Protecting Your Family's Future
 

Millions of Dollars Stuck in Texas Child Support “Purgatory”

A recently released report shows that, during the third quarter of 2015, the Texas Attorney General’s office held onto more than $55 million in child support payments that had been made by non-custodial parents. Officials say that amount has nearly tripled in the last four years. Unfortunately, in most cases, nobody really knows why.

A spokesperson for the state attorney general’s office said that there are often good or valid reasons for withholding payment, including:

  • The filing of a dispute by either party to a divorce—officials are reluctant to distribute funds until the legal dispute is resolved
  • The state may have inaccurate information for one of the parties, including address of the recipient
  • There may be a change in the payer’s employment

According to advocates for custodial parents, the money is frequently withheld from families with little or no other resources to meet daily expenses. When funds are not distributed in a timely manner, those families are often forced to seek TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) payments, which cost taxpayers a substantial amount of money. Advocates say that most recipients can get the state to release funds by hiring an attorney, but that’s a luxury most cannot afford.

An employee in the AG’s office said that the agency works hard to get dollars to recipients in a timely manner, but also acknowledged that the state has no way of tracking how many recipients have money that’s being withheld.

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At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to family law clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at 281-420-8020 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

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Texas Man “Camped Out” on Million Dollar Marital Property

Sharafat Khan, a 69-year-old Lakeview resident, spent nearly six months living in the front yard of his seaside mansion after his wife asked him to leave, demanded his keys, and changed all the locks. Though Khan maintained that he had no access to any money, rendering him essentially homeless, he admitted that his camp-out on the couple’s front lawn was essentially a protest, telling reporters that he could stay with friends, but prefers to be on “my own property.”

Khan has let it be known that he is diabetic and has high blood pressure, concerns that have brought visits from the Lakeview police on more than one occasion. After neighbors and passersby started bringing him food, his wife posted a sign on the front lawn, asking people not to leave food for him. “If you want to feed him, take him to your house,” the sign read, also expressing concern that any food left might become infested with maggots.

Khan’s family, however, has not shared the sympathy with his situation that his neighbors have. His 30-year-old son, Zain, said that Sharafat Khan physically and emotionally abused his wife, citing a September 2008 incident where Sharafat Khan was arrested for domestic violence. Zain also said that his father stole money from marital accounts to give to relatives in California. Zain has taken his father for medical and psychiatric treatment, but says his father always leaves and returns to the front lawn of the marital home.

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at 281-420-8020 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

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Texas Man Beats Charge Filed by Ex-Partner

A Texas man was acquitted of theft charges after confiscating his daughter’s iPhone 4. Ronald Jackson, a Dallas native, says he saw what he considered to be an “inappropriate” text message on his 12-year-old daughter’s iPhone and took it away from her. The girl’s mother, though, contended that she had purchased the phone and called local authorities, reporting that Jackson had stolen the phone. When police arrived, Jackson refused to turn over the phone, saying police had no right to interfere with his efforts to be a parent to his daughter.

When Jackson refused to turn over the phone, his ex, Michelle Steppe, convinced the city attorney’s office to have a citation for theft served upon him. The city attorney proposed a plea bargain, whereby Jackson would have all charges dismissed if he returned the phone. He refused and hired an attorney. In response, the city attorney changed the charge to a higher grade misdemeanor and police issued a warrant for his arrest. Jackson was taken into custody, but posted a $1,500 bond.

In pre-trial motions, the Dallas County Criminal Court threw out the case, saying that the state had not produced enough evidence to go to trial. Jackson’s attorney says he plans to file a complaint in federal court for violation of his client’s civil rights. He also acknowledged that Jackson still possesses the iPhone.

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas.

To learn how we can help, call our office at 281-420-8020 or contact us online . We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

Se Habla Espanol | ASL and ESL Services Also Available

Tips on Winning at Life after Divorce

The end of your marriage can be devastating, leaving you feeling emotionally paralyzed. Though it may clearly be the best solution for everyone involved, it’s hard not to feel like a failure when you can’t make your marriage work. Here are some tips for moving forward after the divorce is final.

  • Say what you need to say—Often, what leads or contributes to divorce is a lack of communication. Frequently, this stems from a fear of where that will lead—arguments, hurt, divorce… Now it the time to put that type of behavior to rest. You’ll have a better chance of a happy life and a successful relationship in the future if you get into the habit of being open and honest about everything.
  • Take time to reacquaint yourself with “yourself”— Chances are pretty good that you have made a lot of sacrifices trying to keep the marriage together, including many of the things you love to do. Now is not the time to get into another relationship. The void in your life may incline to do just that, but you will be better served to get back in touch with who you are, what you value, and what makes you happy.
  • Try new things—After a divorce, you don’t have to worry about what anyone wants but you. If something seems like it would be fun, try it. You won’t have to worry about anyone else’s approval.
  • Let the past be the past—The past can be instructive, but you don’t want to live there. There may be things you need to say, just to get them out of your system, but don’t wallow in what went wrong. To the extent possible, look to the future and to the possibilities that lie there.

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at (281) 420-8020 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

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Living Close for the Sake of the Children

In the aftermath of a divorce, one of the most challenging and emotionally difficult issues to deal with is not seeing your children, regardless of whether you are the custodial or non-custodial parent. While the natural inclination may be to put some distance between you and your ex, some parents are choosing to stay close, primarily for the benefit of children.

One couple in Brooklyn, recently divorced, decided to keep their three-unit brownstone there, with one parent living on the second floor, the other living at the garden level, and the parties renting out the middle apartment. They say that, though it was a challenge at first to ensure that the privacy of all parties was respected, the arrangement has proved to be a huge benefit for everyone involved.  There is no need to pack for kids when they visit the other parent, no need to drop off children and pick them up. In addition, if either parent has a work emergency, the other is right there, able to step in and meet the needs of the children. For the kids, it ensures that they’ll never be too far away from their favorite book or stuffed animal.

For some parents, the concept of “bird-nesting” works, where the children stay in one home and the parents rotate in and out. Most who have tried it, though, say it presents a lot of challenges, requiring the visiting parent to constantly check to see if they have clothes and other necessary items.

The preferred approach of many is to stay a few blocks from each other, where they can walk to see of pick up children, and where children can easily commute back and forth.

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at (281) 420-8020 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

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Elder Divorce

In what is probably not a surprising trend, more and more couples are seeking divorce after their children have left home. A recent study by the Council for Contemporary Families, at the University of Texas at Austin, found that the divorce rate for people between the ages of 50 and 64 has jumped in the last few years.

Researchers say that divorce and re-marriage has long been a trend among baby boomers. What they now see, though, is that many boomers are filing for divorce…again. Experts attribute some of the increase to the perception that second marriages are typically less permanent and solid as first marriages. However, the study found that a significant percentage of boomers now filing for divorce are ending their first marriage, often after 35-40 years.

The study found a number of different motives for the late-in-life divorces. For many, there was no compelling reason for the divorce—the parties acknowledged that, after years of raising children and being held together by their common desire for the well-being of their children, they simply didn’t have a lot in common anymore. At the other end of the spectrum, though, were parties (mostly women) who now believe they can end a marriage in which they were victims of physical or mental abuse. In addition, the study found that many couples find they have a completely different view of retirement—some see it as an opportunity to travel and do things without the restriction of a job. Others simply want to stay at home.

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas.

To learn how we can help, call our office at (281) 420-8020 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

Se Habla Espanol | ASL and ESL Services Also Available

Minimizing the Impact of Divorce on Your Children

When your marriage has ended and you’re experiencing the emotional turbulence that’s a part of divorce, the last thing you want to do is make life more difficult for your children. The divorce is going to hurt them—that can’t be avoided. But there are steps you can take to cushion the blow, to minimize the impact of the divorce.

Give Priority to Your Children’s Emotional Needs

Your children have fewer tools and less experience to draw on when it comes to coping with the radical change that divorce will bring. Accordingly, if they are going to make it through your divorce relatively unscathed, you have to pay close attention to their needs, and may need to adjust your actions to minimize the impact on them. You may need to “clear the air” with your ex, but it doesn’t have to be done in the presence of your children. You may need to vent or let go of feelings you’ve held in for a long time, but don’t do it with your children.

Don’t End Your Relationship with Your Ex—Modify It

The healthiest children of divorce come from situations where divorced parents remain in relationship and communication. Don’t view the divorce as terminating your relationship with your ex—consider it an opportunity to establish a new relationship. The more cooperative you are with your ex, the more your children see you working together, the more relaxed your children will be and the better they will adjust to the divorce.

Work Out Rules and Discipline Cooperatively with Your Ex

One of the hardest things for kids of divorce is learning and complying with different sets of rules at different households. To the extent possible, work with your ex to establish rules that apply at both households—when to go to bed, brushing teeth, etc. It takes away a lot of the confusion and anxiety that children can feel.

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at (281) 420-8020 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

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The Relationship Between Money Concerns and Marriage Rates

The Impact of Money Concerns on Marriage Rates

Studies show that, as American culture has moved toward gender equality in the workplace, the role of marriage has changed significantly. In a recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center, more than twice as many adults over the age of 25 said they were not married, more than double the rate from a study done in 1960. Currently, one in five over 25 are single—in 1960, it was just nine percent.

According to researchers, the trend has been consistent over the last half century—each generation has been less inclined to enter into marriage than the previous one. Experts say the reasons are many, but that the single biggest factor has been the move toward gender and pay equality in the workplace.

Stephanie Coontz, author of Marriage, a History: From Obedience to Intimacy, and How Love Conquered Marriage, says that access to birth control and improvements in household technology have made marriage less about economics and more about love and companionship. But before women started having greater opportunities and earning potential, many women considered their options limited and viewed marriage as the best economic alternative. Many men also perceived a wife as a benefit, but primarily as someone to take care of the home and cook the meals while the man provided for the family.

The Pew study found that men are more likely to stay single than women, a statistic that seems tied to the trend that more and more men under the age of 50 are not working (presumably living with parents). Of the single women polled, four out of five said that the most important characteristic in a potential mate would be a steady job. The odds of that—just slightly more than six employed men available for every 10 women.

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at (281) 420-8020 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

Se Habla Espanol | ASL and ESL Services Also Available

The Benefits of Preparing for Divorce

Though divorce is always emotionally difficult, you can minimize some of the financial, personal and time challenges by thoroughly preparing for the process, once it’s clear that divorce is inevitable. Here are some of the things you can do.

Protect Yourself Financially

Whether you are the sole breadwinner, a stay-at-home-parent or one of two working parents, a divorce will have a significant impact. You may face the significant loss of income, be required to pay substantial amounts in child or spousal support, or wind up with a big chunk of the marital debt.  To minimize the impact, put together a file that contains all of the following:

  • Pay stubs for the last two years
  • Bank statements for the last two years
  • Current investment and retirement account statements
  • Documentation of any life insurance policies
  • Copies of tax returns for the last five years
  • A copy of your credit report

Protect Your Right to See Your Children

Custody is never an easy matter to resolve. You want what’s best for your children, but you also want to play an active role in your child’s life. All states use the standard of the “best interests of the child” when determining who will have custody. If you believe that custody may be an issue, you need to do the following:

  • Identify what you believe will be in the best interests of your children and why
  • Document anything about your ex that you believe may put your children at risk. Remember, though, that this is not about disparaging your ex—it’s about protecting your children. Don’t exaggerate isolated incidents in an attempt to gain favor with the courts. You’ll only hurt  your children in the process

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at 281-420-8020 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

Se Habla Espanol | ASL and ESL Services Also Available

Landing On Your Feet after Divorce

When you are going through a divorce, it can be difficult to believe that life will return to normal again. It will go on, but it won’t ever be the same. There are specific steps you want to take to make certain that you are moving forward, so that the past won’t keep catching up to you.

Get a New Bank Account

This is actually a good idea as soon as you know you are going to file for or be a defendant in a divorce proceeding. You want to start putting your money into your own account, so that your ex doesn’t have unlimited access to it. You should also close any joint accounts you had with your ex.

Replace Your Credit Cards

Terminate any joint credit cards immediately. It may also be time to think about whether or not you want to open new cards. Divorce can be an emotional time—if you are prone to spending money in response to emotional trauma, you might be better served not opening a new credit card. Furthermore, because you won’t have financial stability for a little while, you may want to operate primarily on a cash basis for a while.

Change Your Beneficiaries

If your ex is named as a beneficiary on a life insurance policy, IRA, retirement plan or in a will, you need to modify that. With respect to insurance, you may want to obtain a life insurance policy on your ex (owned by your ex) to cover alimony or child support in the event of his or her premature death.

Notify the Government When Necessary

The IRS and the Social Security Administration should be notified of your divorce.

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas.

To learn how we can help, call our office at 281-420-8020 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

Se Habla Espanol | ASL and ESL Services Also Available

 
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