How do Courts Feel About Separating Siblings in a Custody Battle?

Texas law puts a strong emphasis on keeping families together. Judges are usually reluctant to split the children up, especially when they are young. 

However, judges do take into consideration all circumstances, including whether a sibling is a good or bad influence on the other (for example, whether one of them is abusing drugs or participating in illegal activity). 

Sometimes, the court will allow one child who is, for instance, failing in school, not attending school, or having other behavioral problems to go with the other parent and leave the other siblings behind.  A requirement is that the child be enrolled in a special program or school district equipped for dealing with those issues and where the child will get more supervision and help. 

Other times, there can be a situation where one child is blind, mentally disabled, deaf or has another condition that requires much more attention from a single parent. 

At the end of the day, courts are usually open to maximizing the help to ensure the proper development of the child. However, the courts will almost always want a plan in place to ensure siblings that are separated see each other as often as possible.

For more information, call The Barrera Law Firm at (956) 428-2822 or fill out this form for a free consultation.

I Got a Letter for an AG Conference; Should I Sign an Agreed Court Order Without an Attorney to Advise?

Never, never, never, never ever, go to the Texas Office of the Attorney General’s Office without a lawyer, or without consulting a lawyer first.

Very often there will be important issues that are not addressed relating to geographic limitations on where the child will live, or it will not contain halfway points for pick up and drop off and sometimes much more. Sometimes, child support is calculated in a way that a judge might calculate differently, so it’s fairer.

It is very important that you take your letter from the Attorney General to a competent lawyer and have them assist you.

Make sure to get competent legal representation.  Call The Barrera Law Firm at (956) 428-2822 or fill out this form for a free consultation

Some Sobering Facts About Driving Under the Influence

drunk driving legal help brownsville, harlingen, mcallen
Before going to that holiday party, remember the consequences of driving while intoxicated.

December is National Drunk and Drugged Driving prevention month.  And that makes sense: too many out-of-control holiday merrymakers get behind the wheel, unaware that their irresponsible behavior could potentially endanger the lives of those around them.

In all states including Texas, a person with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 is considered legally intoxicated. But it doesn’t take much—just a few drinks for some people depending on such factors as height, weight and gender—for the effects of alcohol to take hold. Consider the following blood alcohol facts:

  • At a BAC of .02, a person experience loss of judgment and has trouble doing two tasks at the same time
  • At .05, he or she will have reduced coordination, a deteriorating ability to track objects and difficulty steering
  • At .08, the individual will have trouble controlling speed and have difficulty reasoning
  • At .10, a person will have greatly slowed reaction times and difficulty keeping a car in one lane
  • At a BAC of .15, she or she will be unable to control a vehicle

The effects of drugs—both legal and illegal—on driving are similar. Like alcohol, drugs also can impair a driver’s motor skills, reaction time and judgment and lead to equally devastating consequences.

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), alcohol and/or drugs causes 52% of all fatal accidents on Christmas and 57% on New Year’s Day. When you are on the road this holiday season, stay aware of other drivers especially at night. However, if you or a loved one is involved in a collision with a drunk and/or drugged driver, count on the attorneys at the Barrera Law Firm to help you seek the legal and financial restitution you deserve.

Can Community Property Money be Used to Pay for My Divorce?

In most cases, funds that may be secured through joint bank accounts, credit cards obtained during the marriage, and through the legal pawn of property acquired during the marriage may be used to secure reasonably priced legal services for a divorce.

Often times, it’s critically important a competent attorney is secured to ensure that along with your divorce, a restraining order goes into effect relating to expenditures of community funds, sale or gift of community property, and how the bills get paid while a divorce is pending. Child support and custody is also decided.

Courts also allow one to apply for additional attorney fees if the husband or wife is using a disproportionate share in order to cover their attorney fees. An example of this is when the husband scrapes up $2,500, but wife cashes our her 401k and pays $50,000 in attorney fees. In this event, the husband could apply for $22,250 of that amount or the equal amount, if available, for attorney fees.

Call The Barrera Law Firm at (956) 428-2822 for a free consultation or complete our online form.

Non-Parent and Grandparent Rights and Access in Texas

Has a child been voluntarily left in your care, custody, and control for more than six months? As a grandparent, has your child passed away, and you are no longer able to visit your minor grandchildren? 

These are applicable questions under Texas Law that help establish whether or not non-parent or grandparent custody or visitation may be attempted.

If you qualify, an attorney would be needed to assist in gathering facts and evidence that show the child is safest in your home. 

Sometimes, a social investigation report is in order. Other times, it’s simple, such as the situation where one or both parents are incarcerated, and the child has been under your care, custody and control for more than six months.

Do you need help with a child custody issue?  Call The Barrera Law Firm at (956) 428-2822 or complete our on-line form for a free consultation.

Wrong-Way Crashes in Texas

Wrong-way crashes are the most dangerous because they involve head-on collisions. In Texas, the number of these kinds of accidents has hit all new highs. A recent CBS DFW online article reveals that in 2011, “[t]he Texas Department of Transportation (TDOT) [found] there were 329 wrong-way crashes statewide…[and that] more than half [took place] in Dallas County.”

A  TDOT study conducted in 2010 showed that alcohol was the common denominator in  nearly all of these crashes. According to one TDOT official, about three-quarters of all the drivers involved in wrong-way crashes were under the influence.

The human toll these kinds of accidents take lingers long after the event itself. One woman named Gwen Edwards who lost her son Louis in a wrong-way crash a year a half ago on Interstate 35 still reports her feelings as, “Anger, yes. I still have a lot…[l]osing a child is a lot different than losing a mother, father, sister or brother.” Louis was just 22 years old and was the only one who perished.

Edwards is still grieving for her son. She has since “turned to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) for help and says that more needs to be done to protect drivers on the road.” In her view, “[t]he drunk driving laws keep the drivers safer than [they do] the victim. The laws need to be stiffer.”

This coming September, TDOT will begin to research countermeasures against wrong-way driving. “The main goals will be to identify what methods are most successful in getting the attention of impaired drivers, and finding out which countermeasures are most effective and properly orienting the wrong-way driver for alerting them to the fact they’re going the wrong way.”

These countermeasures won’t help you if you’ve recently been in a car accident, particularly one involving a drunk driver and/or wrong-way driving. At the  Barrera Law Firm, we are ready to fight for your rights in a legal system that too often seems to overlook the pain and suffering of car crashes victims. Let us help you get the settlement you deserve: contact us today!

Does Adultery Matter in Texas Divorces?

Texas is a no-fault state. That means you can get a divorce here without having to prove it was the other spouse’s fault. 

One can also allege that the other party cheated and seek a disproportionate division of the community estate when clear and convincing evidence is present of the adultery.  

Sometimes, an attorney will need to search financial records to track down hotel room charges, odd gifts, and other expenditures that are out of place. Even odd ATM withdraws, when combined with other evidence, tell the tale of betrayal.

For more information, please call The Barrera Law Firm at (956) 428-2822 or complete our online form for your free consultation.

Expungement vs. Orders of Non-Disclosure in Texas

Your criminal history follows you everywhere. Whether you are asked to describe it on job, housing and educational loan applications or are pulled over for a traffic stop, others will want to know whether your past includes incidents of breaking the law.

Fortunately, Chapter 55 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure offers those with a criminal past to clear their records through expungement and orders of nondisclosure. If you are granted either an expungement or order of nondisclosure (or in the case of those under 18, a motion to seal a juvenile criminal record), arrest records and convictions for certain crimes will be permanently deleted from your record. That means criminal information will no longer be available to the public when background checks of any kind are run on you.

Expungement means that records they are removed from all criminal history databases. An order of nondisclosure is slightly different in that it gives applicants the right to not disclose prior arrests, crimes for which he or she was acquitted or pardoned and convictions for which the applicant successfully completed conditions of public service, counseling or probation/parole. Both are designed to help applicants regain public respectability and the opportunities that come with it.

Where young people are concerned, Texas laws allow for the sealing of juvenile records under some circumstances, which makes those records unavailable for any purpose at any time.  This means that a child with an otherwise unblemished record can apply for scholarships, student loans, public educational grants and on-campus housing when he or she goes to the university.

Regardless of whether you are seeking either an expungement or order of nondisclosure for yourself or the sealing of juvenile records for your child, the Barrera Law Firm can help. Our attorneys understand the exacting nature of the application process for all three of these procedures and that proper filing of application materials is critical to success. When you’re looking for a new lease on a better life for yourself or a loved one, let us be your guide.

Photo credit: Salvatore Vuono


Wasted Days and Wasted Nights — Do I Have a Common Law Marriage?

Texas law recognizes common law marriage based on three basic elements, all of which all must occur at the same time:

1) Co-habitation (did you live together?)

2) Holding yourself out as husband and wife (did you wear rings, file taxes as married, or did you put out there you were married on loans applications?)

3) Agree to be married 

Texas courts generally try to do the right thing, but the burden of proof is on the one who claims a common law marriage exists when not formally married.

Never invest your home, your future, your wealth on someone who cannot or will not commit. The results are often sad and unfortunate in the case of a separation because the law does not provide you with a community property share unless you can prove common law marriage through clear and convincing evidence. 

Years of cleaning up after and taking care of a person you are not legally married to may end you up not only with a broken heart, but in the poor house as well.

For more information, please call The Barrera Law Firm at (956) 428-2822 or complete our online form for your free consultation.

Deadbeat Dads and Moms – What to do about a Child Support Evader

Texas law allows private attorneys to seek out individuals that are intentionally not paying child support and who owe a back-child support amount.

We’ve all seen it — she or he drives a beautiful vehicle, is always on time to pay the bar tab, and travels to destinations that would make you jealous, yet they pay little or no child support. Maybe they take their boyfriend’s or girlfriend’s kids to a fancy resort while your own kids are on free lunch and haven’t even been as far north as San Antonio because money is tight.

The Texas Family Code provides that are person who may be found to be intentionally under-employed, or that the support they get from their significant other or family members may be included as income for calculating higher child support, or that the job they have from their parents may be calculated at market value instead of a sham pay check.

The first thing to do is to serve them with a petition to enforce and confirm arrears, then take them to court and ask they be jailed until the arrears are paid and that child support be properly calculated. Show the judge what they drive, where they live, where they go, and take it from there. 

Do you need help with a deadbeat ex?  Call The Barrera Law Firm at (956) 428-2822 or fill out this form for a free consultation.