Adoptions Attorney Leslie Barrows
No child support payment, no vehicle registration renewal, no joke 
 

Too often, unfortunately, some parents willfully fail to make child support payments. Initially when a child support order is entered with the district court clerk a withholding order is completed and sent to the employer, so the child support money is directly debited from the paycheck of the parent paying child support. When the child support obligor loses that job, there may be a court proceeding to reduce or otherwise modify the child support order to reflect a change in income of the child support obligor. Some people decide to work for cash jobs and fail to report their income to the court when the other party insists that the other parent actually has income to pay. The effort that some go to in order to avoid paying child support can be a significant eye opener.

Motivating people to pay their child support is a challenge for Texas lawmakers.

Beginning this fall, parents who are behind on their child support payments may be surprised when in September, they learn that there may a block on their vehicle registration renewal beginning in December. The Child Support Division will send letters to the effected child support obligors. This new enforcement effort applies to individuals who are six months or more behind on child support payments. Texas law enforcement has eyes on windshields, on the lookout for expired registration stickers. The penalty for driving on expired registration may vary by county and the tickets can affect insurance premiums.

In Fort Worth, Texas, the ticket for driving on an expired registration is $100 per offense. You could receive multiple tickets, and if you don’t pay them, they go to warrant status, which adds another $50. Collection fees for tickets may also be added. If there is a warrant issued for your arrest, you could be taken to jail if you are stopped by law enforcement, or worse yet, collected and taken to jail in a regularly conducted warrant round-up.

The Texas Attorney General may already revoke the driver’s license or professional or recreational licenses of the individuals who fail to pay child support. Avoiding detection by law enforcement, however, is more difficult when your registration sticker and license plates give you away as a child support evader. Police frequently run license plate numbers and can tell in seconds if yours is expired.

Critics of the registration renewal block for unpaid child support say it makes it even harder for some to get caught up with their payments.

While too many of us focus on the “deadbeats” who simply refuse to pay, to spite their ex or worse yet, their child, there are parents working several jobs and struggling not only to keep up with their child support but also keeping the lights on at home and gas in the tank to get to work.

Put yourself in the shoes of someone who gets laid off from work due to forces beyond your control. You find out how you may have to work two or more lower paying jobs to keep up while you hunt for a new position of meeting your expectations. Despite your best efforts and scrimping and saving, you can only pay half the child support payment every month. Eventually you will be six months behind in scheduled payments and face registration non-renewal. Do you drive illegally to get to work anyways?

What can you do if you are behind on child support and worried about losing your vehicle registration?

Lawmakers respond to critics, “The goal, obviously, is not to keep people from working or getting to work, but it is to gain compliance with court orders and get support and money to children[i],” said Janice Rolfe, Child Support Division spokesperson. Rolfe also said a payment arrangement can be made and fulfilled, and there is a phone line parents can use to make payment arrangements.

If you lost your job or had a significant income change, you may have taken steps to temporarily reduce your child support obligation. If, however, you have been without sufficient income to make child support payments through your employer withholding or otherwise, there may be options available for you to reduce and reorganize your payments, by filing a motion to modify child support and appearing before the court for a modification hearing. Doing nothing and risking tickets and possible suspensions of your registration or driving privileges can make it harder to bring everything current.

The Barrows Firm shares important information and resources about parenting issues and concerns that affect families in the DFW Metroplex. If you have unpaid child support or you are not receiving child support, The Barrows Firm can answer all your questions and help get things back on track.

If you would like more information about The Barrows Firm, P.C., please contact the firm by calling (817) 481-1583. The Barrows Firm is located downtown Fort Worth at 500 East Belknap Street, near the Tarrant County Courthouse and the Tarrant County Family Law Center.

You can follow The Barrows Firm on social media and find important articles and resources about Texas law and how it may affect you or your family. The Barrows Firm is on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. To read client endorsements and reviews of Attorney, Leslie Barrows, please visit her Avvo.com profile.

 

 

[i] The Texas Tribune, Texas to Tie Car Registration Renewal to Child Support, by Madlin Mekelburg, Jun. 14, 2016.

Kids at summer camp: Fostering positive growth and development 
 

From Abilene to Austin and from Tyler to Terlingua, there are summer camps for Texan children that fit the bill for just about every kid and parent’s interests and desires. There are faith-based as well as secular camps, sports-based and music camps. This list alone, published on www.MySummerCamps.com, includes 512 places where your son or daughter can make new friends, explore nature and history, and learn some independence from mom and dad while finding their role and place in their summer camp group. As wonderful as it may be to send kids off to summer camp, many parents experience anxiety. In today’s society there are more “helicopter parents” than in years past and we are often encouraged to keep aware and in control of every moment of our children’s days, from dawn to dusk. Sending them off to camp can be a healthy and positive experience for children and parents who learn to cope with periods of separation.

Focusing on the opportunities to learn and grow at camp, outside traditional environments

Children easily define their identities as functions of their surroundings. From what school they attend, to the vehicle that brings them there and back to the home in which they host sleepovers and guard their favorite toys, the “here and now” defines reality for most children.

When they go off to camp, kids get to be kids and less a function of their life at home with family and their neighborhood and school friends. Think of summer camp as the great equalizer, where all kids are the same and want to have fun and socialize with others, expressing their independence and finding their identity.

Summer camp can challenge children who realize they do not have their parents there to take up for them if there is a problem with another kid, or a moral dilemma or decision the child must handle on their own. Of course the counselors are never far away, but they have their hands full. While your son or daughter could experience some temporary emotional trauma over arguably trivial things that happen among children, most are resilient and bounce back quickly. For others, there may be an experiential learning curve, requiring a little back up and advice from their parents.

Keeping in touch with your kid at camp, without hovering, or maybe just a little hovering

Not more than 10 years ago there were very few children at summer camps with cell phones and mobile devices with which to keep in touch with parents. There may have been a camp telephone for emergencies, and many kids would have died with embarrassment if their parent was calling them. Writing letters to moms and dads about camp, is becoming a long lost tradition; it just is not the same printing a text message or email to put in a keepsake box.

The expectations of frequent communication among parents and children are facilitated by technology; where the street lights coming on used to be the signal to get home, a text from mom or dad is more than sufficient these days. As we drop kids off at camp and trust the staff and counselors there, we as parents might benefit from giving children the space they need to be on their own for a moment, without checking in with parents by text or email on the top of every hour. Many parents let their children know how and when they plan to check in, and stick with the plan, while being flexible and understanding that kids get busy at camp and might forget or not have time to text, call or email mom or dad.

When feeling sad about the separation from your child, it is tempting, when communicating with them, to be emotional to them; being away at camp can be as difficult for a child as it is for their parent. Some parents and those who coach parents and children find it selfish to focus on how much they miss their son or daughter while they are away, and otherwise chose to focus on questions about what activities the child is doing, and how it is going with the other kids at camp and new friends. Then, when they come home from camp, shower them with love and kisses.

Summer camp friends may be the first in many groups of new friends in a variety of environments

Making a new set of “camp friends” is good for children. Your son or daughter may keep in touch with friends from camp who come from all over to attend summer camp. When children appreciate the opportunity to maintain friend groups outside of the traditional set of kids in the neighborhood or at school, they can develop a greater world view. Going off to college, especially out-of-state, can be easier for children who are comfortable with a bit of separation and distance among their friend groups.

Encouraging children to keep up with their friends from camp may also open the door to diversity in thoughts and experiences. Imagine two kids meet at camp, one from the city and the other from the country. They may have little in common other than their mutual camp experiences, but they can learn from each other.

The Barrows Firm shares important information and resources about parenting issues and concerns that affect families in the DFW Metroplex. As kids go off to summer camp, parents have an opportunity to enjoy some couple time, and maybe work through some things, or just have fun with one another!

If you would like more information about The Barrows Firm, P.C., please contact the firm by calling (817) 481-1583. The Barrows Firm is located downtown Fort Worth at 500 East Belknap Street, near the Tarrant County Courthouse and the Tarrant County Family Law Center.

You can follow The Barrows Firm on social media and find important articles and resources about Texas law and how it may affect you or your family. The Barrows Firm is on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. To read client endorsements and reviews of Attorney, Leslie Barrows, please visit her Avvo.com profile.

 

Texas trusts: Revocable and irrevocable treasure chests 
 

What is a living revocable trust and why do we create them? A trust is a legal contract in which money or assets are positioned for the benefit of another, the trustee. You can create a trust in which to hold title to your home, cars and accounts, specifically designating who has interests and rights to the property held in the trust. The primary reason most people create a trust is to eliminate and avoid probate court and estate taxes. Here in Texas, the probate process is more complicated than other states that use the Uniform Probate Code, so if you are new to Texas, your estate planning decisions may be different than they would be in another state. In addition to probate and estate taxes, there are reasons to create your living trust as an irrevocable trust, to protect your assets and property in the trust from the reach of predators and creditors.

What is the difference between a revocable and irrevocable trust?

Simply, a revocable trust can be changed or destroyed by the settlor (person who creates the trust), and an irrevocable trust cannot. When you create a revocable trust, you can freely change the beneficiaries and move property, assets and money in and out of the trust as you wish. On the other hand, when you create an irrevocable trust, you no longer have legal title of ownership to the property in the irrevocable trust, you simply have a legal interest in the ownership and the trustee, a third party you chose, has a fiduciary legal duty to protect the assets of the trust and follow the orders of the written trust agreement.

Think of a trust as a big treasure chest, in which you can place stacks of money, cars, houses and whatever else you want to protect. A living revocable trust is like a treasure chest with an open lid, and you can put things in and take things out as you wish. The irrevocable trust is the same treasure chest, except the lid is closed and you cannot reopen the chest to move things in or out at your discretion. Only the trustee has the key and can open the trust and pull out some money for you if they see fit and it is within their fiduciary duty as trustee.

Attempting to create trusts on your own, without a lawyer may be like doing your own dental work.

There are so many vendors selling do-it-yourself kits for legal matters. When it comes to estate planning, the laws are written to make sure things are done correctly so people are not otherwise denied their rights or wishes. Creating a revocable trust versus an irrevocable trust, that will be valid and enforceable is a matter of intent and specific language.

While express terms of art (magic legal words) are not required to create an irrevocable trust, the trust must show the settlor/grantor’s intent to make the trust irrevocable.[i] The irrevocable trust, however, must be shown by terms and language in the trust document, and cannot be implied or inferred.[ii]

Whether it is better to create a revocable or irrevocable trust depends on your situation.

Asking whether one form of a trust is better than the other is like asking whether it is better to fly or drive between Dallas and Austin. How close are you to the airport? Will you have to park and leave your vehicle? Is someone else paying for your travel? All these factors influence your decision making, and the same applies to the creation of a trust.

Too often people make the mistake of assuming that they are not wealthy enough to need a trust and that trusts are only for the sons and daughters of oil barons. This is not true. A trust can protect you and your family from all sorts of unexpected life events, especially an irrevocable trust. Consider the value of a life insurance policy and how the proceeds of that policy could change things for your surviving family members, and how a trust could protect them and the money.

There is never a bad time to consider trusts and estate planning, especially if you have assets and a family, however large or small. Get the information and make an informed decision about the future.

The Barrows Firm shares important information and resources about Texas estate planning issues that affect families in the DFW Metroplex. When getting it right the first time is not an option, people go to The Barrows Firm for the right information and resources they need to protect themselves and their families.

If you would like more information about The Barrows Firm, P.C., please contact the firm by calling (817) 481-1583. The Barrows Firm is located downtown Fort Worth at 500 East Belknap Street, near the Tarrant County Courthouse and the Tarrant County Family Law Center.

You can follow The Barrows Firm on social media and find important articles and resources about Texas law and how it may affect you or your family. The Barrows Firm is on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. To read client endorsements and reviews of Attorney, Leslie Barrows, please visit her Avvo.com profile.

 

 

[i] Austin Lake Estates Recreation Club, Inc. v. Gilliam, 493 S.W.2d 343 (Tex. Civ. App. – Austin 1973).

[ii] Wils v. Robinson, 934 S.W.2d 717 (Tex. 1997).

Privacy Invasion: Liability for accessing a spouse’s phone without consent 
 

Under Texas law, reaffirmed in a recent case, your cell phone, when it is a smart phone, is considered a computer. Smart phones and devices that save information can help and hurt us when we access and use information, particularly information owned by other people, including spouses. Nowadays it starts in early dating, the temptation to “go through” someone’s phone to see who they are texting, who they receive calls from and what apps they frequently use. Just because it’s a quick peak while the other is in the shower does not mean it is less of an invasion of privacy. In the eyes of developing laws addressing technology and security, you might as well break into another’s office and sort through their computer, desk, mail and filing cabinets. A spouse, whether in a divorce case or in a private cause of action, can sue you and win if you violate their privacy by accessing their private information.

Going through another’s phone to grab screenshots can be a risky proposition.

In many privacy invasion cases, spouses or others possibly assisting another are looking for evidence of wrongdoing or bad activity. Emails, text messages, social media messages and recorded voicemails are sources of information that may help a spouse prove their case and allegations made against the other. The bad activity may be cheating, hiding money, drug use, porn or gambling issues. While finding the evidence you need may help you prove elements of your divorce case and net you a greater share of community property, for example, but the cost may be a criminal conviction for violating the laws designed to protect us from other people violating our privacy by accessing our smart phones (computers) without our permission.

A Dallas husband monitored his wife without her knowledge and it came back to bite him.

In the Dallas case, Bradley Miller v. Talley Dunn Gallery, LLC and Talley Dunn[i], the husband tracked his wife like a hawk, using a tracking device in her car, recorded her phone calls, snooped through her phone while she was asleep and grabbed screenshots along the way. The husband started posting some of the information and sharing it with other people, in an effort to prove his assertions about her and make her look bad to her friends and coworkers.

The wife did more than get mad, she got even and sued then ex-husband for intercepting her private information, invading her privacy and she successfully obtained a restraining order stopping the husband from making any further posts and sharing any more of the personal information he took from her phone. After the wife won on her privacy cases in the Dallas County 191st District Court, the Dallas Court of Appeals upheld the trial court after the ex-husband appealed.

“This ruling reaffirms our understanding of one point of law. It is well-established that any person, including a spouse, commits a crime if he or she knowingly or intentionally intercepts wire, oral or electronic communications to which he or she is not a party without the permission of one of the parties to the communication.[ii]– Texas Lawyer

The Interception of Communications Act

A person may sue another for violations of the Interceptions of Communications Act (ICA) when the person, “(1) intercepts, attempts to intercept, or employs or obtains another to intercept attempt to intercept the communication; or (2) uses or divulges information that he knows or reasonably should know was obtained by interception of the communication.[iii]” The law further states that intercepting a communication occurs when “the aural acquisition of the contents of a communication through the use of an electronic, mechanical or other device is made without the consent of the party to the communication.[iv]

The Harmful Access by Computer Act (HACA)

A person injured, or whose property is injured (and/or improperly used) may sue another for violations of the Harmful Access by Computer Act, “if the conduct constituting the violation was committed knowingly and intentionally,” and the suit is brought “before the earlier of the fifth anniversary of the date of the last act in the course of the conduct constituting a violation…or the second anniversary of the date the claimant first discovered or had reasonable opportunity to discover the violation.[v]

If you “access” your spouse/another person’s smart phone “computer” without their “effective consent” you may be liable for actual damages and attorney’s fees and costs to bring and win the cause. Note that the argument that the phone is community property fails when used to challenge whether one spouse has consent to access the other’s phone, under the HACA.

For more information please contact The Barrows Firm.

If you would like more information about The Barrows Firm, P.C., please contact the firm by calling (817) 481-1583. The Barrows Firm is located at 700 East Southlake Boulevard in Southlake near the Town Square.

You can follow The Barrows Firm on social media and find important articles and resources about Texas law and how it may affect you or your family. The Barrows Firm is on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. To read client endorsements and reviews of Attorney, Leslie Barrows, please visit her Avvo.com profile.

 

[i] Bradley Miller v. Talley Dunn Gallery, LLC and Talley Dunn, No. 05-15-00444-CV (On Appeal from the 191st Judicial District Court in Dallas County, Texas, Trial Court Cause No. DC-15-01598)

[ii] Texas Lawyer, Electronic ‘Smoking Gun’ Evidence in Family Law Cases Has Potential to Backfire, By Jessica W. Thorne and B. Wyn Williams, May 17, 2015.

[iii] TEX. CIV. PRAC. & REM. CODE ANN. § 123.002(a)(1)–(2)

[iv] See HNiii above at § 123.001(2)

[v] TEX. CIV. PRAC. & REM. CODE ANN. § 143.001(a),(b)

Image Source: FlexiSpy, Many Spouses Cheat. They All Use Cell Phones http://bit.ly/1TJz9ku

CPS in crisis? Should the state pay to increase professionalism? 
 

Trusting in the system is not enough, when more could be done to improve the system and save lives. Texas Department of Family & Protective Services (DFPS) is often criticized for failing to meet the expectations of Texans, particularly in the Child Protective Services (CPS) department. The CPS system failed a 4 year old from Grand Prairie. “A chain of errors, incompetence and systemic problems at Child Protective Services prevented the agency from protecting Leiliana from savage abuse with which her mother and her boyfriend are charged, agency documents obtained by The Dallas Morning News reveal.[i]” Thought leaders suggest there are options agencies can take to improve CPS. Staffing, training and increased standards for professionalism can all be improved by methods and money. Those who advance and support increased funding for CPS suggest that Texas has the funds. Meanwhile, there are system supervisory models that may also be effective in increasing skills and professionalism, in effort to better protect and save the lives.

Perception of CPS in crisis

News reports of a child death are significant and compelling. Many ask why the system failed. Too often state departments and agencies are criticized for system failures and respond by making staff changes and policy directives to make improvements; the effectiveness of which may be subject to debate.

Child welfare agencies like CPS should have well-trained staff who within the system, maintain a balance between the interests of parents and the state. A professional staff with discretion and more localized work with families are best able to serve the children and people of the state. Staffing challenges include keeping a well-trained and experienced team of child welfare professionals.

High turnover in CPS is a problem. The average CPS caseworker starts at about $33,000 per year and many of those caseworkers, younger in their careers, only remain in their positions an average of six months. Will Francis, government relations director for the National Association of Social Workers Texas suggests, “We don’t necessarily value the workers themselves, but we ask them to do these really, really hard jobs[ii].”

Critical need for professionalism in child welfare

A recent case study of a supervisory model, considering increased professionalism in child welfare, calls for attention to the current systems and calls the situation a crisis, “The continuing need for a professional, well-trained, and stable workforce constitutes a crisis in child welfare. Central to this crisis is the under-representation of social work knowledge and skills in both direct practice and supervision.[iii]

Increase in professionalism costs money

To answer the charge of valuing the workers, paying them for their experience and increasing their education and training are steps critics of the current system believe the state should take. More educational programs in colleges and universities focusing on child welfare work could produce better-trained staff, and with the cost of increased education, staff should be valued and compensated accordingly. If the state increased salaries by an extra $15,000 per year, at a cost to $400 million per year, CPS could recruit more qualified caseworkers and keep them longer.[iv]

Finding the money in the Texas budget

The Texas Department of Public Safety approved an increase in safety personnel along the Texas border in 2015, which cost the state $800 million over two years, “or almost exactly what Francis thinks would be necessary to professionalize the front line of CPS.[v]

In addition to, or in the alternative to salary and qualification increases, CPS may also consider new social work education and training programs to, “professionalize child welfare and strengthen the ability of child welfare staff to utilize state of the art knowledge and skills in supervision and direct practice.[vi]

The Barrows Firm follows and shares child welfare news and resources to educate and increase awareness of the issues affecting children and families in North Texas.

As opportunities to learn more about child welfare issues and solutions are discussed, The Barrows Firm writes and shares the information we all need to be better aware of the challenges facing children and families who are involved and affected by child welfare issues and the systems. For more information about CPS, please contact The Barrows Firm.

If you would like more information about The Barrows Firm, P.C., please contact the firm by calling (817) 481-1583. The Barrows Firm is located downtown Fort Worth at 500 East Belknap Street, near the Tarrant County Courthouse and the Tarrant County Family Law Center.

You can follow The Barrows Firm on social media and find important articles and resources about Texas law and how it may affect you or your family. The Barrows Firm is on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. To read client endorsements and reviews of Attorney, Leslie Barrows, please visit her Avvo.com profile.

[i] The Dallas Morning News, Trail Blazers Blog, When 4-year-old Leiliana Wright needed Dallas CPS most, it failed at every turn, By J. David McSwane, Apr. 9, 2016.

[ii] Dallasobserver.com, Austin Can Find the Money to Fix Child Protective Services, If It Wants To, By Eric Nicholson, May 9, 2016.

[iii] Researchgate.net, Professionalizing child welfare: An evaluation of a clinical consultation model for supervisors, By Virginia C. Strand, Lee Badger, Jan. 6, 2005, see page 15/16.

[iv] See HNii above.

[v] See HNii above.

[vi] See HNiii above.

Summer time possession schedules with Fort Worth Attorney Leslie Barrows 
 

The Barrows Firm Law Review is a monthly Internet radio show podcast featuring information about Texas family, criminal, juvenile, probate and estate planning law and events. Attorney Leslie Barrows is our featured guest today as she shares insight and information about summer time possession schedules.

Summer time possession schedules with Fort Worth Attorney Leslie Barrows

  • What is summer time possession schedule and how is it addressed in the Texas Family Code?
  • When is it a good time to work on getting a summer time possession schedule in place?
  • Can I use the summer time possession schedule from last year, or can we modify it?
  • How can I enforce the summer time possession schedule if the other parent ignores it?
  • What do I say to my child asking questions about the summer and I do not know what to say?

Leslie Barrows is the principal founder of The Barrows Firm in Fort Worth, Texas. In her firm’s main practice areas of family law, criminal defense and juvenile law, Leslie is consistently challenged with dynamic cases and clients. When winning is what matters, many in the Fort Worth area go to The Barrows Firm based on their reputation an winning track record over the past decade. Leslie Barrows earned her undergraduate degree from Sam Houston State University and she earned her law degree from the Oklahoma City University School of Law. She is a member of numerous organizations primarily focused in Tarrant County.

If you would like more information about The Barrows Firm, P.C., please contact the firm by calling (817) 481-1583. The Barrows Firm is located downtown Fort Worth at 500 East Belknap Street, near the Tarrant County Courthouse and the Tarrant County Family Law Center.

You can follow The Barrows Firm on social media and find important articles and resources about Texas law and how it may affect you or your family. The Barrows Firm is on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. To read client endorsements and reviews of Attorney, Leslie Barrows, please visit her Avvo.com profile.

What are geographic restriction orders affecting children in Texas family law cases? 
 

One of the more contentious issues in Texas family law cases is where a child may travel and reside. Before the court makes any order regarding the child, both parents have equal right to take a child wherever they want. After the court orders a limitation on travel and a restriction on where the child may live and go to school, there are consequences for violating the order of the court. It is important and often standard to seek a temporary order setting geographic restrictions, early in the family law matter, to prevent the other parent from removing a child from the current area of residence or outside the State of Texas.

Initial temporary and standing court orders are important to the travel and residential restrictions for children in family law cases, especially when one parent is a flight risk.

In some cases, one of the parents wants to move to another part of the state or out-of-state, near friends or family, because of a divorce. If that parent takes their child to another place before there is a court order regarding the child, it may be more difficult to compel the return of the child. If the petition for divorce or custody has not been filed yet, the parent moving to a new area or out-of-state, if in the new location long enough, could file a family law action in their new location and ask that court to take jurisdiction over the child and the underlying case. If one parent suspects the other might flee the area and take the child, it is important to act quickly in filing the case and seeking an court order establishing geographic restrictions.

A parent is free to travel and move where they like, but the child is not, because the court’s geographic restriction orders specifically state where the child may travel, and where they may reside, within an often set number of miles from a certain location, or within the limits of a county. During the divorce the court usually restricts a child’s travel to the State of Texas, unless the parents otherwise agree; often called standing orders. A standing order may also require the parent with visitation rights, to share phone numbers, locations and the whereabouts of the child at certain times.

Modifying and enforcing the geographic restrictions in the order of the court

The court’s order will state which parent has the right to determine where the child may travel and where they will reside. Within the geographic restrictions, the parent with rights to determine residence may move wherever they want. If however, that parent demonstrates a significant reason to move beyond the geographic restrictions, they may file a motion with the court to modify the geographic restrictions. In some cases, there are no geographic restrictions and others where there are general or very specific limitations.

If either parent does not obey the limits of a geographic restriction, there may be a court action to find the offending parent in contempt of court, to compel a parent to return the child, and a modification to the court’s order with greater restrictions or requiring supervised visitation. Even if the primary parent with right to chose residence, moves beyond the geographic restrictions, they may be forced to move back or risk losing the right to have the child live with them. At all times, the courts focus on the best interests of a child and the security of their development with family and their community.

The Barrows Firm is a resource for parents seeking information, advice and representation in protecting the best interests of their children in divorce and family law cases, where there may be issues involving the travel and residence of a child.

If you would like more information about The Barrows Firm, P.C., please contact the firm by calling (817) 481-1583. The Barrows Firm is located downtown Fort Worth at 500 East Belknap Street, near the Tarrant County Courthouse and the Tarrant County Family Law Center.

You can follow The Barrows Firm on social media and find important articles and resources about Texas law and how it may affect you or your family. The Barrows Firm is on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. To read client endorsements and reviews of Attorney, Leslie Barrows, please visit her Avvo.com profile.

 

Texas wiretapping: One-party consent required to record conversations 
 

Recording conversations, to use in legal strategy and submit as evidence in court, is illegal in the State of Texas, unless one party to the conversation consents. You may record your own conversation with another person, without their knowledge or consent, but you may not record two or more other people unless one of the people in the conversation consents to a recording. There are a few exceptions to this rule, and special rules for recording court hearings and public meetings. Individuals who violate the Texas Wiretapping Law may be subject to criminal penalties and civil fines.  While open communication can be useful in many legal cases, the Texas Wiretapping Law can be a double-edged sword. It is always best not to say anything to people that you would not want others to know.

The one-party consent rule and exceptions

The Texas Wiretapping Law, a one-party consent law, makes it a crime to record any “wire, oral, or electronic communication” unless one party to the conversation consents.[i] You may consent to record yourself in your own conversations with others. You may also obtain prior permission from one of the people in a conversation, to record their conversation with others. You may not, however, spy on and record the conversations of others, where they do not give you prior consent to record the conversation.

An exception to the consent requirement occurs when you record a conversation in which the people speaking do not have an “expectation that such communication is not subject to interception under circumstances justifying such exception.[ii]” This exception applies when the people having the conversation do not have an expectation to privacy, for example, in an elevator with other passengers, on a train or plane with other people nearby, in clear earshot, or in any other setting where people not involved in the conversation can clearly hear what is being said and there is no effort to keep the conversation private.

Recording court hearings and open meetings

When a court reporter is not available, or where you want your own independent recording of what happens at a court hearing, you may be allowed to record conversations and testimony in court, depending on the rules of the court. Each local court has its own rules for conduct in the courtroom, and recording may or may not be allowed by local court rules. In state trial courts in Texas you can record audio and video if you first obtain consent by the trial court judge, the parties and witnesses you plan to record. At the Texas appellate court you may record audio and video if you first submit a written request within 5 days of the court proceeding. In Texas federal courts you may not record any audio or video, it is strictly prohibited.

Recording meetings in Texas is allowed when the meeting is open to the public and subject the Texas Open Meetings Act. The use of audio and video may be limited based on the imposition of “reasonable rules to maintain order in a meeting.[iii]” In order to record an open meeting, you must be present at the meeting and be the one in control of the audio and, or video recording equipment.

Violating and challenging the Texas Wiretapping Law

Restating that the general rule of law in Texas is that it is illegal to record (or intercept) the communications of others, unless one of the parties gives consent, there are criminal and civil penalties and liabilities for violating the Texas Wiretapping Law. An offense of the Texas Wiretapping Law can be a second-degree felony, or a state jail felony in under certain circumstances, as identified in the Texas Penal Code.

Additionally, A party to a communication may sue a person who: “(1)  intercepts, attempts to intercept, or employs or obtains another to intercept or attempt to intercept the communication; (2)  uses or divulges information that he knows or reasonably should know was obtained by interception of the communication;  or (3)  as a landlord, building operator, or communication common carrier, either personally or through an agent or employee, aids or knowingly permits interception or attempted interception of the communication.[iv]

The facts and circumstances in each instance of recording audio and video of conversations and others may be subject to a legal defense or challenge, when suing or defending under the Texas Wiretapping Law. Issues of consent and intent to give consent or record can all be the subject of disagreement and may be properly decided by a judge or jury.

The Barrows Firm attorneys promote being knowledgeable about Texas laws such as the Texas Wiretapping Law, because ignorance of the law is no defense.

If you would like more information about The Barrows Firm, P.C., please contact the firm by calling (817) 481-1583. The Barrows Firm is located downtown Fort Worth at 500 East Belknap Street, near the Tarrant County Courthouse and the Tarrant County Family Law Center.

You can follow The Barrows Firm on social media and find important articles and resources about Texas law and how it may affect you or your family. The Barrows Firm is on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. To read client endorsements and reviews of Attorney, Leslie Barrows, please visit her Avvo.com profile.

 

[i] Texas Penal Code, Section 16.02

[ii] Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Section 18.02

[iii] Texas Government Code, Section 551.023

[iv] Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, Section 123.001

PODCAST: Involuntary mental health commitments with Fort Worth Attorney Leslie Barrows 
 

The Barrows Firm Law Review is a monthly Internet radio show podcast featuring information about Texas family, criminal, juvenile, probate and estate planning law and events. Attorney Leslie Barrows is our featured guest today as she shares insight and information about involuntary mental health commitments and families making tough decisions.

Involuntary mental health commitments with Fort Worth Attorney Leslie Barrows

  • Mental health and care needs at various ages and circumstances
  • Describing the facilities and care options available to individuals
  • Texas law, Mental Health Code and Code of Criminal Procedure
  • Approaching mental health commitments for short-term reasons
  • Long-term considerations for mental health commitments
  • Steps to take when considering taking action in seeking a commitment

Leslie Barrows is the principal founder of The Barrows Firm in Fort Worth, Texas. In her firm’s main practice areas of family law, criminal defense and juvenile law, Leslie is consistently challenged with dynamic cases and clients. When winning is what matters, many in the Fort Worth area go to The Barrows Firm based on their reputation an winning track record over the past decade. Leslie Barrows earned her undergraduate degree from Sam Houston State University and she earned her law degree from the Oklahoma City University School of Law. She is a member of numerous organizations primarily focused in Tarrant County.

If you would like more information about The Barrows Firm, P.C., please contact the firm by calling (817) 481-1583. The Barrows Firm is located downtown Fort Worth at 500 East Belknap Street, near the Tarrant County Courthouse and the Tarrant County Family Law Center.

You can follow The Barrows Firm on social media and find important articles and resources about Texas law and how it may affect you or your family. The Barrows Firm is on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. To read client endorsements and reviews of Attorney, Leslie Barrows, please visit her Avvo.com profile.

 

Involuntary mental health commitments in Texas 
 

Among individuals committing crimes and those with a criminal history, mental illness may be a commonly overlooked factor behind criminal conduct. Mental health problems, when untreated, can lead to imprisonment, homelessness and even death. Veterans of our U.S. armed services frequently suffer from temporary and permanent conditions making life after service a daily challenge. Family members can play a role in helping their relative get help and treatment through private and state-operated facilities. There are specific laws and procedures when an individual seeks the involuntary mental health commitment of another in the State of Texas. The decision to seek a commitment is not an easy decision, but it can save a life, especially when the individual may be dangerous to themselves and others.

In Texas, court-ordered mental health services, involuntary commitments, are pursuant to the Texas Mental Health Code.[i]

A county or district attorney or other adult may apply for court-ordered mental health services. The application, except when filed by a county or district attorney, must include a certificate of medical examination by a physician. The application must specify whether the order requested is for temporary or extended mental health services.

Probable Cause Hearing

When an event gives rise to the detention of a patient, often following an incident where the patient presented a threat of harm to themselves or others, a probable cause hearing must be held within 72 hours of the detention. The probable cause hearing takes place before an available magistrate or justice of the peace. The probable cause hearing allows the state to present a physician’s Certificate of Medical Exam and supporting affidavit. At the probable cause hearing, the Application for Detention, filed by the county or district attorney, or other adult, is reviewed. The applicant, patient, friends and family may also present their testimony at the probable cause hearing. At the hearing’s conclusion, the court will appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the detained patient during the remaining process, if the court finds that an order for continued detention is appropriate on the facts and circumstances.

Final Hearing

Before the probable cause hearing takes place, the court schedules a final hearing, to take place within 30 days of the filing of the original commitment application. Pending examination, treatment and observation may be cause for the court to continue the final hearing as necessary. The final hearing is more formal and takes place before a judge and the Texas rules of evidence apply. The examining physician, social worker(s), health care professional(s), friends, family members and the patient may testify at the final hearing. The judge makes a finding whether the patient is mentally ill and likely to cause harm to themselves, to others, or is in a state of deterioration, based on temporary or longer lasting conditions that substantially affect the patient’s ability to function normally. The judge may sign a final order of commitment and the patient may be committed to a state hospital, designed to be a therapeutic community, for the duration and under the conditions of the final order.

Other types of involuntary commitments and court proceedings

There are other types of commitment hearings available to protect the health and safety of the patient and others. A forced medications hearing[ii] may be held to obtain a court order authorizing the administration of psychoactive medication, most often for a patient already ordered to impatient mental health services.

When a criminal defendant is charged with felony or misdemeanor punishable by jail or imprisonment, a competency hearing is held to determine whether the individual defendant is incompetent to stand trial, where they are unable to understand a consultant with an attorney, unable to understand the charges against them, for example[iii]. Criminal commitments follow the Texas rules of criminal procedure and are formal, much like the civil involuntary commitment hearings mentioned in this article.

The Barrows Firm attorneys advise and represent individuals and family members involved in the process of involuntary mental health commitments and have additional resources available.

If you would like more information about The Barrows Firm, P.C., please contact the firm by calling (817) 481-1583. The Barrows Firm is located downtown Fort Worth at 500 East Belknap Street, near the Tarrant County Courthouse and the Tarrant County Family Law Center.

You can follow The Barrows Firm on social media and find important articles and resources about Texas law and how it may affect you or your family. The Barrows Firm is on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. To read client endorsements and reviews of Attorney, Leslie Barrows, please visit her Avvo.com profile.

 

[i] Texas Mental Health Code, Section 574.001 et seq

[ii] Texas Mental Health Code, Section 574.106

[iii] Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Chapter 46B

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