost differs with each case because each divorce has unique elements and issues that need to be handled and these issues affect the number of attorney hours that are required to bring the case to a conclusion.
Factors in Cost of a Divorce Lawyer in Houston
There are many factors and circumstances that determine how much obtaining a Texas divorce will cost, including:
Witnesses. Are witnesses going to be necessary and for what issues will they be required?
Complexity. Is the case complex or complicated? Issues that affect the complexity of the case include the number of assets, how the assets are held, the liquidity of the assets, the availability of the assets and whether the assets are easily discoverable or are hidden. Other factors that may add to the complexity of a case may involve child custody and visitation issues.
Temporary Orders. Will a temporary orders hearing be necessary or will an agreement be reached on temporary orders?
Contested or Uncontested Case. Are the parties are in agreement on how marital property will be divided and how child support, child custody and visitation will be handled? Or will these issues need to be resolved by negotiation, mediation or perhaps ultimately resolved by the Court in a trial?
Discovery. Will written discovery, such as interrogatories and requests for production, be necessary to uncover facts about issues involving property, child support and child custody? Will depositions, which are pre-trial oral testimony that is transcribed by a court reporter, be necessary after written discovery is completed?
For a free consultation about the cost of a divorce lawyer in Houston for your case, call The Larson Law Office at 713.221.9088.
There are several ways in which a man can become a father of a child and establish paternity in Texas. First, a man can be presumed to be the father under the Texas Family Code. This presumption is created if a man is married to the child’s mother and the child is born either during the marriage or within 300 days after the marriage is terminated. This presumption of paternity in Texas can be attacked by a suit to establish parentage or the filing of a valid denial of fatherhood and an acknowledgement of paternity (AOP) by another person.
A man can also become a father in Texas if he files an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP). The AOP must be signed by both the child’s mother and father and filed with the Bureau of Vital Statistics (BVS). Filing a signed AOP is a way to determine paternity in Texas instead of filing a lawsuit to determine the child’s father. In situations where the child does not a presumed father under the Texas Family Code, such as where the man and woman were never married to each other, the signed AOP is effective on the date the document is filed with the BVS.
Effective Acknowledgement of Paternity in Texas
To be valid, an AOP must:
1. be “in a record”;
2. be signed or authenticated under penalty of perjury by both the mother of child and the man acknowledging paternity;
3. state that the child does not have either a presumed father, an adjudicated father or another acknowledged father;
4. state whether genetic testing has been done and, if testing has been done, that the man’s claim for paternity is consistent with the test results; and
5. state that the man and the mother of the child understand that the AOP has the same effect as a court’s finding of paternity and that challenging an AOP is allowed in only certain cases.
Denial of Paternity in Texas
A presumed father can also sign a denial of paternity in Texas. Similar to the effect of an AOP, a denial of paternity by a man, along with another man’s acknowledgement of paternity, has the effect of a court ruling of paternity. As a result, a valid denial of paternity by a presumed father will release that man from all of the rights and duties of a parent. To be an effective denial of paternity under the Texas Family Code, the following requirements must be met:
1. A valid AOP is filed by another man;
2. The denial of paternity must be in a record, signed by another man and filed;
3. The presumed father has not done an AOP previously and has not been adjudicated to be the father by a Texas family court.
If you have questions about acknowledgement of paternity in Texas or denials of paternity, contact The Larson Law Office at 713.221.9088 to discuss your issue with our Houston family lawyers.
Under Texas law, alimony is also referred to as “spousal maintenance” or “spousal support.” Spousal support is designed to provide temporary support for a spouse following divorce, rather than being a long-term proposition. A spouse’s eligibility to receive spousal maintenance following the entry of a final divorce decree has been significantly expanded since it was created almost twenty years ago. Spousal maintenance has grown from protecting only stay at home spouses who have been out of the workforce for many years to also including spouses who are responsible for disabled children, disabled spouses, and spouses who have experienced family violence.
In 2011, the Texas Legislature made substantial revisions to alimony eligibility. To qualify, a person must claiming spousal support must establish through evidence that:
1. The person actually a spouse – or at least claiming to be a spouse such as under a “common law” or informal marriage. Living together or cohabitating does not qualify a person to receive spousal support in Texas.
2. The person does not have sufficient property to provide for the person’s “minimum reasonable needs.”
3. The person meets one of the four following criteria: married for at least ten years and unable to earn a sufficient income, experienced family violence, spouse is disabled or child is disabled.
In deciding whether a person has “sufficient property”, the court can consider a variety of property types including the person’s income, which includes salary, bonuses, child support and other received money. The court can also consider the income earned from property such as a rental property owned by the person. Also included in the court’s analysis would be any separate property and the value of the share of community property received by the person in the property division in the divorce decree.
This standard is not specifically defined by the Texas Family Code and is rather left to the family court to determine what a person’s minimum reasonable needs are. Of course, this determination is based on evidence presented to the judge and can include a variety of expenses including housing, utilities, automobile related expenses, insurance, credit cards, medical costs and child care expenses, among others.
The ten year requirement is calculated from the date of marriage until the date of trial, rather than the date the divorce petition was filed. Additionally, the person seeking spousal support must prove they lacks the ability to earn a sufficient income and that they have made a diligent effort to earn a sufficient income or develop skills.
If you intend to pursue a divorce in Houston or one of the surrounding counties, spousal maintenance is one of many issues that a family law attorney can assist you with to protect your interests. Contact our law firm today at 713.221.9088 for a free consultation.
Judges in Texas family law cases have discretion to award child support in excess of statutory guidelines under certain circumstances. The guidelines apply to obligors with up to $8,550 of monthly net resources.
If a parent who is obligated to pay child support has monthly net resources above $8,550, the court may award additional child support based on the child’s proven needs. These may be either needs that are currently being met or they may be unmet needs.
The court can allocate responsibility for the child’s additional proven needs between the parents. This means that the court may order that either parent or both parents provide the additional child support required. The financial and other circumstances of the parents often play heavily into the court’s determination.
The child’s best interest is the key factor in determining whether additional child support is needed. The parents’ needs are not a consideration for the court. Above-guidelines child support is often requested regarding issues including: nannies or other child care, private school tuition, lessons (music, academic and sports, for example) and other extracurricular activities. The court can also look to a child’s future needs, beyond the current needs of the child, in awarding additional child support.
Some of the factors that may be considered by a Texas court in deciding whether to award above-guidelines child support in a particular case that are provided by the Texas Family Code include:
(1) The child’s age and needs;
(2) Educational expenses beyond high school;
(3) Health insurance and uninsured medical expenses of the child;
(4) Extraordinary educational, health care of other expenses of the parties or the child;
(5) Travel costs to exercise possession of the children;
(6) Child care expenses so that the parents can work outside the home;
(7) The ability of each parent to provide financial support to the children;
(8) Whether a parent receives spousal maintenance (alimony); and
(9) Any other reason that is consistent with and furthers a child’s best interests.
The Texas Family Code also prohibits a court from including the following factors in its determination of whether to award additional child support: any prior voluntary support that was above guidelines; the gender of the parties or the child; and whether either parent is currently married and how much that spouse earns or the spouse’s net monthly resources.
Working with an experienced family law attorney can help you navigate the Texas child support path. Call 713.221.9088 to speak with our lawyers today.
Texas law provides for a court to enter a wage withholding order as a tool to help in collecting spousal maintenance (alimony) payments and child support payments. The order requires the employer of the party obligated to pay to withhold a portion of his paycheck.
The employer is also required to send that money to the person entitled to receive the money. Wage withholding can be involuntary or voluntary and can be done by a wage withholding order or a voluntary writ of withholding.
The withholding order is required to contain for how long the spousal maintenance payments are to be made and the amount of the payment. The combined amount of child support payments and spousal maintenance payments under a wage withholding order can be more than 50% of the responsible party’s “disposable earnings.”
The Texas Family Code defines “disposable earnings” as earnings after legally required deductions, union dues, non-discretionary retirement contributions, the cost of medical treatment, hospitalization and disability insurance for the party responsible to pay and his children.
If the court did not enter a wage withholding order with the divorce decree, the party to receive the payment can apply for a writ of withholding under the Family Code. A writ is filed with the court clerk rather than with the court itself, although the court must receive notice of the filing.
If the writ is not challenged, the process will often proceed to completion if it has been accurately drafted and contains all essential elements and both parties have signed the writ.
However, if the writ of withholding is challenged by the party responsible to pay, a hearing must be held by the court on the issue. A writ of withholding may be challenged by a motion to stay or by special exceptions if there is a defect in the writ.
When the employer receives a withholding order or writ, the employer must begin withholding funds beginning on the first paycheck after it has received the order or writ. The employer must continue to withhold funds and remit payment to the party named for the duration of time specified in the order or writ.
An employer who does not withhold funds properly or fails to remit funds to the proper party faces liability for the payment of those funds, fines and payment of attorneys’ fees.
Texas law gives a spouse the ability to use grounds of fault in Texas divorce cases, but a spouse still has the ability to allege no-fault grounds for a divorce. The Texas Family Code provides that no-fault grounds include insupportability of the marriage due to discord or conflict with no reasonable expectation of reconciliation, living apart for at least three years, or if a spouse has been confined to a mental hospital for at least three years. As might be expected, insupportability is the common no-fault ground for divorce.
Until the early 1970s, a spouse had to prove that the other spouse was at fault in Texas divorce actions. Fault grounds include:
2. abandonment for at least one year with an intent not to return;
3. cruel treatment that renders living together insupportable (intolerable) which applies to both mental or physical cruelty; and
4. a felony conviction.
In the early 1970s Texas the Texas Family Code expanded the grounds on which a court can grant a divorce to include no-fault grounds. The Texas legislature made this change for several reasons, including a desire to decrease the expense of divorce as well as to lessen the emotional turmoil often caused by having to put on evidence in court to prove fault, particularly with the ground of cruelty and adultery.
Even though most of Houston area divorce cases are granted with no-fault grounds, fault in Texas divorce matters is still frequently alleged. The reason for this is that if a party can prove fault in Texas divorce cases to a family court, the judge can take that into consideration when dividing marital property. If a party is found to be at fault for causing the breakup of the marriage, the court has the discretion to award the other spouse a disproportionate share of the community property of the marriage.
Additionally, divorce attorneys in Houston family courts will pursue a finding of fault in Texas divorce actions because the court can consider fault in setting the amount of spousal support payments and the length of time spousal support will last. Contact The Larson Law Office today at 713.221.9088 regarding help with your Houston divorce case.