Risky Business – Co-signing a Loan

August 7, 2015 § Leave a comment

Just say no. If you can avoid it, don’t. If you must, then you deserve to be fully versed on all the risks. This is one where there is barely any advantage and a lot of exposure.

PROs

  1. Can potentially help build your credit if payments are made timely.
  2. Credit profile will likely improve if the debt is successfully paid off.

CONs

  1. If primary borrower dies, you are still on the hook for the balance owed.
  2. In case of a default, you are 100% responsible for repayment.
  3. Late payments by primary borrower will hurt your credit.
  4. Non-payment by primary borrower may expose you to lawsuits/ foreclosure.
  5. Your debt-to-income ratio may affect your ability to obtain new credit.
  6. You may be unable to qualify for a second mortgage / home loan.

To sum it up, if you must co-sign, make sure it is for an amount you can afford to pay off, know the terms of the loan (especially duration), and instruct the lender to notify you of late payments.

Bracing Yourself for Litigation

June 9, 2015 § Leave a comment

Many enjoy the shenanigans of TV character Saul Goodman (S’all Good Man). He is infamous for encouraging litigation with wisdom such as Who can you sue?; Sue ‘Em Now!”  So, someone has heeded Saul’s advice, or perhaps litigation is unavoidable. How do you brace yourself for what’s coming?

Truth is, litigation is more stressful than pleasurable. Here are four ways to prepare for the mental, emotional and financial demands of a lawsuit:

  1. Budget Money: Get a rough estimate for attorney fees and court costs, then double it. Lawyers can’t always anticipate the level of resistance, rigidity, or hostility that you and/or the other party will put up. The more resistance, rigidity and hostility, the higher the costs.
  2. Budget Time: Schedule time off well in advance for consultations, court hearings, mediation, depositions, etc. Remember to engage the help of babysitters, co-workers, and bosses ahead of time.
  3. Gather Information: Ask your lawyer for a checklist of needed documents. Start early. You may need to complete questionnaires, help gather documents from banks, vendors, insurer, funds managers etc.
  4. Plan R & R: You can expect higher than normal stress levels and periods of heightened anxiety. Rest, relaxation and hobbies will help. A visit with a therapist is not a bad idea either, especially in family law litigation.

Do a cost-benefit analysis for tasks that you will handle yourself rather than delegate, and figure out the opportunity cost. Lastly, keep in mind that constantly discussing the case with family and friends may cause added anxiety and stress.

Keep Calm & Stay Sane During Litigation

April 8, 2015 § Leave a comment

Let’s examine some Don’ts for keeping cool, calm and collected during a legal battle. These are true whether you have a lawyer or not. If you have a lawyer, the primary objective is to get out of the lawyer’s way! It is to your advantage that your lawyer isn’t hindered in any way and is able to effectively advocate your position.

To keep sane while your case is ongoing, here are some Don’ts:

  1. DON’T withhold hard facts from your lawyer. The truth comes out at the most inconvenient of times. Avoidable surprises are a no-no.
  2. DON’T make your ultimate goal a continuously shifting target. You will come across scattered and tentative to the court and opposing side.
  3. DON’T share details of your case strategy with the opposing side (including via friends or social media). Refer questions to your attorney.
  4. DON’T make promises or offers relating to your case without first consulting your attorney. Your lawyer is there to help check blind spots.
  5. DON’T micromanage your lawyer. If you don’t have faith in the lawyer you hired, find another one pronto!These tips should help reduce the stress and anxiety that comes with litigation. You will also be proactive by doing your part to avoid hurting your case. Remember, anything you say or do is indeed often used against you in the court of law.

Keep Calm & Let The Attorney Handle It

February 1, 2015 § Leave a comment

Easier said than done right? Well, you can at least keep sane and let the attorney handle it. You’ve somehow found yourself in court – maybe you sued someone, maybe someone sued you. Either way, it’s seldom a pleasant experience. You can still stay sane while doing all you can to help your case. If you’ve hired an attorney, then take advantage of being able to outsource your worries. A good attorney will provide some reassurance or at least let you know the things that are actually within your control. No use worrying about the things outside of your control right?

To keep sane while your case is ongoing, here are some Dos:

  1. DO check your facts and write up a timeline/ account of events complete with names, dates, etc.
  2. DO gather and organize helpful documents and correspondence.
  3. DO set clear goals for a desired outcome and prioritize those goals.
  4. DO make a clear plan of action while keeping flexible depending on goals.

If you have an attorney to walk you through these steps, great! If not, the steps still work to reduce your stress. Next time, we’ll talk about Don’ts for keeping your sanity. Remember, keep calm.

Common Questions Regarding Custody, Support and Divorce

April 15, 2013 § Leave a comment

This post is designed to shed some light on common questions we get asked regarding divorce, custody, and child support. Read on…

1. Does Adultery Affect Who Gets Custody?

No. The court doesn’t see any automatic connection between being unfaithful to one’s spouse and being a good parent, unless it can be proven that the unfaithful spouse’s conduct had a direct negative effect on the child’s physical, psychological or emotional well-being.

2. Can The Kids Choose Which Parent They Want To Live With?

Yes and No. The court will consider a child’s wish if the child is 12 or older. However, the judge is not required to follow the child’s preferences. What a child wants is only one of several criteria the court considers. Children can be impressionable, are sometimes coached by a parent, go through phases, and often prefer the parent who disciplines them the least. The court is aware of all these tendencies.

3. Are Overtime, Bonuses, and Commissions Included in Calculating Child Support?

Yes. Child support is based on net income from ALL sources. This includes, overtime, bonuses etc., but does not include deductions like taxes and amounts the non-custodial parent is paying for the child’s medical insurance. The non-custodial parent will also get a break if paying child support for a different child under other child support orders.

4. Must I Still Pay Child Support When Being Denied Access To My Child?

Yes. Child support is for the child, not the other parent. The child must continue to get this support regardless of the custodial parent’s actions. A lawsuit to set court orders on visitation, or a motion for enforcement of existing court orders can be used to address the denial of access.

5. Does Child Support Include Day Care, Extracurricular, or Activity Expenses?

No. Unless the parties agree, these are not normally included. There are statutory guidelines for calculating the reasonable amount of child support. Medical support is also required to be provided. Payments toward school incidentals, soccer, karate, music lessons, etc., are discretionary and in addition to statutory child support.

6. Do We Have To Be Separated Before We Can File for Divorce?

No. Texas doesn’t even have specific provisions for legal separation. Either party can file for divorce anytime and for any reason.

7. Does Someone Have to Move Out Once the Divorce is Filed?

No. Unless the parties agree, or a court order grants exclusive possession of the home to one spouse, no move out is necessary. Even if title to the house is in one spouse’s name, both parties have the same marital right to live in the house.

8. Do I Lose Health Insurance Coverage After the Divorce?

Yes and No. If one spouse is covered under the other spouse’s health insurance coverage, the terms of the insurance policy require the coverage to terminate upon divorce. The ex-spouse has the option to obtain an extension of the coverage under COBRA (federal law) for up to 3 years.

Hope you found these questions and answers informative. Feel free to submit your questions to us via email and we will feature those questions in our future Q & A blog posts.

 

Going Pro Se – So You Are Representing Yourself?

March 8, 2013 § Leave a comment

My advice is that you try to get a lawyer if there is more than $1000 at stake, or if child custody or real property is at stake. At the very least, you should consult a lawyer first.  A lot of attorneys waive the initial consultation fee or offer a reduced rate for the initial consultation.

Some attorneys will even provide limited scope representation such as reviewing court drafts and court documents and providing guidance for procedural rules without your having to put down a hefty retainer.

So, you have reviewed all of the above and have decided that you must represent yourself. Here are some cool things to know when representing yourself in court…

Think in terms of twos – 2 x 2 x 2:

  1. Two Issues/ Defenses:  list the two main issues that bring you to court, or two main defenses (if you are the defendant.)
  2. Two Supporting Documents: locate the two most important documents you can use to support your facts – contracts, receipts, bills, exhibits, affidavits, photos, letters, emails etc.
  3. Two Requests: list two things you want the court or judge to do. Example: dismiss the case and order you to pay nothing, rule in your favor and grant you a certain amount in judgment, rule in your favor and order the opposing party to return your property etc.

If you can put this 2 x 2 x 2 together before your court hearing, your thoughts and presentation will be clearer and more organized. The more organized and clear you are, the better the chance of the judge/ court ruling in your favor.

4 Questions to Ask:

  • In what court, and what time is my hearing and what is the hearing about?
  • What are the rules for getting my evidence in front of the judge/court?
  • Are there any deadlines or notice rules that I must know about?
  • Are there any court forms that I can use?

BONUS TIPS: Dress comfortably, but  appropriately. Be respectful and polite. Relax – remember, an overly aggressive attitude only gets results in TV courtrooms!

 

 

 

Homeowners’ Association (HOA) Foreclosures and Your Rights

February 14, 2013 § 2 Comments

Getting collection notices or foreclosure notices from your Homeowners’ Association? Don’t fret. This can be handled by knowing your rights and making the law work for you.

Myth: HOAs cannot foreclose and get a property worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, for a mere failure to pay association dues. Fact: It’s quite absurd, but it is true that the HOA can foreclose on your property, and take ownership, regardless of the market value and regardless of whether you owe $500 or $5000!

Changes in the Law: New law went into effect in 2012 that requires HOAs to work with homeowners to get any delinquency cured and requires HOAs to seek a foreclosure through the court. HOAs used to be able to bypass the court system by doing a non-judicial foreclosure.

Must-Know New Protections under 2012 HOA Laws

  • HOAs must work with delinquent homeowners to come up with a payment plan that is no shorter than 3 months.
  • Collection fees may not be tacked on until a 30 day notice to cure has been provided.
  • HOAs must obtain a court order to be able to foreclose.
  • Debt must be more than 60 days old before any foreclosure proceeding is started.
  • MOST IMPORTANT: homeowners can vote to remove the “power to foreclose” from their HOA’s rules. 67% vote is all that is needed.

My law firm works diligently to hold HOAs accountable by following these new laws. However, if you know your rights, some things can be handled on your own without the need for an attorney. For the specific Bills that created these changes, feel free to email me directly.

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