'Upskirting' is illegal in Texas

Q. I heard that the Massachusetts’s Supreme Court said taking a video under the skirt of a woman is not illegal. I don’t understand how a court can say this is legal. Is it legal in Texas?

A. First, it is important to understand what the Massachusetts’s court said, and did not say. The court was not asked to simply rule whether the practice of “upskirting” is legal. The court was asked whether a state law intended to prohibit “Peeping Tom” voyeurism of completely or partially undressed people also applied to upskirting. The court held that the clear language of the statute did not apply to upskirting, and that the Peeping Tom statute, which required a completely or partially undressed person, was not violated. My opinion is that the Massachusetts’s legislature will quickly enact a new law that covers the practice of upskirting.

Texas, on the other hand, has an improper photography statute that does apply to upskirting. The issues that arose in Massachusetts would not arise in Texas.

Q. In 2006, my ex-husband was ordered to pay child support. He has continued to pay on time. Since that time, however, he has changed jobs and is making much more money. Shouldn’t he be paying me more for support?

A. He probably should be paying you more, but until you get the order modified, he has the legal right to keep paying as originally ordered. Either party may go back to court to have a child support order modified whenever there is a substantial change in circumstances. A new job with a higher salary should entitle you to a larger payment. I recommend you speak with a family law attorney about modifying the order.

Q. I rent an extra room in my home on a month-to-month basis. If a tenant does not pay his rent, am I allowed to lock him out of the house?

A. Even though you are renting just one room, the law considers you a landlord, and you are subject to the same laws as other residential landlords. Under the law, a landlord is not allowed to simply lock out a tenant who does not pay rent. A landlord may change the locks on a tenant’s door; however, the landlord must make a key available for the tenant to come and go, 24 hours a day. In other words, you cannot lock out your tenant. If your tenant will not move out voluntarily, you will have to file an eviction proceeding in justice court to have him evicted.

Q. I am getting divorced. My husband has agreed to keep the house and make all the payments. What do I do to get my name taken off of the mortgage?

A. You cannot just have your name taken off of the mortgage. The divorce is between you and your husband. The mortgage company is not a part of your divorce and is not bound by whatever you and your husband agree to. The only way to have your name removed is for the mortgage company to agree to remove it, or have your husband refinance the property in his name alone.

Q. I owe a student loan from more than 10 years ago. They now are telling me that if I don’t pay, they will garnish my wages. How long do they have to collect? I thought there was no wage garnishment in Texas.

A. Unfortunately for you, there are basically are no time limits within which government-backed student loans must be collected. Even though the debt is 10 years old, it may still be collected. Additionally, although wage garnishment is generally prohibited in Texas, wage garnishment for student loans is based on federal law that pre-empts Texas law. In other words, if you don’t pay, your wages will be garnished. Under the law, you should be given an opportunity to make arrangements to pay before wage garnishment is used. I suggest you take advantage of this opportunity.

Do you want to know more about your legal rights? Check out my website, www.peopleslawyer.net.