Category Archives: Divorce

A Moment of Gratitude

Do you spend more time with your coworkers than you do with your family?  If you do, have OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAyou ever stopped to consider why that may be the case?  The West is a culture preoccupied with work. While I love the fast-paced nature of the legal field, it’s crucial that I take the time to reflect on why I do what I do every day at the office. With Thanksgiving right around the corner, here are just a few things I am thankful for:

1. I’m thankful for my clients.

I’ve said it before, and I will reiterate it here: I’ve got the best clients in Texas. I learn so much from them, and they honor me by trusting me with their lives every day. Whether I am helping them survive a bitter divorce or organizing their business for the start of a new venture, each client challenges me to provide better service and value than I did the day before. That’s a tremendous blessing that I do not take for granted.

2. I’m thankful for my staff.

This year I hired a legal assistant named Tim, and my productivity soared. He keeps me on task, helps me with administrative tasks so that I can focus on legal work, and most importantly he keeps me in communication with clients when I’m in court or otherwise unavailable to talk to them directly. Tim has allowed me to be more efficient and responsive to my clients, and for that I am incredibly grateful.

3. I’m thankful for my family and friends.

If it weren’t for my friends and family, my life would be totally out of balance. Being in a service-based industry is difficult because other people’s life problems become my problems. It’s very easy to get overwhelmed by all of the very serious concerns that clients bring to my office. It’s also easy to take on more work than I can handle because it’s much harder to say no to a potential case when my cup is overflowing with obligations.  Today I vow to prioritize my family over my potential profit. If I can’t offer the best service at the time due to having a full case load or simply not being able to handle the problem before me, it is my ethical obligation to refer that potential client to another professional who can.  I’ll no longer value my professional life over my personal life because integrity goes a long way, and I took an oath to behave ethically and professionally at all times.

I hope and pray that you are taking time off from work to spend time with the people who really matter in your life. I know I will, and I can’t wait to kick back with my friends and family to recharge before coming back to work to serve more clients and help more people along the way.

 

 

Top 3 Things People Don’t Know about Community Property

file0001248906240I got a question from a colleague who works as a financial planner: he wanted to know if a 403(b) retirement account was subject to division in divorce. The short answer to this question is probably yes. Many people don’t realize that in the absence of a premarital agreement, all assets obtained during divorce (with very few exceptions) are considered community property in a Texas divorce. Most people realize that a court may determine the division of their house, vehicles, and tangible assets, but there are some subtle nuances to the presumption of community property that could dramatically affect their odds for a positive outcome in divorce. It is always preferable for spouses to agree on the division of their property, but sometimes agreement is simply impossible, so I wanted to shed some light on the three most surprising aspects of community property division in divorce.

1. Inheritance is off the table.

If a relative passes away and leaves you a large sum of money, that inheritance is not subject to division as community property in your divorce. The money you receive in an inheritance is your separate property. However, if you mingle that money with your community funds (perhaps by using it to purchase other assets with your spouse), it could become a part of the community estate. This phenomenon is known as co-mingling. If you’re married and are on the verge of receiving an inheritance, it is a good idea to meet with a family law attorney to ensure your inheritance is definitively separate property.

2. Retirement accounts are subject to division.

As previously mentioned, retirement accounts (including IRAs, pensions, defined benefit plans, defined contribution plans, 401ks, and 403(b)s) are part of your community estate once you marry your spouse. If you’ve worked for decades at the same company,  you’ve likely acquired a substantial nest egg in your retirement plan. Most people believe if they work hard and obtain retirement benefits, they’re entitled to enjoy the fruits of their labor when they retire. However, once you marry, your contributions to your retirement plans become community property, and as the value of the plan increases over time, the balance of the plan from the date of your marriage becomes subject to division in divorce.

No one wants to lose their inheritance or their retirement. So what are couples to do if they want to avoid these outcomes? Thankfully, the presumption of community property can be overcome.

3. Couples can agree to define their assets as separate or community at any time.

Premarital agreements allow future spouses to decide what assets they want to keep as their separate property and which assets will be their jointly owned community property. Ideally, each party will have his or her own attorney to review the documents and advise as to the consequences of the agreement. This is a great opportunity for them to discuss their finances at their very onset of their marriage and establish clear boundaries about how their assets will be treated if they divorce. If you do not have a premarital agreement, do not despair. You and your spouse can create what’s known as a postnuptial agreement after you marry.

Unfortunately, finances are one of the primary motivating factors for divorce, so the sooner you and your partner get on the same page about the money in your relationship, the better off you will be as a couple. For more information about community property or to discuss your financial circumstances, feel free to give me a call at (713) 574-8626 to schedule a consultation.

3 Tips for Parents Going Through Divorce

032cc38c6b791fc5612c6823ab93fb44In my practice, I see many people at their absolute worst. Their marriage is over, and they’re coming to me for advice and counsel during the divorce process. Some of those people have children which further complicates matters. How does one navigate the divorce process without taking their children on an emotional roller coaster? Frankly, this is a difficult question without a simple solution or answer because every family is different, but these three guidelines are critical if you want to exit your marriage with as little damage to your kids as possible.

1. Never Bad Mouth the Other Parent

This one may seem obvious, but if you’ve been served with a divorce citation, you probably have some choice words to say about your soon to be ex. You should share those choice words with your divorce lawyer, your therapist, your best friend, or your pastor. Who you should not vent to under any circumstances is your child. It doesn’t matter if he or she is an absolute scoundrel. Your child loves her other parent just as much as she loves you. It’s not fair to place a child in the middle of an adult situation by deriding your spouse. It will drive a wedge between you and your child and place you in a terrible light when she gets old enough to process what you said about her other parent. Find healthy ways to express your frustration but keep it away from the little ones.

2.  Avoid Using Your Child as a Bargaining Chip

Similarly, parents going through divorce have to navigate several issues such as who will stay in the family home, who will pay child support, and what the possession and access arrangement will be for the children. Although it may be tempting to punish your ex for his or her wrongdoing by withholding access to the children, please do not do this. Your children will not understand, and it’s simply not in their best interest. The family unit as they know it is changing dramatically; do not make that change even more severe by making the children feel guilty for wanting to see both parents on a consistent basis. Doing so is emotionally abusive and could severely impact your child’s well-being.

3. Maintain Their Routine

Your children may not tell you this, but the day to day happenings in their life are what makes them feel safe. Eating breakfast, getting ready for school, catching the bus to school, sitting through classes, going to extracurricular activities, and doing homework are all a part of their daily routine. If you and your spouse are going through a divorce, it is likely that their routine has been interrupted by one of their parents moving out of the home, or by them moving away from one of their parents. Some interruptions are unavoidable, but if you can minimize the disruptions from your child’s daily life, your child can continue to develop and grow as an individual. The more you provide stability for your children, the less likely they are to resent either of their parents for divorcing. You and your ex have a responsibility to let your children know that you both love them unconditionally even though your marriage is ending. You can show that love by maintaining their routine as much as possible.

We all love our families. Sometimes it’s hard to know if we’re doing the right things for them. If you’re contemplating divorce and need practical advice and guidance, feel free to give me a call at 713-574-8626.

Free Wills Month: Your Mortality? It’s Not Morbid.

tigerThis month for the entire month of May, this law office is participating in a campaign known as Free Wills Month. Anyone over the age of 55 years old (or married to someone 55 and up) can get a FREE consultation with us to prepare a simple will.

For those of you who follow the blog, you may remember that we did this promotion two years ago. You can check out the inaugural blog here.

Anyway, this is one of those things that should be an easy sell. Everyone likes things that a free, but when it comes to pondering one’s eventual demise, people are incredibly reluctant to do so. Specifically, older people. This makes total sense and is natural, but in some way it’s counter intuitive. We plan for our weddings. We plan for vacations. We plan for every other event in our lives except  death.

This is not to disparage or demean the Baby Boomers in my life, but you guys…please, come on.  Your children and extended family will very much appreciate knowing your desires about what should happen to your belongings when you meet the fate that will greet us all. Dad, if you’re reading this, this blog is dedicated to you. I sincerely hope that after years of patient badgering, I have worn you down and finally convinced you to follow my advice.

Love always,

Your tireless youngest daughter

P.S. This campaign directly benefits Texas Children’s Hospital and will run from May 1 to May 31, 2016. For more information, check out the website.

The Challenge Presented by Difficult Clients

ANGRYThis week I’ve been confronted by the reality that a large part of what I do involves dealing with people at their worst. My clients are going through divorce. Some are facing bankruptcy. Others have been personally injured, and still others are facing jail time. Stress can do a number on a person’s ability to cope and adapt to life’s ups and downs. Sometimes that stress gets taken out on me. Occasionally, my clients will lash out at a staff member, and while I’m sensitive to what they’re going through, a vital part of my job is to remind my client that it’s never appropriate to take their frustrations out on me or my staff because we’re here to help. We’re all on the same team, and as the old adage goes: don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

There are times when I’ve had to escort clients out of meetings to remind them of the fact that while I’m sensitive to their emotional upset, at no time is it okay to curse or yell at me or anyone who works for me. How can I effectively advocate for a person who can’t maintain his composure in our private interactions? If I’m not able to reign in an irate client in private, I run the risk of allowing that person’s bad behavior to impact the outcome of his case in the eye’s of the judge when we make it to court. That’s not a risk I’m willing to take. I’d much rather offend a client and obtain the desired outcome he seeks than placate a difficult person to his own detriment.

Contrary to popular belief, lawyers are people too. We have good and bad days like everyone else, but the lawyer who can’t control her emotions is the one who cannot keep a cool head to make sound decisions for her client, and I refuse to be that type of attorney. I’ve seen lawyers in screaming fits, in tears, and visibly shaken in the hallways of court rooms, but once those lawyers reach the presence of the judge or the jury, their game face is on in spite of how they may be feeling. An important part of our job is how we relate to our clients. Any attorney who has been practicing for any amount of time has more than a few stories about the time they had to talk a client off of the ledge in order to get past the strong emotional component of their case and make sure the job is done.

We can’t always be your friend. We’re also not your therapist, although we are definitely legal counselors. Boundaries have to be maintained for our welfare and for the benefit of our clients. Keep that in mind the next time you blow off some steam on a customer service rep or anyone else you may encounter on a bad day. That person has feelings and is just trying to do his job. We’re all doing our level best to help you, and that’s made much easier when you cooperate and keep your emotions in check.

For professional advice and to schedule a legal consultation, be sure to give me a call at (713 ) 574-8626.

Should I Hire a Lawyer or Handle It on My Own?

ttronslien-8953 (1)I get asked this question in different ways from time to time, so I thought it would make a great blog topic. Is it a good idea to hire a lawyer or go pro se?

In most instances, we have no problem going to a professional for services. Car making a funny noise? Go to a mechanic. Need a haircut? See a barber. Broke your key in the door? Call a locksmith. But when it comes to legal services, people with absolutely no legal experience or training strangely believe that they can do it themselves, get the outcome they want, and successfully represent themselves in court. This is almost always a terrible mistake.

“I have the right to represent myself in a court of law”, you may be thinking. This is true. You absolutely do, but just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Abraham Lincoln famously said, “He who represents himself has a fool for a client.” Like me, President Lincoln was an attorney, and he had a great reason for making this remark: the law has its own set of rules, guidelines, and vocabulary. There is a reason lawyers have to attend several years of school and pass their state bar examinations. Competence in the courtroom comes with years of experience handling legal problems again and again. A person without this background is simply not prepared to properly represent him or herself.

Typically when a person goes pro se, that person quickly realizes they’re in over their head and hires an attorney. When I meet someone who has filed their own lawsuit, I look at what they have done on their own and determine what, if anything, I can do to fix their mistakes and protect their interests. This often results in my new client paying more than he or she otherwise would if they had simply come to me with their legal problem from the very beginning. The additional work needed to pick up where a pro se litigant has left off usually results in me having to spend more time on their case, and therefore a higher bill. Sometimes they’ve waited too long to seek my help, and I can’t do anything for them because the case is too far gone.

Even a skilled lawyer who represents himself is at a disadvantage. We are humans, and our emotions tend to cloud our judgment when it is our own personal interests at stake. I take my own advice in this regard. When my grandmother passed away, I advised my mother (her executor) to hire an attorney. I did not want to bungle my grandmother’s estate. I had recently graduated from law school and had not yet learned how to handle probate matters. I wouldn’t pull my own tooth if I had a toothache, and something tells me you wouldn’t either. The same principle applies to the law: when in doubt, hire a professional.

10 Things I’m Thankful for in 2014

It’s that time of the year again! The leaves have changed colors. Folks have started wearing 2013_11_11_7382-1morguejackets and scarves. Fall (also known as autumn) is my favorite time of year. It’s the only season with two names, and Thanksgiving (also my favorite) is the most low-pressure, feel-good holiday there is. This is a time for reflection, and once a year everyone is reminded to count their blessings. With that in mind, I’d like to offer my thoughts on what I’m thankful for this year.

1. Meeting awesome people

This year has been particularly good for me because of some of the wonderful people I was fortunate to meet. In June, when I was sitting at a bar having brunch at Katie’s Diner in New Orleans, Louisiana, I was introduced to someone who is now one of my closest friends. She later moved to Texas and is now my office administrator.

In October I had the pleasure of meeting Dave Lorenzo at one of his LegalMax seminars in Miami, Florida. I also met Brian Tannebaum, a former Abovethelaw.com contributor and Florida criminal defense attorney. Both of these guys were personable and dynamic. They gave me a lot to think about in terms of how I run my business and what I need to do to make it even better.

2. Fantastic clients

My firm wouldn’t exist without my clients, and every day I’m thankful for each and every one of them. My clients are some of the most kind, intelligent folks I’ve encountered, and I feel honored that they have entrusted their divorces, lawsuits, estate plans, and oil & gas royalty claims to me and my staff. I look forward to putting together a small “thank you” gift for them around Christmas time.

3. Learning a few life lessons

This year I learned that I cannot be everything to everyone. I also learned that it’s terribly important to set realistic expectations for my clients and myself. Just because I know how a legal process works doesn’t mean my client does. It’s my job to educate and advise every client I have, and I believe I’ve had a chance to do that more this year than I have in the past.

4. Owning a thriving business

Before I started my practice, I was a pawn in the corporate wheel. Although I was highly paid, I was not happy with the work I was doing and didn’t feel like I was making a difference in the world. Thanks to that experience, I greatly value the freedom and satisfaction I get from owning my own business. Was it difficult getting used to the ebb and flow of small business ownership? Yes. Did it take me some time to get used to not having a steady paycheck or paid sick and vacation days? Yes. Has it all led to me being happier and more fulfilled in my career? Absolutely. Now that I am my own boss, I can’t imagine going back to work for anyone else. I’ve tried to do that a few times since starting my firm, and the results were disastrous. Every day I’m thankful that I only answer to my clients (and occasionally to a judge).

5. Writing my first book

At the end of last year I began writing a do-it-yourself divorce guide for pro-se litigants. About two weeks ago I completed it. It is my first book, and I am incredibly proud of it. My hope is that this book really helps people who cannot afford to retain an attorney. I spent a great deal of time and effort to write something user friendly, free of legalese, and made it accessible to every day people who simply want to move on with their lives. I’m currently in the process of building a dedicated website for the e-book and can’t wait to make it available for sale in 2015.

6. Balancing work with life

This year I’ve been blessed to do a fair amount of travel. I went to New Orleans, Miami, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Austin this year. I’ve been able to spend time with my friends and family while keeping up with my day to day responsibilities. I had about  3 weeks of vacation this year, and I hope to keep up the trend of taking time off to recharge my batteries. I’m no good to anyone when I’m stressed and burnt out from working too much, so it’s a blessing that I’ve been able to strike a balance between my career and my other interests.

7. Helping clients get fantastic settlements 

One of the highlights of my career is being able to help people get compensated for their damages. When a company has to pony up dough because I have proof of their legal liability to one of my clients, there is no greater feeling in the world. Being the under dog who takes on behemoths is a challenging task, but when it pays off, my clients are happy, and I feel good. While I’m usually unable to disclose exactly how much I’ve gotten from whom, my clients know what kind of results I’ve gotten for them, and that’s all the validation I need.

8. Widespread legal changes 

This year the number of states with legalized gay marriage rose to 35. The number of states with legalized access to marijuana rose to 23 (plus the District of Colombia). It seems like America is slowly but surely moving towards progress in terms of civil liberties and civil rights, and I am very grateful for these developments. Unfair laws have prohibited people from exercising their rights to live their lives as they choose, and these laws are finally being challenged in the courts and legislatures. Texas isn’t in either category just yet (in terms of legalized gay marriage or marijuana), but change is on the way. It’s just a matter of time.

9.  Overall health, wealth, and happiness

2014 was a great year for me and my law firm. I only had to take one sick day this year, and thankfully I was able to employ an office administrator to help me communicate better with current and former clients. This year has been tremendous in terms of growth, both personal and financial. I’m looking forward to what 2015 has in store.

If you haven’t yet, take some time to write down a few things you are thankful for. An attitude of gratitude is a good thing to have all year. Until next time, thanks for reading, and if you ever have questions about me and what I do, please feel free to call (713) 574-8626.

Does Texas Recognize Same-Sex Marriage?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI get this question in a variety of forms from time to time and thought it would make a good topic for a blog post. To answer the question simply: no, Texas does not recognize same-sex marriage. But what does this mean to LGBTQ couples who’ve married in states that do recognize their unions?

1. Divorce is not an option in Texas.

Texas has no legal mechanism to arrange for visitation and conservatorship of children born to parents in same-sex relationships. This issue continues to be hotly contested as U.S. Supreme Court rulings continue to strike down state same-sex marriage bans. While LGBTQ couples can divide their property through a process known as partition under the Texas Property Code, the prospect of divorce available to heterosexual couples is not yet an option. For interesting reading on the controversy surrounding this issue, check out this article.

2. Your partner will not get your property if you die without a will.

Texas laws concerning what happens to your stuff when you die automatically give your children, parents, and siblings rights to your property, but they do not make allowances for non-family members. If you are gay and in Texas, you need to write a will to make sure your wishes are carried out upon your death. For more compelling reasons to write a valid will, check out this article. 

3. Your partner may not be allowed to make medical decisions for you.

Similar to the problem in point 2, the state of Texas places the responsibility of deciding medical decisions in the event of an emergency in the hands of immediate family members. If you are married or in a committed relationship that is not legally recognized, you run the risk of your partner being asked to step aside while your family takes the lead in a medical emergency. If you want to ensure your partner has access to you in an emergency and can speak on your behalf in a crisis, it’s imperative that you designate him or her as your medical power of attorney in the event of incapacity. 

For more information about the unique estate planning needs of gays and lesbians, please give us a call at (713) 574-8626 to schedule an initial consultation. 

Attorney Obligations: Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect

toysUnfortunately when discussing divorce and family law issues sometimes people reveal potentially damaging information about their behavior and attitudes toward their children or, more commonly, their stepchildren. In my practice, I have encountered individuals so riddled with grief and despair threaten to kidnap and even kill their young children in a desperate attempt to change their situation. What they may not realize is that I have a legal obligation as an attorney to report abuse or neglect as well as potential abuse or neglect. The Texas Family Code makes it a Class A misdemeanor for a lawyer to fail to report incidences of child abuse or neglect. In fact, if it is shown that a legal professional intended to conceal the abuse or neglect, he or she faces a state jail felony.

Lawyers are held to the same standard as teachers, doctors, nurses, and daycare workers under Chapter 261 of the Family Code. We must report suspected abuse within 48 hours to a law enforcement agency or the Texas Department of Family Protective Services. We are entrusted by the state to look out for the well being of those who cannot speak up for themselves. Children are a vulnerable population, and when lawyers fail to act out of a desire to protect our clients, we are violating our duty to the state of Texas. A client or prospective client who has harmed a child or threatened to harm a child and let a legal professional know about it has opened himself up to prosecution. If the lawyer remains silent, his or her life and livelihood could be on the line.

Although we are trusted advisers and counselors, we are also officers of the court and representatives of the state. We have duties to be truthful and honest in our dealings with clients and with the public. It can sometimes to be difficult to balance our obligations to the client to protect his or her privacy with the duty to report child abuse and neglect. Reporting these incidents could cause problems for the client, but not reporting could result in criminal penalties for us. It is my policy to let clients know my legal obligations during family law cases. Transparency is important to building trust in any relationship, but the public at large should also know about what an attorney’s duties are in these cases. For questions about this or any other family law issues, please give us at call at (713) 574-8626.

 

 

 

 

 

#Sugar Land divorce lawyer

How to Negotiate an Uncontested Divorce in Texas With Children and Property

Negotiating a divorce involving kids and property is often a messy affair with slander, allegations and counter allegations flying thick and fast. It involves a lot of different factors and can very easily turn into a complicated divorce proceeding. If you want a seamless and easy divorce in situations involving kids and property, hiring an uncontested divorce lawyer from The Law Office of Kimberly D. Moss is a great way to start things off. Our experience in these cases will go a long way to help you close the deal on an uncontested divorce. There are a few steps in a divorce involving kids and property

 

  1. The first step is to gather information about the nature and extent of the assets, liabilities and property owned jointly by you and your spouse. This is when information is gathered regarding property ownership and documents are exchanged with your spouse so that both of you are accurately aware of the situation and can make informed decisions.
  2. Once the information is clear, the negotiation process can start. Negotiating involves knowing your exact goals and being clear about your intentions regarding the division of property. If possible, you and your spouse need to decide how your children are going to be brought up, educated and cared for. Being in the clear about these terms is very important for the future of your children.
  3. If there are a number of points where you and your spouse cannot agree, the services of a mediator need to be enlisted. A mediator helps in resolving conflicts and can enable you to reach the final phase of your divorce proceeding.

 

At The Law Office of Kimberly D. Moss, our uncontested divorce lawyers can help you get through this difficult phase of your life with a measure of simplicity and dignity.