Jonathan James 2017-10-20 12:17:03
Custody Fight When grandparents or other relatives seek parental rights. In the majority of my cases involving custody, both parents are involved and are the only ones in the dispute. Occasionally, though, I’ll encounter a situation in which a grandparent or another relative is seeking custody from both parents. The first word of caution I give clients in these cases is that it’s difficult for a grandparent (or any other relative) to win and harder when there are two parents involved, regardless of their marital status. For the court to grant custody to a non-parent, the person seeking primary conservatorship must show that it is necessary for the child’s physical or emotional well-being, due to the impairment of the parents, to remove him or her from their care. For example, if both parents suffer from drug addiction and a child is at risk of physical or emotional harm in being with either parent, the court may grant custody to a relative. While custody in and of itself might be difficult to secure, there is some recourse possible for a relative to step in that doesn’t require custody. Parents can authorize a blood relative to make decisions for their child that are typically reserved for them—the ability to make decisions about medical treatment, schooling, and extracurricular activities. These agreements can be signed out of court and can be drawn up when a parent feels that he or she can’t fulfill parental duties. For example, if a parent is battling a drug addiction and has decided to go to rehab, he or she can designate a blood relative to function as the guardian while he or she is unable to fulfill the responsibilities. While the parent can revoke the agreement at any time, it does allow a relative seeking custody the chance to serve as a parent to the child in the short term. It also could help in a custody case down the road, should it be necessary to demonstrate that the parent was willing to at least temporarily cede the rights and duties to a trusted relative concerned about a child’s welfare. It’s important to note, when we’re discussing custody, that there are really two halves to the term, and a lawsuit could result in one but not the other. One half of the custody equation is possession and access—or how much time the child spends with a particular parent or guardian. The other half refers to the rights and duties of a parent—in other words, the decision-making connected to a child’s health, education, and general welfare. Even if a relative secures the rights and duties portion of custody, it’s still possible for one or both parents to be granted access to the child in a noncustodial parent role. While a judge in such a case will typically act in what he or she determines to be the best interest of the child, that view might not necessarily coincide with what the custody-seeking relative deems to be the best interest of the child. In these matters, it’s important to consult with a family lawyer at the outset, and the more information you can provide about the situation, the better. That will give your lawyer a sense of the options available and the best strategy to pursue. This article, which was originally published on the Hance Law Group Blog, has been edited and reprinted with permission. Emeritus Attorneys: It’s Time to Report MCLE Hours The Supreme Court issued an order dated April 28, 2015, that amends Article XII of the State Bar Rules to eliminate the MCLE exemption for emeritus attorneys. Beginning June 1, 2017, emeritus members will be required to comply with MCLE reporting requirements. FAQs Why was the MCLE exemption for emeritus attorneys removed? The recommendation to remove the MCLE emeritus exemption came from the State Bar Task Force on Aging Lawyer Issues. The MCLE emeritus exemption was removed to ensure that all active practicing attorneys remain current in the law. The recommendation was approved by the State Bar MCLE Committee and then by the State Bar Board of Directors and the Supreme Court of Texas. Are current emeritus members “grandfathered” and exempt from the new requirements? No. When does the MCLE requirement for emeritus attorneys become effective? The MCLE requirement applies to compliance years starting on or after June 1, 2016. Previously exempt attorneys may claim credit for CLE completed within 12 months immediately preceding the first compliance year beginning on or after June 1, 2016, provided that these CLE hours have not been used for compliance in a prior year. What if I am retired and no longer practice law, or I practice only for family? Attorneys who no longer practice law may claim MCLE non-practicing status or inactive membership status. To be eligible for either status as an option for MCLE compliance, an attorney must be non-practicing or inactive during the entire MCLE compliance year. Members who practice law at the beginning of a compliance year and later change to inactive status are not eligible for an exemption but may defer their MCLE requirements. Members who practice law only for family members may claim the MCLE non-practicing status, but must remain on an active membership status. To request inactive membership status, contact the Membership Department at firstname.lastname@example.org or (800) 204-2222, ext. 1383. To request MCLE non-practicing status, contact the MCLE Department at email@example.com or (800) 204-2222, ext. 1806. What is the difference between MCLE non-practicing status and inactive membership status? Either status will exempt an attorney from MCLE requirements. However, members who request inactive membership status are ineligible to vote in State Bar elections. Members who request MCLE non-practicing status are considered active members of the State Bar, can continue to vote in State Bar elections, but do not need to complete the yearly 15-hour MCLE requirement. What if I am ill, disabled, or unable to travel to MCLE courses? Travel and attendance at live CLE is not required. All MCLE hours can be completed through approved webinars, teleconferences, DVDs, and downloadable programs. Hardship exemptions and extensions may be available for those who have experienced medical or other extraordinary hardship during the compliance year. Contact MCLE staff for information on applying for an extension or hardship exemption. Are there low-cost CLE options for those on a fixed income? Yes. There are a variety of low-cost and free options available. MCLE staff can help with finding suitable CLE, or attorneys can use the course search site at texasbar.com/coursesearch. This content is for informational purposes only. Consult an attorney regarding specific legal questions. JONATHAN JAMES is a lawyer with the Hance Law Group in Dallas. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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