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That’s right, folks. The Texas Attorney General has increased their ability to go after delinquent child support obligors: by denying vehicle registration for offenders.

Currently, the Texas Attorney General may already do the following for nonpayment of child support, administratively (without notice or the ability of the alleged offender to defend himself or herself):

  • Garnish wages          
  • Garnish tax returns
  • Impose liens against bank accounts, real estate, and other property owned by the obligor
  • Suspend driver’s license and professional licenses

Beginning in December 2016, obligor’s who owe more than 6 months of back child support will be subject to denial of registration on their vehicle, in a new attempt to compel compliance with child support orders. Those who are more than 6 months behind on support with registration due in December or thereafter, will be notified of their status by letter approximately three months prior to the due date on their registration renewal.

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If you are considering a divorce, I am sure you have considered the cost to hire an attorney, and at least briefly considered handling your divorce yourself. While you may save some money up front, there can be huge costs to handling your own divorce.

1.You could miss out on property: In a divorce, you are dividing your entire estate. If you do not adequately account for the property in your estate, you do not understand the intricacies of community property, or you just do not understand the law, you could be missing out on large sums in the property division. For example, if you believe that funds earned by one spouse and saved by one spouse belong to that spouse, you would miss out on a portion of those funds. Alternatively, you may offer to give up part of an asset that is really your separate property

2.You miss out on child support or Overpay: Generally, child support is calculated based on the guidelines in the Texas Family Code. However, if you do not adequately account for deductions for health insurance premiums, you may be overpaying child support. Alternatively, if you calculate the average income for the past 3 years, when the last year is much higher and more indicative of future income, you and your children could miss out on hundreds per month in collected child support.

3.Your order may not be accepted by the Court: If the Court deems that any of your order is not fair and equitable or in the best interest of the children, the Court can refuse to accept your agreed order. This happens regularly when the parties agree to $0 for child support. Many courts do not consider this to be in the best interest of the child in mostAn experienced family law attorney can help you properly word your order so it will be accepted by the Court.

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What is the job of the Office of the Attorney General Child Support Division?

Attorneys with the office of the OAG can assist with establishing paternity, finding missing parents, establishing child support, and enforcing the collection of unpaid child support. Most important to remember is that the OAG attorney does not represent either parent or conservator of the child or children; this means the OAG does not represent the party who requests services. The OAG only represents the State of Texas. This means that cases with children on TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, CHIP, and Medicaid) will be prioritized.

Those parents or conservators using TANF or Medicaid for their children are required to apply for OAG child support services. This does not mean the OAG will take the case, will work on the case, and it still means that the OAG does not represent the parent or conservator.

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Mr. Hafen’s client, a hard-working small business owner, hired Mr. Hafen in a proverbial David v. Goliath case. In an extremely contentious case, Mr. Hafen got won a favorable jury verdict on behalf of the Client. After the Defendant appealed, Mr. Hafen successfully briefed and argued the client’s case in front of the Court of Appeals. Subsequently, The Court of Appeals issued a favorable opinion and rendered a judgment in favor of Mr. Hafen’s client.

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     By now, we should all be sensitive to the evolving groundswell of law which could affect those of us (I’m among the guilty) who text and drive. As lawyers, we are waiting to see where all of the various state legislatures end up drawing the lines and how severe the penalties they will ascribe? Although not illegal in every jurisdiction yet, we know that while we are operating a motor vehicle, we ought not be reading or sending texts. The National Safety Council informs us that texting while driving (“TWD”) causes 1,600,000 accidents per year and that number will likely only continue to swell. Given the volume of accidents caused by TWD, it should come as no surprise that 330,000 people are injured each year and that 11 teens die every day in TWD accidents. Additionally, the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration reports that TWD makes us twenty-three times more susceptible to crashing. Insurance companies and various safety organizations have done a fairly good job of educating us all on the dangers of TWD. That is, much as the MADD battle cry of the 90’s became “Don’t Drink and Drive,” we have now added “Don’t Text and Drive” to the automobile safety lexicon.

     But should the driver who TWD or who reads texts while driving be the only responsible party in the unfortunate event of an accident caused by the driver’s temporary inattention to the road? A recent case out of New Jersey could completely re-shape the jurisprudence on TWD. In Kubert v. Best, et al. and Shannon Colonna, the Superior Court of New Jersey – Appellate Division took up an issue of first impression; whether, as a matter of civil common law, one who is texting from a location remote from the driver of a motor vehicle can be liable to persons injured because the driver was distracted by the text.

     On the afternoon of September 21, 2009, David Kubert was riding his motorcycle, with his wife, Linda Kubert, riding as a passenger. As they came around a curve, a pick-up truck being driven north by eighteen-year-old Kyle Best crossed the double center line of the roadway into their lane of traffic. David Kubert attempted to evade the pick-up truck but could not. The front driver’s side of the truck struck the Kuberts and their motorcycle. The collision severed, or nearly severed, David’s left leg. It shattered Linda’s left leg, resulting in a compound fracture of her femur. Ultimately, both David and Linda each lost a leg as a result of the accident. The Kuberts’ attorney subsequently developed evidence which demonstrated that Kyle Best and his girlfriend, Shannon Colonna, had been texting each other all day long, including at the moment that the accident occurred. Although the Kuberts were able to prove that Best and Colonna were texting at the moment of the accident, it was not proven that Colonna knew that Best was driving while she was sending him texts that day. Without sufficient proof of Colonna’s knowledge of Best’s whereabouts at the time she was texting him, the Kuberts were not able to prevail in their novel legal theory against Colonna. However, the New Jersey court held that a person sending text messages has a duty not to text someone who is driving if the texter knows, or has special reason to know, the recipient will view the text while driving. And with that, the sure-to-be controversial gauntlet has been thrown down and legislatures and courts from other states will likely soon follow with similarly reasoned laws and opinions. Will Texas follow?

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