Accidents on Icy Texas Roads — Who Is Responsible?

It's winter in Texas. While that rarely means snow, it's not that unusual for motorists in Texas to encounter the challenges of driving on icy roads. Unfortunately, rain can turn to ice in an instant. What are the consequences when you're involved in a motor vehicle accident on an icy road in the middle of a Texas winter? Who is responsible for damages and how is liability determined?

Partial Government Shutdown as it Affects IRS

The recent partial government shutdown has affected 800,000 government employees. As we enter the tax filing season, many wonder if the IRS is affected and if so, how?

Path to Green Card for Victims of Crimes in the United States

The U nonimmigrant (U visa) status was specifically created for victims of certain crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse due to the crime and are helpful to law enforcement or government officials in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity. The U visa process is a path to residency, also known as a green card, which grants permanent legal status in the United States. The U visa process is long and tedious and involves several steps, but if granted, it can provide you with legal status in the country.

Facing an Assault Charge after the Holidays?

It’s supposed to be a time of peace on earth, good will to all persons. Unfortunately, most domestic violence experts say, physical assault doesn't take a holiday at Christmas and New Years.

SSA Proposes Implementing More Video Conference Hearings

Increasingly the Social Security administration is utilizing video conferencing technology to conduct hearings in less urban locations and to ease the current back log. However, the claimant’s have always been given the opportunity to “opt out” of video conferencing if the claimant so desired. SSA is now proposing to eliminate the opt out provision, thereby expanding the use of the program.

Disengagement – Part One

Several years ago, James Brill wrote an excellent article for the Texas Bar Journal entitled, “Discouraging Disengagement.” It was billed as a helpful way to remind clients to maintain their estate plans. While we strive to build estate plans to last, various changes in the circumstances of clients’ lives means that amending the plans over the course of time will be necessary.

Lifetime alimony… in Texas

Alimony - Money In EnvelopeNo, that’s not a misprint. And, while lifetime spousal support after divorce is certainly not the norm, Texas courts do have the power and authority to order alimony (we call it spousal maintenance) if specific conditions are met, including the obligation to make spousal maintenance payments for as long as the recipient continues to meet certain criteria.

In general, a spouse seeking alimony must be “eligible” to receive the maintenance support. When parties divorce in Texas, not only does the court divide community property, but it also has the discretion and power to order recurring payments from one spouse to the other in the event that the spouse seeking maintenance will lack sufficient property (including separate property) to provide for his/her minimum reasonable needs.

Interestingly, there is no definition of “minimum reasonable needs” in the Texas Family Code. Accordingly, the courts are faced with a fact-specific analysis in each case. In this regard, courts generally consider evidence of the following expenses to be part of the spouse’s reasonable minimum needs: rent/mortgage, property taxes, automobile payments, utilities, gasoline, groceries, drugs and medicine, clothing, and child care costs.

Next, assuming a spouse satisfies the first element of proving their eligibility for post divorce maintenance, the spouse seeking alimony must also pass the second prong of the eligibility test by establishing one of the following four pathways to receive the support.

  1. Evidence that the requesting spouse is the victim of family violence resulting in a conviction or deferred adjudication that occurred within 2 years before suit was filed or while pending;

  2. Evidence that a disability exists which prevents the requesting spouse to earn sufficient income due to an incapacitating physical or mental disability;

  3. A marriage that has lasted at least ten years, and the requesting spouse is unable to earn sufficient income to meet his/her minimum reasonable needs; or

  4. The requesting spouse is caring for a disabled child which causes the spouse to be unable to earn sufficient income.

Once both prongs of the eligibility test have been met, the court must determine the duration of support. There is a presumption that courts will limit support payments to the shortest reasonable period of time necessary for the spouse seeking alimony to earn sufficient income to provide for their own minimum reasonable needs. Indeed, the legislature has established certain periods of time for the maximum duration of support as follows:

  1. if the basis for spousal maintenance is an act of family violence, or if the length of marriage is at least ten years, but less than 20 years, then the court may only allow support for a maximum period of five years.

  2. If the marriage was at least 20 years in length, but less than 30 years, then the duration of alimony can last no more than 7 years.

  3. If the marriage is 30 years or more at the time of divorce, then the alimony can be awarded for no more than 10 years.

  4. However, if the spousal maintenance award is based upon a spouse’s inability to earn sufficient income due to an incapacitating physical or mental disability -- there is no maximum length of time for the award of post divorce spousal maintenance. Instead, the court maintains jurisdiction to order the support as long as the spouse meets the eligibility criteria.

Finally, once it is determined that a spouse is eligible for maintenance and the duration of time has been set for the payments to be made, the court must then set the dollar amount of spousal maintenance (alimony) per month. The maximum amount of support to be awarded to the requesting spouse is based upon the following: either 20% of the obligor’s average monthly gross income; or $5,000 – whichever amount is less. There is no requirement that spousal maintenance completely eliminate a requesting spouse’s shortfall of their monthly financial needs.

In conclusion, the amount of alimony to be awarded in a divorce is determined on a case-by-case basis, and the court is guided by a multitude of factors, including the length of marriage and the actual needs of the requesting spouse. For these reasons, and because the court maintains jurisdiction to modify or terminate the alimony award even after the divorce is final, it is important to discuss your individual situation with a family law attorney familiar with these subjects.

Supplemental Income Benefits: You received an Impairment rating 15% or Higher

When you have reached Maximum Medical Improvement and receive an impairment rating that is 15% or higher, you may be entitled to received Supplemental Income Benefits. SIBS are paid out monthly, which is calculated by using your Average Weekly Wage (AWW).You apply quarterly, so every 3 months you apply in order to receive monthly benefits for that Quarter.