Practice Areas

Family Law


ere at The Law Office of J.L. Bell we will guide you through the family law process, keep you informed of all legal developments, advise you of possible outcomes, and then move forward according to what you, our client, decide to do. Complex divorce and family law cases can last months, or even years. We understand this can result in stress and anxiety and we are devoted to helping you get through this time in a manner that is as smooth as possible.

Allow The Law Office of J.L. Bell to assist you during this difficult time.


Texas courts give all divorcing couples the opportunity to decide on the terms of their divorce themselves, such as child custody, property division, and other critical matters. When a couple cannot agree on these terms, however, the court must step in to assess the couple's circumstances and decide on the terms for them. This is known as a contested divorce in Texas.

In an uncontested divorce, the spouses do all of the decision-making themselves without the court intervening. With the help of The Law Office of J.L. Bell, clients have the ability to peacefully decide the terms of their divorce, and get an idea of how their lives will be once the process is complete. No matter which position you are in, you can be confident that you have a law firm backing you that genuinely cares about helping you achieve favorable results efficiently and effectively.


Understanding the Difference Between Divorce & Annulment: While a divorce legally ends a valid marriage, an annulment declares that the marriage was never valid. It essentially voids the marriage and treats it like it never existed.

According to Texas law, at least one spouse must live in the state, or the spouses must have been married in the state, in order to pursue an annulment. If children were born or adopted into the marriage, you will need to file a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR) in addition to the Original Petition to Annul Marriage form. The court will then determine child visitation, custody, and support.


Prior to getting married, there is often a misconception that prenuptial agreements are a sign of mistrust in one’s spouse, yet this is often not the case. Having a prenuptial agreement in place simply allows you and your partner to have a clear understanding of the division of your assets in the event your marriage prematurely ends.

Division of Marital Assets

Texas is considered a community property state, which means that the total amount of income earned and any property that was acquired during the marriage is community property and therefore belongs to both spouses, even if it is solely in one spouse’s name. When dividing assets and property in a divorce, everything earned during the marriage will be divided among the two spouses.

Texas allows property to be divided in any way that the judge considers to be “just and right.” This means property does not have to be divided 50/50. All sorts of things can lead to the division being unequal, including child custody, a disparity in earning capacities, and time out of the workforce in support of the other spouse’s career. Judges will also usually try to keep the children in their home if possible, which means that the custodial parent will usually retain the family home if it’s financially possible.

The division of property and assets is often extremely complex without proper guidance from an experienced attorney. Here at The Law Office of J.L. Bell, our firm can navigate this process on your behalf and ensure that you capably seek the assets you deserve during your divorce.

Child Custody

Here at The Law Office of J.L. Bell we understand your children are the most important people in your life. We also understand how emotionally draining and overwhelming child custody cases can be—especially if they involve having to go to court. If you are currently facing a child custody battle, it may benefit you to contact an educated and experienced attorney. Whether your case must be handled through the use of litigation or can be resolved amicably with the use of mediation, you can count on The Law Office of J.L. Bell to assist you. We possess a great deal of experience handling custody cases and are prepared to assist clients no matter how complicated the situation may be.

Child Support

Child support is a set monthly payment that is paid by a non-custodial parent to a custodial parent to provide for the regular expenses of the child/children. In Texas, physical custody always determines who will pay child support. The parent who has physical custody will always be the recipient parent and the parent who does not have physical custody of the kids (regardless of whether or not he or she has legal custody) will pay the child support if ordered by the court.

In Texas, courts calculate child support payments based on a percentage of the non-custodial parent's income. Here, we can estimate how much the state will expect you to pay in minimum child support by doing a simple calculation or help you to estimate how much you can expect to receive in child support.

The court will evaluate all wages, salary, commissions, tips, overtime and bonuses as income for calculation purposes. This also includes any government benefits, severance pay or retirement benefits. The courts will also factor in alimony, gifts, prizes, and other costs. The court will then affix a percentage which will be the amount you are required to pay monthly for child support

  • For one child, the paying spouse is required to pay 20% of net resources
  • For two children, 25% is required
  • For three children, 30% is required
  • For four children, 35% is required
  • Five children and more always require at least 40%

    Parents are allowed to pay more in child support if they wish to do so. The percentages listed above simply signify the minimum amount they can pay. You have the liberty to challenge the amount (either seeking less or more) in court. In order to effectively argue this point, you will want an experienced attorney focused on child support and advocating for your child's best interests to represent you and develop a legally recognized argument on your behalf.


Child Protective Services (CPS) investigates and intervenes with any reports of abuse and neglect of children. Termination of your parental rights is a potential outcome of a CPS case. If the court determines you are a danger to your children, they will formally terminate your rights as a parent. Termination means the parent and child no longer have a legal relationship. Our firm can help defend you against accusations of neglect and abuse. If CPS is threatening to terminate your parental rights, we can help. The Law Office of J.L. Bell can assist you through the legal process with CPS and advocate on our behalf in mediation or in litigation. Let us help, so you don’t lose your kids.

Contempt of Court

  • If a court ordered custody or visitation agreement is violated, the court will typically enforce the order by way of a contempt hearing. Filing a contempt action will not change a custody, visitation, but an individual can order changes to the agreement during a contempt hearing.
  • A contempt motion can be filed for any of the following violations
  • Denying child custody or visitation
  • Blocking child visitation
  • Failing to adhere to property division agreements
  • Refusing to provide spousal maintenance
  • Failing to pay child support


Very often, we speak to individuals that are interested in modifying a child support order. This could mean that the parent is interested in either increasing the obligation of the other parent or decreasing their own responsibility to pay child support. Every parent knows that children and their needs change quickly. An elementary school student is barely the same person they were when they were a toddler, and a teenager is entirely different again. Plus, families and their circumstances change. That’s why the Texas legal system makes it possible for you to have child support or child custody order modified and that’s where The Law Office of J.L. Bell can help.

Just as with any other type of modification case, certain circumstances must be proven to be in place in order to modify a prior order on child support. The material and substantial change in circumstances in either the child or any party to the enforcement suit must be shown. Secondly, there must have been at least a three- year gap between the time in which the prior order was rendered and the current modification suit.

Courts will modify an order regarding possession of the child only if the modification is in the best interest of the child, and one of these three tests is met:

Changed Circumstances: the circumstances of one of the child's parents must have materially and substantially changed.

Child’s Request: the child (age 12 or older) files a written request with the court.

Relinquishment: the custodial parent has given the child to the other parent for at least 6 months.

Terminating Rights

Parental rights can be difficult to terminate; this is usually only granted by the parent’s consent, or when it can be proven that the parent is no longer fit to serve in that capacity for their child. If you wish to pursue one of these reasons as grounds for terminating parental rights, you should speak with an attorney to learn more about your options. Not everyone may pursue this option, even if grounds for having parental rights terminated exist; you must be involved with the child in some way, including serving as a guardian or conservator previously.

Some instances in which you may be able to terminate parental rights include:

  • You are able to demonstrate that you are the actual biological father of the child and the person currently serving as the father was mistakenly placed in that role.
  • You wish to adopt a child into your own family as a step-child (in which case you only need to terminate the parental rights of the parent you’ll be replacing)
  • The parent has been abusive or physically violent towards a child
  • The parent has abandoned the child

Grandparents Rights

The U.S. Supreme Court has determined that grandparents do not have a constitutional right to their grandchildren. That is because parents have the right to make decisions on behalf of their children, and if they do not want the grandparents to have access to the kids, they have the right to make that decision.

However, there are rare cases where grandparents can win a right to visitation or even custody of their grandkids. Courts will usually only hear the case if a parent is incompetent, incarcerated, or deceased. In those cases, grandparents could argue that contact is in the child’s best interest since they can serve as a positive adult influence.

If you are a grandparent who has been declined access to your grandchildren, you are probably hurt and possibly even angry. Depending on the reasons, you might have legal recourse. If you believe it is in your grandchildren’s best interest to have a relationship with you, you will want to talk to an experienced Houston grandparent’s rights lawyer. The Law Office of J. L. Bell is experienced in handling these kinds of family conflicts and explaining to grandparents what rights they have. Give us a call today to learn about the next steps for gaining custody or visitation.

Limited Scope Representation

Limited Scope Representation is a potential solution to the growing number of people who cannot afford an attorney. Under Limited Scope Representation, clients are provided specific legal services rather than having all aspects of their case handled by an attorney. This form of legal practice is also referred to as “unbundled legal services” or “unbundling.” For example, in a divorce case, the client and the attorney might agree that the attorney will draft all the documents, or will provide only legal advice on how to handle the case and that the client be responsible for all other aspects of the case.

Limited Scope Representation is a win-win situation for low-income people and attorneys. Because the attorney is hired for only certain aspects of a case, the overall cost is lower than it would be for full representation, and the client benefits by obtaining much-needed legal expertise at an affordable price.

This service is only available for individuals in Texas.

Call us today to get started!

Estate Planning


llow the attorneys at the Law Office of J.L. Bell to assist you in preparation of a Last Will and Testament, Living Will, Power of Attorney, or Succession.

We understand that estate planning is a sensitive task. The Law Office of J.L. Bell can ensure your assets are distributed as you intend. We can also ensure that you receive the discretion, confidentiality and promptness that you deserve. We offer customized estate planning packages with competitively priced rates.

Whether you need a simple straight forward estate plan or you have substantial assets to protect, which requires a more sophisticated plan, we will put together a package that works best for you. All of your estate planning documents will be reviewed by an attorney at our law firm to ensure compliance with state and federal laws. After meeting with one of our attorneys you will be able to rest assured knowing that all of your estate planning needs have been met and all of the associated documents have been properly executed

If you or someone you love are in need of an experienced estate attorney, call (713) 423-5962 or contact us here, to schedule a free consultation today.

Criminal Law


e understand how criminal charges can be a life altering and scary experience. Here at The Law Office of J.L. Bell we take pride in helping clients find ways to maintain freedom, keep convictions off their record, and utilize pretrial intervention programs. We can handle all criminal charges, including:

Drug charges, including distribution

Prosecutors in Texas are known for aggressively pursuing criminal charges against those who are accused of buying, selling, or manufacturing drugs. Convictions can carry serious consequences that include lengthy terms of imprisonment, large fines, and a criminal record that can create numerous hardships when it comes to employment, housing, or professional licensing. The Law Office of J.L. Bell is passionate about helping people just like you fight drug charges, and can work to help you achieve the best possible outcome for your case. We can provide an honest and thorough evaluation of your case, when you call (713) 423-5962 or contact us online to receive a free consultation

Drunk driving (DWI or DUI)

If you’ve been caught operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher, then you’ve committed a DWI crime under Texas laws. The steps you take now may have a direct impact on your right to drive, your freedom, and your future. Understanding more about these cases and what evidence may be used against you can help you make the right choices and select the proper representation. First offense DWIs are deemed to be Class “B” misdemeanors by the state of Texas. This means that if you are convicted, you will most likely be looking at a fine of up to $2,000, as well as up to 180 days in county jail. However, it is crucial to understand that this is the minimum charge that can be leveled against you. DWI law can get complicated quickly, so it is essential you understand the details of your particular case. For instance, what can complicate your situation with a first offense DWI – and escalate the penalties, fees and jail time – is if you happen to be involved in any of the following:

DWI .15 and above – If you submit to a blood or breath test and the results come back with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .15 or over, your charge could be escalated to a Class “A” misdemeanor. The fine for this charge is up to $4,000, and carries with it the possibility of up to 1 year in county jail. Under Texas law, if you are convicted of this category of DWI, you may even have to submit to having an Ignition Interlock Device (essentially a breathalyzer for your car, which prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver is intoxicated) installed in your vehicle.

DWI with a passenger under the age of 15 – If you happen to be stopped and found to be intoxicated with a minor in your car (even if it is your own child), your first offense DWI immediately escalates to a felony. This charge carries a fine of up to $10,000, with a possible 180 days to 2 years in a state jail.

Intoxication assault – If you seriously injure another person while intoxicated, the charge is classed as a third-degree felony, which carries a penalty of between 2 and 10 years in state jails and a fine of up to $10,000.

Intoxication manslaughter – If someone dies as a result of an intoxicated driver, it is a second-degree felony, punishable by 2 to 20 years in a state prison and/or a fine of not more than $10,000.


Aggravated Assault: When you are accused of an assault related crime, The Law Office of J.L. Bell will conduct a thorough evaluation into the charges and the evidence that is to be presented against you. We will determine whether the actual act that was committed fits the elements of the crime that is being charged. Law enforcement officers will often charge someone with aggravated assault, even if the act did not involve a weapon or did not result in the victim suffering serious harm. We will dissect the series of events that led to the time of the alleged assault and meet with witnesses in order to better understand what happened, no matter if it occurred at your home, a bar, or another public place. If a victim or witness statement is determined to be fraudulent or contradictory, The Law Office of J.L. Bell will argue for an entire dismissal of the charges. In some cases, we can successfully petition for a reduction in charges if a threat was made without any actual physical violence. We may be able to demonstrate that you acted in self-defense if there is sufficient corroborating evidence to support this.

Assault on a Family Member

In Texas, a conviction for family violence is considered a misdemeanor. However, this does not mean that the punishments for this crime are less severe. In fact, they are among the most stringent punishments that are handed down for any misdemeanor crime. They can include, but are not limited to:

Jail or prison time: A person convicted of family assault can face up to one year in jail. If they have a previous charge of family assault on their record, they could face up to 10 years in prison.

Fines: A first-time conviction of family assault can incur fines of up to $4,000. A second conviction can lead to fines of up to $10,000.

Protective orders: In many cases, a judge will issue a protective order that prohibits any contact between the defendant and the victim for a specific period of time. Any violations of this protective order will result in additional penalties.

Loss of gun ownership rights: If a person is convicted of family violence, they may lose their right to own or use a firearm. If they already possess a firearm, they have to turn it over to police. Violating this condition can result in felony charges.
- The majority of family member assault or domestic violence charges are initiated when one party calls the police and reports that they have been attacked or that they fear they are in imminent danger of assault. Often, this report is the sole evidence that the prosecution will use if the case goes to trial. An experienced assault of a family member lawyer knows that eyewitness testimony is often misleading, and that some assault reports may not stand up to scrutiny. In the absence of physical evidence, such as scars or bruising, a domestic violence attorney can construct a defense based on the questionable reliability of the alleged victim.

Terroristic Threat: It is not uncommon for someone to make a threat against another person, place or community. Not all these threats are considered terroristic or even illegal. The Texas Penal Code defines terroristic threats as when a person threatens to commit violence with the intent to:

- Cause a reaction to this threat by a volunteer organization that deals with emergencies
- Cause a person to feel fear of imminent danger

Prevent the use of a public place to which citizens otherwise have the right to free enjoyment

- Impair or interrupt the use of public communications

- Disrupt public water, gas or power utility supplies

- Influence the activities of any branch of state or federal government

The prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the threat falls underneath the laws of a terroristic threat.

You should also be aware of the fact that you have only 15 days from the date of your arrest for DWI to request an Administrative License Revocation (ALR) hearing regarding your driver’s license. If you do not request this hearing, your driver’s license will be automatically suspended. For immediate help on your DWI, contact The Law Office of J.L. Bell will take the time to investigate your case and present a strong defense on your behalf. Contact our office today at (713) 423-5962 for a free consultation.

Shoplifting Charges

The definition of shoplifting in Texas is relatively starighforward. When a person enters a retail establishment and attempts to take an item of merchandise from the store without paying for it, that person may be charged with criminal shoplifting. Other forms of shoplifting include:

- Paying for an item with a bad check

- Stealing wallets or purses from store customers

- Knowingly buying stolen merchandise from the person who stole it

Although some store owners will simply demand payment and ban the person from the store, most business owners and managers will contact law enforcement after apprehending the suspect. Stores equipped with security cameras can allow law enforcement to pursue an arrest even if the alleged shoplifter leaves the premises without being stopped.

Shoplifting convictions are penalized in several ways. However, this type of criminal activity has a unique method for determining punishment. Although a judge will use his or her personal discretion in assigning a sentence, most penalties for shoplifting charges are directly related to the value of the stolen goods. Some shoplifting penalties are arranged below to give a representation of different penalty levels.

- Theft of less than $50 or $20 by check: This crime is classified as a Class C misdemeanor that is punishable by a fine of up to $500.

- Theft of $1500 or more but less than $20,000: This is a much more serious shoplifting charge. It is listed as a state jail felony that can carry a sentence of 180 days to two years in a state jail facility and a fine of up to $10,000.

- Enhanced penalties: Some shoplifting charges can be enhanced by factors such as the type of item stolen or the circumstances of the theft. For example, if a person has a previous theft conviction, a subsequent conviction will automatically increase the penalty level for the crime. Also, stealing items like guns or high-value industrial metals like copper and aluminum results in an automatic upgrade to a felony

Robbery, Burglary, and Aggravated Robbery

In Texas,a conviction for these crimes can have devastating, long-term consequences. However, an arrest does not mean that you will be convicted. Seek experienced legal representation as soon as possible. The Law Office of J.L. Bell will take the time to investigate your case and present a strong defense on your behalf. Contact our office today at (713) 423-5962 for a free consultation.

- There are many ways to defend against these charges. In some cases, it is possible that an alleged offender is innocent and was mistakenly identified as the perpetrator by law enforcement. Law enforcement officers may have relied on unreliable eyewitness testimony, or even lineups, to determine alleged offenders, without any proof that the person committed the crime.

No matter the facts behind your criminal charges, you do not want to fight these charges alone. A conviction for these crimes could have dramatic consequences on your life, including the inability to find and maintain gainful employment, vote, and the inability to obtain certain kinds of governmental assistance, such as housing and education.

Sealing/Expunging Criminal Records

Most of the time, we learn from our mistakes and continue on with our lives. Sometimes, however, our mistakes follow us around wherever we go.

When you are arrested, charged, or convicted of a crime, it shows up on your criminal record, which is available for anyone to see. Regardless of how you’ve changed and improved your life after this “mistake,” your criminal history can continue to haunt your employment, educational, housing, and financial opportunities for years to come.

So how can you finally put your past behind you and move forward with a clean slate?

- Depending on the offense and the circumstances surrounding that offense, you might be eligible to have your record sealed or expunged. A sealed record means the public will be unable to see it, but law enforcement officials and other government agencies will still have access. When your record is expunged, it will be entirely eliminated – as if it never existed in the first place.

Sealing Your Criminal Record

In Texas, if you want to seal your criminal record, you will need to seek an order of nondisclosure. As mentioned above, an order of nondisclosure prohibits law enforcement or courts from disclosing your criminal record related to the order. It also releases you from having to disclose your criminal history related to the order on any type of application. In fact, if you have an order of nondisclosure, you don’t even have to mention it.

- While all of this might sound great, an order of nondisclosure only applies to certain offenses and situations. In order to be eligible, you will need to meet six conditions:

1)You need to have been placed on deferred adjudication, which means you were not considered to be convicted for the offense.

2)You need to have completed your deferred adjudication successfully.

3)Your offense cannot have been murder; capital murder; aggravated kidnapping; injury to a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual; abandoning or endangering a child; stalking; violation of court order or bond in family violence, sexual assault or abuse, stalking, or trafficking case; an offense that requires sex offender registration; or an offense involving family violence.

4)You can’t have any of the above offenses on your criminal record – even if you’re not seeking a nondisclosure order for that offense.

5)You have to wait the requisite amount of time for your offense. You have to wait five years after your felony discharge or dismissal; two years for misdemeanors under Chapter 20, 21, 22, 25, 42, or 46 of the Texas Penal Code; and there is no waiting period for other misdemeanors.

6)You can’t have been convicted of or placed on deferred adjudication for any other offenses from the date you were placed on deferred adjudication until the date you were discharged or dismissed.

Expunging Your Criminal Record

An expunction means that information and details pertaining to an arrest, charge, or conviction is permanently removed from your criminal record and you can deny the event ever happened.

You could be eligible for an expunction if:

1)You were arrested for an offense but never charged;

2)You were facing criminal charges but the case was ultimately dismissed;

3)You were convicted of certain qualifying juvenile offenses;

4)An arrest, charge, or conviction is on your record because of identity theft;

5)You were convicted of a crime that was later acquitted by the trial court or the Criminal Court of Appeals; or

6)You were convicted of a crime that was later pardoned by the Texas Governor or U.S. President.

In addition to the above requirements, you cannot seek an expunction if:

You received deferred adjudication or probation;

You were convicted of a felony within five years of the arrest you want expunged;

The offense was part of a criminal episode; or

The statute of limitations for the felony charge hasn’t expired.

If you don’t qualify for expungement, you may still be able to limit access to your criminal records by seeking an “order of non-disclosure” with the court. This seals your criminal record from the general public while making it available on a very limited basis to specific governmental agencies.

Why Choose The Law Office of J.L. Bell