Family Law Resources

Corona Virus

Child Custody may be an Additional Battle for Those on Coronavirus Front Lines in Texas

Based on an article in the NY Times New Battle for Those on Coronavirus Front Lines: Child Custody By Megan Twohey

All across the county parents who are no longer together are worried about their children making the switch from one household to another for visitation. Normally, most families and children are used to this but in the current Covid 19 environment, parents are worried that their children might contract the virus by being exposed at the other parent’s house. In the case of front-line medical, police, EMS or firefighters, the worry is even more real. These are all real worries.

The Texas Supreme Court has made several rulings since the outbreak began – all of which say that Covid 19 restrictions should not allow custodial parents to refuse visitation to the non-custodial parents. Even with these rulings, parents are calling with the same question. Do I have to allow the child(ren) to go to the other parent’s house? I’m worried about whether the other parent will be as vigilant about washing of hands, distancing, etc. What if my ex has a new partner, and is he/she going to infect my child and possibly me?

The New York Times article talks about a case in New Jersey where a physician (mom) was not allowed to see her children when her ex got an order granting him sole temporary custody of the children. Susan Myres, President of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers said, “We can’t make those people have to sacrifice more, but how do we do that custody safely?”

Every state has its own guidance, but a cookie cutter solution is not fitting the bill for every family. And courts in Texas are only accepting hearings in the case of emergencies. For family law, almost everything is an emergency. Every courtroom is making up their own rules for what cases they will see, what is an emergency, and how they conduct the hearing.

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Attorney Jillian French now offering mediations

Vaught Law Office is pleased to announce that Attorney Jillian French is now offering mediations.  Attorney French joined the firm in January and brings extensive experience in all types of family law, including divorce, child support, child custody and military divorce.

Attorney French can be scheduled for mediation by calling our office at 512-605-0999 or booking through this link.  Mediations with Attorney French are billed at $225 an hour, which is generally split equally by both parties.  To book a mediation, at least one party must be represented by a lawyer.

We are pleased to offer mediation services to attorneys and their clients involved in a divorce or other contested family law matter.  Currently, we are offering divorce and child custody mediations via video conference.

Our firm believes that mediation can be an effective way for individuals involved in a divorce, child custody dispute or other contested family law matter to come to an agreement before they go to court. Mediation can reduce the cost of a long court battle and reduce the stress on all parties involved.

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Tips to protect your devices from your abuser

Based on an article in the New York Times

Domestic Abusers Can control Your Devices.  Here’s How to Fight Back.

Wirecutter – Kaitlyn Wells and Thorin Klosowski

We are all familiar with shared clouds, in which one spouse can see every person that the other spouse contacts, by phone, by email or by text.  Location history is also a big problem, enabling stalkers and abusive partners.  Ruth Darlene, founder and executive director of WomenSV, a research center serving the Bay Area of California, said “You don’t have to reach out and touch someone in order to control and terrorize them.”

Their advice was to make a note about every time you feel that you were being stalked, spoofed, followed, or when odd things don’t make sense.  They also recommended that you make a list of any shared accounts, make a list of every account and device you have, and secure everything you can with two-factor authentication and a password manager.  Do not use details that the other spouse/boyfriend might have any knowledge.  For those in a long-term relationship, their knowledge is vast, so you will need to be creative.  They also recommended a password manager with a single password.  There is no back door for these, so it seemingly cannot be hacked.  The downside is that if you forget or misplace the access code, you will not be able to get back in.  Also two-factor authentication is another tool to use to keep other people out of your account.  You can receive a text with a code, but the app to receive a code is more secure. 

Also, they recommended a review of privacy settings on social media.  Review your lists of friends and remove any that do not seem familiar.  Make sure that shares cannot be seen by friends of friends. 

The article also recommended steps to improve your smartphone’s security privacy.  They recommended that you remove the fingerprint or facial imaging on the device, since it could be used while you are sleeping.  Change the notification options so that previews of message are not shown on the lock screen.  Check the location services and disable them.  Check all your apps and consider removing anything you don’t recognize or use.  Make sure that your operating system is up to date. 

How you use your phone can also make you more vulnerable.  Avoid clicking links, change your passwords often, and consider using a secure messaging app, like Signal.  It works like Whatsapp or Apple Messages, but it has additional features that make it more secure.

If you suspect stalkerware, it will probably take a pro to find it.  You might consider getting a new device and not having it repopulate from the last backup or doing a factory reset. 

One note of caution – any of these attempts could notify the stalker.  Reaching out to 311 or 211 for resources, or 911 if you are in immediate danger are options that can save your life.

Corona Virus

Covid-19 and Central Texas Courts: What You Need to Know Part 2


Covid-19 Update

Since our last post on Covid-19 and Central Texas Courts, the Supreme Court has issued several Emergency Orders addressing possession and exchanges. Additionally, many of the counties in Central Texas have issued additional orders regarding court proceedings.

The Supreme Court Orders can be found at this link: http://txcourts.gov/media/coronavirus-covid-19-emergency-orders/. Emergency Order No. 2 clarified that school closures did not extend Spring Break possession periods. Emergency Order No. 3 provided that in person hearings should not be conducted at this time which created the need for video hearings discussed more in depth below. Emergency Order No. 7 states that possession exchanges do not cease due to stay at home or shelter in place orders.

One March 27th Travis County extended their court closure for in person hearings to May 11, 2020. Williamson County issued a Second Order on April 1, 2020 cancelling all family law jury trials through June 30th and outlining the procedure to request an electronic hearing in the meantime. Several surrounding counties have cancelled in person hearings through April 30th. Additionally, Governor Abbott clarified his statewide order last Wednesday indicating that it is a stay at home order through April 30th except for essential functions such as going to the grocery store.

Many courts have chosen Zoom as their virtual hearing platform. Zoom hearings require that an email be sent to each participant. There is the option to also require a password in order to enter a hearing in which case that password would be provided to the participants. Also, many hosts have people automatically go to a “waiting room” in Zoom so the participants are not all admitted to the hearing at once. Should a Zoom hearing be scheduled in your case, please consult with your attorney on how to use Zoom and be cautious in using any chat functions if they are enabled.

Williamson County has opted for Microsoft Teams as their platform. Much like Zoom, it is a videoconference software and an email invitation is sent to all participants to join in the hearing.

What does all of this mean? It means that possession should continue per any current court orders including exchanges and the schedule should be based on the originally scheduled school calendar. It also means that the attorney in your case may have to submit a request for a virtual hearing in your case that may or may not be taken up at this time. In many counties, the requests are sent in to the court administrator or court coordinator and a decision is made on whether a hearing needs to be scheduled right now or if it will have to wait until in person hearings can be conducted. Of course, hearings of an emergency nature are still being taken up and heard.

While hearings may not be available in every case, there are other productive tasks that can be completed during this quarantine that can push your case forward or get your case started. Contact an experienced family law attorney today to see what your options are and how we can help. As always, here at Vaught Law Firm we understand and we can help.

Corona Virus

Covid-19 and Central Texas Courts: What You Need to Know

The Texas Supreme Court issued an order on Friday, March 13, 2020 allowing courts across the state to extend deadlines, suspend hearings, allow electronic appearances in hearings that must be conducted, and allows the courts to “Take any other reasonable action to avoid exposing court proceedings to the threat of COVID-19.” Travis County issued an Emergency Order for all Travis County Civil and Family Courts on March 13, 2020. Travis County has suspended all in person non-emergency hearings until April 13, 2020. The order goes on to say that this includes “all jury trials, non-jury trials and all non-essential hearings in the family and civil courts. All non-emergency hearings currently scheduled for the next four weeks are hereby postponed and will need to be rescheduled to a later date through Court Administration.” Williamson County also issued and order on March 13, 2020 providing that essential proceedings will continue and anyone with a family law case set between March 16, 2020 – April 1, 2020 will receive specific information regarding the case from the Court Administrator.

So, what does this mean for you and your hearings? What if an emergency arises? This means that any hearing that is a non-emergency hearing such as a hearing on a writ, temporary restraining order, or protective order will be suspended and need to be scheduled, or rescheduled, for a date after the time periods listed for each county. If an emergency hearing needs to be set during the suspension, each county has a different procedure on how that may be accomplished. You will need to discuss your options with your attorney if a need for an emergency hearing arises.

What about possession? Several of the courts around the state have issued opinions or orders advising that possession should proceed under the originally published school calendar. This means if a school district issues an “extension” of Spring Break, that does not mean possession extends for the entire time school is out. Additionally, this means that Thursday periods of possession follow the originally published school calendar and should resume after the originally scheduled Spring Break.

How can we help? Vaught Law Firm is offering current clients and potential clients meetings by telephonic appointment and video conferencing (where accessible). Vaught Law Firm is committed to assisting those in need of advice from experienced attorneys and stand ready to assist even in this time of COVID-19 isolation. Call us today at 512-342-9980 to schedule your consultation with one of our experienced Austin divorce and family law attorneys today.

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Technology, Spousal Spying, and Privacy Rights in a Texas Divorce

As many couples in Texas have unfortunately discovered, the landscape of divorce is markedly different today than it was as little as a decade ago. Factors like advanced technology and social media have conspired to make divorce much more complicated, as more information than ever is available to be used against or in favor of each spouse.

virtual-visitation

Virtual Visitation Rights: A New Trend in Child Custody Cases

Robin Williams, in the movie Mrs. Doubtfire, realizes a parent’s worst nightmare: Following a divorce, a court order prevents him from ever seeing his children. He realizes he cannot live without seeing them and concocts an elaborate plan — he impersonates an elderly nanny to care for them after school — just to remain in their lives.

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Attorney Jillian French joins Vaught Law Firm

Vaught Law Firm, P.C. is proud to welcome Attorney Jillian French as the newest addition to their staff of family law attorneys serving Austin and surrounding areas.

Attorney French joins the Vaught Law Firm P.C. with more than 5 years of experience in the field of family law, most recently as a divorce litigation attorney at Cordell & Cordell. A graduate of St. Edward’s University in Austin with a major in political science, Jillian earned her juris doctor from Texas Wesleyan University School of Law.

Jimmy Vaught, owner of Vaught Law Firm P.C. said “I am so pleased that we are adding Jillian French to our firm.  Her knowledge and experience will enhance the client experience at Vaught Law Firm, P.C.”

Vaught Law Firm P.C. practices exclusively in family law in the Austin area. Our attorneys help men and women with cases involving divorce, custody and visitation, prenuptial agreements, as well as mediation and collaborative law. The attorneys and staff are committed to serving their clients with dignity and empathy during difficult situations.  In addition, Attorney French brings a vast knowledge of military divorce and military family law issues.

According to Attorney French, “I am so excited to join such a well respected firm and have a mentor like Jimmy. He is a published CLE author, appellate lawyer, and an amazing mediator. I am looking forward to growing as an attorney with the help of the whole Vaught team.”

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Parenting children with chronic illnesses after Divorce

November is diabetes awareness month and it reminded us of several clients we have represented over the years whose children were Type 1 diabetics and the unique issues that were involved in those cases. In fact, when you have a child with any type of chronic illness or disability, family law matters may be more complicated than a traditional support or custody agreement.

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Types of Divorce in Texas

In the State of Texas, if one party wants a divorce, the divorce will eventually be granted. Often one of the spouses wants to continue to work on the marriage and the other spouse is ready to move on. The court cannot compel anyone to marriage counseling.

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