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Archive for the ‘Vehicle Registration’ Category

In a Divorce, Don’t Forget the Details

Posted on September 21st, 2016 by The Red Headed Lawyer

in-a-divorce-dont-forget-the-details

If you look up “what are the most stressful life events,” divorce is second – right behind death of a spouse.

In some ways both are synonymous. Each involves a death of sorts, and there is something else these events have in common. Both will require you to make critical, potentially life-altering decisions at a time when your mental capacity is taxed by stress. But in both cases, the decisions will need to be made quickly and thoughtfully, because most will be irrevocable.

Everyone can list the major decisions involved in a divorce:

  1. Child custody
  2. Disposition of marital home
  3. Visitation
  4. Support payments
  5. Division of major assets/liabilities

These have to get resolved and they are on everyone’s radar from day one. But in the heat of “battle,” don’t lose sight of those other issues that, if left unaddressed, can cause additional expense, emotional pain, and wreck havoc with future relationships.

Credit Cards

Chances are, if you’ve been married for a number of years you have joint credit cards with your spouse. It is often simpler to pay these off before the divorce heats up. It doesn’t really make sense to have your attorney negotiate with opposing counsel over a $300 Target balance, but if you forget, it will need to be on the table. And even when there is no balance, if the card was issued jointly it could be a problem down the road. Call the company to determine how you can remove a currently authorized user. Sometimes it’s fairly easy and sometimes not, but it must be done. Remember that removing a user is better than closing an account completely for credit score purposes, but sometimes you won’t have a choice.

Utilities

This situation will be similar to the credit card scenario. Utilities (including phone, cable and Internet) are often joint obligations. Obviously, whoever is to remain in the house needs to have the control and the liability. So check them – the departing spouse should assure that he/she is no longer connected to the utility accounts. You may to have to jump through a hoop or two to remove a name, but it will be worth it.

Club Memberships

Some club memberships include a credit account. Even if yours doesn’t, at some point you’ll need to separate yourself from your ex so Sam’s, Costco, and others treat you as an individual with (in same cases) a new address. Besides, do you really want your ex to know about your shopping habits?

Netflix, etc.

This can become an issue, particularly if it’s not resolved early before things get heated. Consider what might happen during a custody battle if your viewing habits suddenly became public information. It might be embarrassing, or it could (depending on what you watch) become a morals issue used against you in court to take away your child(ren.) Tread carefully during custody discussions – you don’t want anyone to think your home activities create hazards for children.

Gag Orders

It is common in a settlement agreement to include language stating that one spouse cannot slander or speak badly of the other. This is usually to maintain the relationship with a child or children. But don’t forget that slander can apply to others. What if your ex-spouse decides that his or her new favorite activity is bad-mouthing the person in your current relationship? It’s hard to prove in court, but the parties will know exactly what is happening. Unless it is prohibited, either specifically in the document or by some broader statement, a situation could develop where your friends, relatives, and kids become a sounding board for your ex’s complaints and comments. Don’t let this happen – be sure you protect yourself.

There are many more areas of entanglement that must be severed prior to divorce. Go through your wallet or purse and look at everything – chances are you will find more. Gym memberships, anything that is autobilled like yard service, reward program points – the sooner you address these the better. By paying off bills, separating or closing joint accounts, dropping users, and protecting yourself from torment, you save time and money during your divorce. It is also easier to resolve these issues early before emotions take over.

Feel free to contact us if you have any questions on settlement agreements or divorces.

Texas Toughens Child Support Enforcement

Posted on July 11th, 2016 by The Red Headed Lawyer

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In the old west, if you were convicted of certain crimes your punishment would be forfeiture of your horse. This was a serious punishment – at that time your alternative transportation options were quite limited.

Texas is taking a page out of the old west when it comes to dealing with anyone who falls far behind on their child support. But rather than targeting your horse, they are after your horsepower. Beginning this December, any Texas resident owing six months or more of child support will be unable to renew their vehicle registration.

For those with any knowledge of how Texas deals with child support scofflaws, this latest action is no surprise. The state is very aggressive in pursuing these individuals, and already holds the power to revoke all forms of personal licenses, including driver’s, professional, and recreational. This latest action by the Attorney General’s Office is just the latest measure to force compliance.

Here’s how it will work. This September, any resident already behind on their payments by six months or more will be notified of the new regulation in the standard three month renewal notice sent by the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. The letter will likely state that there is currently a “hold” on that person’s registration renewal, which would normally be due in December. It will include information on how to have the hold removed.

These same individuals will also receive a letter from the Child Support Division of the Attorney General’s Office prior to the renewal date. It will outline what must be done to clear the hold on their registration. While this has obviously not yet gone to effect, as the rule stands now, anyone who doesn’t take the required action will have an expired registration come January.

While it is not my purpose to debate the pros and cons of this new child support enforcement mechanism, it is important to note that some contend this is bad public policy. Taking away a person’s transportation cannot help but make it more difficult to hold a job, make a living, and pay for their obligations. However, there is also the argument that asks, “how is revoking their auto registration going to make it more difficult to do what they are already not doing?” It is similar to the argument that putting a person in jail for not paying child support means that they will lose their job and have no chance of their paying the support they owe in the future. Judges do not usually buy this argument, for good reason. Anyone who practices family law in Texas knows that putting people in jail for not paying child support frequently results in the child support suddenly being paid. Somehow, the money becomes available. Child support becomes a priority, which it should be. The same may very well be true of revoking a scofflaw’s auto registration. It is important to add that only a small number of egregious cases result in incarceration for past-due child support.

The Attorney General’s Office will say that there are procedures in place to be sure that honest, hardworking parents who want to do the right thing and satisfy their debts to their children are able to continue to drive legally. First, there is a dedicated phone number for all registration-related inquiries. And second, parents will not be required to completely pay all past due monies – just establish a payment schedule and keep it current.

The reason this public policy question bears mentioning is because of how this rule was enacted. It was not written into law due to a bill that was passed by the Texas state legislature. The Attorney General’s Office believed it had the authority to make this change under the Texas Family Code. As such, it could be challenged (and possibly reversed) in court. On the other hand, many of the procedures the Attorney General uses have been put into place without the legislature being involved. They fall under the powers and mandate of the Office of the Attorney General to collect child support. In the 30 years I have been practicing law, the amount of child support collected has grown enormously. This has resulted in not only many more children being provided for by their own biological parents who have the responsibility for them, but an overall reduction in the costs to the taxpayers of Texas.

There is another criticism of this rule – it only targets registration renewals. If you buy a new vehicle, there will be no holdups if you’re behind on your payments. So stay tuned to see how everything turns out.

My firm will be glad to represent anyone served with such a notice.