Wednesday, December 30, 2009

What is a sole proprietorship?

A sole proprietorship is the common and form of business. Most small businesses begin as sole proprietorship, and many family-run businesses continue to use this form. In a sole proprietorship, a single individual engages in a business activity. There is no formal paperwork required by the state of Texas in order to start or form a sole proprietorship.

If the business is conducted under a name other than the surname of the individual, then an assumed name certificate (or "DBA" for doing business as) should be filed with the County Clerk's office where the business is located. If there is no formal location for the business, then an assumed name certificate should be filed with the county clerks in all counties where business is conducted.

One drawback of the sole proprietorship is that the business owner has liability for all of the debts of the business and any other claims against the business, such as tort liability.

Typically, a sole proprietorship will use the social security number of the individual owner and will pay taxes using Schedule C attached to the owner's 1040 tax form.

If you need a Texas business lawyer, please contact Peterson Law Group.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What is Separate Property?

In Texas, "Separate Property" consists of:
  • the property owned or claimed by a spouse before marriage
  • the property acquired by the spouse during marriage by gift, devise, or descent
  • the recovery for personal injuries sustained by the spouse during the marriage, except any recovery for loss of earning capacity during marriage.
The separate property remains the property of the individual spouse. Spouses may also agree to set aside portions of their community property as separate property; this is accomplished using a partition or exchange agreement.

Even if separate property is commingled with the community property of the marriage, as long as it can be traced and properly identified, it will remain separate property. This is usually done by seeing how the money was originally spent (usually on a single large purchase, like a house) and tracing the flow of the money through bank accounts and finally the hard assets. However, the better practice remains to keep separate property in a separate account, and to title any assets bought with those separate property funds in the name of the spouse owning the separate property.

If you need a Texas divorce lawyer, contact Peterson Law Group.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Is there alimony in Texas?

The short answer is sort of. In Texas, it is possible to get "spousal maintenance", which is essentially like alimony. Typically, spousal maintenance is available if you have been married for more than 10 years; you lack sufficient property to provide for your minimum needs; and one of the following 3 scenarios applies to your situation:
  • you are unable to support yourself through appropriate employment because of physical or mental disability; or
  • you are the custodian of a child who requires substantial care and personal supervision because a physical or mental disability makes it necessary, taking into consideration the needs of the child, that the spouse seeking maintenance not be employed outside the home; or
  • you lack earning ability in the labor market adequate to provide support for your minimum reasonable needs.
Spousal maintenance is generally available only for a period of 3 years after the date of divorce. Spousal maintenance could be indefinitely available to persons who are unable to support themselves because of incapacitating physical or mental disability.

If you need a Texas divorce lawyer, contact Peterson Law Group.

Monday, December 21, 2009

What is community property in Texas?

In Texas, "Community Property" basically consists of all property acquired by either spouse during marriage that is not otherwise Separate Property. All marital is presumed to be community property unless it is proved to be separate property. Spouses may also agree in writing that his or her separate property is converted to community property.

Another question that often comes up is "What about property we acquired in another state?" The general rule in Texas is that marital property acquired by either spouse while residing elsewhere is community property if it would have been considered as community property if the spouse was living in Texas at the time of acquisition.

Sometimes, these questions of community property versus separate property are very complex, and you may need legal help to determine the status of a marital asset.

If you need a Texas divorce lawyer, contact Peterson Law Group.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

How soon can I get remarried after my Texas divorce is final?

This is a question we often get asked by divorce clients. In Texas, neither party to a divorce may remarry the 31st day after the date the judge has signed the divorce decree. That means you should not plan a wedding for at least a month after the date of your divorce hearing. You would be surprised how many clients have had to move their wedding date after consulting with us.

One exception to this general rule does exist. Former spouses may remarry each other at any time without waiting for the 30 days to pass. However, we have never had this situation occur in our practice.

If you need a Texas divorce lawyer, contact Peterson Law Group.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

What is the waiting period for getting a divorce?

In Texas, a court may not grant a divorce before the 60th day after the date the divorce lawsuit is filed. This "waiting period" is intended to give the divorcing spouses some time to decide whether they really want a divorce or were just acting in the heat of the moment. Although we have not often had spouses reconcile during this waiting period, it has occurred on a few occasions with our divorce clients. If you are looking for a quick, agreed divorce, it is helpful to remember that the divorce waiting period is not going to let you enter a decree immediately.

If you need a Texas divorce lawyer, contact Peterson Law Group.

Friday, December 18, 2009

When can my child choose which parent to live with?

In Texas, a child who is twelve years of age or older may choose the parent he or she wants to live with, subject to the court’s approval. This must be done in writing (usually like an affidavit), and is filed with the court.

However, the court is not required to approve the child's choice of conservator. The court still must decide what is in the child's best interests considering all of the circumstances.

In our experience, the child's choice of conservator is given a lot of weight by judges.

If you need a Texas family law and child custody lawyer, contact Peterson Law Group.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

What are grounds for divorce in Texas?

In Texas, the court may grant a divorce on any of three no-fault grounds:

  • insupportability
  • living apart for 3 years
  • one spouse's confinement in a mental hospital for 3 years

A divorce may also be granted on any of these fault grounds:
  • cruelty
  • adultery
  • one spouse's conviction of a felony
  • abandonment of a spouse for one year

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Who Was Supposed To Be Watching Grandma?

There is a popular tune played this time of year called “Grandma Got Run Over by A Reindeer” which relates that Grandma -- after drinking too much eggnog -- went out into the winter cold to get her medication and was run over by a reindeer. The question is, “Who was supposed to be watching Grandma?”

Though this little tune is just for fun, it may very well raise alarms to many caregivers of the elderly. Caregivers know that even at a holiday party they cannot let down their diligent watch over their elderly loved one. As far-fetched as it may sound, with all the people and noise, an elderly family member with dementia or Alzheimer’s may be enjoying the family gathering and then suddenly become confused and walk to the door and leave.

For family caregivers the added stress of the holidays with decorating, shopping, parties and keeping up with all the family traditions is an overwhelming quest. Feelings of isolation, depression and sadness come with this added stress. There are millions of Americans who are caring for elderly frail loved ones and most of these caregivers will go through some of these emotions, especially this time of year.

There are some things you can do as a caregiver to help you and those you care for enjoy the holiday season.

First take care of yourself. Try to eat right, get plenty of sleep and exercise. This will help reduce stress and strengthen your ability to cope with caregiving responsibilities.

Prioritize your holiday traditions. Perhaps instead of cooking a large family dinner, have everyone bring his or her favorite dish. Use paper plates. Forfeit the traditional outside light decorating for a lighted wreath on the front door. Choose one or two parties or concerts to attend instead of trying to do it all.

Arrange for help. Call on other family members to help with the caregiving while you do your shopping or go out for the evening. If family is not available, ask your church group or a neighbor if they would donate a few hours.

Use community services. Many senior centers provide meals for the elderly and supervised activities, onsite, at no charge or a minimal charge. For locating senior services in your state, call your state Area Agency on Aging or check the national locator website at

Use adult day care services. Some assisted living facilities provide day activities and meals for seniors on a day by day basis. Other organizations called "adult day service providers" specialize exclusively in this sort of care support at a reasonable cost. These support services provide respite for caregivers from their caregiving responsibilities as well as social interaction for their elderly family members. There is a cost for adult day services, but the benefit for all is worth it.

For example:

Jean had brought her mother into her home to care for her when mom's Alzheimer’s made it impossible for her to be alone. When the Christmas season approached, Jean realized she had to make some choices. She did not want to give up the traditions she had set with her daughters in shopping and lunches, but it wouldn’t be possible with her caregiving responsibilities. In searching for a solution, Jean visited an adult day services facility near her home. She found she could schedule the days she needed off for her mother to come in. The adult day services company also provided transportation and would pick up mom and bring her home in the evening.

Although Jean's mother was not sure she would like to go at first, she found she enjoyed the programs, meals and conversation with new friends and the activities provided.

The time it gave Jean to have for herself was worth the extra cost for the day care.

Technology to the rescue. Here is a solution that would have kept “Grandma” from going out in the winter cold and getting run over by a reindeer. Companies that have created monitoring systems, security alarms and other safety equipment are “tweaking” them to adapt to the needs of seniors and their care givers.

Here are a few examples:

  • Ankle or wrist bands that monitor location and alert the provider when a person has gone beyond the designated perimeter, such as out the front door of the house.
  • Motion detectors. Set throughout the home, motion detectors allow someone outside the home to follow a senior as he or she moves through the house.
  • Smart medication dispensers. Live monitoring and dispensing of pills.
  • Emergency response alert. At a touch of a button on a desktop monitor, bracelet or necklace, emergency help is summoned.

Whether providing care in your home or helping senior family members in their own homes, your use of monitoring and “tech” help aids can provide extra safety for your loved ones, and peace of mind for you.

You are not alone. Join a caregiving help group. Your local senior center may have one or go on the internet to find one. Hearing about other caregivers' problems and solutions and being able to share your own and ask questions is a great way to relieve stress and gain a new perspective. Check out websites like the National Family Caregivers Association at

Work with a Senior Care Professional. Recognize that you are doing the very best you know how. You are not a geriatric health care practitioner, geriatric care manager, home care nurse or aide, hospice provider or family mediation counselor, nor do you have the years of training and experience these professionals have, but you can definitely use their experience. In fact, using a senior care specialist will make caregiving easier for you and more beneficial for your elderly family member.

As an example:

Mark stopped by his father Dan’s home every night after work to help with any errands or things he needed around the house. He began to notice that Dan was not showering, dressing or even fixing meals some days. Another concern was his father's growing confusion and disorientation. A trip to the family doctor only brought more concern to Mark, since the doctor claimed it was just the aging process that caused the confusion.

Wanting a second professional opinion on what was best for his father, Mark hired Shelly -- a Professional Geriatric Care Manger -- to do an assessment. Shelly arranged for Mark and Dan to see a geriatrician, who advised that proper meals and an increase in some vitamins, would help clear up the confusion and disorientation. Shelly arranged for a home care company to come in daily to help with personal needs and prepare meals.

Soon Dan was back to his old self and able to function on his own.

You can find a wide variety of care professionals in your area on the National Care Planning Council website at

One more thing to remember. As a family caregiver, the greatest gift you are giving this holiday season is “Love.”