This blog usually highlights legal developments or interesting articles. This post is different--it's personal, I'm going to brag about my dad.
He's a runner, a stair-climber, a cyclist, a family lawyer, and a licensed (inactive) master plumber. My dad has been participating in the National and Texas Senior Games for years. He's won medals in the 400, 800, and 1500 meter races at the National Senior Games. He finished first in his age group climbing up the Empire State Building in 2012. Now, he's been recognized for his fitness accomplishments--and his callout for all of us to try to be more fit-- in the Texas Bar Journal's In Recess section. I'm proud of his accomplishments, in and out of the courtroom.
He's still at it. He won Gold, Silver and Bronze medals at the Texas Senior Olympics this past weekend in the 400M, 800M, and 1500M races
The article appears below, and here's a pdf download link to the whole In Recess on the State Bar's website.
The Dallas Morning News is reporting that United States District Judge Orlando Garcia has ruled that Texas' ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. Both the Texas Family Code and Texas State Constitution ban same-sex marriage. The article cites the judge's decision:
“Today’s court decision is not made in defiance of the great people of Texas or the Texas Legislature, but in compliance with the U.S. Constitution and Supreme Court precedent,” he said in his order. “Without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our U.S. Constitution.” Lawyers arguing for the State said that the legislature and the citizens of Texas had chosen to "preserve the traditional definition of marriage." It appears the judge was not swayed by that argument. Judge Garcia "acknowledged his ruling would be far from the final say on the matter" the DMN reports. It is likely that the Supreme Court will decide the issue by ruling on this case (or one of the 22 similar cases in other states) in the future.
Personally, I'm not surprised by this ruling. Recently, federal courts in Virginia, Oklahoma, Utah and other states have struck down various state-level same-sex marriage bans. These cases are a direct result of the U.S. Supreme Court's U.S. v. Windsor decision. In Windsor, the Court struck down section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that restricted the federal definition of "marriage" and "spouse" to heterosexual unions was descriminatory and violated the Fifth Amendment.
The judge has stayed his ruling from taking effect until the ruling can be reviewed on appeal. So how does this ruling effect Texans?
Right now, nothing has changed. Same-sex couples are still prohibited from obtaining a marriage license. It is likely that the State will appeal the ruling to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Read the whole article here, it also has a copy of the Judge's ruling attached.
It's hard to imagine life without text messaging, e-mail, and social media. They help to make the world a smaller place. But they can also carry significant risks, especially when you find yourself in the middle of a legal proceeding such as a divorce. Firing off an angry e-mail, text, or tweet could have potential consequences in your case. With social media and electronic communications, the name of the game is think before you text.
Communication between spouses can be important evidence in a divorce case. E-mails and text messages can help show a judge or jury the real dynamics of a relationship, and potentially impeach a witness who is on their best behavior because they're in court. These are just a few examples of electronic evidence, which is an emerging area in Texas Family Law.
Once you send text, e-mail, or social media post, it is out of your control. Before sending something, answer a couple questions.
1) What might a judge or jury think of this text/e-mail/post?
2) Do I want to have to explain this to a judge or jury?
3) Do I want this published in the newspaper?
4) Would I want my children to see this?
It's in no one's interest that a message like the one below gets sent and then entered into evidence at trial:
The above comic is from a webcomic called Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. It seems absurd, but it serves as an example: you don't want to be that guy.
There are a lot of parts of a divorce case that are out of a client's control, like court schedules, but e-mails, text messages, and social media posts are definitely within a client's control. Don't commit an unforced error. Think before you text.
This article was excerpted in the November 2012 issue of D Magazine.
Leave it to the Baby Boomers to fuel their very own trend in divorce.
While the overall divorce rate is declining in North Texas, people age 50 and older are divorcing at an alarming rate. In 1990, the 50-plus crowd accounted for one in 10 divorces. In 2008, one in four divorces involved Boomer-age couples. Nationwide, more than 600,000 people age 50 and older got divorced in 2009.
“Gray divorces are a new and different kind of process,” says Ken Raggio, whose Dallas family law firm Raggio & Raggio has developed a protocol specifically to serve this growing market of older Dallas divorce. “The normal reasons people divorce – money problems, child issues and infidelity – aren’t the reasons most older people come to see us. They’ve raised their kids, made their money and now they want the last part of their lives to be more interesting and fulfilling.”
An AARP study in 2004 suggests that women initiate almost 70% of gray divorces served by the best Dallas family lawyers. As women survey their empty nests and face decades of healthy life, many decide their parental duties are complete and look forward to more excitement than a Law & Order marathon in the evening. Increasingly, they believe “til death do us part” is unrealistic with today’s longer life spans.
Family lawyer Barbara Van Duyne says gray divorces are of prime concern to Dallas divorce attorneys. “We started seeing a trend of our friends and colleagues getting divorced after 30 to 40 years of marriage. These are the couples you look at and wonder who would ever have thought they would break up? Once we become involved in the intricacies of the Dallas family law proceedings, we become aware of the unique issues, complicated concerns and emotional turmoil this age group faces.”
“Our job, in reality, is to make certain that our Dallas family law clients receive full value for their portion of the estate,” says attorney Tom Raggio. “Frequently this process can be less than obvious and requires more than a superficial analysis. In most cases, if they are retired or near retirement, this is probably the best financial condition they can expect.
“We look at retirement accounts and other savings,” Tom says. “There’s often real estate involved, and we have to get maximum value for that. We sometimes bring in a financial planner, especially if a Dallas divorce client has not been involved in managing money. We can use conventional litigation or collaborative law, but we have to be very careful with the money they have.”
The Dallas divorce attorney must give the client an honest appraisal of the assets they have to accomplish those goals. “The home used to be the real prize in a divorce,” says attorney Grier Raggio. “Now we look very closely at the home and whether our client is better off getting that or other assets.”
Jeff Raggio, Ken’s 27-year-old son and an associate at the Dallas divorce firm, says the firm’s older clients seem to be looking for the same bright future as the younger clients he and other Raggio attorneys represent. “It’s important to make this a hopeful process,” he says, “and this is something all of us work to achieve. A common thread across all age groups in divorce cases is that one or both parties realize the relationship is no longer working. Our firm helps clients on the journey to get their lives back on track.”
Those experiencing gray divorces should have plenty of company on that journey. One researcher predicts the annual number of over-50 divorces nationwide should exceed 800,000 by 2030.
As with all other Baby Boomer trends, there continues to be strength in numbers.