February 2010 News: The Houston Family Law Blog

The Houston Family Law Blog

February 2010 Archives

Adoption Overview

So you're looking to adopt a child, but you are not quite sure about the lengthy process or the amount of money that's involved? While adopting a child can be expensive, it can also be a rewarding experience.

FindLaw reports that the total cost of adopting can be anywhere from $0 to more than $40,000, depending on a number of factors that include the type of adoption, the type of placement agency or facilitator, and the child's age at the time of adoption. For example, a foster care adoption typically ranges from $0 to $2,500, whereas intercountry adoptions can cost up to $30,000. This is because agencies that provide intercountry adoption services require money for immigration processing and court costs.

Getting a Protective Order

People who have been abused by a family member might be able to get a restraining order or protective order; which would place certain restrictions on the abuser. The state of Texas grants both temporary and permanent protective orders for those individuals who are victims of domestic violence.

Yet it's important to know that not just anybody can get a protective order in the Lone Star state. Womanslaw.org reports that only family members or foster children of an abuser can usually go about getting a protective order from the courts. A person who has had a continuing romantic or intimate relationship with an abuser may also file a court order. In addition, victims of sexual assault can also get a protective order against the person that attacked them. Individuals under the age of 18 can have an adult household member file for a protective order on their behalf. Filling out the "Application for a Protective Order" is where the process all begins.

Mother Wants to Raise Dead Son's Unborn Baby

Even Texas family law attorneys will probably see this case as being a bit bizarre. A mother of Bedford, Texas is hoping that a grandchild can be culled from her dead son's sperm.

The mother, Missy Evans, was heartbroken when she lost her 21-year-old son Nikolas Evans. According to ABC News, Nikolas died last last year of a subdural hematoma after he was assaulted in a fight outside of an Austin bar.

Now, Ms. Evans is looking for a surrogate mother for her future grandchild. She is then hoping to get a hold of her dead son's sperm through a post-mortem sperm retrieval process. The concept originated in the 1980s, but is still rarely carried out because of its controversial practices.

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

The Teen Dating Violence Prevention Project has declared the month of February as Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. Their initiatives to stop dating violence among teenagers have been supported by many public officials.

On the Teen Dating Violence Prevention Project's website, Vice President of the United States Joe Biden is quoted as saying, "Our responsibility - as parents, teachers, mentors, and community leaders - is to guide our young people towards respectful relationships free from harassment and abuse; teach them that it's ok to walk away from a bad situation; and encourage them to speak out when they see a friend in trouble."

Evander Holyfield Facing Child Support Suit

Dr. Janice Iston, the ex-wife of heavyweight titlist Evander Holyfield, recently filed a child support lawsuit against her ex-husband in Harris County District Court, located in Houston. According to Boxing Scene, Dr. Iston is now seeking to collect $280,000 in past-due child support along with interest.

The couple went through a messy divorce back in 2000; but their son Elijah Jedidiah Holyfield now seems to be the main subject of debate. Dr. Iston alleges that she needs more money from her ex-husband to properly take care of the child.

Texas Family Law Attorneys Look to 'Paw and Order: SDU'

Domestic violence cases can often be emotional and strenuous for Texas family law attorneys and sometimes even more so for the members of the family involved in the case. Fortunately, the The Harris County District Attorney's Office has launched a new program to help victims of domestic violence feel at ease.

The program titled "Paw & Order: SDU (Special Dog Unit)" is supposed to provide a therapeutic environment for those who have witnessed domestic violence and for the victims of domestic violence. The Texas Bar Journal reports that for years, animal-assisted facilities have been used in health care facilities to brighten patients' days, decrease loneli-
ness, and help lower patients' blood pressure. Now the Harris County District Attorney's Office and Houston Bar Association have stepped up to the plate and are trying the new program 'Paw and Order' as a form of therapy.

Unemployment and How It Affects Child Support Payments

How does unemployment affect child support payments? Reading Eagle reports that around the country, estranged parents are requesting for child support payments to be lowered  because they aren't seeing as much income at this time as they did before.

In fact, Texas family law attorneys say that it's not exactly uncommon for parents to be paying child support with their unemployment checks. At the Berks County Domestic Relations office in Pennsylvania, Domestic relations director Linda F. Epes told the Reading Eagle that the number of parents coming into the office in order to reduce child support payments has increased 64 percent since the economic downturn started in 2007.

Nas Accused of Unpaid Child and Spousal Support

The R&B singer Kelis has entered a family feud with her former husband Nas; who has become an iconic rapper in recent years.

The couple divorced last year when Kelis was seven months pregnant with their child. After Kelis gave birth to their son Knight, she decided to take Nas to court and get some child support for their son. Associated Press reports that Nas was ordered to pay more than $51,000 per month to his former wife and infant son last December.

However, Kelis and her family law attorney now claim that Nas is $200,000 behind on child and spousal support payments. The rapper now faces a criminal contempt charge for violating the court order dealing with child and spousal support. Yet, Nas claims that he is unable to pay the the court-ordered support amounts.

Texas Battle Over Child Support Payments

Here's a child support story that most Texas mothers would get scared over. KTSM reports that one woman from Socorro, Texas received a letter in the mail from the Texas Attorney General's office saying that the Office of the Attorney General overpaid her more than $500 over the past year, and that they now want that money back.

OAG stated that if the mother, Elisa Benitez, didn't pay the money in 30 days, then her paychecks would be cut in half, according to KTSM.

The Consequences of Facebook During a Divorce

If you're in the middle of a heated divorce case, it might be best to sign off your Facebook page; or at the very least consider the types of updates you're making on your account. Texas family law attorneys say that social networking sites can often affect the outcome of divorce cases in ways people would least expect.

WSLS reports that when angry spouses vent about their love life on Facebook, it often ends up in the courtroom. Chris Ragano, an attorney in Tampa, Florida says that he orders every new client to cancel their Facebook account on Day 1 of his retainer. He told WSLS that Facebook is "like gasoline on the fire."

Matters of the Heart: Having the Money Talk

If you would like to save yourself the hassle of hiring a Houston family law attorney and are looking to avoid a divorce; then you should pay attention to where your money is going and be in constant communication with your spouse about your shared finances.

The Wall Street Journal reports that all couples should ideally have the "money talk" before getting married. The author Jeff D. Opdyke writes the four key questions all couples should ask before taking the plunge into marriage. The questions should provide insight on how money will flow through a marriage.

Obama Supports Domestic Partnership Benefits

It's true that same-sex couples don't have equal rights when it comes to the law. However, president Barack Obama is now taking some basic initiatives to change that. As stated in On Top Magazine, the president's support for equal protection among gays starts with his voiced approval of the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act.

On Top Magazine reports that this piece of legislation would make the unmarried partners of gay and lesbian federal employees eligible for certain benefits previously denied to them because of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a law that prohibits the federal government from recognizing gay unions. Some of these benefits would include federal health insurance, retirement and disability benefits, medical and emergency leave, and compensation for work injuries.

Learning Family Law Outside the Classroom

The Fort Worth Business Press reports that the students studying to be Texas family law attorneys at Wesleyan University are gaining real-life legal experience through Wesleyan University's Law Clinic. The clinic has been of service to many low-income people in the state of Texas over the past decade. Clients don't have to pay attorneys fees.

The law clinic operates through various grants. The clinic has received more than $1 million in grant funding since 2003. Meanwhile, students are able to gain legal experience through a course that gives students credit for working in the clinic.

Should Divorce Be Between One Man and One Woman?

In Texas it's not legal for same-sex couples to get married or even have a civil union, but divorce between same-sex spouses who were married in another state is still granted in the Lone Star state. Yet some officials are trying to take that right away from same-sex couples as well.

The Houston Chronicle reports that aides to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott went to court last week to try and prevent two lesbians from divorcing. While the litigation still continues, Texas family law attorneys assert that Mr. Abbott's efforts have been unsuccessful and that the divorce between Sabina Daly and Angelique Naylor is legal.

Yet. Mr. Abbott raises an interesting question for those in the Houston community. Should the state ban divorce on same-sex marriages?

At What Age Should A Person Marry?

What's the ideal age for couples to get married? There's obviously no magic number, but the Wall Street Journal reports that the median age for marriage today is age 28 for men and age 26 for women in the United States.

Yet it's important not to get married too young or too early in a relationship, or divorce could be just around the corner. The Wall Street Journal reports that social scientists frequently say that an "early marriage" is the number one predictor of divorce.

The Center of Disease Control reports that age is a significant factor when it comes to divorcing. CDC states that 48 percent of those who marry under the age of 18, end their marriage with divorce. Forty percent of 18 and 19-year olds who get married eventually divorce, where 29 percent of people ages 20 to 24 get divorced.

Houston Man Charged With Beating Girlfriend's Child

Another story of a babysitter who allegedly hit a child has hit the news outlets. The incident caused blunt force trauma. ABC News reports that incidents like this cause nearby Houston community members and Houston family attorneys to question child safety when it comes to babysitting.

A northwest Houston man has been charged with beating his girlfriend's four-year-old daughter to death, according to ABC News; where the man now faces criminal charges.

Is Marriage Really Legal in Texas?

Can couples legally marry in the state of Texas? While wedding ceremonies occur everyday, a "massive mistake" in a 22-word clause of the 2005 constitutional amendment designed to ban gay marriages draws questions for some about the validity of all marriages, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports.

The clause of question declares, "This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage." But some Texas family law attorneys are arguing that a marriage ceremony is identical to marriage. So wouldn't that make all forms of marriage illegal?

Houston lawyer and former attorney general candidate Barbara Ann Radnofsky certainly seems to think so. She believes that another constitutional amendment should be put in place in order to reverse the problem.

Babystitter Arrested For Injury to a Child

Child abuse cases can sometimes be the most depressing and most emotional cases for Houston family attorneys.  This recent story of how a 22-year-old babysitter allegedly hurt a baby is particularly devastating.

The Houston Chronicle reports of how Mr. Jordan Thomas Harris got angry with an 11-month-old crying while watching the child, which caused the man to seriously injure the baby boy. The police reported that Mr. Harris "caused serious bodily injury" to the boy at a home on the 7900 block of Laura Koppe in northeast Houston. As a result of this incident, the baby was on life support as of last Friday. Child Protective Services said in the Houston Chronicle that the child's injuries include bruising to the brain, a black eye and bruising to both ears. The baby is being treated for the injuries at Texas Children's Hospital.

Making A Prenuptial Agreement

Under Texas law, marriage is considered a contract between a bride and groom, where there are automatic property rights associated for each spouse with that contract. FindLaw reports that each spouse usually has the right to share ownership of property acquired during marriage.

If you're less then satisfied with the idea that you could be sharing your property and belongings with a spouse in the case of a divorce, you may want to consider a prenuptial agreement. A prenuptial agreement, otherwise known as prenup, is a document the groom and the bride sign before getting married so that they can define which belongings are theirs.

Terminating Parental Rights

Texas family courts may order termination of the parent-child relationship if the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the parent has put the child in any sort of danger. Adoption.com reports of several circumstances which could be grounds for termination in Texas on their website.

Courts may terminate parental rights more often then one would think. CBS News reports that Child Protective Services is actually in the process of terminating the parental rights of Almita Nicole Lockhart. The woman from Houston has nine children ranging in ages from 2 to 18. Child Protective Services has taken custody of the children since a tragic incident left one of Ms. Lockhart's children dead.

Lindsay Lohan's Parents in Court Over Child Support

The parents of actress Lindsay Lohan have hit the media spotlight again, only this time it's over the issue of child support for their two younger children, Ali and Cody Lohan.

Long Island Press reports that Dina and Michael Lohan were in Nassau County Family Court on Long Island earlier this week, where Dina Lohan claims that her ex-husband was late on child support payments. The two parties met for a closed-door session.

Fort Worth Couple Gives Baby to Their Siblings

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A Houston adoption attorney might call the story of Christopher Ryan Smith the most unique adoption case anybody has ever heard of.  NBC Los Angeles reports that doctors and nurses who have worked for years in labor and delivery have also never seen anything like this.

Two brothers and two sisters are making two sets of parents. The baby, Christopher Smith, was born on February 2 at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Southwest Fort Worth. The biological parents, Joe Villegas and Lindsay Smith, legally gave their baby to the sibling couple Amy and Ryan Smith.

Houston Pastor Accused of Domestic Violence

A prominent pastor in the Houston area has been charged with assault on a family member, where the Houston Chronicle reports that the pastor was booked and released from jail on $50,000 bail. 

James Wallace Dixon, 47, is a leader at Community of Faith Church in north Houston and served as a Metro board member from 2004 to 2009. The domestic violence accusations against Mr. Dixon stem from an incident in January 2010, when Mr. Dixon allegedly pushed his estranged wife at a home in the 5000 block of Bridge Valley Drive.

The Legal Hurdles With Haiti Adoption

After last month's tragic earthquake in Haiti, many Houston couples are looking to adopt children from Haiti that have been orphaned after losing their parents in the devastation of the quake. Yet many people in Houston may not realize that adoption can be a long and tedious process, especially for those looking to adopt from foreign countries.

According to Texas Family Code Sec.162.009, courts cannot even grant an adoption in the state of Texas until the child has resided with the petitioner for at least six months, though courts could grant an exception if it is in the best interest of the child. All adoptions must ultimately be approved by a court order, where there are generally strict procedural requirements for international adoptions. Those who need legal help with the adoption process, should contact a Houston adoption attorney.

Mother Arrested For Violating Court Order

If you don’t agree with a court order when it comes to the custody of your children, it’s still important that you don’t violate such an order. If there’s a problem, Texas family law attorneys can help and may even be able to file an appeal.

Forty-three-year-old Leslie Anne Hurt from Frisco, might be facing serious legal trouble since she allegedly went against a court order. She took her children even though the court order prohibited her from doing so. The Dallas Morning News reports that Hurt has been charged with two counts of interference with child custody and one count of failure to appear.