Prospect of Marriages Lasting into the Golden Years Not Panning Out

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Later-in-life Divorces on the Rise

An increasing number of divorces occur for those aged 50 and over in the United States. The cause for the growing number of older, married couples severing ties varies. Some reasons include: people now live longer, so we see more divorces filed; or children grow up and move out from home, and the parents realize their kids bonded them together and husband and wife opt to go their separate ways.

But no matter the reason, Federal statistics illustrate women who divorce later-in-life take a greater financial hit than their male counterparts. Post-divorce household income drops around 25% for men whereas it drops over 40% for women. An informative article published by Forbes reports that later-in-life divorcees can secure their financial future as long as there is a careful consideration of some basic “dos and don’ts.”

Financial Tips for Those Facing Divorce

Here are some action items for post-50, soon-to-be single women to consider in order to protect and maintain their financial security.

· Do make a plan. Be sure to map out your money plans. Talk to a financial professional and your divorce attorney to determine your post-divorce finance plan in order to create an adequate settlement.

· Do organize all your records. Copies of all key financial documents should be made and organized. Examples of such documents include: tax returns, loan documents, wills and trusts, banking and financial statements, property deeds, credit card statements and insurance policies. Access to these documents will expedite the process for your legal team and assure proper ownership and reimbursement as necessary.

· Do keep track of debts. Texas, in addition to eight other states, is a community property state. When it comes to money owed, you are responsible for half of your spouse’s debt.

· Do photograph and document household goods. This provides documentation of any potential hidden assets.

· Don’t keep the house for sentimental reasons. As difficult as this can be, hanging onto a home that requires expensive upkeep and incurs high tax rates ends up creating a financial drag.

· Don’t forget about tax consequences. Your divorce attorney and financial planner can shed some light on the different tax consequences that may loom after the divorce.

· Don’t forget about health insurance options. Consider your cost and coverage options now, so you have time to plan before the divorce is finalized.

Each divorce matter is unique. Each couple’s financial circumstance is one-of-a kind. Thus, it is imperative to seek out the assistance of an experienced legal team to ensure a just outcome.

Houston area Divorce Attorneys

At the Law Office of Lori Elaine Laird, PLLC, we are experienced in all aspects of Texas family law, including divorce solutions.

Unfortunately, separating spouses, regardless of age, do not always see eye to eye. They do not necessarily invoke the Golden Rule. Let us represent and advocate on your behalf so you may move on and enjoy your future.

Our attorneys understand the emotional turmoil associated with divorce. We aim to ease these stresses and work to ensure your security. Our practical advice and aggressive advocacy protect our clients’ interests.

If you would like to discuss or have questions regarding divorce or any family law matter, contact the Law Office of Lori Elaine Laird, PLLC today at 832-699-1966.

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A Few Basic Mistakes to Avoid When Pursuing a Texas Divorce

Divorce ahead sign

There are a number of crucial mistakes that can seriously derail your divorce and impact every aspect of your life following the dissolution of your marriage.  Although you are not required to retain an attorney to proceed through the divorce process in Texas, an experienced Houston family law attorney can provide legal advice and representation so that you make informed decisions and protect your rights.  We have provided some examples of the most common mistakes made during the divorce process:

Failing to Be Candid with Your Divorce Attorney: Most people have information relevant to the divorce process that is less than flattering or that they may feel is insignificant.  However, the function of your divorce attorney is not to judge or criticize you but to provide sound advice and advocate for your interest.  For example, your attorney is not going to judge you because you were involved in an extra-marital affair, however, it can be difficult to mitigate or anticipate how to handle the issue if you fail to disclose this information to your divorce attorney.  When you withhold information from your attorney that may be damaging, you compromise the quality of their advice as they are operating without all of the facts.  Undisclosed facts can severely undermine your attorney’s efforts to effective represent you in your divorce case.  For example, if this information is disclosed late in the process (perhaps even for the first time in open court during a hearing or trial) this creates a problem that is more detrimental and difficult to resolve than if your attorney had anticipated its disclosure and had developed a plan to explain or mitigate the consequences of the situation.  When it comes to financial information regarding your income, assets and debts, there are mandatory disclosure requirements.  Hiding or omitting disclosure of these assets could actually result in monetary sanctions so it is advisable to entrust your attorney with all information even if does not seem important, is embarrassing or if you think no one will ever discover your hidden assets.  Even after the divorce is final, a spouse may have the ability to come back and seek their fair share of undisclosed or hidden assets.  The best advice is to speak candidly with your attorney regarding all of these types of issues to mitigate or avoid problems.

Allowing Emotions to Dictate Your Decisions: When you are coping with divorce, you are likely to experience a wealth of conflicting emotions, including pain, anger, jealousy and fear regarding the future.  Despite these emotional challenges, a final divorce judgment in your case will provide an opportunity to move forward with your life.  Believe me, we understand that it is easy for us to advise you to put your anger aside and not vent your emotional wrath on a spouse you feel has wronged you in some way.  However, we can say that experience shows us this is beneficial for many reasons.  For example, if you do end up in a court battle, the judge is going to appreciate the fact that you were not the verbally abusive spouse or the individual texting nasty, mean and demoralizing comments to your partner.  Additionally, when you are able to put aside intense emotions, it can lead to more workable co-parenting arrangements with the other parent.  Factual analysis not dictated by intense emotion also can promote better decisions on financial issues and prevent the deterioration of negotiations perhaps leading to a more favorable property division.

Avoid Assuming Your Spouse Is Your Friend: The marital dissolution process can be confusing so the tendency to talk to your spouse is understandable given the familiarity and the desire to work out the controversy between yourselves.  While an amicable divorce has many advantages, it is important not to forget that divorce is an adversarial proceeding.  Information that you provide to your spouse may be turned against you.  Remember some issues may be confidential and best shared with your attorney before talking to a spouse about it.  Sometimes a spouse will try to take advantage of the other party when negotiating directly by playing your feelings or exploiting your anger to trick you into giving away a tactical plan you and your attorney have developed for trial.  Even if you and your spouse reach an agreement on the issues in your marital dissolution, you should seek legal advice and have an attorney review the terms and language of any marital settlement agreement.  You may get “played” and be convinced to give up more than you should and end up with an agreement that is not truly fair and equitable to you—and you may end up later regretting your agreement.

Forming Realistic Expectations: Many times people involved in the divorce process have unrealistic expectations based on media depictions of divorce as well as stories from friends and families.  Parents often plan to seek sole custody and/or limit the other parent to supervised visitation.  While this type of parenting arrangement may occur in extreme situations involving substance abuse, domestic violence, prior child abuse or neglect and other similar circumstances, Texas courts favor frequent and continuing contact by both parents.  Frequently, a spouse who was the high wage earner during the marriage will resent the notion of continuing to support one’s spouse following divorce by paying some type of spousal support.  Generally, the more one party supports the other financially during marriage and the longer the duration, the greater one’s spousal support obligation may be in a divorce.  An experienced Houston divorce attorney can set more realistic expectations in terms of the range of possible outcomes on such issues.  Our office is experienced at helping those who need spousal support obtain it as well as protecting parties who are being victimized by a spouse making unreasonable and unmerited demands for some sort of spousal support that they may not be entitled to.

If you have questions about divorce in Houston, Galveston, Angleton, Richmond or anywhere throughout Harris County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County or Chambers County, Lori Laird works diligently to guide her clients through the divorce process so that they can rebuild their life. Call 832-699-1966 today for your confidential consultation or visit our website to learn more about our firm at lorilaird.com. 

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Requirements for Enforceable Prenuptial Agreements in Texas

Prenuptial AgreementPremarital agreements (also known as prenuptial agreements) provide a predictable mechanism for couples contemplating marriage to contract around Texas community property law.  There are a broad range of situations that make a prenuptial agreement an important safeguard, and such agreements provide appropriate estate planning in the event of divorce or death of either spouse.  A prenuptial agreement offers the parties a chance to agree in advance on how property and debt division and other financial issues will be handled upon divorce. 

While prenuptial agreements can be a way to avoid contentious litigation, the influential role that they serve makes it imperative that the form and terms of the agreement comply with legal requirements so that the judge enforces the agreement and fulfills the expectation of the parties upon marital dissolution.  The minimum requirements for a prenuptial agreement to be enforceable are set forth in Title 1, Chapter 4 of the Texas Family Code per the Uniform Premarital Act.  At the Law Offices of Lori Elaine Laird, PLLC, we recognize the importance of ensuring that our clients can rely on the enforceability of their prenuptial agreement so we have provided an overview of requirements for a valid enforceable Texas prenuptial agreement:

Written vs. Oral Agreements: The agreement must be in writing, and oral agreements are almost completely unenforceable in most instances.

No Duress or Coercion: The parties must arrive at the agreement without duress or coercion.  A freely negotiated agreement between the parties generally will be enforceable.  If the agreement is extremely inequitable, however, this may support allegations that the agreement was obtained by use of duress.  The best practice when negotiating and drafting a prenuptial agreement is for both parties to be represented by legal counsel.  A party will have a much harder time claiming that he or she was coerced into accepting the terms of the agreement if both parties have access to legal advice and representation during the preparation of the terms and language of the prenuptial agreement.

Proper Disclosure: Each spouse has an obligation to make full and accurate disclosure of assets and debts to the other party.  If a party omits property or liabilities or misrepresents the assets to their spouse, this may provide a basis for challenging the prenuptial agreement during a marital dissolution.

Not Unconscionable: This essentially means that the agreement cannot be so unfair and inequitable that no reasonable person would have agreed to the term of the prenuptial agreement.  Because a court can disregard a prenuptial agreement if the terms are too unfair, it is important to work closely with an experienced divorce attorney who can help you evaluate whether the agreement is balanced enough to be enforceable.

No Child Support/Custody: While the premarital agreement may address financial issues and non-financial issues as long as they do not violate public policy, the agreement may not establish custody, visitation or child support arrangements.  Parenting time arrangements and other issues related to the children will always be subject to the best interest of the child standard.  Further, the court will likely use the child support guideline formula when making child support orders.

While a prenuptial agreement can be a powerful tool for preventing acrimonious litigation if a marriage breaks down, both parties may find their expectations frustrated if the negotiated agreement is disregarded by the courts during a divorce because of substantive issues or the failure to comply with legal formalities.  Experienced Houston marital dissolution attorney Lori Laird provides legal counsel on potential issues when negotiating prenuptial agreements and can artfully draft a prenuptial agreement.  In the event of divorce, she also offers litigation services to clients seeking to challenge or enforce the terms of a Texas prenuptial agreement.

If you need legal advice about a prenuptial agreement or representation in a divorce involving a premarital agreement or want to draft a premarital agreement in Houston, Galveston, Angleton, Richmond or anywhere throughout Harris County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County or Chambers County, Lori Laird can provide answers to your questions and provide effective legal representation.  Call 832-699-1966 today for your free consultation or visit our website to learn more about my firm.  http://www.lorilaird.com

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How Facebook and Other Social Media Sites Can Damage Your Criminal Case

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If you are under investigation or face prosecution for criminal charges in Houston, Galveston or anywhere in Texas, you should be acutely aware that information posted on social networks is increasingly finding its way into criminal and civil courtrooms.  Many people, especially young adults and teenagers, publish inappropriate intimate details about their lives on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and MySpace.

From time to time people post information, pictures or video on social media networks that can prove damaging in subsequent criminal cases.  Many times this information may not seem incriminating when posted but gains significance based on subsequent events.    In situations when the compromising nature of the evidence is apparent at the time of posting, those who post the information often feel a false sense of security that the information is password protected in private areas of the social network site and is inaccessible to others who may be investigating suspected criminal activity.

 While there is a variety of way information posted on your Facebook or other social media pages can be used as criminal evidence against you, some common examples include:

 Photos of underage drinking

  • Descriptions of drug use
  • Statements that seemingly place you at the location of a crime compromising mitigating alibi evidence
  • Evidence that may be used to impeach testimony or undermine defense strategies
  • Information that supports an argument of premeditation, attempt or conspiracy
  • Images that influence the judge to impose more serious sentencing

 The concept of using social network information in criminal litigation is not merely theoretical.  Some cases involve suspects boasting about their role in committing a crime with the post electronically time stamped.  This type of information can significantly complicate defense strategy when you are being prosecuted for a criminal offense.

 Here are some examples of actual criminal cases where police and prosecutors have effectively used social media information including:

 Example 1: The defendant was charged with murder, narcotics and weapons offenses.  He posted photos of himself in public areas of his Facebook page flashing gang signs, which complicated his case where gang membership was alleged.  He attempted to keep private references to violent criminal offenses and threats against others.  The judge found that because he shared these details with “friends” on Facebook he lost all expectation of privacy in the information.

 Example 2: Police used evidence communicated by a Hell’s Angel to a witness via a Facebook “poke” as evidence he threatened a witness.

 Example 3: A defendant accused of vehicular homicide for the death of her boyfriend and passenger during a drunken driving collision had arranged a fairly lenient plea bargain.  However, the judge decided to reject the plea agreement and to impose a much more serious penalty when the defendant posted pictures of herself intoxicated and bragging that she was “so drunk” prior to acceptance of the plea.

 A recent survey of over 1,200 law enforcement agencies at the local, state and federal level revealed that 80 percent of law enforcement officials indicated they use social media to gather intelligence in criminal cases.  Fifty percent of those surveyed revealed that they check social media on a weekly basis when investigating criminal offenses.  The majority of those law enforcement agencies indicate that the information they glean from social media sites assist them in solving crimes more quickly.

 Some “public” information takes a bit of maneuvering to find.  Someone can have their Facebook settings as private as possible, but their friends or relatives might not be as savvy, allowing police to collect information by looking at what a suspect posts on their friends’ public pages. Drug dealers have been known to post innocuous public updates that include location information so clients — and unwittingly, law enforcement — know where to find them

 The rules of evidence in criminal cases can be complicated, but Houston criminal defense attorney Lori Laird is intimately familiar with the legal rules regarding the admissibility and exclusion of evidence.  Generally, you should not speak to anyone about your criminal case which includes disclosing information on your social media pages.  If you are the subject of a criminal investigation or you have been charged with a crime, the best option is not to post any information on your social media pages.  If you have posted damaging information, Ms. Laird may be able to have the evidence excluded.

 If you are facing criminal charges, experienced criminal defense attorney Lori Laird provides legal representation in Houston, Galveston, Angleton, Richmond or anywhere throughout Harris County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County or Chambers County, Lori Laird can provide answers to your questions and provide effective legal representation.  Call 832-699-1966 today for your free consultation or visit our website to learn more about my firm.

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Expungement of Texas Criminal Records: Protecting Your Reputation and Future

Many people that submit an application for a job, student financial aid, rental property, college application, home loan or similar opportunity find their request denied with no justification provided by the decision-maker.  Sadly, the basis for this denial is a criminal record that the applicant has no idea even exists.  There is a misconception shared by many in Texas that if they are not convicted of a crime or successfully complete probation they do not have a criminal record.  In reality, anyone who has been arrested will have a criminal record even if the district attorney dismisses the charges.  At the Law Offices of Lori Elaine Laird PLLC, we have helped many people reclaim their future by clearing their criminal record through the expungement process or pursuit of an order for non-disclosure.

If you have been arrested in Texas for a felony or misdemeanor, you have a criminal record even if no formal criminal charges were filed; your case was dismissed; or you were acquitted after trial.  Effectively, you have a criminal record if you have been arrested for a criminal offense in Texas, even a fairly minor misdemeanor.  These criminal cases may be discovered by employers, landlords, lenders or academic institutions that perform background checks.  It is estimated that eighty percent of all employers now conduct criminal background checks during the hiring process.

Fortunately, the negative blemish of a criminal arrest and/or criminal charges that can impact your personal and professional reputation may be removed from your criminal record through the expungement process.  Expungement is available in the following situations depending on the specific alleged offense

  • Class C misdemeanors (i.e. disorderly conduct, public intoxication)
  • No formal charges filed
  • Charges dismissed
  • Acquittal after trial

The requirements involved in seeking expungement can be complicated and the application may be opposed by the prosecutor so it is important to have an experienced Harris County or Fort Bend County criminal defense attorney like Lori Laird on your side.  There is a minimum period of time that must elapse before seeking expungement, which amounts to two years if you are seeking expungement of a misdemeanor.  Ms. Laird can evaluate whether you are eligible for expungement and prepare your Petition for Expungement.  The petition must include a range of information, such as your personal information, criminal offense to be expunged, law enforcement agencies with the records, and the legal/factual basis for granting your request.

The court will schedule a hearing where your request will be granted if it is not opposed.  If the petition for Expungement is contested, Ms. Laird can represent you and advocate for your interest at the hearing.  If you are charged with any criminal offense in a Harris or Galveston County criminal court, Ms. Laird may seek deferred adjudication so that there is no disposition until you complete probation.  If you successfully complete probation, the charges may possibly be dismissed possibly leaving you eligible to seek expungement once the waiting period has elapsed.

Even in cases where you are not eligible for expungement, Ms. Laird may still be able to prevent public disclosure of your criminal case by filing a Petition for Non-Disclosure.  If this process is successful, law enforcement agencies and courts will be barred from disclosing information about your criminal case to third parties like employers, loan agencies, landlords, educational establishments and others.

If you have questions regarding clearing your criminal record, Ms. Laird offers a free consultation to those in Houston or elsewhere in Galveston, Angleton, Richmond or anywhere throughout Harris County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County or Chambers County, Lori is committed to providing zealous legal representation to her clients tempered by sound legal advice.  Call 832-699-1966 today for your free consultation or visit our website to learn more about our Houston law firm.  Or visit our website for more information:  www.TexasCriminalDefender.com  or www.lorilairdcom 

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Withdrawal of a Guilty Plea Based on Poor Legal Advice Regarding Immigration Benefits

 

 

The collision of criminal law with immigration law in the U.S can create situations that are untenable for those accused of criminal offenses that are legal residents or undocumented immigrants.  When you are charged with a criminal offense as a non-resident, you may face the unpleasant dilemma of choosing between a plea agreement that keeps you out of jail or state prison and one that results in your being forced to leave the country with a permanent ban on your ability to return.  The consequences of entering into a plea agreement without legal advice on the immigration consequences of a guilty plea or bad advice can result in devastating permanent effects on one’s life.

A couple of examples will illustrate the scope of the problem.  Possession of cocaine in the quantity of less than a gram will typically be charged as a felony under Texas law.  If the state proves its case at trial, the sentence for cocaine possession under these circumstances can result in incarceration for a minimum of six month and a maximum of two years as well as a fine of up to $10, 000.  While you may be able to reach a plea agreement that results in felony probation if you have no previous convictions, this option does not pose an attractive option if you are a legal resident.  If you are convicted of this offense, an immigration judge would have no discretion to let you remain in the U.S. because the offense is categorized as an “aggravated felony” under immigration law.

The consequences can be even more devastating depending on your specific situation.  If you were brought here as a child from Russia, you may speak only English and have no friends of family remaining in Russia.  While you could accept a plea agreement that results in probation rather than incarceration, you would find yourself removed to a country that you do not know with no personal connections and an inability to speak the language.

The majority of states do not consider the failure to advise an accused of the immigration consequences of a plea to constitute ineffective assistance of counsel justifying the withdrawal of a guilty plea.  However, inaccurate advice regarding the immigration impact of a plea agreement is considered ineffective assistance of counsel in a majority of jurisdictions.  Because it can be difficult to withdraw a guilty plea, it is imperative to contact an experienced Houston Galveston criminal defense attorney before agreeing to a plea agreement that may damage your rights to immigration benefits.

While a minority of jurisdictions do not consider the failure to advice an accused of the immigration effects of a plea agreement as ineffective assistance of counsel because it is considered a collateral consequence, many attorneys in jurisdictions that do simply choose not to provide any information to clients on immigration issues.  Because the immigration impact of a criminal conviction can have even more serious long-term and life altering consequences than the criminal penalties, we are committed to providing our clients with sound legal advice on both immigration and criminal consequences of a conviction or plea bargain.  Houston criminal defense attorney Lori Laird offers a free consultation to those in Houston or elsewhere in Galveston, Angleton, Richmond, or anywhere throughout Harris County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County or Chambers County.  Ms. Laird is committed to providing zealous legal representation to her clients facing the dilemma of immigration penalties on one side and criminal penalties on the other.  Call 832-699-1966 today for your free consultation or visit our website to learn more about our Houston law firm.

 

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Do I Qualify for Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program?

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program has been implemented by the US government and now is accepting applications.  While this program may offer temporary relief from removal or deportation for many undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, the program has strict qualifying requirements.  Houston immigration attorney Lori Laird invites you to contact her office so that she can evaluate your case and determine whether or not you are eligible to apply for deferred action under this new law.

Lori Elaine Laird is also an experienced criminal defense attorney so she can advise you regarding the impact of any criminal convictions or pending criminal charges on your eligibility under this new law.  She also may be able to seek post-judgment relief if you have a criminal conviction that would impair your eligibility under Obama’s new Dream Act type legislation.  The basis for determining eligibility is as follows:

  • Entry into the United States before reaching your 16th birthday
  • Continuous residence in the United States since June 15, 2007 through the present
  • Under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012
  • Entry without inspection before June 15, 2012 or expiration of lawful immigration status as of June 15, 2012
  • Currently enrolled in school, graduated, obtained your certificate of completion from high school, possess a general educational development certification, or received an honorable discharge from the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States
  • No record of being convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat
  • Presence in the United States on June 15, 2012 at the time of submitting an application for deferred action with United State Citizenship and Immigration (USCIS).

Our Houston-Galveston Texas attorneys can analyze the specific circumstances of your situation to ensure that you qualify under the requirements set forth for deferred action.  Many young undocumented immigrants with a proven record of achievement in a university, military service, and post-graduate or professional degrees may be afraid to seek help under this new legislation because it requires disclosure of a substantial amount of information that could be used to the determinant of an applicant.  While the information is not supposed to be used for purposes of deportation or removal, the thought of disclosing undocumented status, date of entry, country of origin, and other similar details can be disconcerting.  Ms. Laird can discuss these issues and provide advice regarding your rights.

If you have a criminal record, you not only may not qualify under Obama’s new deferred action program for those brought to the U.S. as children but may also be subject to potential deportation or removal from the U.S.  It is understandable under such circumstances that you may not want to complete detailed paperwork and submit it to USCIS in the form of an application for deferred action.  Ms. Laird can examine your criminal record and advise you of any issues or potential risks.  Ms. Laird may even be able to assist you in a current pending criminal case so that you do not unwittingly plead guilty to a charge that might impact your rights under Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program or otherwise compromise your rights as a non-citizen.

If you have questions regarding your rights as an undocumented worker because of past criminal convictions or pending criminal charges, Lori Laird offers a free consultation to those in Houston or elsewhere in Galveston, Angleton, Richmond or anywhere throughout Harris County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County or Chambers County, Lori is committed to providing zealous legal representation to her clients tempered by sound legal advice.

Call 832-699-1966 today for your free consultation or visit our website to learn more about our Houston Galveston law firm.

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