Monday, December 17, 2007

Internet Legal Information -- Handle with Care!

Years ago, Johnny Cash had a song about building a unique car "One Piece at a Time". In the song, he built a'49, '50, '51, '52...'70 model Cadillac by taking one piece a day from the auto factory where he worked. It's fascinating to try to picture his creation because Cadillac models evolved quite a bit during those years. You know the car would never work in real life, but it made a song that was fun to listen to.

Some people seeking a divorce use Johnny's approach and find out information about legal issues without limiting their search to their home state. That can be a serious problem whether they are just copying or downloading forms or learning about procedures. Piecing together paperwork using other states' forms can lead to problems ranging from wasting your time to having an unenforceable order to having the divorce thrown out of court. Some states, such as California, have standard forms which are readily available for the parties to fill out and file for themselves. Texas does not do that. Although there are some standard software programs used in Texas, there are not any standard state-issued forms that the parties can fill out and submit.

Similarly, trying to act in a Texas case based on New York or Florida or Kansas procedures won't be very effective. In addition, each state will have some variations and unique provisions regarding visitation and child support, as well as property division issues. Texas is surrounded by Lousiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma and New Mexico, but their laws are different in many respects from Texas laws.

The point is that you should be careful to rely on information about family law matters that is based on the law of your state. Don't pick parts of the law from different states and then try to mold them into your pleadings or strategy for your home state. It's fine to research legal issues on the Internet, but just pay attention to the context and what state is being discussed.

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