Elisa ReiterUnderwood Perkins P.C. · Family Law Child Welfare Law and Elder Law
Attorney, Board Certified in Family Law and in Child Welfare Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.
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I am Board Certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in Family Law and in Child Welfare Law. I practice law in Texas at Underwood Perkins, P.C. I've served as an adjunct professor of family law at SMU. I enjoy writing, especially about the intersection of family law and mental health issues. For recent podcasts, surf to: https://draperfirm.com/2022/05/31/elisa-reiter-the-rights-of-a-psychological-parent/ and/or to https://soundcloud.com/user-213395964/elisa-reiter
January 1990 - May 2021
Law Offices of Elisa Reiter
- Board Certified in Family Law and Child Welfare Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Solo practitioner. Served two three-year terms on the Board of Directors of the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Taught family law at SMU’s Dispute Resolution Program. Divorce, modifications of support and access, parentage actions, “grey” divorces, LGTBQ divorce, termination cases and intervention cases for grandparents and foster care providers
Children referred for reunification therapy can be described as feeling divided, torn between their parents, with polarized feelings about parents such that the children may refuse to see, visit, talk with or enjoy a real relationship with a rejected parent. Effective models for children and families in need of reunification therapy do exist. As ga...
Divorce can be difficult -- for those going through it and for their attorneys. Financial concerns, crowded dockets, as well as the personalities of vying litigators and litigants can serve to contribute to the burdens attendant to achieving an accord and finalizing the case. Covert narcissists have ways of hiding in plain sight, and those characte...
An attorney’s competence as a litigator is measured in part by their ability to keep up with changes to the law. In a nutshell, here is what judges, attorneys, mental health professionals and litigants should know about 2023 Texas legislation that impacts family law.
The corruption of a child’s normal role in the family unit can increase the child’s risk of dysfunction—socially and emotionally—when the child attains adulthood. When a parent begins to rely on the child for emotional support, especially in times of conflict within the family, and the parent comes to depend on the child for emotional support and p...
Evaluators have a duty to differentiate litigants, to act as the arm of the court in measuring who will serve the best interests of the children made the subject of custody fights, adoption actions and/or termination actions. Evaluators face tough work, and tougher decisions. Lawyers must interrogate evaluators to assure that evaluators base their...
People have an inherent impulse toward empathy. That drive can be nurtured or squelched during any legal process. This article presents a discussion on conflict and suggests how attorneys would be wise to learn from mental health professionals about how to best serve clients with empathy, attention and respect.
Reptile theory is a trial strategy that focuses on using fear and anger to motivate a jury to dislike a defendant so much that it will award an unwarranted large verdict to the plaintiff. It focuses on safety and security issues by seeking to have jurors envision themselves caught in the same situation that the plaintiff suffered, engaging the most...
In the recent case of In Re B.K.A., the Texas Court of Appeals grappled with the question of whether a teenager should be required to register on a sex offenders list publicly or non-publicly.
It takes just a few data points to portray the dissolution of too many American families today. Family court judges have difficult tasks. They must be exemplary knitters. Facing tensions, family court judges constantly try to cable together rulings that serve the best interests of children.
This PowerPoint presents changes to the Texas Estates Code enacted by the 88th Legislature, and gives pearls of wisdom for use in guardianship, estate and probate cases.
To serve as a foster parent, an individual must be vetted. When a placement involves placement with next of kin, the vetting process is a bit different. In the recent class action case of B.B. v. Hochul, plaintiffs question the constitutionality of the process for screening kinship placements and the traditional grounds for rejecting a kinship plac...
The goal of therapeutic jurisprudence is to mitigate the toll that prolonged litigation wreaks on families and children.
Thousands of child custody cases go through family courts every year. How many of these courts, if any, have ever done a look-back self-assessment to ascertain how successful their judgments were? This introspection could have a positive impact on the children and parties involved, as well as on the court itself. An honest self-assessment could be...
The Texas Association of Family Forensics (TAFF) is a group of licensed independent mental-health professionals comprised of psychologists, social workers, and counselors who assist families during difficult times of transition. I had the pleasure of presenting to this group regarding 2023 legislative changes enacted in Texas that impact mental hea...
Kaizen (“good change”) is a philosophy and management approach of continuous improvement that can be applied to various aspects of life, including personal and professional development. Focusing on small, ingrained changes performed on a daily basis, here are some tips for continuously improving with Kaizen for law firms.
Employees who are victims of domestic violence need to grasp the importance of understanding their rights and protections under both state and federal law. Employers should also be aware of their obligations to provide leave and reasonable accommodations to employees who are victims of domestic violence.
Lawyers who handle cases involving custody disputes should be aware of a new law that impacts how child custody evaluations are to be conducted.
If a criminal defendant chooses self-representation, there must be a thorough record that the decision was “knowing and intelligent,” made with the understanding of the constitutional right to representation.
A parent's rights can be terminated if they are not able to properly care for their child. Some important takeaways for attorneys and others are offered.
A trial court may admit a child/complainant/victim’s out-of-court statements that describe the alleged offense suffered by the child, provided that such statements were made to the first adult person to whom the child made a statement regarding the offensive conduct. There may be more than one outcry witness, provided that those witnesses testify a...
The image that a sexual predator is a stranger trying to entice a small child is so outdated. Today, we know that sexual predators can be anyone -- blood relatives, clergy, doctors, coaches, and, yes, teachers. As authority figures that students are taught to trust, when teachers breach that expectation, the psychological repercussions can last a l...
Family law cases are difficult, inducing a variety of emotions. As a case progresses, each party may feel stress, trauma, and threat. Understanding polyvagal theory can help move clients through trying situations.
Narcissists do not just feel overly confident they will win in a custody hearing; they feel entitled to win. To counter a narcissist's divorce strategy, it is imperative to have a clear picture of who the narcissist is and be prepared with a knowledgeable, experienced, and proactive attorney. But the word “narcissism” is rampant in family court. An...
A discussion of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District’s recent decision In Re Three Arrows Ltd. The authors question: “Will 'Three Arrows' point courts in a new direction, and stand as authority to condone service of discovery requests via alternative service of a Rule 45 subpoena outside the United States, via email and social media?...
This article looks at some of the pending bills working their way through the 88th Texas Legislative Session.
Many court hearings are now virtual. This means that some or all of the litigants and witnesses participate by video. Are virtual hearings compromising the Fourth Amendment rights of domestic violence victims/survivors and children involved with Child Protective Services?
A class action suit was filed against the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services seeking to end discrimination regarding children with disabilities who are placed in foster care and who are then unnecessarily segregated from their home communities.
Over the past few decades, Texas family lawyers have engaged in a legal fiction: Let’s tie a bow around the package of a partition and exchange agreement by seeking to have the agreement made the subject of a declaratory judgment action. The Fifth Circuit appears to blow that concept out of the water. Lawyers: caveat emptor.
A recent Connecticut case, State v. Hector M., (Superior Court of Connecticut, Judicial District of Waterbury, Decided November 25, 2022, Filed UWY-CR10-0390108-T), demonstrates the rare but graphic and insidious nature of grooming and incest. The reader should be advised that the facts underlying this case, discussed below, are horrifying.
California is viewed as a refuge for trans children. The Texas Supreme Court dismissed a pro se mandamus In Re Younger - how will the ruling impact gender affirming treatment options?
Based on a 2022 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, NYSRPA v. Bruen, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas struck down a federal law prohibiting access to guns if those people are subject to domestic violence protection orders.
When a minor commits a serious offense, the prosecutor may have discretion topetition the juvenile court to waive its jurisdiction. If the petition is successful, inlieu of the case being heard in juvenile court and the child being tried as a juvenile,the case will instead be heard in a criminal district court. The child is certified as an adult, a...
Should parents be the only individuals granted court-ordered access to and possession of minor children? Many state access statutes continue to ignore the importance of companionship and the impact third parties may have on minor children.
In the recent trial of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, the phrase “mutual abuse” was used by the psychologist testifying on Depp’s behalf. Mutual abuse is a term sometimes used to assign accusations of instigation and abusive behavior to both people in a relationship, not just one. Whether the term is ever appropriate or if it describes domestic viole...
Whether by self-help or in vitro fertilization (IVF), the path to parenthood, particularly for same sex couples, can be complicated. Historically, if and when a same sex couple terminated its relationship, unless a person could present a biological connection to their child(ren), the party without a biological connection to the child(ren) could fin...
What is elder abuse? Elder abuse and neglect, known by the acronym “EAN” may impact quality of life for the elderly and for the disabled. Why should EAN concern doctors, lawyers, front line workers, psychologists, accountants and other professionals? As Baby Boomers age, so does the older population. Worldwide, the elderly population was estimated...
A child's environment can constitute a source of physical and emotional medical neglect. In the recent case of In the Interest of J.A.R.R., J.N.R., and M.A.R., the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that termination of parental rights was warranted where parents had no plan in place to meet their children's medical needs.
In a 2019 article published in JAMA, Drs. Torres, Salles and Cochran contend that physicians must recognize and react to microagressions in surgery. As those physicians note in that article: The word microaggression was initially coined by Harvard psychiatrist Chester Pierce in 1970 and referred to minor yet damaging humiliations and indignities ex...
Children fear being ostracized by their family if they make sex abuse allegations involving a family member. Here's how to ensure you have the right evaluator for your case.
Sexual abuse. Sexual grooming. Unlawful restraint. False imprisonment. These are all serious allegations, too frequently minimized by individuals in positions of authority. How can we protect children and assure that perpetrators are prosecuted? One, by not ignoring outcries of abuse. Two, by assuring that those in authority understand that when a...
Mental health professionals and attorneys use the term "parental alienation" as often as they use the label "narcissist" these days. Caution: does your case involve unfortunate circumstances? Have those unfortunate circumstances escalated to the point of parental alienation?
When confronted with emails and texts that include emojis or emoticons, attorneys may query: Do those images speak the truth? Is the truth open to more than one interpretation? How can those images be used against the opposing party? How can a client’s use of emojis be beneficial or detrimental to their case? It’s a changing world. Emojis and emoti...
If there is a variance in the indictment and jury charge, don’t wait. Object to the variance prior to the start of trial and/or the empaneling of the jury panel.
“In chambers” or “in camera” refers to a hearing in the privacy of the judge’s office. These meetings usually take place in order to examine particularly sensitive or private information outside of the formal courtroom setting. One of the purposes of such an interview is to determine whether or not a child has a preference regarding with whom the c...
The trial court, as gatekeeper, has the duty to weigh the credibility of the witnesses, and to choose who or what to believe when presented with conflicted testimony. The determination of best interests must focus on the child, rather than on the parent.
“The attorney-immunity doctrine does not apply to all conduct by attorneys, so attorneys are not precluded from being the subject of a wiretap claim even though some of their conduct may give rise to an immunity defense.” Attorney immunity, after all, is “not boundless.”
The International Child Abduction Remedies Act was enacted by the United States to help prevent international child abduction, with the stated intent that, “Persons should not be permitted to obtain custody of children by virtue of their wrongful removal or retention.”
For child welfare agencies across the United States, it’s the ultimate measure to use against parents—termination of their parental rights(TPR). Used when there are serious concerns about abuse or neglect, the procedures and prevalence for termination of parental rights varies among states. To avoid this ultimate sanction, parents can assert their...
For couples contemplating divorce, collaborative divorce can be an attractive approach to respectfully resolve their differences without going to trial. Often, it is also less adversarial, more economical, and holds the potential of a more expedient resolution. And, many family law attorneys encourage couples to take a collaborative law route for t...
In every divorce case where a psychological exam is sought, the trial court must balance the need for the information to substantiate claims asserted by a party against that individual’s right to privacy.
“Good judgment comes from experience; experience comes from bad judgment.” This astute observation, attributed to Dr. Kerr L. White, has daily application when supervising children in a residential treatment setting. While we should expect staff to make occasional bad decisions, they can, even though well-intentioned, still be legally defined as “c...
Sometimes children need not only to care for their parents, they also need to know when to take them to a doctor for a neurological assessment.
The case of 'Moody v. Moody raises a number of interesting issues, but most importantly, it reminds us that standing is the foundation of a justiciable claim.
Attorney-client privilege attaches after a legal services agreement is signed by both the attorney and the (prospective) client, and the retainer has been remitted.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton disputes the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the position that those respective organizations have taken in support of individualized care of children who experience gender dysphoria. Does Paxton have more in mind than slowing the clock? On...
After centuries of neglect, the voices of the deaf-blind population need to be heard. Society in general, and the legal profession in particular, must be committed to empowering persons who are deaf-blind. It’s time to make room at the legal table. Pull up a chair.
Establishing clear and convincing evidence that a parent has been neglectful—leaving the children in potentially dangerous circumstances—could be a ground for termination regardless of whether or not physical abuse occurred. There is not necessarily a requirement to show that a child suffered actual injury.
A recent Texas Court of Appeals case illustrates the series of considerations and “balancing acts” that ultimately lead a court to sever parental rights. One of those considerations is the child’s expressed desire.
The No Surprises Act dictates that the arbiter chooses the offer closest to the median in network rate, unless there is additional information that shows that the in-network rate is inappropriate.
Attorneys must be zealous advocates, but that does not mean accepting every word our clients say. Keep that psychological grain of salt handy -- and warn clients that they may sometimes be affronted by our questions and skepticism.
What’s ‘fair’ for a juvenile offender who is over the age of 14 and who may be required to register as a sexual offender? The juvenile court wields great power in such cases, and a juvenile offender may carry the onus of being a predator long into adulthood, when warranted.
Numerous states have set legal precedents regarding child custody disputes where the non-biological parent is determined to be a “psychological parent” and is therefore able to retain custody. In an era where it takes a village to raise a child, should Congress and State legislators take further action to assure that psychological parents also have...
Whether or not hiding income results in formal child neglect charges, parents need to support their children by providing them with financial support, or face the consequences.
When your family law client is denying the reality of their situation, use these strategies to help keep the process – and your client – on track.
Your client, a divorced parent, is planning their first holiday season under new co-parenting arrangements. As an attorney, the single best piece of advice you can give your client is this: If the client anticipates a legal dispute or disagreement with their former partner, try to iron it out now.
When a nursing resident is alleged to have been sexually abused and a lawsuit follows, a key person for plaintiff attorneys to retain is a competent expert witness. Naturally, that person must be properly credentialed and have the requisite experience. But there’s more.
Because sexual abuse may often involve only the two people who know what really happened, numerous legal issues will be at the heart of formal judicial proceedings. Credibility and clarity are paramount. Society, the justice system, and attorneys rightly view a nonconsensual sexual assault as a serious criminal offense. Proving the offense in court...
It seems to happen more often than not that a potential new client seeking a divorce alludes to cruel treatment by their spouse. Tennessee Williams wrote: "All cruel people describe themselves as paragons of frankness." Cruel treatment has long been a "fault" ground for divorce-but a fault ground that has had little momentum recently. On the heels...
When building an elder law case, and/or a case involving abuse of a disabled person, a multi-disciplinary team should be considered. Develop an effective case. Help those who cannot help themselves. Dallas Bar Headnotes; November 2021, Volume 46, Number 11, Page 18.
Few areas of family law are as bristling with risk and the potential for appeal as a petition to terminate parental rights. When the child involved has special needs, the child may be particularly imperiled if proper parental supervision is missing
Social workers are often overworked and underpaid. Nonetheless, they must make time to practice to be prepared for court.
In today’s COVID-19 environment, under what circumstances can the state preempt the parent or guardian’s medical decision-making authority regarding children regarding getting vaccinated?
The recent opinion issued by U.S. Judge District Linda V. Parker of the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division, in King v. Whitmer is a study in what a court can do to an attorney who has signed off on a pleading that appears to the court to have violated Rule 11.
With so many COVID-related deaths, should the aim of our judiciary–particularly in the domestic relations and criminal courts–be, in part, to require COVID vaccines to preserve life and liberty?
All attorneys know that they are obliged to zealously represent their clients at all times. What does that mean in practice? It means they must be ardently active, devoted, and diligent in representing their client. When attorneys know each other well—maybe they’re even close friends—does their tenacity on behalf of their client inadvertently wane?...
The definition of “pattern of domestic violence” has a great deal of elasticity to it and the phrase implicitly considers many relevant facts and circumstances, not just one.
Educators, families, and attorneys working together can help ensure that the education environment for a child in foster care is welcoming, safe, and productive.
It's difficult to find balance in the roller-coaster ride imposed by someone suffering from a personality disorder.
In addition to vetoing SB 1458, the governor vetoed 20 other bills that had been passed during this year’s legislative session—the fewest vetoes since 2005.
There are many changes to the Texas Family Code and other laws impacting parents, grandparents, children and families beginning Sept. 1, 2021.
Bill Eddy and his co-author, Michael Lomax, in their new book, "Mediating High Conflict Disputes," remind us that a mediator must be willing to cut off reflections about who pushed whom first, and instead, focus on how to play nicely.
Buzzwords are words or phrases that seemingly are very meaningful but in truth are open to great interpretation. While politicians are probably best known for their overuse of buzzwords, legislators, courts, attorneys and policymakers must also plead guilty. In the world of child welfare law, three of the best-known culprits are “best interest of t...
In a divorce, there may be a child custody dispute, but whatever objections may arise, hopefully, there should be no question concerning the evaluator’s ethics or objectivity.
The legal landscape and complex challenges facing today’s child welfare attorney are daunting. Simply because children are involved, difficult legal situations demand the guidance of a highly qualified attorney.
Social workers must have a basic knowledge of how legal proceedings work, especially if they are called to be an outcry witness
It is imperative that we join together as one nation to combat child abuse in all of its forms — through neglect, mistreatment, or physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.
Should we, for the sake of civility, deliberately sidestep explicit quotes from transcripts, and police or child protective service reports? Or, should we include such quotes so that the audience will ingest the raw words of the pained child victim? Our approach is to never sugarcoat the actual transgression. The world of child sexual abuse should...
A faulty medical determination of child abuse or neglect can destroy the life of a child and its family. “Measure twice, cut once,” is a great rule for carpenters; it’s also an important lesson for Child Protective Services.