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Houston Business and Family Law Blog

What is open adoption?

In previous decades, adoption was often shrouded in secrecy. Birth mothers often did not know who was adopting their children, and the adoptive parents and children in turn usually had no contact with birth mothers. That's not the case today.

Although closed adoptions do still exist, many more children are placed in families through open adoptions, although estimates vary. One study found that 95 percent of 4,440 adoptions over a two-year period had some level of contact between parties. A 2007-2008 study by the National Survey of Adoptive Parents found that 68 percent of people surveyed had contact between children and family birth members.

    RAC audits returned more than $3 billion in overpayments last year

    The Recovery Audit Contractor (RAC) program is big business for the federal government. According to the health care industry publication Modern Healthcare, RAC auditors collected more than $3 billion in 2013.

    According to Modern Healthcare, recovery auditors identified $3.75 billion in incorrect payments to hospitals and doctors during the 2013 fiscal year. Overpayments made up $3.65 billion of that amount. The magazine reported on the release of an annual report to Congress, available here.

    The federal Eastern District of Texas is a haven for patent trolls

    The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas is the federal judicial district that covers 43 counties in eastern Texas. It is known as a friendly venue for patent litigation. As a result, it ranks as one of the most popular judicial districts for patent lawsuits - and patent troll lawsuits are frequently filed there.

    According to Lex Machina, a legal analytics company, the Eastern District of Texas had 1,495 new patent cases in 2013, up 20 percent from 2012. That makes it the district with the most new patent cases in 2013. The second most popular is the District of Delaware, which had 1,336 new patent filings. Many businesses are registered in Delaware. Coming in third was the Central District of California, with 399 new filings.

    What if my unfaithful spouse gave me a sexually transmitted disease?

    Infidelity in relationships is not unusual. By some commonly cited estimates, up to 50 percent of partners in relationships cheat, although some studies put the rate of infidelity much lower. Cheating is frequently a cause of divorce, and it sometimes comes with health consequences from sexually transmitted diseases. If your soon-to-be former spouse gave you a sexually transmitted disease, you may have recourse.

    In Texas, the transmission of a sexually transmitted disease is one basis for a marital tort. A tort is an allegation that happens when someone's careless or intentional act causes harm to another person.

    Judge: BP was grossly negligent in Deepwater Horizon oil spill

    BP can expect to bear most of the responsibility for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion that killed 11 workers and created a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. That message was clear when a U.S. district judge released a ruling in the first phase of lengthy litigation to determine which companies are liable for the catastrophe.

    BP's case is part of multidistrict litigation also involving Transocean, which owned the rig, and Halliburton, which provided services on the rig. According to an article in Texas Lawyer, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier issued a ruling earlier this month that BP is 67 percent liable, Transocean is 30 percent liable and Halliburton is 3 percent liable.

    Finding the right business partner

    Your business partner is an integral part of the success or failure of your business. The right partner can complement your strengths, reduce your weaknesses and give you the kind of perspective that helps build a strong business model and carry out your plans. The trick is to make sure that a business partner is right for you.

    In 2013, Entrepreneur magazine listed key questions to ask before committing to a business partner. You should find out information such as:

    What happens to spousal support after remarriage?

    Not all marriages are financially equal. In many marriages, one spouse is a primary earner or has more money for other reasons. Divorce can leave the nonearning spouse in financial ruin - which is one reason Texas law provides for spousal maintenance, also called alimony or spousal support. There is an entire list of factors for spousal maintenance, including, but not limited to, how much the parties estate is worth and how much you are getting from the division of property. For higher-earning parties, the idea of permanent spousal maintenance can feel frustrating, especially if their exes enter into new relationships. But these people can cast aside their fears of being forced to pay support to their ex- and their ex's new husband or wife.

    Under Texas law, the obligation to pay spousal maintenance ends if the other party remarries. In fact, a court can order spousal maintenance terminated if the person receiving it lives with his or her new romantic partner.

    Health care billing practices are under increased scrutiny

    In July 2014, a federal jury found a Texas businessman guilty of 15 counts of health care fraud. The jurors found that the man had directed the billing coders at his hospital to illegally change diagnoses in up to $1.1 million worth of claims to Medicare. The businessman could face up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced, likely next year, according to the Dallas Morning News.

    In August 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that a Tennessee-based health care system would pay $98 million to settle claims of improper billing. It alleged that the hospital system admitted patients when it was not medically necessary to do so and billed Medicaid, Medicare and Tricare, the military insurance program. About $9 million will be used to settle similar claims at a medical center in Laredo, Texas.

    Obtaining temporary orders in a Texas divorce

    If you are starting the divorce process, you are entering a process with an end goal of a fair division of property and a custody and visitation plan that is in your children's best interests. Before you reach that goal, however, you may feel like you are facing more immediate problems. Where will your kids live while the divorce is pending? How will you pay your bills? Which one of you will live in your house? What if your spouse tries to force you to accept terms that are not fair or in the best interest of your children?

    Many families have these problems during divorce. Because they are so common, the Texas family code gives your attorney the ability to protect you and make sure that you can have a stable life while your divorce proceeds.

    Divorce and the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act

    The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) is a law passed in 2003 that protects the legal rights of active duty military personnel who are stationed overseas. Much of the law deals with issues such as leases, foreclosures and other financial matters that military members may encounter while deployed. However, provisions of the law can also affect military divorce, custody and other family law matters.

    The SCRA applies to civil court proceedings - including family law court hearings -- that happen when a military member cannot be present. As noted in an American Bar Association publication about SCRA, the law was enacted to allow those serving in the armed forces to focus on the defense of the nation and to prevent their civil rights from being affected by court proceedings that occur during their service.