Archive for October, 2010

Name Changes in Texas

Name Changes in Texas

Changing your legal name in Texas is a relatively simple process. While most name changes are completed in conjunction with a marriage or a divorce, this article will largely address obtaining a name change as a separate, independent process.

In almost all circumstances other than marriage or divorce, a request for change of name must be made in a petition filed with the court and the court must sign an order granting the person a new name. To permit a person to change his or her name, the court has certain requirements that must be met to ensure that the change is not sought to avoid legal trouble. If the name change is for a child, there are added requirements that the parents or conservators of the child must be served and the name change must be in the best interest of the child.

Filing a Petition For a Change of Name

The first step in obtaining a name change is to file an original petition for change of name. The petition must be filed with the district clerk of the county where the person requesting the name change, known as the petitioner, resides.The clerk will then assign the case to a specific court. According to Texas law,the petitioner must sign the petition in the presence of a notary and swear that all of the information it contains is true.

If you are requesting a child’s name change, Texas law requires that the petition requesting the name change be served by a constable or process server on each parent of the child that has not had his or her parental rights terminated or any managing conservator or guardian of the child. Additionally, a petition for the change of name of a child requires different information than a petition for an adult’s name change.?

Preparing and Entering An Order for Change of Name

After a petition has been filed and properly served, if service is necessary,the petitioner will have to schedule a time with the court’s coordinator to appear before the judge and have an order signed by the judge.

Like the petition, the order that the judge will sign must contain certain information. The order must not only contain the same information that is included in the petition, but must also state that the name change is in the interest or to the benefit of the petitioner and is in the interest of the public.When the petitioner presents the order to the court, he or she must also testify in open court as to each of the things listed in the order.

When the name change is requested fora child, the order must state and the petitioner must show that the parents or other required persons have been served with the petition for name change and that the required parties have agreed to the name change either by signing the order or testifying in court. If the matter is contested, the request for the name change must beset for a hearing with the court on a specific date and time and all necessary parties must be notified of the hearing.

The order for change of name for a child must include the same information as the petition, a statement that the change is in the best interest of the child and signed agreement of the parents or other required persons if the name change is uncontested.

After the Order Is Entered

After the court has signed the order,several government agencies and organizations must be notified of the name change. Among other offices, a person must notify the Social Security Agency and Department of Motor Vehicles to obtain a new social security card and driver’s license. In addition to government agencies, credit card companies, banks,employers, insurance providers, and other private organizations must be notified of the name change. Each group has different requirements as to how this information will need to be updated, so it is important to contact the individual organization to determine how to proceed with recording the name change. If proof of the name change is required, a name change certificate can be obtained from the district court clerk for a small fee. If a child’s name has been changed and the child has been the subject of a custody or child support order, the person that obtained the name change must also send a copy of the order to the Central Record File at the Bureau of Vital Statistics.

Finally, it is important to remember that a court ordered name change does not release a person or a child from liability incurred in that person’s previous name or defeat any right the person or child had in the previous name.

This article is excerpted from Name Changes in Texas, a pamphlet produced as a public service by the Texas Young Lawyers Association. To download a full copy of the pamphlet, visit, write TYLA, P.O. Box 12487, Capitol Station, Austin 78711-2487, or call (800)204-2222, Ext. 1800.

Did you know the Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act (SCRA) protects active duty military from repossessions and foreclosures?

SCRA Installment Contract Protection

A servicemember who, prior to entry into active duty, entered an installment contract for the purchase of real or personal property (including motor vehicle), is protected under the SCRA if the servicemember’s ability to make the payments is “materially affected” by the military service.

  • The servicemember must have paid, prior to entry onto active duty, a deposit or installment under the contract.
  • The seller is then prohibited from exercising any right or option under the contract to rescind or terminate the contract, to resume possession of the property for nonpayment of any installment due, or to breach the terms of the contract, unless authorized by the court.
  • The SSCRA protects servicemembers against foreclosures of mortgages, as long as the following facts are established:
    1. The relief is sought on an obligation secured by a mortgage, trust deed; or other security in the nature of a mortgage on either real or personal property;
    2. The obligation originated prior to entry on active duty;
    3. The property was owned by the servicemember or family member prior to entry on active duty;
    4. The property is still owned by the servicemember or family member at the time relief is sought;
    5. The ability to meet the financial obligation is materially affected by the servicemember’s active duty obligation.

Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 FAQ

Q: How will the law help struggling homeowners keep their homes?
A: Through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), an estimated 400,000 borrowers in danger of losing their homes will be able to refinance into more affordable government-insured mortgages. The program offers government insurance to lenders who voluntarily reduce mortgages for at-risk homeowners to at least 90% of the property’s current value.

Q: When will the program begin?
A: The program will begin on October 1, 2008 and sunset on September 30, 2011. Homeowners in danger of losing their homes before October 1, however, should not wait to contact their loan servicers and should begin applying for federally insured mortgages now.

Q: Who is eligible?
A: To be eligible to participate in this program, a borrower must:

  • Have a loan on an owner-occupied principal residence. Investors, speculators, or borrowers who own second homes cannot participate in this program.
  • Have a monthly mortgage payment greater than at least 31 percent of the borrower’s total monthly income, as of March 1, 2008.
  • Certify that he or she has not intentionally defaulted on an existing mortgage, and did not obtain the existing loan fraudulently.
  • Not have been convicted of fraud.

Q: How can a homeowner access this new program?
A: Homeowners or a servicer of an existing eligible loan need to contact an FHA-approved lender. The FHA-approved lender will determine the size of a loan that a borrower can reasonably repay and that meets the requirements of the program. If the current lender or mortgage holder agrees to write-down the amount of the existing mortgage and make the new loan affordable, the FHA lender will pay off the discounted existing mortgage. Loans provided under this program must be 30-year fixed rate loans.

Q: Are lenders required to participate in this program?
A: No. The program is completely voluntary for lenders, investors, loan servicers, and borrowers.

Q: How does this law help neighborhoods that have been hit by the foreclosure crisis?
A: The impact of the current crisis has not been isolated to individual borrowers or investors, but has been felt broadly by neighbors, communities, and governments across the nation. The law strengthens neighborhoods hit hardest by the foreclosure crisis by providing $3.9 billion in Community Development Block Grants to states and localities to buy foreclosed homes standing empty, rehabilitate foreclosed properties, and stabilize the housing market.

Q: Will this law be a bailout for speculators, homeowners, investors, and lenders?
A: No. It is narrowly tailored to keep families in their homes. For example:

  • Only primary residences are eligible: NO speculators, investment properties, second or third homes will be refinanced.
  • Investors and lenders must take big losses first in order even to participate. The owner of the old mortgage can get a maximum of 90% of the current value of the home (which presumably will be considerably less than the value of the original loan). In many cases the loss will be significantly greater, but 10% is the minimum.
  • In addition, lenders must waive any penalties or fees, and help pay for the origination and closing costs of the new loans.
  • Most homeowners will have seen the equity in their homes disappear before being able to refinance under this program. In addition, the FHA will get a portion of any future profits on the house, to make sure the government recoups its investment over the long run.

Q: Will this law reward families who bought homes they could not afford?
A: Many homeowners facing foreclosure were misled, were deceived, or were in other ways the victims of unfair lending practices.  To prevent future abuses by lenders, this law will establish a nationwide loan originator licensing and registration system to set minimum standards for all residential mortgage brokers and lenders. It also strengthens mortgage disclosure requirements to help ensure that borrowers understand their mortgage loan terms.

Q: How will this law make it more affordable to own a home?
A: There are a number of provisions that will make homeownership more affordable:

  • Creates a refundable tax credit for first-time homebuyers that works like an interest-free loan of up to $7,500 (to be paid back over 15 years).
  • Grants states $11 billion of additional tax-exempt bond authority in 2008 that they can use to refinance subprime loans, make loans to first-time homebuyers and to finance the building of affordable rental housing.
  • Raises conforming loan limits for the FHA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to $625,500. Because of the high cost of housing in California, a majority of the state’s residents were previously shut out from these programs. Raising these loan limits will lead to lower interest rates on some loans, greater refinancing opportunities, and enable more borrowers in high cost areas to avoid the type of nontraditional and frequently abusive loans that led to the current crisis.
  • Provides couples using the standard deduction with up to an additional $1,000 deduction for property taxes ($500 for individuals).

Q: Does the law provide help to those who still cannot afford to own a home?
A: Yes. The bill includes a number of provisions to increase the supply of affordable housing, which has been a major problem in California pre-dating the current foreclosure crisis. For example:

  • The bill creates a new permanent affordable housing trust fund – financed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and not by taxpayers – to fund the construction, maintenance and preservation of affordable rental housing for low and very low-income individuals and families nationwide in both rural and urban areas.
  • In addition, the legislation provides a temporary increase in the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit and simplification of the credit to help put builders to work to create new options for families seeking affordable housing alternatives.
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