Lewisville Family Law Blog

Plan Ahead When Dividing the Marital Home

  • 21
  • July
    2014

Deciding how to split the house can be the most difficult part of the divorced process for many estranged Texas couples. The home is often the most valuable asset a married couple owns, so its division drastically affects the split of the remaining marital assets.

Even if the couple can agree on an amicable split of their assets, they may encounter problems related to dividing the marital home. A situation often arises where one spouse gets to keep the home but both parties are still legally obligated on the mortgage. In most cases, the spouse who received the home would contact his or her bank and refinance without the ex-spouse on the new loan documents. However, this may not be possible if the new homeowner cannot qualify for a mortgage without the income of the ex-spouse.

Go Ahead, Divorce Form-User, Make My Day

  • 21
  • July
    2014

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for ted ogilvie_SMALL.jpgThe use of pre-made, or check-the-box, forms in a Texas divorce can be perilous for one or both of the parties in a divorce. The result is usually that one or both of the parties retain lawyers within a couple of years to straighten out the mess created by the use of the non-attorney prepared form. These scenarios often remind me of the old Clint Eastwood character, Dirty Harry, and his catch phrase, "Go ahead, make my day!"

Let me explain. In the 1970's movies, Harry Callahan was the street guardian who solved crimes and helped those being vandalized and victimized by people who wanted to get ahead the easy way. The easy way for them was just to ignore the law, which really got under Harry's skin. After giving the perpetrator a stern warning to think about what was going to happen, while the perp looked down the barrel of Harry's Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum, the perp got to choose the next move. He (or she) could correct the action or accept the fate dealt by Harry's .44 Magnum.

Splitting Recordings, Books, and Other Copyrighted Assets in a Divorce

  • 17
  • July
    2014

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for ted ogilvie_SMALL.jpgDividing intellectual property in a divorce can be tricky sometimes. I've had the pleasure of representing artists, singer/songwriters, and authors over the years. These cases often don't look any different than other cases where you usually see the flat screen, the sofa, the family sedan, the Harley, the boat, and the IRAs lined up under either "Property Awarded to Husband" or "Property Awarded to Wife" in the decree. But assets containing copyrights, royalties, patents and other intellectual properties require special attention to ensure the division, or award, is clear, correct, and thorough.

My good friend and attorney, Tamera Bennett, practices in the area of intellectual property and she has guided me through many of these issues. She has stressed to me over the years how important it is to identify the potential issues early on so they can be dealt with properly to begin with. Otherwise intellectual property issues can become problematic very quickly, and the effects can be very long-lasting.

Tamera recently wrote an article for the July 14, 2014 edition of Texas Lawyer titled "Divorced in Motown: Who Gets the Rights?" dealing with such an issue. You can access the article on her blog where she discussed a recent case involving Smokey Robinson and his former wife for the past thirty years, Claudette Robinson.

Consider future financial needs during divorce

  • 14
  • July
    2014

Family law attorneys in Texas and around the country now handle "gray divorce" cases more frequently. The term describes divorces of married couples who are aged 50 or older. A divorce at any age involves the issue of property division, including who keeps the family home. However, with retirement looming on the horizon, older couples may want to focus more on what they need to support themselves in retirement.

Most divorces use negotiations and settlements rather than court proceedings to come up with agreements regarding issues such as alimony, custody and property division. However, emotion-based decisions made at the end of a marriage can prove costly. Younger individuals have more time to make up for financial mistakes made during divorces, but older individuals face pressure to get the details of their divorce right.

Who Gets the House in the Divorce?

  • 09
  • July
    2014

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for ted ogilvie_SMALL.jpgNo where is it written what a divorcing couple must do with the marital residence. But very often one party presumes he or she MUST stay in the house.

That conclusion as to who gets the house could be ill-founded and unsupported by reason. The facts may absolutely elude the spouse fighting tooth and nail just to keep "the place where memories were made" or "the only place the kids have known as home."

This can make the marital residence award a burden rather than a good decision. Here's what realtor and Certified Real Estate Divorce Specialist Jolie Williams* says about this:

"Handling the division of the marital home as a purchase ensures the party staying in the house is making a good decision when buying out their spouse's interest in the property. When purchasing a home, any responsible buyer would evaluate their financial ability to purchase the property; would look at comparable properties to evaluate value; would have a home inspection to evaluate the condition of the property; would obtain a title insurance policy; and would obtain a copy of the deed recorded with the County. Anyone purchasing their spouse's interest in the marital home should follow the same guidelines."

Texas man begins jail sentence for late child support

  • 07
  • July
    2014

A Texas father who was sentenced to six months in jail for nonpayment of child support began his jail sentence after his appeal was rejected. The man owed more than $3,000 in back child support when he realized the money that was being garnished by his employer was not forwarded to the court so it could be sent to the mother of his young son.

Though he was able to pay all of the overdue child support and an additional $1,000 before his sentence began, the man was still taken into custody due to a change in the law regarding his case. His attorney filed an appeal with the 14th District Court of Appeals but was unable to get the sentence overturned. At the time he surrendered to law enforcement, his attorney stated she held out hope that the judge would suspend the sentence so he could continue to work and spend time with his child.

Five questions to ponder when trying to find the RIGHT lawyer to hire for a Family Law Matter

  • 01
  • July
    2014

Thumbnail image for wfneal_SMALL.jpgIn my Three "Baby Steps"  to take when thinking about a divorce blog,  the number one step suggested was getting legal advice as early as possible.  So, how do I find the RIGHT "someone"  to give me that advice?  You could try Googling this question and you would find 50,000,000 search results on this topic.  All, I am sure, are good and informative.   However, after doing this for 41 years I have my own set of questions that seem to always get asked to me.

1.    Is experience and expertise important? A resounding YES.  Would you go to see your internist if you had a foot injury?  Of course not.  The law is no different.     Texas has board certification in many fields and Family Law is one.   Seeing a lawyer who is Board Certified means that he or she has been practicing for at least 5 years and that attorney spends significant amount of his or her practice hours working in family law, which includes divorce.  The lawyer has had to undergo a peer review to be able to sit for an extensive examination on all areas of Family Law.  Even if not Board certified, does the attorney of his or her Firm devote a significant portion of their practice to Family Law cases?  In matters that involve the future of you and your children, you don't want your lawyer to be a "Jack of all trades and a Master of None" - as the old saying goes.

2.    What is the lawyer's "winning" record?  This question has been asked of me hundreds of times and, after all these years of doing this - I still don't know how to answer it.  How does one know what it is?  Family Law and divorce involve many factors and issues.  No one "wins" in a divorce anyway.  The standard set out in the law as to the property issues in a divorce is a "just and right division" and as to children it is what is in their "best interest".   So, how does one quantify his or her past results - sort of a "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" perspective it seems to me.   If "winning" means you end up believing your attorney was always looking out for your best interests first, and genuinely cared about you and how you and your family would do after the representation ended, and finally, did everything possible to obtain this result - then the final score will only be known years down the road.

Undoing a Bad Result in a Divorce

  • 01
  • July
    2014

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Just because the Divorce Decree has been signed by the Judge doesn't mean it's final in Texas. If you "got screwed" in your divorce, it may be possible to undo the damage.


If you believe the other side took advantage of you or the Judge simply made the wrong decision, then you need to have your decree scrutinized by a lawyer right away. But the clock is ticking. A party generally has the right to file a Motion for New Trial within 30 days of the entry of the Decree.

If the Court grants the Motion, then the Judge may allow you to have another bite at the apple and get the result you believe you are entitled to. The Judge could order a Full New Trial, where the entire judgment is up to be changed. Or it could be for a Partial New Trial, where only the limited issue(s) would be heard again.

Sometimes the error in the Decree is obvious to the Judge, sometimes it is not. This is the first step in the appeals process. So if the New Trial doesn't fix it, then you might want to consider the next steps in getting it to the Court of Appeals.

More fathers seeking custody time with their children

  • 24
  • June
    2014

Texas is a community property state, and courts will generally divide marital assets equally as part of a divorce. However, there is no such law that requires that two parents be granted equal time with their children. Many men feel that courts are still biased in favor of mothers, despite the fact that research has shown that children benefit from having both parents in the picture. Some men, like one Texas father fighting for custody of his 12-year-old son, will specifically look for law firms that represent only men. However, even law firms that represent both men and women may understand the importance of trying to obtain a co-parenting arrangement.

Fathers' emotional and physical connections with their children are important for their children's healthy development. Some states are researching potential legislation that would urge family law judges to consider joint parenting to be in the best interests of the children of divorce. No state is currently seen as being particularly revolutionary in terms of fathers' rights.

Social media and prenuptial agreements

  • 17
  • June
    2014

As social media becomes increasingly popular in Texas and the rest of the U.S., more and more users post comments, status updates and photos. The backlash could be serious for a spouse who posts questionable information regarding their significant other. If one partner wants the other to delete a comment or photo, they might be forced to comply or face the possibility of paying their spouse.

In some cases, parties are drawing up pre-marital agreements that include social media guidelines that address the delicate topic. One lawyer observed that this area of law is quite new and began to pop up in connection with other prenuptials in April 2014. Since then, about one in three clients have expressed an interest in including social media expectations in a prenup. She believes that the idea will catch on in an even greater way because people understand the seriousness of posting something on social media and realize it can never be retracted.