Lewisville Family Law Blog

What is Your Stuff Worth in Divorce Court?

  • 27
  • March
    2015

jakebig-1.jpgIt depends on who is evaluating it and why.

Money has different values. $10,000.00 in cash is better than a $10,000.00 CD that is locked in for 5 years at 3% interest or $10,000.00 in a 401(k) because you have to pay tax on 401(k). A 3% CD is very low interest normally and has no flexibility.

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Stock value seems simple. But $10,000.00 of stock you purchased for $10,000.00 is worth more to you than that $10,000.00 of stock for which you paid $1,000.00 because you have taxes to pay on the latter.

Real Estate. Your homestead which you sell for $100,000.00 more than you paid for it is worth more than the weekend lake house which you sell for $100,000.00 more than you paid for it because then you will be taxed when you sell the lake house but not when you sell the homestead.

Personal property such as furniture may have several different values. However, unless it is an antique or collectible it's garage sale value. But to replace it will cost more than that, so it's worth more to the owner. Example: A Washer-Dryer in good condition that originally cost $1,500 is only worth about $150 used but unless you are willing to go to garage sales to replace it that used item is worth more than $150 to you.

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Lawyers aren't CPA's and generally do not have expertise in tax matters, but their experience and training can recognize and point out the many ways of valuing your stuff.

Here at Neal Ashmore, we are fortunate to have Damon Wykrent  available to help. Damon is one of the preeminent certified divorce planners, financial planners, and certified fraud examiners in the area. He is able to give you the correct evaluation methods to help you make financial decisions in dividing your property in a divorce. In my 46 years as both a lawyer and District Judge, I have seen more mistakes by litigants in getting the right valuations and then making the right choices based on those evaluations than almost anything else. Do your homework carefully then choose wisely.

Termination of Rights - When Is It Appropriate?

  • 20
  • March
    2015

Thumbnail image for johndenke_SMALL1.jpgIn certain cases, a parent may have committed actions that warrant a court to consider terminating that parent's rights to their child.  The actions will need to be serious, but if they are, either a judge or jury can possibly terminate that parent's rights after presentation of the evidence on the matter.

A suit for termination of rights can be filed by the other parent of the child, a person who has custody of the child, or by someone such as the Department of Family and Protective Services when they discover that the conduct calling for termination has been committed.  The party requesting termination must plead specific grounds for termination of the other parent's rights to be entitled to this form of relief.

Some of the grounds for termination include the following:  1) abandonment and lack of support, 2) child endangerment including abuse or neglect, 3) engaging in criminal conduct such as pregnancy caused by a criminal act or committing of a serious crime, or 4) a parent is otherwise unfit including not complying with a CPS service plan or the parent cannot care for the child because of being incapacitated.  The grounds for termination must be established by clear and convincing evidence, which is a slightly higher burden than the usual preponderance of evidence required in civil cases.tpr1.jpg

Another way a termination may occur is if the parent whose rights are to be terminated consents to the termination.  This does happen often in termination cases, and the parent terminating their rights can sign an affidavit of voluntary relinquishment that essentially forgoes any rights they may have to the child.  The affidavit is usually revocable for a small period of time, and then becomes irrevocable after the expiration of this time period.  Just because a parent voluntarily agrees to give up rights to their child does not mean a court will grant the relief.  The court still has to make a determination that the termination is in the best interests of the child.

Often times in a termination suit, a petition for adoption is included in the termination suit for the child.  The reasoning behind this is so that the child is not essentially "orphaned" by the termination of one of their parent's rights.  The adoption can be by a variety of different parties, including the spouse of the other parent, a relative of the child, or a party who the child has been living with for an extended period of time.  The adoption will also help with the court's likelihood of granting the termination as they will know that another person is stepping into the role of either mother or father to the child.

Whether a case is appropriate for termination will need to be evaluated by an attorney familiar with such suits.  While it may ultimately be appropriate to terminate a parent's rights, a party will not want to waste time and money on seeking this form of relief if it will not be granted by a court.  This same approach should be used when a parent is seeking to terminate their own rights, as they must keep in mind that the ultimate decision to do so lies with the court.   handing_over_baby_small.jpg       

My Ex Won't Follow the Possession Order! What Can I Do?

  • 17
  • March
    2015

Thumbnail image for jimsmall.jpgIn Texas, all divorce decrees, modification orders, or orders in suits affecting the parent-child relationship contain what is called a "Possession Order", setting forth when the parties are to have possession of the child. Most Texas orders also include a provision which usually reads as follows:

"IT IS ORDERED that the conservators shall have possession of the child at times mutually agreed to in advance by the parties, and, in the absence of mutual agreement, it is ORDERED that the parties shall have possession of the child under the specific terms set out in this Possession Order."

In cases where parties cooperate with each other, their failure to follow the Possession Order (by agreement) is not a violation at all and many times is in the best interest of the child. However, in cases where one of the parties violates the Possession Order without the agreement of the other party, and these violations are frequent, the party may need to ask the Court to enforce the Possession Order. Here are five options for dealing with the other party's failure to follow the Possession Order:dropoffk.jpg

1. Try talking to the offending party and see if you can work out the problem without resorting to initiating litigation or getting attorneys or the Courts involved. Of course, this approach probably will not work because sometimes a party feels like they can do whatever they want, order or not.

2. Don't do anything. This is not a good option. If the failure to follow the Possession Order by the other party goes on for an extended period of time, and you do nothing, the Court may interpret this as you are ok with the other party violating the possession order which may result in the other party filing a Motion to Modify the Possession Order to reflect what the parties are actually doing in regard to possession of the child.

3. Seek the assistance of an attorney to draft a demand letter setting forth what the offending party is doing to violate the Possession Order and the legal action you are going to take if they continue to violate the Possession Order. In some cases, this is enough to correct the problem.

4. Have your attorney file a Motion for Enforcement. If the Court grants the Motion, the Court will have the ability to redress the violation. There are many options that are available to the Court to "correct" the bad behavior. The Court may also order the violating party to pay the other party's attorneys fees.

5. File your own Motion to Modify. If you believe that the other party's continual violation of the Possession Order creates grounds for modification (you should discuss this with your attorney), then you may file a Motion to Modify the Possession Order. The requested modification should seek to end the violations of the possession order.

It is critically important for parents to cooperate in raising their children, thus avoiding legal fees and Court intervention. Sadly, in some cases, there is no other option.dropoffkids1.jpg

Snow Days and Sick Days - Who gets the Kids?

  • 16
  • March
    2015

Thumbnail image for wfneal_SMALL.jpgGood question! In our great state of Texas, it seems this question comes up about once a year and then is forgotten until the next ice storm or snow day. The possession schedule for the kids between separated, divorced, or non married parents gets thrown into chaos. Oddly enough, the Texas Family Code has no rules for this predicament and most orders and decrees don't cover it either. It's left for interpretation and that is normally a recipe for disaster and calls to the lawyer's office. The solution is hopefully two parents that can use common sense and logic to get through the 2 or 3 days a year when it comes up - but the majority of times it is a tug of war for possession and the mythical tenet of law everyone embraces of "possession is 9/10's of the law" prevails.icytruck1.jpg

1. What the law says. The "law' is going to be what is written in your Decree of Divorce or Order governing possession. The return or surrender time for parent's to exchange the children is either going to be 6:00 p.m. on a Sunday or when the kids resume school on a Monday. Most decrees and orders of possession cover the traditional holiday or teacher training day and will spell out who keeps the children on that Monday or Friday off day for the kids from school. But when the inability to return the children at the designated hour is caused by weather, other natural disaster, or sickness of the child, then a close reading of those court ordered possession schedules will yield no definitive answers. School never resumes on the Monday snow day so the parent in possession will argue they don't have to return the kiddos until it does resume. The out of possession parent will argue that the other's possession time ends at the time school resumes and therefore that parent should return the kids back to the parent entitled to possession. Who is legally entitled to "possession" of a child during school? Totally gray area. Most judges and lawyers, I believe, will concede that the intent of any possession order is to have set times for the start and ending of possession for parents who live apart from one another. The "intent" of a possession order done under the Family Code is for the parent in possession of the children on a weekend or week night and who is to return the children at the time school "resumes" should turn over possession to the parent not in possession at that designated time - whether school is closed due to weather or child sickness. However, most decrees and orders don't say that specifically.

2. How the problems should be handled. First, common sense and safety for you and your children should rule the thinking process - not how do I one-up my ex by holding onto the kids for another day. Children thrive on routine and most judges and mental health experts will advise that you should stick to that plan as much as you can. So, if the roads are really icy and unsafe, keep the kids. Wait till it gets better and there aren't cars and semi trucks spinning out on every major road and overpass. When it clears, get the kids back to the parent who is supposed to have possession as soon as possible and get them back into their routine. Second, get your order fixed right. We are now putting into orders we prepare provisions for "snow days" to govern these circumstances. We are legally defining who has the right of possession when schools are closed for reasons other than prescheduled holidays and in teacher service days. We are also drafting provisions that give the out of possession parent the right to go to the parent who is claiming the roads are too hazardous and get the kids and bring them back to their house. We are putting into legally enforceable orders what the "intent" has always been. When finishing your divorce, modification, or other parenting plan order, make sure your lawyer addresses this issue. It can save a lot of angst and anger when that "northern" blows in more than just cold air.

Making a snowman with your kid is a great experience and a memory every parent would love to make, but don't use it as an excuse to ignore your larger obligation of teaching your children responsibility, cooperation with their other parent, and how adults handle adversity and emergencies.Mariemont-Family-Photographer-6-1024x683(pp_w736_h490).jpg

How Young is "Too Young" to Leave Your Child Home Alone?

  • 13
  • March
    2015

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Over the years, I have been asked this question a number of times, and it has been part of litigation in many courtrooms throughout the country and even overseas. The simple answer is (like most legal questions)-it depends!

Most states do not have a minimum age requirement to leave a child home alone. Only a few states have laws that specify the age when a parent may leave their child home alone, including Oregon (age 10), Illinois (age 14), and Maryland (age 8).

Texas law does not state what age is old enough for a child to stay at home alone. However, you (as a parent) are accountable for the safety of your child, and failure to properly supervise your child could be considered as a type of neglect ("neglectful supervision").

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services sets forth some things for parents to consider when deciding how closely to supervise a child:

-How old, emotionally mature, and capable is your child?

-What is the layout and safety of the home, play area, or other setting?

-What are the hazards and risks in the neighborhood?

-What is your child's ability to respond to illness, fire, weather, or other types of emergencies?

-Does your child have a mental, physical, or medical disability?

-How many children are being left supervised?

-Do they know where you are?

-Can they contact you or other responsible adults?

-How long and how often is the child (or children) left alone?

In other words, use common sense. The bottom line is that it is a huge responsibility for a parent to make the decision to leave a child home alone. Please consider these guidelines when making that decision.homealone.jpg

3 Ways To Disinherit Your Offspring In Texas and Not Leave Them a Dime

  • 09
  • March
    2015

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for ted ogilvie_SMALL.jpgSo are you disappointed with the way your kids turned out? Are they rotten, spoiled brats? Are they criminals in and out of prison (mostly in)? Did they marry the wrong, gender, religion, age, or political affiliation? Did they go to law school instead of medical school? Did they let you down to the point where you now disown them?

If so, then here are three ways you can fix their wagons by not leaving them your hard-earned fortune:

1. Use it all up yourself. Just let loose and spend every last cent just before you die. To drive the point home to your off-putting offspring, you could even leave them a little debt to deal with should they want to pursue your estate.

2. Leave your estate to a worthy charity. Find the cause that excites you the most, seek out the person responsible for capturing gifts and pledges for your philanthropic choice, and pledge away. You might even want to see if the charity will name a building, scholarship or playground in your honor. (Wouldn't that be a great reminder the little undeserving twits will have to remember you by?)demrep.jpg

3. Of course, the method I would recommend is including an affirmative acknowledgement and minimal provision to the specific child(ren) in a will. In Texas, parents can choose whether or not to leave property to their children. In order to disinherit heirs, though, the only truly successful way is through a will. Under the Texas Estates Code, intestate distribution statutes may have property being passed to undesired heirs instead of those the parent would have chosen . . . or not chosen.

A will provides the testator the opportunity to affirmatively address and state to whom the testator wants to leave anything and everything. It also provides the testator the opportunity to affirmatively state what he does not want to give certain people. Hence, the testator has the sole power before he dies or loses capacity to direct who gets what.

Carrying this a little further to those parents who have children that are born out-of-wedlock, the will is definitely the most secure place to identify such children and own them or disown them. Should the decedent fail to ever let surviving friends know about such out-of-wedlock children, then the door may be open for the illegitimate children to charge in and take control of the decedent's estate. Now that could really be disastrous!

To be sure, I would suggest naming the illegitimate child, along with any other offspring needed to be recognized, and state specifically what that child gets from the estate. I believe naming the child and the minimal amount of what it is the child receives upon your death may defeat any further control that child could have over your estate. But I would strongly recommend having an attorney prepare any will, particularly a will that disinherits legitimate or illegitimate kids. You don't want your kids getting the last laugh after you're gone, do you?!smileyprison.jpg

Appealing Your Case - The Process

  • 02
  • March
    2015

Thumbnail image for johndenke_SMALL1.jpgAt the conclusion of a family law proceeding, a party can feel that the decision of either the judge or jury was incorrect. In such a scenario, it may be proper to appeal the judgment or verdict to a higher court. The process of appealing a trial court judgment to an appeals court can be a lengthy process, but can also ultimately result in the overturning of an unjust decision.

The timetables for filing an appeal begin to run when a final order is signed by the judge in a particular court handling the case. Generally, a party has thirty days from the date the order is signed to file their notice of appeal with the trial court. This will let the trial court know that a party is appealing the judgment to a higher court and put the appeals process into action.

Once notice of appeal is filed, the appeals court will be notified of the intention of a party to appeal a case. At this point, it will be the duty of the appealing party, or appellant, to obtain the records of the proceedings in the lower court. This will be both the record of pleadings, or clerk's record, along with the transcript of the trial, or reporter's record. These must be obtained with some urgency as the appeals court will want them turned over on a timely basis.

Once the clerk's record and reporter's record are obtained, the appellant will have to submit a brief in support of their position why the lower court's judgment should be overturned. The brief must lay out the issues challenged in the trial court's judgment and argue why those issues should be found in the appellant's favor, with citations to supporting case law and statutes. The other party seeking to uphold the lower court's judgment will need to file a response brief to the appellant's brief. The briefs are very important as the appeals court will review both of them before making a final decision on an appeal.

Sometimes, the parties will request oral argument before the appeals court before they make their decision. This will let both parties present their position to a panel of judges from the appeals court as to why their position on the appeal should be followed. The time is limited in oral argument for the parties, and the court will not always allow it to be presented.

Once the appeals court has reviewed the briefs and heard oral argument, if allowed, they will render a written opinion on the appeal. The opinion will state whether the lower court's judgment is upheld or reversed and give the basis for the decision by citing to pertinent law. The entire process from filing the notice of appeal to the receiving of the written opinion can take a year or longer. If you are considering filing an appeal on your case, an attorney familiar with the process can help you follow the pertinent deadlines and craft a brief and argument that will hopefully persuade the appeals court to see the case in your favor.appealatejudges.jpg

What's Going to Happen to "My Stuff" during my Divorce? The Fate of your Personal Property at the Hands of the Judicial System

  • 26
  • February
    2015

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Been unable to find separate places for your "stuff" between you and your divorcing spouse? Can't reach that agreement on who takes the 55" HDTV and who gets the Entertainment Center in which the HDTV once sat? Well, you aren't alone. This predicament seems to come up in 75% of divorces. Now, dividing up your stuff through the formal procedures of litigation becomes very costly. Here are 4 processes you may have to go through to get your "stuff" divided:potpoan3.jpg

1. Listing it all in an Inventory and Appraisement. You are going to be required to make that list of all of your "stuff" in detail as part of your Inventory and Appraisement with detail, certainly, and subject to strict scrutiny. The list I suggested you make in the last Blog which could have been done without time restraints and pressure now gets guided by your legal team and strict adherence to a set of rules on what must be included gets put on you. If you forget to claim something as your separate property, then it could be deemed a judicial admission and the car you had wanted and he gave you for your birthday may become community property subject to him getting it. Forget to list something, and then it could become undivided property subject to another round of lawyers and courts. Value some of your stuff that you think the other side is going to get too high, then there's a real good chance you are going to get to keep that "stuff" at the inflated price you said it was worth in the Inventory. The stakes on dividing your "stuff" get much higher now.

2. A Motion for Contempt. The "stuff" you didn't think was important and took to Goodwill without her permission now becomes a Motion to have you put in jail for disposing of property without a court order. Having a garage sale to decrease the amount of all your "stuff" and make a few dollars, throwing "stuff" away because your estranged spouse didn't pick it on time, or moving your spouses stuff to a storage or a friend's house that somehow gets "lost" or "stolen" all may result in a Motion for Contempt against you seeking return of the "stuff", fines, attorney fees, and even jail time. The personal property now gets used as leverage to achieve a bigger issue or gain advantage in the lawsuit.

3. Division in Mediation. At some point, if you and your soon to be ex don't settle your entire case, including who gets what of your "stuff", you will be sent to mediation. To start off, you are going to have a new 3rd party now join the process of dividing your "stuff" along with all your other assets and liabilities. This day will not be inexpensive. The mediator, your lawyer, and your spouse's lawyer all committed to a full day of negotiating. The issue of splitting your "stuff', I have found, comes at the end of the day. All the seemingly hard issues of kids, support, asset and liability issues get handled and then the attention turns to your "stuff". The preferred method is always the "division in kind". The mediator will ask what "stuff" each person wants from the other. If early in the case one spouse has vacated the marital residence leaving the other spouse and a houseful of "stuff", there is going to be a lot that is wanted. The other approach I see is where one spouse values the "stuff" the other has a some exorbitant amount and then graciously will allow the other person to keep all that expensive "stuff" in return for he or she taking cash or other liquid assets worth the same amount. Finally, if all those fail to carry the day, then the suggestions get down to a flip of the coin start with the winner picking the first item of "stuff" and the other having the next pick and alternating thereafter until no more "stuff" is to be picked. Another method is one spouse gets to put all their "stuff" into two piles with the other spouse getting to pick which pile they want. Lot's of strategy involved in this one. If everything else gets agreed upon except for the "stuff", then the case winds up in front of a judge whose paid job is then to divide your "stuff".

4. Division by a Judge. This is really the last place you want to be. Putting on evidence about kitchen appliances, furniture, and bric- a -brac is not economical at any level. But, it happens. So, what can you expect? The Judge has to hear the testimony if that is an issue that has to be decided to finish your case - but they won't like doing it. And, you won't like the result utilizing this method. The entire process is now officially out of your hands and into the hands of a person who will meet you, and decide in a few hours why the "stuff" you accumulated over many years should be split. I guarantee no matter how great your lawyer is there is going to be a message lost in the translation and something you treasure will wind up with your ex. In Texas, trial courts are not allowed by case law to make you flip coins, do lists, go outside the courtroom and not come back in until you have split your "stuff" - but, in my career, I have seen all of the above used in an effort to avoid trying (what is affectionately called) "the pots and pans". And they will - but not as a first choice.

Get your "stuff" divided early with your estranged spouse. Save you, the kids, and your soon to be ex a ton of money, argument, and time. It's going to be split so do it quickly and early. Just remember, after the divorce is over all your new "STUFF" is just yours! potpan.jpg

3 Play Therapist Roles During a Divorce/Custody Process by Christy Graham, LPC-S

  • 25
  • February
    2015

Thumbnail image for christygraham.JPGYou are sitting in your lawyer's office, talking about your children. Painful memories, hurt and helplessness fill your heart as you describe your life with your children's other parent. There are financial ties, business ties, legal ties between you and this person whom you no longer like or trust. None of these ties are as emotional and personal as your child. In the midst of this upsetting meeting, your lawyer looks at you and says, 'Your children need a therapist. I recommend this one.' You dutifully put that on your list of homework and wonder what this person may do for or to your children. You also wonder if you can afford this process-emotionally and financially.

Play Therapist's Role #1: Boundary Coach

Even before the first session, play therapists help set boundaries. We must have court documents on our client's custody arrangements. We want to contact each parent in the first few weeks of counseling. We desire relationships with each important person in the child's life. In meeting these requirements, we communicate to the parents the need to work together and show possible ways to cooperate without harming each other. We coach you about the boundaries we have in session, about your information privacy, about boundaries your child has to have and those they don't absolutely need.playtherpy2.jpeg

While you are going through divorce and custody issues, boundaries and trust shift. Relationships change and are reframed as good/bad, safe/unsafe. Ties that have bound people for years are being removed, reconsidered, reframed. Your lawyer can give some boundaries by talking about what is legal, what helps your case, what the strategy is. However, who is an objective person who can say this is safe for your child's emotional life?

Play Therapist's Role #2: Teacher

Play Therapists spend much of their continuing education focusing on children. Most of their practice is children. In order to be a registered play therapist, we must have specialized education and supervision focused on children. We choose to know and understand as much as we can about children. So in our first few sessions, we may teach you a lot about how a child sees the world and the situation they find themselves in. We may talk about why nesting works for most children, but doesn't work for your situation. We may teach you how to calm your child with relaxation techniques, or talk about how to phrase or present new ideas/changes that are occurring. We can help you to express yourself to your child in an honest, healthy, age appropriate way.

We want to teach these same skills to your child's other parent.safty.jpeg

Play Therapists also teach children how to understand divorce, express their complicated feelings about divorce, and learn to live with the life they now have. Reading stories that focus on children's feelings about divorce, role playing with parents and children on how to express themselves respectfully and honestly, playing out stories of conflict in the play room and finding a way to resolve it: These are all my favorite part of working in a divorce situation.

Play Therapist's Role #3: Safety Coach

Most of the time when parents come to me during a divorce or custody hearing, this role is the only one they are thinking about. While the entire extended family is under extreme pressure during social studies, legal hearings, changes to lifestyles and schedules, allegations of abuse or neglect, and their relationships are being redefined in mostly negative ways, while everyone is focused on the negative: parents need someone to assure their child's safety. This need is primal and can be overwhelming. It is also intricately woven into each of the stresses that are occurring. Lawyers, judges, friends and family all ask if the kids are ok, are the kids safe with him/her. And you don't know.

Play therapists, by and large, focus on hearing what the child is saying, what they are feeling, and are not forensic. In fact, many refuse to testify in any way. We understand that there are huge repercussions emotionally if a child feels like they told on their parent, or chose one parent over another. But we do get to be the child's voice when there are safety issues. If your child tells you, the parent, about something scary going on in the other home or at school or at the daycare, your hands can easily be tied due to the custody proceedings that are ongoing. However, if they report to their therapist the concern, the therapist can tell the judge or CPS or the other parent. We can be a bridge to help set a boundary: everyone must be safe.

These are only a few of the roles a play therapist can play in the life of a changing family. My hope is that after reading this article, you know our job better and whether we can help you.Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for images (14).jpeg

Do you have questions or concerns about a child in your life? Call Christy Graham, LPC Supervisor and Registered Play Therapist Supervisor. If I can't help you, I can find someone who can. If you enjoyed this article, consider signing up for my Parent Education Program. You'll get articles sent to you regarding parenting and an extra podcast a month focused just on parenting issues. Being a client is not the only way to learn more about being a parent!Thumbnail image for images (16).jpeg

What's Going to Happen to my "Stuff" if I Divorce?

  • 23
  • February
    2015

Thumbnail image for wfneal_SMALL.jpgThe comedian George Carlin made a reputation out of his epic routine talking about everyone's "stuff" and how important it is to each of us. Carlin died in 2008, but his point is still alive and well today. While he doesn't address it in his routine, keeping your "stuff" is never more relevant than in a divorce.

We all want our "stuff". As Carlin says, we need a house to store our "stuff" so we can go out to ". . . GET MORE STUFF"! Well, in a divorce, the task is to split the "stuff".

The reality that I have seen in my career is that this "stuff" accumulated by the parties over the duration of their marriage has -more emotional impact than the house that holds it or the retirement benefits they have amassed to see them through their final years. From the Lenox China inherited from Grandma Bee and used religiously once a year at Thanksgiving to the Big Green Egg Barbeque cooker used in the backyard family get-togethers over the years, every piece of a divorcing couples "stuff" comes with a story. Dividing the "stuff" can be done systematically and logically. Separating the story from the "stuff" is what, in my opinion, makes this the most traumatic, emotional, and long lasting bitter pill that they must endure.carlinstuff-19.jpg

To save yourself angst, time, money, and receive continual pats on the back from your legal team, do the following now:

1. Make a list of your "stuff"! Do a spreadsheet, take pictures, and make videos of all your "stuff". Put down where and when you got it. Enter notes on each item of your "stuff"-include the story about that piece of "stuff" if there is one. In addition to your divorce case, a detailed list of your "stuff" can be invaluable in a homeowner's insurance claim, taking IRS charitable deductions, and for letting your kids know what items of your "stuff" are valuable when you leave this planet. You can't take your "stuff" with you.

images-77.jpeg2. Separate on your list anything that would be separate property. If you inherited it, had it before marriage, or received it as a gift, you own it. If you prove it as your separate property, the Judge has to let you keep that "stuff". Pay special attention to "stuff" your spouse gave you. Your spouse, in the divorce, is going to claim that gift was an investment you both made and not a gift to you. Write down the occasion; find the card that came with the gift on your birthday, and write down the names of any witnesses that can back you up on the facts.

3. Get your "stuff" out of the residence. If you know you are going to file for divorce and your spouse doesn't, before filing move the most important emotional "stuff" out of the house. If you are the one that will have to move out of the residence during the initial split, take any agreed "stuff" or any "stuff" ordered by the Court for you to have with you - right then. Don't leave it for a later pick up time! This rule is never to be broken if you want to keep your "stuff". Leaving any of your "stuff" behind gives you a 90% chance you'll never see it again. If you have to, rent a storage unit.

4. Put a value on it! Painful process - yes, it is but necessary if you and your spouse can't find a way to spit the household items between yourselves. Remember, the value under the law is fair market value - not what you paid for it.

5. Try to get an agreement on dividing your "stuff" with your soon to be Ex. If there is a place that you can save money on legal fees during your divorce, it's right here. Unless you have a house full of antiques or rare collectibles, none of your "stuff" is going to be worth the cost of letting lawyers and courts divide it. You could almost furnish a brand new residence for what it will cost to let the judicial system split the "stuff" for you. Put aside the bitterness, rancor, sadness, and spite for a couple of hours and sit down with your spouse and divide all your "stuff" in a way that makes sense to both of you - sentimental attachments and all. Keep in mind, successfully splitting up "stuff" will require compromise.