Monday, June 29, 2015

Impact of SCOTUS Ruling on Same-Sex Marriage



On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) in Obergefell v. Hodges  ruled that all 50 states and the District of Columbia must issue marriage licenses and recognize marriages regardless of whether the spouses are both male or female. In effect, this ruling guarantees equal protection under the law to same-sex couples concerning not only marriage, but the property rights and other legal presumptions arising from marriage.

As the majority of the Court’s justices have stated:

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions.  They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.” – Justice Anthony Kennedy. (Please click on the name of the case above if you wish to read the entire opinion.)

Because Texas is one of the few states that recognize informal marriage – aka common law marriage – the impact of SCOTUS’ ruling stretches farther than in other states.  The universal recognition of same-sex marriage in Texas, however, will likely be a rocky road, despite SCOTUS’ historic and unequivocal opinion.  Texans in family relationships should take particular care to review their specific circumstances with an attorney.

LPV is ready to assist all couples in understanding their legal rights and obligations concerning marriage, divorce, adoption, child support, child custody, parental rights, property rights, and other issues arising under the Texas Family Code.  Our attorneys and staff look forward to serving the needs of all Texas residents, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

By: Cindy W. Veidt, 6/29/2015

Monday, May 18, 2015

Premarital Education Course



Couples applying for a marriage license in the State of Texas are encouraged to attend a free premarital education course.  Couples who take the course can waive a portion of the marriage license fee and waive the 72-hour waiting period typically required between issuance of a marriage license the marriage ceremony.  Topics covered in the course include conflict management, communication skills, and the key components of a successful marriage.  Providers of the course in Travis County include http://www.twogetherintexas.com/UI/HomePage.aspx

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

How Should a Texas Employer Handle a Wage Withholding Order/Notice?



You’ve just received a document entitled “Order/Notice to Withhold Income for Child Support,” or some similar title, related to one of your employees.  Now what?

First, do not ignore this document! A Texas employer who knowingly fails to withhold court-ordered child support may be subject to a $200 fine for each pay period during which it failed to withhold income and remit child support to the appropriate agency. You are required to begin deducting for child support during the first pay period following your receipt of this Order/Notice.

Under Section 158.206 of the Texas Family Code, you are NOT LIABLE to your employee if you comply with the Order/Notice. In fact, you could be liable to your employee for the amounts you failed to withhold if you do not comply with the order. So put this document on the top of your “to do” list.

Next, read the Order/Notice carefully. In Texas, almost every child support payment must be made through the Office of the Attorney General of Texas, Child Support Division’s State Disbursement Unit (“SDU”). You may, on occasion, be ordered to remit payment to another government agency. It is extremely unlikely that you will be ordered to make child support payments directly to an individual or his/her attorney. Follow the directions concerning the amount to be withheld, the place to remit payment, and the information to be provided. If you employ more than 50 persons, you may be required to remit payment by electronic funds transfer.

Next, check your payroll records. In Texas, you cannot withhold more than 50% of your employee’s “disposable earnings” – which means the part that remains after mandatory deductions for social security, medicare, federal income taxes, union dues, nondiscretionary retirement contributions, and medical/hospitalization/disability insurance coverage for the employee and the employee’s children. If the Order/Notice is close to or exceeds that amount, seek guidance from your friendly neighborhood employment law attorney or another Human Resources professional.

As an employer, you can also deduct a $10 per month processing fee, in addition to the amount to be withheld as child support.

Withholding orders for child support have priority over any other garnishments, attachments, writs of execution or other judgments affecting the employee’s disposable earnings. If you have received multiple orders related to an employee’s wages, seek guidance.

Special rules also apply for withholding from an employee’s workers’ compensation benefits, severance pay, and any lump-sum payments (such as bonuses or payment in lieu of accrued leave). In these situations, you should also seek further guidance.

By:  Cynthia W. Veidt, cindy@lpvlaw.com

Monday, April 28, 2014

Identify Theft Meets eFiling: Protecting Sensitive Data in Pleadings



What’s a lawyer to do?

Texas statutes require that all pleading include certain identifying information for named parties: full legal names, portions of social security numbers, and portions of drivers’ license numbers, while family law matters include dates of birth, dates of marriage, maiden names, home addresses, vehicle identification numbers, or even bank names and partial account numbers in orders related to the parties’ property.

Obviously, that type of “sensitive data” in a publicly available record could lead to identity theft by the unscrupulous. And most pleadings are publicly available documents.

In an effort to address this problem, the Texas Supreme Court has issued new rules to require that all lawyers (and perhaps even private parties acting without a lawyer) electronically file and serve most pleadings, including family law matters, AFTER removing (redacting) sensitive data. “Sensitive data” includes the names and addresses of minor children, as well as financial account numbers, social security numbers, and driver’s license numbers. See Texas Rules of Civil Procedure 21, 21a & 21c (effective January 1, 2014).

However, the Supreme Court’s rules cannot trump the Legislature’s statutes.

The clerks of each court are trying to determine how to comply with these competing requirements. Before filing any pleading, particularly in matters under the Texas Family Code, be sure to check with the appropriate clerk’s office to see whether they have adopted any local rules or procedures for handling “sensitive data.”

By:  Cynthia W. Veidt, cindy@lpvlaw.com

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Effect of Powerball/Lotto Win on Child Support Obligations?



A recent Powerball winner may be about to find out that winning isn’t everything, after all.

According to news sources, Pedro Quezada, a resident of New Jersey, owes a judgment for unpaid child support in an approximate amount of $39,000.00.  Before the $338 million in lottery funds are released to him, it seems that the State of New Jersey will deduct the amounts owed for his child support obligations.  See http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/03/28/17504063-winner-of-338-million-powerball-jackpot-owes-29000-in-child-support?lite

And, in another twist of fate, Mr. Quezada’s winnings may trigger a financial review that could result in an increase to his current monthly child support obligations.  It wouldn’t be the first time – in 1995, a Chicago resident found his child support obligation increased and had the funds withheld from his lottery winnings. See http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1995-09-26/news/9509260083_1_lottery-ticket-illinois-state-lottery-lottery-windfall

In 1999, Amador Granados’ former spouse successfully sued for an increase in child support after he won the $11 million SuperLotto in California; she subsequently obtained a court order to seize his annual lottery payments when Mr. Granados defaulted on his child support obligations.  See http://articles.latimes.com/1999/apr/20/local/me-29209.

Lesson learned – income from gambling (including state-supported lotteries) is still income and will be included in the calculation of one’s resources when determining the amount of child support.  In Texas, it’s the law: See Texas Administrative Code Rule § 401.319 - http://info.sos.state.tx.us/pls/pub/readtac$ext.TacPage?sl=R&app=9&p_dir=&p_rloc=&p_tloc=&p_ploc=&pg=1&p_tac=&ti=16&pt=9&ch=401&rl=319. 

By:      Cynthia W. Veidt