September 2013 Archives

Michael Puhl Receives an AV® Preeminent™ Peer Review Rating

Dallas, Texas (September 26, 2013)-- Michael Puhl has been awarded an AV® Preeminent™ Peer Review Rating by Martindale-Hubbell for 2013.  This achievement demonstrates that a lawyer has earned the highest rating available for their legal ability and professional ethics. A lawyer who attains AV® Preeminent has been recognized by his peers and clients to possess outstanding professional ability, expertise and ethical standards.Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review Ratings™ help buyers of legal services identify, evaluate and select the most appropriate lawyer for a specific task at hand. Lawyer ratings serve as an objective indicator that a lawyer or judge has the highest ethical standards and professional ability and are used by buyers of legal services to  justify their hiring decisions.  Studies show that potential clients want objective information sources to help them make informed buying decisions. Clients are using ratings, and taking them seriously, when developing a short list or selecting counsel.About Puhl and Berbarie: Puhl and Berbarie, a family law firm with offices in Dallas and McKinney for easy access to all of North Texas residents, provides extraordinarily competent, personal, and top-notch service because of their unparalleled certified lawyers and the referrals to prove it. They are committed to fighting for their clients’ best interests and helping them emerge from the fire of divorce or other legal conflicts to be stronger, more confident, and content in their lives moving forward.

When Divorce is Caused by High Tech Cheating

Social media is an increasing source of marital problems, which can lead to divorce.  Even a seemingly harmless photograph posted on Facebook can push a couple into a break-up.  In addition, Facebook postings, tweets, texts, and emails appear regularly as evidence in divorce trials.  An astonishing number of people - while they are married -sign up on dating service websites or advertise themselves as available for physical liaisons on websites, without considering that someone they know is going to see that and tell the spouse.At Puhl and Berbarie, located at, we encourage all clients to step away from all aspects of social media, and to carefully guard the use of mobile phones, until their family law problems have been resolved.There are a multitude of problems you can create for yourself by engaging in social media communications before and during your divorce - even after your divorce, with respect to matters involving your children.  For openers, your cell phone records are retained by your carrier and can be subpoenaed by your spouse.  Unlike land line phone records, mobile phone carriers record information including every number you called (or from which you received a call), the time, the date, and the length of the call.  This provides your spouse a wealth of information to use against you.Texting is a dangerous practice you should avoid before and during your divorce proceeding.  Too many couples fight by text, not thinking that texts are easily saved and printed. You should expect to see all texts you have sent your spouse - particularly those sent in anger - in the courtroom.  This, of course, is also true for all emails with your spouse and with others which might be relevant to your case.  It is not unusual for children to review a parent’s texts and emails, or their cell phone photos, only to discover the parent is engaged in an extra marital relationship.  That’s a brutal way for a child to learn that his family is about to disintegrate.Everyone knows how quickly information flies around on Facebook.  It can be especially dangerous because other people can post not only photos of you, but information about the restaurant where you are having lunch, or the lounge where you are having a cocktail.  People have been tagged when they are thousands of miles away from home.  Your best bet is to take a social media vacation, so to speak, if you are thinking about divorce or already involved in a divorce.  You are welcome to contact our family law attorneys at to talk about things like this and to get other information you need to achieve the best possible outcome in your case.

The Role of the Child in Custody/Possession Decisions

Most people are confused and often incorrect about when a child can choose whether to live with his mother or his father, and frequently ask us this question at Puhl and Berbarie at  The Texas statutes, which contain all the applicable laws regarding child custody, provide that the court shall interview a child 12 years of age or older, and may interview a child who is under the age of 12 to determine the child's wishes as to conservatorship or as to the person who shall have the exclusive right to determine the child's primary residence.Such interviews must take place in the judge's office, rather than in the courtroom, outside the presence of the parents and their lawyers.  The interview does not diminish the power of the court to use its own discretion in determining the best interests of the child.  Either parent or the judge can request the interview.In other words, the stated preference of a child is not binding on the judge and therefore a child can never make a legal determination about whether he should live with his father or his mother. For a period of time, a child 14 or older could sign a written affidavit stating a preference as to which parent he wished to live with, which likewise was nonbinding on the court.  Later the age was dropped to 10, then raised to 12, and finally the entire provisions was repealed altogether.  No sworn, written statements of a child are admissible into evidence or into the court's record of the case.The rationale, after all these fits and starts in the law, is that children should not be expected to choose between their parents, or to make such life-altering decisions.  In the end, it is up to the judge to consider all the facts, hear all the evidence presented in the courtroom, and make a judicial determination as to what will be best for the child.There is, of course, a difference between conservatorship and possession of a child.  The primary conservator is the parent who has the right to establish the child's residence, usually, but not always, within a stated geographic area.  The other parent will, however, have the right to possession of the child on a specified schedule spelled out by the court or as agreed by the parents.  Some courts recognize the difficulty of forcing an unwilling teenager to spend the night or a weekend with the non-primary parent, and may require the child's consent to a visitation schedule.Please check with Puhl and Berbarie at for more information regarding child custody and contact us to speak with one of our Board Certified Family Law Attorneys.
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