• Divorce

    • Social Media’s Impact on Infidelity and Divorce

      A New Jersey pastor, Reverend Cedric A. Miller, said 20 couples in his congregation of about 1,100 members have experienced marital troubles in the last six months as a result of Facebook. He urged his congregants to delete their Facebook accounts, calling the social networking website a “portal to infidelity”.

      Although this view of Facebook may be extreme, it does lead to the question: Are new technologies bringing us closer together, or tempting us to stray from those who matter most?

      A recent survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found that 81 percent of divorce attorneys have seen an increase in the amount of cases using evidence from social networking websites. It is becoming more common for attorneys to use information gathered from Facebook, Twitter and text messages in dissolution proceedings.

      How Does Social Media Influence People’s Behavior?

      Therapists say opportunity is a major predictor of infidelity. Opportunities for connections have never been greater than in this digital age.

      Years ago, there were numerous barriers to getting in touch with old flames or potential romantic partners. Even if you were able to locate their contact information, you would have to question whether calling or writing them would be appropriate.

      Now, by Googling people you are likely to find where they work, their email address and Facebook page. Texts, Facebook messages and emails can be sent casually and discretely. The lure of relationships based on social media is that they seem so innocent at first.

      Not only do these technologies make connections easier to establish, they also cause relationships to progress more rapidly. Bob Rosenwein, a researcher at Lehigh University, found that people communicating online fell for each other two to three times faster than those communicating face-to-face. Often in just a week!

      Rosenwein explained, “When you don’t have nonverbal communication, the likelihood of being able to disclose at a deeper level is greater, because there’s less inhibition…it’s going to feel like a more intimate relationship.”

      Tips to Keep Social Media From Harming Your Relationship

      Couples don’t have to disconnect from technology completely, but should agree on appropriate guidelines. Some recommendations are listed below:

      • Don’t Keep Secrets– If you receive an email or “friend” request from a past love discuss it with your partner and agree on an appropriate response.
      • Share Passwords– If you don’t have shared email accounts or Facebook pages exchange passwords. This helps to prevent temptation and ensures neither of you have anything to hide.
      • Limit Time Spent On Social Media– Be aware of how much time you and your partner are spending on social media. Make quality in-person time with your spouse a priority.
      • Trust Your Instincts– If you think a particular communication might cross the line, it likely is inappropriate. If you suspect your partner is engaging in improper communication, bring up your concerns with them directly.

      Ultimately people, and not technology, are responsible when a relationship fails. Spouses should work together to make sure the instant gratification of social media doesn’t negatively impact their long-term relationship.

    • Alternatives to Divorce Litigation in Texas

      In a recent, tentative ruling, a superior court judge in Los Angeles County voided the disputed marital property agreement between Frank and Jamie McCourt – an agreement Frank McCourt claimed made him the sole owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The 100-page ruling by Judge Scott Gordon not only opens the door to a possible sale of the franchise, but also warns of additional and protracted litigation on the horizon. The contentious divorce is reportedly one of the most expensive in California history; it included a trial lasting 11 days in September.

      Protracted litigation may weigh heavily in the minds many divorcing couples. There are, however, alternatives to courtroom litigation. Couples who arrive at resolutions in other ways may retain more control over the outcome of their property settlements and custody arrangements, while saving time and expense when compared to traditional litigation.

      Nonlitigation Options for Divorcing Couples

      Approximately 95 percent of Texas divorces are settled by agreement. The appropriate divorce option for each couple depends on the needs of the spouses and family members. Some alternatives may not be appropriate for cases involving allegations of abuse. Among the common divorce options are the following alternatives:

      Uncontested Divorce

      When the spouses agree on the terms of the divorce, the case is uncontested. In an uncontested divorce, usually only one spouse hires an attorney to draft and file the divorce documents, and go to court to have the agreement approved. The unrepresented spouse may be able to ask questions of the attorney, but the attorney will not represent both parties. Alternatively, both parties may wish to hire their own attorney to make sure that the written settlement correctly reflects the actual agreement.

      This can be the fastest and least expensive option for divorcing spouses. After the divorce petition is filed, there is a 60-day waiting period in Texas. Once the 60 days have expired, the final divorce decree can be signed by both sides and presented to the judge for approval and signature.

      Some parties may be tempted to create their own documents or to complete do-it-yourself forms online. Without the benefit of legal counsel, spouses may not accurately transcribe the terms of their agreement. If there is an imbalance in information available or bargaining power, one spouse may not understand what he or she is giving up in the agreement.

      Collaborative Law

      In the collaborative law model, the parties are each represented by an attorney, but agree to focus their efforts on settlement. The parties sometimes work with a team of collaborative professionals, including mental health and financial professionals, all working towards reaching a settlement that is in the interests of both parties.

      Collaborative law is a client-driven process. The more relaxed and cooperative setting for the discovery and negotiation processes can expedite the divorce. Collaborative divorce replaces the adversarial focus on winning with a spirit of collaboration and involvement. These changes may help minimize the negative impact of divorce both on the couple and any children of the marriage.

      Couples who are not able to reach a final agreement through collaborative law may still take their cases to court, but will need to hire new counsel.

      Mediation

      In mediation, a neutral mediator facilitates the settlement negotiation. The mediator can offer the husband and wife an unbiased perspective. By acting as a neutral party and facilitating communication between the spouses, the mediator helps couples work to reach a settlement agreement.

      Mediation can be completed voluntarily, or the spouses may be required to attempt reaching a mediated agreement before they are allowed to go to trial. The parties may also choose to be individually represented by attorneys in mediation.

      Divorce Litigation

      Litigation can provide resolution for couples who are unable to settle in other ways. It can force a reluctant spouse to deal with the division of assets and liabilities, and address important issues of child custody and support. Divorce litigation can be expensive financially and emotionally. It can be time-consuming and, ultimately the decision will be made by a judge who does not know the couple or children involved.

      Couples contemplating divorce should consult with a knowledgeable family law attorney. A lawyer can discuss their options for pursuing an efficient, cost-effective resolution that minimizes the emotional strain on the couple and any children involved.

    • Can You Deduct Divorce-Related Legal Fees On Your Taxes?

      For the most part, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) does not allow parties to a divorce to deduct attorney fees, court filing costs and other expenses incurred in pursuit of a divorce, legal separation or order for spousal support. In limited situations, though, a party might be able to deduct costs that are directly traceable to tax advice concerning possible tax consequences of that divorce, separation decree or taxable alimony award.

      What Expenses Are Nondeductible?

      IRS regulations specifically disallow expenses incurred for the purposes of counseling, personal advice (whether given by an attorney, therapist or other paid expert) and legal actions in a marital dissolution case, request for legal separation or modification of preexisting divorce, separation, support or property division order.

      What Expenses May Be Deductible?

      Even though the IRS broadly exempts divorce-related legal fees from being deductible, fees specifically related to tax advice and to seek alimony are indeed deductible, though the expenses must be clearly delineated from other, nondeductible legal fees.

      Alimony-related legal fees can be deducted to the extent they are used to secure payment of taxable spousal support. There are, of course, specific criteria that must be met before legal fees incurred to seek alimony can be deducted:

      • The total fees exceed a full two percent of the payor’s adjusted gross income
      • The fees must have been incurred while seeking compensation/income that is taxable (like alimony) – not income that is nontaxable like child support

      Expenses for research of and advice on tax consequences could be deductible provided that those expenses represent two percent of the payor’s adjusted gross income and they are clearly delineated from other divorce, alimony or legal separation-related fees.

      Determining the tax consequences of any divorce action is a complicated process. If you need help trying to navigate the muddy waters of tax deductions and exemptions related to these types of legal actions, consult an experienced family law attorney in your area today.

    • Children of Divorced Parents Receive Less Help with College Costs

      Getting through college can be a substantial financial challenge; many students rely on a good deal of assistance from their parents. But, a new study shows that parents who divorce may be less able to financially support their children during the college years.

      Significantly Lower Contributions

      A study recently published in the Journal of Family Issues surveyed some 2,400 undergraduate students about parental contributions for college expenses.

      Researchers found that parents who were still married offered around eight percent of their incomes to financially support their children in college, meeting 77 percent of tuition costs.

      Divorced parents, on the other hand, had lower overall incomes, and met just 42 percent of tuition expenses giving only six percent of their incomes. When divorced parents remarry, their income generally increases. Yet, even remarried parents could only offset 53 percent of expenses utilizing five percent of their incomes.

      Possible Reasons

      The authors of the study specifically noted one possible reason for the outcome: diluted resources.

      Even if everything else remains the same, the same pool of income that was being used to support one household now has to serve two. Remarried parents take on a whole new set of obligations with a new family, often including stepchildren. Add in potentially high costs of a divorce, and it is no surprise that students from divorced families face an uphill battle for financial resources.

      What You Can Do

      If you are divorced or in the process of divorcing, it does not mean you have to sacrifice your children’s education. You may, however, need to save more, budget stringently, and cut down on divorce-related expenses. Speak with an experienced family law attorney to find out how to secure a brighter future for you and your kids.

    • Protecting Your Finances in a Divorce

      Going through a divorce can be a stressful, challenging experience for both spouses. But, there is no reason that even a particularly difficult divorce has to leave your financial life in ruins. By keeping in mind a few key considerations, you can give yourself better chances of keeping your finances intact and thus being able to return more quickly to a normal, productive lifestyle.

      Untangle Finances

      When some spouses divorce, they attempt to maintain joint credit cards and loans, or continue to commingle their assets. Sometimes this may be done to manage their children’s expenses or a home mortgage from a homestead that has yet to be sold. Regardless of the reason, this is almost always a bad idea.

      If you share credit with your former spouse, you will be liable for all the debts he or she incurs under your joint accounts. Additionally, if your former spouse defaults on payments, it can have disastrous consequences for your credit score. Filing for bankruptcy, committing fraud, or becoming disabled can also impact the finances of a credit-sharing ex-partner.

      Even when divorces are wrapped up amicably, things can quickly change. Make sure you take steps to establish your own accounts and sever all financial connections that could affect your future liability.

      Plan for Change

      When agreeing upon a property settlement, proper foresight is essential. If both you and your former spouse cannot live with the terms of your divorce settlement, it is likely you will wind up in court down the line when financial circumstances change.

      Include terms for foreseeable contingencies. What if one of you starts making far more (or less) money? How long will alimony or child support payments last? What if unanticipated expenses arise involving the kids? Who gets treasured family items? Addressing these issues during your divorce negotiations will help keep you out of court later.

      You should also be prepared for how consequences of the property division will affect your life. For instance, you may not want to deal with the expense (and headache) of trying to maintain the family home on your own.

      Finally, when splitting up marital property, take into account tax considerations: two assets that appear to have the same face value could actually be worth vastly different sums due to disparate tax treatment.

      Retain a Strong Advocate

      When you are getting divorced, it is important to hire an experienced divorce lawyer. Your attorney will advocate for you to secure the most favorable arrangements possible and help ensure your financial wellbeing.

    • Getting Divorced in Texas? Consider Mediation

      At current rates, more than half of marriages are destined for divorce. Of course, many of these divorces involve intense emotions and high financial stakes. But, often the courtroom is not the most productive venue for sorting through such issues during a split. For some couples, divorce mediation may be a better way to divide marital assets and settle issues without causing further damage to their relationship.

      Dealing With Emotions

      As mentioned, strong feelings accompany most divorces. Unfortunately, the adversarial model of our justice system is structured such that it usually does more to exacerbate these emotions than dispel them. Unrestrained emotions prevent parties from focusing on what they really want, making coming to an agreement difficult, and may also magnify the stress that is inherent in any divorce.

      Qualified mediators, however, are specially trained to soften emotions and turn them into something productive. In mediation, former spouses and their representatives will meet with a third party mediator to work through issues like property division and child custody. Mediation facilitates communication, the lack of which can be disastrous to a marriage as well as a divorce.

      Other Benefits of Mediation

      Mediation may result in a better overall divorce arrangement as well. In court, each side presents evidence and asks the judge for what they want. The judge may impose terms favorable to one party over another, and once the judge has spoken, the divorce decree is binding.

      Mediation, on the other hand, lets former spouses come to their own agreement, factoring in what they know about their own needs, strengths, and weaknesses. Judges, while making a good faith effort to come to the right decision, often simply do not have enough familiarity with the lives of the former spouses to allow for determining the best arrangement going forward.

      As an added bonus, mediation may be beneficial for a couple’s children. Seeing their parents settle conflict using a healthy, problem-solving approach sets a good example. In addition, mediation may allow parents to maintain at least a civil relationship, which reduces stress on kids after the divorce.

      Finally, mediation also allows couples to potentially avoid the significant expenses of a long court battle.

      Speak to an experienced family law attorney about all your options for pursuing a divorce to determine the best process for your unique situation.

    • Texas Divorce & Retirement Benefits: Qualified Domestic Relations Orders

      In some divorces, dividing retirement benefits is simply not an issue: perhaps no retirement benefits were acquired during the marriage, or maybe both former spouses already have every pertinent retirement interest set forth in their own names. But, when divorce decree or settlement terms do touch on retirement plans, obtaining a document known as a qualified domestic relations order (“QDRO”) can be extremely advantageous.

      What Is A QDRO?

      A QDRO is an order issued by a court (or a state agency with the proper authority) that creates a right for an alternate individual to receive some portion, up to and including the full amount, of retirement benefit payouts under a given plan. Essentially, a QDRO forces the provider of retirement benefits to make direct payments to the former spouse of a particular participant in their plan.

      At a minimum, a QDRO must contain the following information: the names and addresses of the retirement plan participant and all alternate payees, the name of the plan in question, the amount (or a formula for determining the amount) of benefits to be paid to the alternate payee, and the number of payments required or a time period covered by the QDRO.

      Benefits of QDROs

      While a QDRO is not strictly required in order to receive a portion of your former spouse’s retirement benefits, pursuing a QDRO is usually the best course of action.

      When you are awarded half or some other proportion of the interest in your former spouse’s retirement plan, a QDRO allows you to receive your benefits directly from the provider. You do not have to rely on your former spouse for payments, and tax consequences on each share are accounted for. Direct rights are also usually easier to enforce than other options.

      Another huge benefit of a QDRO is the control it gives you. With a QDRO, you will have just as much power over your portion of your ex-spouse’s retirement plan as you would if it was your own individual plan. This can be significant, for instance, if your former spouse decides to work beyond the standard retirement age but you would like to begin receiving immediate payments.

      Speak With an Attorney

      If your divorce involves retirement benefits, your divorce attorney can help you obtain a QDRO and ensure your financial interests are protected. Contact a family law attorney to explore your options today.

    • Dissatisfied With Your Texas Divorce Decree? Modification is an Option

      In many divorces, extensive negotiations or even battles in court precede an arrangement regarding child custody and post-separation finances. But, no one can predict the future; as time passes and things change, it is not uncommon for a former spouse to begin to feel like he or she got a bad deal. Fortunately, there are safeguards built into divorce law that allow for the modification of settlement agreements or court orders when the former couples’ situation changes.

      Grounds for Modification

      Any modification to a divorce decree has to be approved by a court to be legally enforceable. Judges will examine any changes to a former couple’s circumstances to determine whether a modification is warranted.

      Typically, modification requests center around child custody issues or support obligations (either child support or spousal support). As such, factors that influence these considerations, such as moving, large fluctuations in income, major health problems, and unexpected expenses must be shown to represent a material and substantial change in circumstances in order to obtain a decree modification.

      Modifications can increase or decrease financial obligations, and be requested by either party. For instance, if the non-custodial parent lost his or her job, that parent may be justified in asking for a reduction in child support payments. Conversely, if the non-custodial parent got a raise and began making significantly more, his or her ex-partner could ask a court to increase support amounts.

      Update Decree Terms to Accommodate Life Changes

      Perhaps your former spouse took a new job and no longer has the time to spend with the kids he or she once did. Maybe the visitation schedule set up during your divorce does not currently match your needs and the needs of your children as they have gotten older.

      Whatever significant changes have occurred in your life, your children’s lives, or the life of your former spouse, your divorce decree should reflect the new situation. If you need to modify a divorce decree, contact an experienced divorce and family law attorney today.

    • The Business of Divorce: Dealing With Divorce and the Family Business

      Many couples who own a family business together have dedicated enormous amounts of time, money and effort to their enterprise. A family-run business often represents more than just a source of income; it may be part of a family’s way of life. When couples decide to part ways, it is important for them to know that a divorce does not have to mean the end of the business they built together.

      Family-run businesses represent 90 percent of U.S. businesses, according to the Small Business Administration. Many families appreciate the flexibility, lower employment costs and sense of ownership such businesses provide. For these reasons, and many others, couples may desire to keep their business running despite going through a divorce.

      Of course, deciding upon an appropriate plan for a family business after a divorce is challenging. Spouses may have different ideas about what should be done with the company, the roles each spouse should have, and how business goals are best accomplished. Luckily, there are several options that can be considered.

      Options for Dealing With Family Businesses in Divorce

      One option is for both spouses to continue working at the business in their current roles. If spouses choose this option, it is important for both parties to be realistic about their ability to function together as a team. This is especially important if the spouses are both partners in the enterprise.

      Another option is for one spouse to step back into a different role, but remain involved in the business’ workings. In this situation, make sure the expectations and limits of the new role are clear and agreeable to both spouses. Plans will also need to be made for the transition and potential replacement employee. These items can be discussed as part of the divorce process.

      The parties may decide that it is best for only one of them to keep the business, and the other to be compensated with an appropriate payout. The payout a spouse receives may be based on his or her interest in the business, and can be accomplished using the equity in the marital homestead or another large asset.

      Finally, there is the option of selling the business and dividing the proceeds. One issue to keep in mind is that, although family businesses may be very valuable, they also generally are relatively illiquid. In other words, it is difficult to convert the business into cash while retaining its full value. Although this may be the best option for some couples, they should be prepared for the possibility of not recouping the full value of their business.

      Strategies and Tips

      Whatever divorcing spouses decide to do with the business, they should keep several things in mind. First, it is important that both parties try their best to separate personal disagreements from business discussions. Of course, this may be easier said than done, especially if emotions related to the break-up are running high. The parties, however, should try to focus their energy on protecting the value and integrity of the business. They should consciously try to be objective and rational, and open to the idea of compromise.

      Much disagreement can be avoided if a couple already has a prenuptial agreement in place detailing how the family business is to be handled in a divorce. Of course, many couples do not realize the value of a prenup until it is too late. For those that plan ahead, however, a well crafted prenuptial agreement can serve to clearly define the future of a family business and both parties’ roles in it after a divorce.

      It is also crucial to have a proper business valuation completed. In order for both spouses to reach a fair agreement about the division or sale of the business, its true value needs to be determined. Particularly if only one spouse is retaining the business, he or she has an incentive to understate its value, while the non-owning spouse may seek to overvalue the company.

      A number of professionals can complete business valuations, including accountants, financial analysts, business appraisers and certified divorce financial planning experts. A business valuation encompasses more than just a business’ assets and liabilities. Past earnings and future projections also need to be considered to arrive at an appropriate valuation.

      Finally, it is important to contact a knowledgeable Texas family law attorney. An experienced lawyer can advise you of the state law and the options available to you. For example, since Texas is a community property state, it mandates that all marital property, including family businesses, be divided evenly.

      The end of a marriage does not have to mean the end of a family business. If a couple desires for a business to continue, a number of options are available. By working together and seeking the advice of experienced professionals, couples can customize a plan that addresses all their needs and keeps a business running.

    • Divorce, Tax Filing Status and Child Exemptions

      With tax season once again upon us, recent divorcees may have questions about their tax filing status as well as whether they may claim minor children on their tax returns.

      With regard to filing status, you marital status as of December 31 st determines how you may file. If your divorce was finalized at any time during the tax filing year you may file as head of household or single. However, if your divorce is not finalized by the last day of the year, for tax purposes you are still considered married.

      Federal law allows custodial parents to claim their children as dependents and take advantage of certain tax credits. Some divorce decrees specify how the child (or children) may be claimed. For example, the order may indicate that the custodial parent may claim the child for tax purposes. It may indicate that the parties shall alternate use of the child tax exemption, or it may direct them to share any refund received as a result of the exemption.

      If your decree doesn’t say anything about dependents, you may be able to claim your child if you meet the following requirements:

      • You and your spouse are filing separate returns
      • You have paid over half the expenses of maintaining your residence for the year
      • You provided more than half of your child’s financial support for the year
      • Your child has lived with you a majority of the time
      • Your ex-spouse hasn’t lived with you for the last six months of the year at minimum

      Keep in mind that the child must also be a U.S. citizen. If the child was 18 years or older but was a student, and made less than $2,800 last year, you may be able to claim him or her on your return. Also, if your ex-spouse claimed your children before you could file your return, an attorney can help you sort out the matter and deal with the IRS.

      The preceding is not intended to be legal advice. If you have further questions about tax issues, contact a lawyer.

    • Parenting Plans for Special Needs Children After Texas Divorce

      Divorce for any child can be a very difficult. For a child with a physical, developmental, or mental disability, the change in routine and lost time with a parent can be even more traumatic. Texas parents with special needs children should pay extra attention to the child’s home and schedule, insurance eligibility, as well as who will have rights to make important decisions about the child’s life.

      If parents do not see eye to eye on their child’s abilities, needs and future, the decisions that must be made during a divorce can be contentious. Parents may want to consult a Texas divorce attorney for help in crafting a parenting plan that best meets the special needs of the child.

      Drafting a Parenting Plan That Meets Your Child’s Special Needs

      One main consideration is the child’s home and routine. Divorcing parents will need to consider how a child with a disability will split time with both parents – parents may want to consider alternative visitation schedules, such as one that allows the parent to come to the child’s home, rather than the child moving between the parents’ homes. This may allow the child to better maintain a routine if that is critical for his or her health and development.

      Some children may need modifications in their homes or vehicles to accommodate assistive technology, such as handicap accessible ramps, but most insurers will only cover one medical apparatus or device for the child. Thus, parents should take such limitations into account when developing a parenting plan.

      When parents cannot agree on the need for medication, therapies, or educational opportunities, a special needs child’s health may suffer. If disagreements occur frequently, it may be best for the child if one parent makes most decisions to maintain consistency.

      Other Considerations for Divorces Involving a Child With a Disability

      Texas child support guidelines allow a judge to order child support for the life of a disabled child, if necessary. Texas law also takes into account the child’s special needs and extraordinary health care, educational and medical expenses to set a child support amount.

      Certain child support payments may be considered to determine eligibility for SSI and Medicaid, which can be critical to pay for expensive medications and therapies for special needs kids. To avoid jeopardizing government benefit eligibility, parents need to plan carefully during the divorce.

    • Baby Boomer Divorce on the Rise

      Although divorce rates are decreasing across the nation, an interesting trend is emerging: divorce rates among baby boomers are on the rise. This group alone, composed of individuals ranging in age from their late forties to late sixties, is now responsible for one in four divorces.

      This rate continues to grow, and women claim to initiate over 66 percent of these divorces, according to a survey conducted by AARP.

      What is fueling the increase? Experts speculate this empowered generation of women famous for shattering social mores in the past is prepared to do it again, all in the pursuit of happiness.

      Factors Contributing to Divorce Among Boomer Women

      Researchers found traditional moral taboos against divorce no longer held troubled marriages together; instead children were serving as the glue. Once baby boomer women become empty nesters, they often take a step back and reevaluate their marriages.

      An increasing rate of these boomer women are not happy with what they see. They often have careers and feel financially secure enough to walk away from an unsatisfying relationship.

      Divorce Settlements More Important Than Ever

      A recent study by The Center for Family and Demographic Research at UCLA notes the importance of thoughtful preparation prior to divorce among boomers. It found unmarried boomers have fewer resources to pull from, such as retirement and savings accounts.

      This finding highlights the importance of a well rounded divorce settlement. As life expectancy rates continue to rise, the necessity of a strong financial foundation based both in current income access and retirement savings increases. Additional areas that need to be discussed during a settlement include health insurance, living expenses and filing paperwork to continue receiving Social Security benefits.

      This list is just a sampling, and many other items require careful consideration in developing a strong post-divorce portfolio funded by assets accumulated during marriage. As a result, it is important to contact an experienced divorce attorney to help you prepare for a secure financial future.

    • What You Need to Know About Child Support in Texas

      Child support can be one of the most contentious issues between divorced or unmarried parents. Parents may disagree about who should pay child support and what amount needs to be paid. Parents may also be unsure where to turn if they need to obtain or modify a court order for child support.

      Which Parent Pays?

      Both parents are responsible for financially supporting their children. Although it is often clear who a child’s parents are, sometimes it is less obvious particularly with regard to a child’s father. In Texas, there are several ways a father can be established. These are:

      • A man is presumed to be a child’s father if he is married to the child’s mother at the time of birth.
      • A man is recognized as a child’s father if he signs an Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP).
      • A man can also be established as a child’s legal father through court proceedings.

      Paternity must be established before a court will require that a father pay child support. It is important to note that if a child’s parents are unmarried at the time of birth, a child has no legal father unless an AOP is signed or paternity is otherwise established.

      The father, however, is not always the parent who pays child support. Generally, the parent who does not have primary custody of the child or children is the parent who makes child support payments to the parent with primary custody.

      How Much?

      The legislature has guidelines for the amount of child support a parent should be required to pay, but judges may also use their discretion. The guidelines mainly consider the non-custodial parent’s net income and the number of children the parent is supporting.

      When determining the amount of child support that should be paid, courts look for what is in the child’s best interest. Examples of factors a court may consider include: a child’s needs, each parent’s financial resources, daycare expenses, educational expenses and medical expenses. Parents may also agree to vary from the child support guidelines, and a judge will approve such variations if they are found to be in a child’s best interest.

      How Long?

      Child support generally continues until one of the following:

      • A child graduates from high school or reaches the age of 18 (whichever is later)
      • A child marries
      • A child is legally declared an adult (emancipated)

      If a child is disabled, however, a court may order that financial support continue indefinitely.

      How Can an Attorney Help?

      Experienced family law attorneys can provide advice about establishing paternity, and guidance about whether a court will find a child support agreement in a child’s best interest. An attorney can also assist parents in modifying child support orders and enforcing current child support obligations.

    • Texas Supreme Court approves pro se divorce forms

      The Texas Supreme Court recently approved forms that will allow litigants to handle their cases on a pro se basis without the aid of an attorney. This set of forms, called Divorce Set One, are designed for those who are going through uncontested divorces and do not have property to divide or children.

      Although the court may have had good intentions, many legal experts believe that over the long run the change could harm those seeking a divorce. For example, the use of these forms may lead to unfair and legally unsound divisions of property because employment benefits – such as pensions and profit-sharing plans – are considered exempt on the forms, although they may actually represent a large part of a couple’s estate. In addition, members of the Texas State Bar note that those without legal training are likely to make serious mistakes when filling out the forms, which can negatively affect the outcome of their case.

      The Problem With Pro Se

      Since the economic downturn, many ex-couples seeking a divorce have been representing themselves instead of consulting a Texas divorce lawyer to represent their interests. In fact, in 2011 alone, 20 percent of family law cases around the state were filed pro se.

      Although this may seem like a good alternative to hiring an attorney, experts say that not getting professional representation in an attempt to save money is actually penny wise and pound foolish. The following are some of the benefits of seeking representation.

      Getting the settlement you deserve. The money that you save from filing your divorce case on your own may pale in comparison to the money you lose when you do not get the settlement that you deserve. An experienced Texas divorce attorney can explain what reasonable settlements look like and make sure you get a fair deal.

      Avoiding conflict. Emotions can run high during a divorce and that can cloud your judgment. An attorney is able to look at the case in an objective manner, while fighting for your rights. This can actually reduce the amount of conflict that you have with your ex during the divorce.

      Understanding the law. Pro se litigants may be able to fill out the forms for their case, but they do not have knowledge of the underlying laws that those forms represent. Family law attorneys have an intimate knowledge of legal concepts and keep abreast of changes in the law that can affect a divorce case.

      These are just some of the reasons why not to do a divorce yourself. Mistakes made in agreeing too much just to get out of a marriage could have long-term effects. Losing a portion of retirement assets, for example, might mean you do not have the funds to retire when you planned.

      Get Help With Your Divorce

      Divorce is a complicated process and a mistake can jeopardize your financial future. If you need help with a divorce matter, contact an experienced family law attorney who will advocate for your interests and ensure that you get the best outcome in your divorce settlement.

    • Options for dealing with an underwater mortgage during a Texas divorce

      For many couples, their largest asset is the equity built up over the years in their home. In the past, selling the joint home during a divorce could have provided enough for a down payment on the purchase new residences. Or conversely, one spouse could have refinanced to stay in the parties’ home and then paid a share to his or her former spouse. Unfortunately, the recent housing bubble and subsequent fall in housing prices has changed the picture.

      For many currently going through the divorce process, the conversation is now one of splitting negative equity. Who takes the loss if the value of the house is less than the amount owed? Does it make sense to sell the home at all? One drastic solution employed by some couples is to continue living in the same home but create separate spaces. While this may work for some, there are still several other ways to deal with an underwater mortgage.

      Credit the Negative Equity

      The first option for divorcing couples is to credit the negative equity to the ex-spouse who keeps the house. An appraisal can determine the value of the parties’ home and the amount that the home is underwater.

      To provide a real world example, assume a couple purchased a new home when they married in 2006 for $350,000. Currently, the mortgage on the home is $325,000. However, the value of the home dropped to $275,000. A credit for the $50,000 the house is underwater is offset with a larger portion of the assets in another category (i.e. retirement funds).

      Unfortunately for the spouse that doesn’t want the house, if the housing market improves the spouse who stayed in the home may recoup some of the losses over the long-term, ultimately coming out on the better side of the settlement. However, there is another strategy that divorcing couples can use to avoid this possible scenario.

      For instance, when one of the parties wants to reside in the home long-term, the parties can zero out the negative equity. The assumption being that the housing market will recover and value of the home will increase.

      If the parties originally obtained a mortgage together, there can be some risk for the spouse who does not keep the home. When a former spouse fails to make mortgage payments and both names continue to appear on the mortgage, the bank can, and will, come after both parties. This can hurt the credit rating of the ex-spouse who now has no interest in the home. When possible, it is often best for both parties to refinance any mortgages into just one as part of the property division.

      When neither party can afford to stay in the home, one of the last options available is a short sale. However, it is important to note that the lender generally must approve of any sale that is less than the amount of the balance due on the mortgage.

      When considering divorce, it is important to contact a family law attorney to discuss issues related to the division of property and options for dealing with an underwater mortgage. A lawyer can assist in negotiations and ensure that your rights are protected during the complex divorce process.

    • Social media posts play a larger role in divorce and child support cases

      The launch of a new app called KillSwitch is the most recent option available for those attempting to deal with a breakup in today’s digital world. Specifically, the app will remove an ex’s photos, tags and wall posts from a user’s Facebook timeline. Then the app stores everything in a secret album on the user’s Facebook profile. In addition, the new app has a feature that will “unlike” all status updates made by a user on an ex’s wall – just in case the user wants to get one last parting shot.

      But, while removing references to a former significant other is a good start, in the case of married couples who are splitting up it is also important to watch what is posted on social media sites in general during a pending divorce – the wrong post can easily lead to unneeded trouble. For instance, a spur of the moment post or a tagged photo can come back to haunt a person when an ex is arguing for child custody.

      Increasing Review of Social Media Posts

      Digital posts are increasingly being used as evidence at trial in cases, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. The association notes that as many as 80 percent of divorce cases involve some type of social media posts; most of which come from Facebook.

      In some cases, couples have been ordered to share Facebook passwords and other online accounts. In a Connecticut case, a husband argued that his wife made comments on Facebook that reflected poorly on her ability to care for their children. The wife was ordered to provide passwords for various online accounts, including Facebook and several online dating accounts.

      Some posts may sound worse when taken in a different context. Other posts written in the heat of the initial breakup can even undermine a request for custody. When the divorce is pending and temporary orders are in effect, it is a time to monitor social media.

      Temporary Orders

      While a divorce is pending, the Judge issues a temporary order regarding child possession, access and visitation rights. In Texas, the presumption is for the appointment of joint managing conservators. This presumption of joint custody is removed by a finding of family violence. Other considerations include:

      • Can the parents agree on decisions regarding the welfare of the child?
      • Does each parent have a positive relationship with the child?
      • Are the emotional, physical and psychological needs of the child met by a joint custody arrangement?
      • How close do the parents live?
      • For children over the age of 12, what are his or her wishes for a primary residence?

      When there is no violence, the temporary order is usually for joint custody, but the allocation of time with the child may vary. While the temporary order is in place, inappropriate social media use might find its way as evidence against you in a final trial.

      If you are contemplating divorce, consulting with an attorney to discuss the divorce and child custody process if often a good idea. You may also want to conduct a review of what you have online and whether anything could come up against you in a custody hearing.

    • Wives who earn more than husbands face unique issues during divorce

      According to a recent Bowling Green State University study, married women in dual-income households are not only contributing more to total household incomes, but a growing number of women are also out-earning their respective husbands.

      Given the fact that husbands have historically been the main breadwinners in a marriage, this upward trend in wives’ incomes may be signaling a reversal of traditional marital income streams – or at least a balancing out.

      Interestingly, for high-earning wives considering a divorce, this increase in their share of household income may also impact how they approach and handle the ending of their marriages.

      Income Study and Potential Changes to Wives’ Divorce Considerations

      Researchers involved in the recent study discovered that wives in dual-earning couples were contributing, on average, 40 percent to total household income in 2011 – compared to only 30 percent in 2006. Moreover, the study found that more wives were beginning to earn more than their husbands, which was defined as earning at least 60 percent of the household income. Specifically, roughly 16 percent of woman out-earned their husbands in 2011 – an increase from only 13 percent five years earlier.

      While the number of wives who out-earn their husbands still occurs far less than in the majority of marriages, the recent study indicates that it is becoming much more common than in years past. And, for those women who do in fact earn more, they will likely face unique circumstances if they ever decide to seek a divorce.

      For instance, in years past women often sought spousal support payments during a divorce since many wives earned less than their husbands. But, in marriages in which the woman earns more, she needs to be aware that she will likely not only be ineligible for spousal support, but that her husband may seek these payments from her instead.

      Accordingly, for high income-earning women it is often best to consider the possibility of divorce before even getting married in the first place – which can be done by drafting a prenuptial agreement. A prenuptial agreement can help ensure a woman’s assets are protected from a disproportional division if her marriage ever ends in divorce.

      However, these divorce considerations are not specific to women. They are applicable to anyone who is concerned about asset division should the marriage end in divorce – both women and men. Thus, if you are currently about to get married and want to ensure your assets are protected as much as possible, or already married and considering a divorce, it is often advisable to speak with an experienced family law attorney who can help defend your interests and outline your options given your particular circumstances.

    • More Couples Electing to Divorce After Decades of Marriage

      According to numbers reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the rate of divorce in Texas has remained relatively stable during the past 10 years. In fact, the nation as a whole has experienced a similar lack of change when it comes to divorce rates.

      However, despite these relatively flat overall divorce rates, an interesting study indicates that a particular group of married individuals has been experiencing an alarming increase in divorces in recent years – specifically, adults aged 50 and older.

      Increase in Gray’ Divorces

      The study, which was completed by the National Center for Family & Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University, discovered that the divorce rate among those aged 50 and above has actually doubled in the last 20 years. Moreover, researchers found that these divorces – often dubbed “gray” divorces – now account for roughly 1 in 4 divorces in the U.S., where two decades ago they only accounted for 1 in 10.

      Several explanations have been posited for why these baby boomers are choosing to end their marriages – often after several decades. For example, many of these couples no longer have children at home, and as they near retirement they begin to question whether they want to spend their “twilight” years with their current spouses. In many instances, spouses discover they only remained together due to children and that they do not want to spend the next 20 to 30 years with the same person.

      Complexities With Baby-Boomer Divorce

      Although later-in-life divorces can often provide increased emotional well-being, dividing assets during these divorces can be quite problematic given the decades of commingling assets and extensive financial portfolios.

      In particular, dividing up retirement funds such as pensions, IRAs and 401(k)s can involve extensive valuation and assessment processes. Similarly, couples involved in later-in-live divorces often have various investments – which can be quite substantial – that need to be divided.

      Moreover, if a couple owns a family business, this will also need to be divided accordingly during a divorce. For instance in Texas, if a divorcing couple creates a business while married, it will have to be included in the property division settlement. However, if the business was owned by one of the spouses before the marriage, it is possible that only the appreciation of the business that occurred during the marriage is subject to division.

      Completing a high net-worth “gray” divorce can be fraught with problems if done incorrectly. Consequently, if you are considering a divorce later in life, it is often advisable to speak with an experienced divorce attorney who can help ensure assets are divided properly and assist in getting the assets your may be entitled to.

    • Understanding Divorce and the Interplay Between Mortgages, Divorce Decrees

      Throughout the lifetime of any marriage, many couples accumulate different types of debts and assets. And, if a divorce occurs, they are simply divided up between each party in an equitable way. The divorce decree is then signed, parties understand their rights and obligations and they go on their separate ways. However, this isn’t exactly as easy as it sounds.

      Despite the divorce decree dictating each party’s assumptions or responsibilities, there are still problems that could affect one or the other down the line.

      A common example involves a mortgage.

      Decisions Regarding the Family Home

      One of the biggest issues many divorcing couples need to resolve is in regards to the family home.

      In a perfect world, the house is out up for sale, quickly sold and the equity is split between the parties. However, many couples in the last few years and even today simply cannot sell their homes. Many are underwater or have been unable to compete in a saturated market.

      Some couples, as a solution, will agree to allow one party to take over possession and responsibility of the residence, mortgage, taxes and insurance. The responsibility is thereafter stipulated in the divorce decree. But this can become problematic.

      Mortgage Decrees and Mortgage Notes

      Even though the divorce decree stipulates that one party is taking responsibility for everything related to the family home, both parties are still obligated under the mortgage if both names remain listed on the property’s mortgage note. This is because a divorce decree is a separate contract from a mortgage and lenders are not bound by divorce judgments.

      So, if the party taking responsibility of the home fails to make a payment in the future or defaults altogether, the mortgage lender can still come after the other party for the loan balance.

      In addition, the other party’s credit score is likely to take a hit as a result. It could also hinder the ability to obtain financing for a home in the future.

      Solutions

      Even when parties feel they are backed into a corner because they have an underwater mortgage or just can’t sell their house, there are still solutions available, such as refinancing or assumption, that will not come back to haunt either party.

      Refinancing

      Refinancing is one way to free a party from all responsibility of a home. By refinancing, the mortgage can be put under just one name.

      A program known as the Homes Affordable refinance Program, or HARP, is available for homeowners who wish to refinance, but remain underwater in their current mortgage.

      Assumption

      Although not as common, an assumption is another option for divorcing couples wishing to release one party from the mortgage obligation. In this situation, mortgage lenders will allow one party to “assume” the loan and remove the other party from the note.

      This option isn’t available in all circumstances, however, and many banks will likely require documentation and, in some cases, a copy of the divorce decree if an assumption is accepted.

      Speaking With an Attorney

      Before any decisions or actions are taken regarding the family home, the best course of action is to first contact a knowledgeable divorce attorney. A lawyer can offer guidance on the law and advice on the best course of action as it pertains to individual circumstances.

    • Moving Away After a Divorce

      Harry met Sally, fell in love, got married, and had, by all accounts, two adorable children. Then things slowly deteriorated and Harry and Sally ended up slogging through a bitter divorce. Custody was resolved with Sally having primary custody of the children and Harry having liberal visitation. It was not perfect, but since they both lived in the same suburb, it seemed reasonable at the time. That is until Sally remarried and her new husband got a new job 800 miles away. It happens quite often and quite often it involves a trip back to court.

      And it happened to Antonio and Sylvia in a case, Arredondo v. Betancourt, that was ultimately decided by the Texas appellate court. Married in January of 2001, and a son was born several months later. The marriage lasted less than two years and the couple divorced. Both were made joint managing conservators of the child with Sylvia being given the exclusive right to determine the primary residence of the child. No restrictions were placed on any location. Antonio was granted alternative periods of possession of the child if Sylvia moved more than 100 miles away from where Antonio lived.

      Sylvia remarried; after that the facts are subject to some dispute. But what was not disputed is that Sylvia ended up with the child and her new husband in Mexico and Antonio filed a petition to modify the decree to grant him the exclusive right to determine where the child would reside.

      In order to succeed, Antonio had to establish a change in circumstances. Sylvia took the position that the original decree gave her unfettered discretion and placed no limitations on her ability to determine the primary residence of the child. The appeals court, in the case named Arredondo v. Betancourt, rejected Sylvia’s position and held that any finding of changed circumstances is case-specific and fact-intensive and when a parent moves a child a significant distance, a finding of changed circumstances may be warranted. The court outlined a number of facts to be considered in whether such a finding is warranted: among them, the distance involved, the quality of the relationship between the non-custodial parent and the child, the impact the move would have on the non-custodial patent’s ability to have regular and meaningful contacts with the child, the motives of the parties, and the accessibly of safe travel to the child.

      The court ultimately decided that Antonio had met his burden of showing a changed circumstance based on the evidence and the facts presented.

      The issues in a “move-away case” can be difficult and every case will undoubtedly be different since the facts will be unique to the parties and their lives. The representation of an experienced Texas family law lawyer is essential.

    • Research Finds That Divorce May Be Contagious Among Friends

      Marriage and then getting divorced are two common experiences in Denton County and throughout the rest of the world. According to the American Psychological Association, more than 90 percent of people in western cultures get married by age 50. But, in the U.S., approximately forty to fifty percent of married couples eventually get divorced.

      A Trend Among Friends

      Not only is divorce common among married couples, but it also becomes more prevalent among couples that have divorced friends. According to the Pew Research Center, a new study suggests that if an individual has a friend or relative that gets divorced, their chances of eventually divorcing increase.

      The study, which was conducted by a research team at Brown University, found that those studied were 75 percent more likely to get divorced if they had a friend who got divorced. Those with friends who knew someone that got divorced were also more likely to get divorced, increasing their chances by 33 percent.

      Sociologists name this phenomenon “social contagion.” This phenomenon occurs due to the spread of information among friends, families and other social networks a person may be a part of. This study found evidence that was similar to previous studies, such as the 2006 study that traced the increase in likelihood of a sibling to have a child after another one of their siblings that gave birth and the study that traced the spread of obesity in elementary schools.

      Little-Known Benefits of Divorce

      Although this increase in divorce due to association may be viewed as a negative, many forget the positive impacts of divorce. For example, divorce:

      • Gives a person the opportunity to be happier, especially if they were involved in an unhappy relationship.
      • Helps a person avoid the health consequences of staying in an unhappy marriage.
      • Allows a person the ability to avoid the financial frustrations that many married couples deal with.
      • Gives any children from the marriage the opportunity to be better off in terms of developing a strong relationship with their parents.
      • Allows individuals to realize what works in a marriage and what doesn’t, making way for a happier second marriage.
      • Makes for an easier retirement.

      Although finalizing divorce papers with your ex-spouse and figuring out which parent each child will go to and when can be trying, divorce can give you the opportunity to reinvent yourself and start a new life as a single person. To ensure that your divorce goes smoothly and you are able to take advantage of these post-divorce benefits, contact an attorney that can work with you throughout the entire divorce process.

    • Getting divorced? Don’t forget to reevaluate your Texas estate plan.

      If you are considering divorce, have already begun the process or are just wrapping up the protracted legal fight that was necessary to dissolve your marriage, your estate plan probably isn’t on your mind. You are likely more concerned with day-to-day issues like taking care of the kids, dividing the marital assets and debts, setting up a new household or tightening your financial belt to support a household on your own instead of with two incomes.

      Clearly, at this difficult time, you already have a lot on your metaphorical plate, but the truth is that your estate plan may need some serious revisions amidst the fallout from a divorce. There are key aspects of an existing estate plan that will likely need to be significantly reworked if your marriage falls apart and you choose to divorce.

      Conservatorships and Guardianships

      Two key aspects of an estate plan that will need to be redone following a split are conservatorship and guardianship arrangements. Should you be the rare couple who genuinely remain friends and are comfortable with your former spouse making important medical care and financial decisions on your behalf, then you might not need to take this step.

      If, however, you are in the majority of divorcing couples and your split comes with a healthy dose of contention or bitterness, you will want to update these documents as soon as is practicable. You don’t want to be in a situation where someone you no longer trust or respect is granted conservatorship or guardianship rights and is responsible for deciding upon your health care, managing your assets, making your housing arrangements, ensuring your personal needs are met and even buying the clothes on your back.

      Property Allocation

      Another key aspect of your estate plan that might need to be addressed following a split is property allocation. You may have planned to leave your spouse certain family heirlooms or assets while you were married, but that could have changed now that you are no longer together. Any specific property left to your former spouse in your will is subject to change following a divorce, but, in order to save your heirs serious hassle and expense, you need to proactively update those allocations.

      For example, if you have an antique that has been in your family for generations, you should ensure that one of your children is bequeathed that item so that your spouse cannot sell, destroy, damage or dispose of it.

      Just because you are legally divorced does not mean that the provisions of your will automatically change to instead leave your belongings to children or other family members. After a divorce, you should strongly consider reexamining your entire estate plan, including naming new beneficiaries for insurance policies or accounts, ensuring that property is allocated appropriately and naming new conservators/guardians to care for your needs. To learn more about the interplay of divorce and estate planning, visit an experienced Texas family law attorney today.

    • How to Successfully Co-parent With an Ex-spouse After Divorce

      While co-parenting is often what’s best for children after divorce, there are several things parents should do to ensure the arrangement is successful.

      When parents in Texas divorce, they are often ordered to share custody of their children through a joint or joint physical custody arrangement. According to the American Bar Association, in joint child custody arrangements, both parents share in making major decisions about their children. In join physical custody arrangements, parents split the time they spend with their children.

      THE BENEFITS OF CO-PARENTING

      Sharing custody after divorce is often what is best for children because, according to Psychology today, these arrangements:

      • Allow children to maintain and further develop relationships with both of their parents
      • Reduce the risk of parental alienation
      • Give parents the ability to preserve the relationships they have with their children
      • Decrease parental conflict
      • Helps parents adequately meet their children’s needs

      While participating in a joint parenting plan after divorce is associated with many benefits, it can still be difficult for parents to successfully co-parent with their ex-spouse. To prevent unnecessary tension and to ensure their children’s needs are taken care of, there are several steps parents should take and several things they should avoid while sharing custody.

      WHAT TO DO

      According to ABC News, parent should establish a routine for their children that is consistent between both households. For instance, if their children are used to going to bed at a certain time, they should go to bed at this time when they are staying with their mother and when they are spending time with their father.

      Parents should also minimize differences in wealth between both of their houses as much as possible. When discrepancies in lifestyle are present, children may desire to stay at the wealthier household more often.

      WHAT TO AVOID

      After their divorce, parents should refrain from becoming too friendly with their ex-spouse, states ABC News. For instance, while parents may both show up at their children’s events, they should avoid getting together for dinner alone or sleeping over at the other’s home. Divorced parents who fail to do this could send mixed messages to their children that they might get back together.

      Additionally, parents should avoid speaking negatively about their ex-spouse in front of their children or releasing their anger about problems they are dealing with related to the co-parenting agreement when their children are present. Instead, parents should speak with a therapist or talk to a close friend or family member about these issues.

      HOW AN ATTORNEY CAN HELP

      When parents are granted joint custody of their children, they may still worry about how to manage this plan with their ex-spouse. If you and your spouse are contemplating divorce, speak with an attorney about how to devise and maintain a successful co-parenting plan.

    • Hiding Assets More Common Than Many People Realize

      Uncovering assets during a divorce requires legal and financial expertise

      People often assume that in marriage there are few secrets kept between spouses, but that attitude often leads to unpleasant surprises during divorce. According to Forbes, nearly two-thirds of all spouses admit they have hid money or other assets from their spouses. It should therefore come as no surprise that hidden assets are far more common during divorce than many people would like to admit. Hiding assets can lead to an unfair division of marital property and anybody who suspects their former spouse is hiding assets should reach out to a qualified legal professional right away.

      Hiding assets common in marriage

      While most cases of financial infidelity in marriage relate to relatively minor offenses, such as those guilty impulse purchases, some spouses do attempt to hide much larger assets. In high-asset marriages, especially, there are more opportunities to keep property and assets hidden from a spouse because the couple’s financial situation tends to be more complex. In some cases, people have even tried to hide businesses, offshore accounts, or second homes from their spouses.

      Full financial disclosure is important during divorce to ensure that marital property can be divided fairly between both spouses. Trying to conceal assets from a court is illegal and judges do not look kindly on a party that tries to mislead them. If such financial impropriety is uncovered, then the offending party risks fines or even jail time. In many cases, a judge will award the other spouse the full amount of the assets that were hidden from them.

      Uncovering assets can be difficult

      As the Huffington Post recently reported, the prevalence of technology nowadays means that people who try to hide assets are more likely to leave behind electronic clues. People who suspect their spouse is hiding assets should look at the family computer for indications that their husband or wife is behaving improperly. For example, the web browser history may indicate visits to an unfamiliar bank website or financial spreadsheets may begin mysteriously disappearing from the family computer.

      Suspicions alone are not enough to accuse a former spouse of financial impropriety, however. Even if a spouse does find evidence of hidden assets, a court may not allow the evidence to be admitted if it was gathered in a way that violated the offending spouse”s privacy rights. As such, it is extremely important that people take their suspicions to a family law attorney. While many attorneys claim to be able to uncover hidden assets, people should only rely on an attorney who actually has the proper qualifications and a proven history of being able to uncover hidden assets in a divorce.

      Legal representation

      Hiding assets is, after all, a very serious accusation and in many cases may amount to fraud. Such serious accusations need to be left to qualified legal professionals. An experienced family law attorney can help any spouse who suspects they may be the victim of financial impropriety ensure their right to a fair division of marital property is respected during a divorce.

    • Kids and Divorce: What Can You Do to Prepare Them for Such a Major Change

      Talking to children about divorce can help them adjust to the new situation which develops once the process is complete.

      When parents are going through a divorce or ending their relationship with the co-parent, it is a very difficult time for everyone involved, including the children. The parents sometimes fail to realize that children need attention during this process as well, because they confused and unsure about the future, too.

      In many child custody cases in Texas, the parents will fight over who gets primary custody. The court analyzes these cases based upon the best interests of the child factors. These require judges to make decisions based on factors present in the relationship. The final determination by the courts should be what it feels will best benefit the child, and it is not intended as a punishment to one side or the other.

      This puts the courts in a difficult position, because their rulings are extremely difficult to change once entered. The parents argue, and the child internalizes his or her feelings because of the parents’ disagreements. If the child does not understand what happens in the custody phase of the divorce, they may feel that one of their parents will abandon them at this time.

      It is extremely important that you and your spouse make sure to talk to your children about divorce before you file. They will have a lot of questions about what this means for their future, and they are looking to you for assurances that you will both remain involved in the lives of the children.

      These conversations should be sure to focus on the emotions of the child. You and your co-parent should not use these discussions as an opportunity to argue in front of the kids. Keep the conversation centered on the questions you are asked. Do not blame one another for the ending of the relationship.

      Children need to know that both parents love them and will be there for them at all times. While one parent may be the primary caretaker, both will be active participants in the lives of the children.

      If you are thinking of getting a divorce or ending your relationship, you need to be sure that you protect the time that you have with your children. Those who fail to understand the significance of their decisions at this time often find themselves unable to make changes to the custody agreements that they put in place.

      To learn more about your specific situation, you should speak to an experienced family law attorney. Your attorney will be able to describe the custody process to you, and provide knowledgeable guidance to help you and your spouse find an agreement that is in the best interests of the children.

    • 3 Things to Do When Filing for Divorce in Texas

      Going through a divorce can be emotional. It is important to keep some key factors in mind when filing divorce papers in Texas.

      Making the decision to dissolve a marriage is certainly not easy. Some couples find that after years of marriage, they are no longer compatible and wish to go their separate ways. There are many factors to consider before, during and after filing divorce papers to terminate a marriage in Texas. While some divorces are civil and friendly, others are heated and may end in an emotional court battle. It can be difficult for some people to make wise choices during this tumultuous time. Experts suggest that before couples put on their boxing gloves and enter the ring, they should get organized in order to make the entire divorce process as simple as possible.

      1. MAKE A LIST OF MARITAL AND SEPARATE PROPERTY

      According to the Huffington Post, Texas is a community property state when it comes to dividing property in a divorce case. This means that the judge presiding over the case will take all of the marital property and assets, and divide them equally in half between the spouses. Separate property, including items that a spouse owned prior to the marriage, are often ineligible for division. Couples are also legally required to disclose all of their assets and property. However, some parties may try to hide assets and/or property as a way to boost their post-divorce gain.

      2. WHICH DIVORCE OPTION IS BEST?

      Divorce is not ‘one size fits all.’ According to Forbes, there are four common options. These include:

      • Pro se: The couple is able to fill out and submit the divorce papers themselves, without any legal assistance.
      • Court litigation: The couple disputes the terms of the divorce decree through use of attorneys in the court system.
      • Mediation: Couples are able to sit down and negotiate the terms of their own divorce settlement in a civil, non-confrontational environment. A mediator, rather than personal attorneys, is present to guide the discussion, answer questions and ensure the settlement is complete.
      • Collaborative divorce: This option is much like mediation; however, each party enters the negotiations process with a personal attorney.

      Since every divorce case is unique, the couple must choose which options is best for their circumstances.

      3. TAKING CARE OF THE CHILDREN

      A divorce can become extremely emotional when there are children involved. Parents should try to work together to develop a parenting plan with the child’s best interests in mind. Factors, such as child support, insurance, child care, education, residence and how much time the child should spend with each parent, should also be discussed.

      WHEN TO INVOLVE AN ATTORNEY

      Whether you decide to go through mediation or fill out the divorce papers yourself, you may want to speak to a family attorney before submitting the final paperwork. An established lawyer in Texas understands how the divorce process works in the state, and may be able to ensure that you get everything you are entitled to in your divorce case.

    • Comparing your divorce options: Uncontested or litigated?

      Divorces don’t always have to go through the court. Today’s uncontested options include mediation and collaborative law.

      A divorce is rarely easy, even for those with few disputes arising from the split. Even so, the divorce process may go by smoother and more quickly for couples who are able to resolve their issues through an uncontested divorce. Also known as amicable divorce, these options are available to Texas couples to help them reach a resolution with minimal time, expense and hassle.

      What are the options for an amicable split that are available today? Collaborative law and mediation are two popular uncontested divorce methods that have helped countless couples effectively end their marriages without having to resort to a costly, drawn-out court case.

      Collaborative law

      According to U.S. News, collaborative law is an uncontested option that is often highly effective for couples who have complex asset or property issues, as well as other complex disputes such as child custody. In a collaborative divorce, each spouse will use his and her own attorney, and other professionals may be brought in to help smooth over arguments. These may include child therapists and financial advisors.

      Mediation

      Mediation is another form of amicable divorce that may be extremely beneficial in terms of cost and minimizing conflict, states the American Bar Association. During mediation, an impartial third party sits with the couple to help them reach agreements on their issues. Each spouse may also wish to counsel with an attorney. This option is often best if each spouse can speak to each other with respect and cooperatively consider each other’s side with an open mind.

      When an amicable divorce may not be best

      There are some cases in which an uncontested divorce is not possible or may not be recommended, according to the Huffington Post. These may include the following:

      • In cases of domestic violence

      • If alcohol or substance abuse were factors during the marriage

      • If one spouse is at a significant financial disadvantage to the other

      • If one spouse feels intimidated or threatened by the other

      • If the divorcing couple is unable to speak to each other civilly or consider each other’s needs and concerns

      If the decision is ultimately to choose a contested divorce over the uncontested options, it is still possible to obtain a divorce that is in each party’s best interests. It is important to remember that each couple’s situation is different, and what is ideal for one couple may not be a good option for another. The decisions you make during the divorce process are important and may affect you for many years after the papers are finalized. You may wish to speak with an experienced family law attorney in Texas about your particular situation before deciding which option is best for you.

    • Return to FAQs 5 ways Texas enforces child support orders

      Someone who has not made child support payments in Texas could lose a driver’s license, see less on a paycheck and even spend time in jail.

      In October of this year, the Texas Attorney General’s Office announced that 14 parents had been arrested in Lubbock County due to failing to pay child support. According to Lubbock Online, the parents had been given numerous chances to make those payments. In some cases, parents were arrested because they failed to appear in court for a hearing regarding the support.

      The article notes that these parents could be in jail for as long as six months. This illustrates just one of the following ways that Texas enforces child support payments:

      1. Public identification

      The Texas Attorney General’s Office has a program known as the Child Support Evaders through which photographs of the person who has failed to make payments will be made public. Only parents who meet the following requirements are considered an evader:

      • There has been a warrant issued for their arrest.
      • They owe more than $5,000 in delinquent payments.
      • They have not made regular payments in the last six months.
      • They are avoiding apprehension.
      • They are not on welfare or going through bankruptcy.

      Additionally, the custodial parent will have to sign a document granting permission for the case to be made public.

      2. Wage withholding

      A court may order someone’s employer to deduct his or her paycheck for the child support owed. Texas Law Help points out that every child support order has an income withholding aspect to it, though parents may initially be permitted to make payments on their own. However, once they fall behind on an amount equal to a full month’s payment, the withholding will begin.

      3. Suspending a license

      Another way Texas can penalize noncustodial parents who have not made payments is to suspend their licenses. This can include a driver’s license, a hunting and fishing license or another professional license, such as a license to practice medicine.

      4. Intercepting funds

      The Texas Child Support Division may also intercept certain funds that the noncustodial parent receives. Lottery winnings and federal income taxes, for example, are eligible for interception. The Attorney General’s Office reports that any money that comes from a federal or state source could be subject to this process as well.

      5. Filing a lawsuit

      A court could be asked through a lawsuit to enforce its child support order. A judge is then able to ender a judgment and even sentence the parent to jail. As exhibited by the roundup of more than a dozen Texas parents in the story above, this is a very real threat for people who are delinquent in making payments.

      To learn more about how Texas enforces child support, people should contact an experienced attorney.

    • An overview of the elements of Texas divorce cases

      Texas divorce cases involve several elements, including the grounds for divorce, the division of property and the awarding of spousal maintenance.

      Not all marriages in Texas are the happily ever after that people were hoping for. For any number of reasons, couples may decide that they no longer want to be married, and make the decision to get a divorce. However, there is more to the process than some people know. In order to help prepare themselves, it behooves those who are considering a divorce to understand the elements that are involved with such cases.

      Grounds for divorce

      In general, Texas couples must only believe that their relationships are irreparably damaged in order to obtain a divorce. It is possible, however, for people to ask for a divorce on the grounds that the damage is their spouses’ fault. Texas state law specifies that the grounds for divorce include the following:

      • Insupportability
      • Cruelty
      • Felony convictions
      • Mental hospital confinements
      • Adultery
      • Abandonment

      When family law courts grant divorces on these grounds, it may impact other elements of their divorce cases . For example, the court may consider this as a factor when making a determination regarding the division of a couple’s marital assets.

      Property division

      The assets that couples acquire over the course of their marriages is generally considered marital, or community, property. This includes income, homes, vehicles and other possessions. When it comes to the division of marital assets, Texas is a community property state. Thus, both spouses have equal rights to their community assets.

      Under Texas state law, divorcing couples’ marital property is divided based on what is considered just and right by the court. As such, each spouse may not be entitled to, or receive, an equal share. Rather, the court will take into consideration a number of factors in order to decide who should be awarded what. These factors may include how long the couple was married, the contribution that each spouse made to the household over the course of their marriage and the future earning potential of each spouse.

      Spousal support

      Sometimes, the court may order spousal support. These types of awards are monetary payments that people make to their former spouses after their divorces are finalized. The purpose of these awards is to help people support themselves and maintain their standard of living after they have divorced.

      Spousal support is not appropriate in every case. Thus, it is only awarded to those who are eligible. Texas state law stipulates that the court may order spousal maintenance in situations when people cannot earn a sufficient income due to a physical or mental disability. Additionally, spousal support payments may be awarded in situations when people cannot earn a sufficient income because they are supporting a child who needs considerable care as a result of a physical or mental disability. The court may also award spousal support in cases when a couple has been married for more than 10 years, and the spouse who requested maintenance is not able to support him or herself.

      Seeking legal counsel

      Even the simplest divorce cases in Texas, and elsewhere, may carry numerous challenges. This may lead to contention and the process being unnecessarily extended. In order to help ensure their rights are upheld, those who are considering getting divorced may benefit from working with an attorney. A legal representative may guide them through the process and look out for their interests.

    • 5 Tips for Choosing the Right Texas Divorce Attorney

      During divorce cases, people often work closely with their attorneys, which is why it is important they choose the lawyer best suited for them.

      The American Psychological Association reports that between 40 and 50 percent of U.S. couples who marry get divorced. Due to the emotions at play at the end of a marriage, it may be challenging for people to reach agreements on divorce-related issues. Thus, they may hire an attorney to represent and guide them. Since the lawyer they choose may have an impact on the outcome of their cases, it is important for people to take care to choose the right legal representative for their situation and family.

      Ask for recommendations

      Family law cases are often of a sensitive nature. Therefore, it is not advisable for people to simply pick a name off a list. Rather, they should ask friends and family members for suggestions. They may have gone through a similar situation and be able to recommend a competent, compassionate attorney.

      Research potential candidates

      Before making their choice, it is suggested that people research the lawyers they are considering hiring. This includes looking into their education, qualifications and record. Researching the potential candidates may help ensure they select an attorney who is experienced in dealing with issues similar to their own. Divorcing spouses may also benefit from reading reviews from attorneys’ past clients to gauge how they work with the people and families who they represent.

      Look into the costs

      According to the Texas State Law Library, Texas is a community property state, which means each spouse has equal right to their marital assets. Consequently, people’s resources may be limited until their divorce is finalized. Since the costs of legal representation can vary significantly, it is advisable for divorcing spouses to ask about the fee structures. Doing so may help them narrow down their choices, and make certain they are selecting a lawyer that will not break their budgets.

      Interview attorneys before making choice

      When people are dealing with family law issues, they often work closely with their legal representatives. Additionally, the future of their relationships with those involved may depend on how their cases are handled. Thus, it is important that they choose a lawyer who understands their needs and respects their wishes. Interviewing their top choices before making a final decision may help people determine if their personalities mesh and whether the attorney is someone they want to work with.

      Watch out for red flags

      All throughout the process of choosing a divorce lawyer, people should watch out for warning signs. For example, divorcing spouses should be wary of bold promises. Sometimes, an attorney’s priority may be securing their business, not providing realistic counsel. Furthermore, blemishes on their record or treating their staff unprofessionally may also be signs that another legal representative may be better suited for them and their situations.

      Making a decision for the future

      The longer Texas divorces are drawn out, the more draining they can be for everyone involved. Therefore, it may benefit people to obtain legal counsel. An attorney may look out for their best interests, negotiate on their behalf and guide them through the legal process.

    • How Social Media Affects Divorce

      As popular social media websites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Flickr, Photobucket and others become more popular, it is also easy to underestimate the wide-reaching impact that these sites can have on people’s lives. This is especially true if you are involved in a divorce or custody matter. Divorce attorneys and private investigations have already started searching for information through social media.

      The Lewisville family law firm North Texas Family Laywers has decades of combined experience in family law. We have stayed up-to-date with the developments in social media over the last decade and can advise you on how information on these sites could impact your divorce or family law matter.

      SPEAK WITH OUR LEWISVILLE DIVORCE LAWYERS

      Social media sites like Facebook can also make it easier for relationship problems, such as infidelity, to arise in the first place. They can also have incriminating evidence on profile pages, wall comments, status updates and uploaded photos. Some of this evidence could be presented in court and impact alimony disputes, custody battles and divorce proceedings.

      While people, not any form of new technology, are ultimately responsible for the actions that they take, social media can log these actions. Our firm provides responsive and helpful representation for individuals in Lewisville and throughout Texas who are going through difficult family matters and need an experienced attorney to protect their rights.

    • Does It Matter Who Files First in Divorce?

      One of the most common questions our divorce attorneys are asked is whether it matters who files first in divorce. Often, this question comes from spouses who are unsure whether they want to get divorced. They contact our firm — North Texas Family Lawyers — after learning about a spouse’s affair or after a spouse tells them that they want to get divorced. Sometimes they are the ones considering divorce and haven’t told their spouses yet.

      Regardless of whether you want to get divorced, filing first in a divorce can increase your chances for a good outcome.

      Our lawyers are committed to helping individuals in Lewisville and throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area save money, time and anguish while working through the divorce process.

      ADVANTAGES TO FILING FIRST

      We know it can seem counterintuitive to file first if you are not certain that you want to get divorced, but there are four main reasons that it can be advantageous.

      1. You get to tell your story first. When you file first, you get to tell your story first — everywhere from the temporary hearings to mediation to the final trial. Studies show that people remember the first and last things they hear, which includes hearing your side of the story.
      2. You get the last say. When you file first, you get to leave the judge, jury or mediator with a lasting impression. Like we mentioned in the first point, people remember the first and last things they hear, and you want this to be your story.
      3. Your assets and relationship with your children are protected. When you file for divorce, court orders can go into effect immediately. Assets are frozen, which prevents one spouse from transferring money or hiding assets in the aftermath of filing for divorce. Filing first becomes an insurance policy that protects what you have now, so you can use it in the future.
      4. You can bring reconciliation. Filing for divorce doesn’t need to be the end of a marriage. If both parties decide to work on the marriage, you can work toward reconciliation. However, if you decide divorce is the right answer, you are protected.
    • Why Do I Need a Divorce Attorney?

      Any person who has gone through a divorce can tell you that the process is rarely easy. When there are emotional disputes and stressful issues, the heat of the moment can cause people to make poor decisions. There are financial and practical details that need to be addressed and many people wind up making critical mistakes during a divorce. Instead of risking the interests of you and your family, having an experienced attorney can help you effectively navigate the process.

      At the Lewisville family law firm North Texas Family Lawyers, our lawyers have decades of combined experience helping people through divorce. We focus on providing effective solutions that save you and your family time and mistakes that are made during a divorce, even for the most contentious disputes.

      SUPPORT THROUGH THE DIVORCE PROCESS IN TEXAS

      Divorce can significantly impact people’s lives. Instead of dealing with matters through the lens of uncertainty and anger, a lawyer can provide a calm and rational perspective. We can help you with divorce-related matters that include:

      • Child custody and visitation rights
      • Child support
      • Spousal support
      • Property division and protection

      Even if your divorce is uncontested and you agree with your spouse on most or all issues, there are issues that need to be handled properly. Tax issues, visitation schedules and other matters need to be outlined appropriately in order to be enforced down the line.

    • How Much Does Divorce Cost?

      One of the most frequent questions that our lawyers are asked is about the costs of divorce in Texas. There is not an easy answer to this question, however, since the cost will often depend upon several factors.

      • Are you and your spouse in agreement over matters of your divorce, or are there still issues to be resolved?
      • Do you and your spouse have children?
      • Are there significant amounts of property and other assets to be divided?
      • Do you and/or your spouse have investments, retirement accounts or business assets to be divided?
      • Is it necessary to go to trial or could matters be resolved through mediation or other forms of alternative dispute resolution?

      The answers to these and other questions can determine the true costs of divorce. By working with an experienced family law attorney, you can make more effective use of your time and money throughout the process. At the Lewisville law firm North Texas Family Lawyers, we have decades of combined experience in family law.

      UNDERSTAND THE COSTS OF DIVORCE

      As with most legal issues, the sooner that an agreement can be reached between the parties, the more reasonable the costs will likely be at the end of the process. If there are disagreements and the divorce needs to go to family court, the costs can skyrocket.

      How your lawyer conducts business can also have an impact on the costs of divorce. Our law firm does not waste the time of our clients by letting cases sit around or by handling them in an inefficient manner. We know how divorce affects people and have the compassion to support clients while simultaneously protecting their interests.

    • Grounds for Divorce in Texas

      When you file for divorce in Texas, you’ll be required to tell the court why you want to dissolve your marriage. In family law, these reasons are known as “divorce grounds,” and they are a required line item in every divorce complaint.

      However, there’s a catch: When listing these reasons, you’ll only have seven options to choose from. 

      In Texas, these seven divorce grounds fall into one of two categories: 1) at-fault grounds; and, 2) no-fault grounds. Each type triggers a different divorce process (and overall experience), so it’ll be important to understand what they all mean, before you file any paperwork.  

      Here’s what you need to know about grounds for divorce in Texas, and what North Texas Family Lawyers can do to help you figure out which type of divorce is right for you.  

      GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE IN TEXAS

      Marriage means a lot of things to a lot of people; but for Texas courts, this relationship status is nothing more than a contract. And breaking a contract—no matter what type of law you’re dealing with—is kind of a big deal. Which is why when you get divorced, they’re gonna want to know why you’re breaking up. 

      This “why” is known as your divorce grounds.

      Divorce grounds can sometimes overlap with your underlying, motivational reasons for divorce; however, they won’t always. (Mostly because you only have seven grounds to choose from—and, unfortunately, “leaving balled up socks around the house” isn’t one of them). 

      In Texas, the seven grounds for divorce are: 

      1. Insupportability
      2. Living Apart
      3. Confinement to a Mental Hospital
      4. Cruelty
      5. Adultery 
      6. Felony Conviction 
      7. Abandonment

      The first three on this list will trigger a “no-fault” divorce, while the final four are all “fault” grounds. 

      Here’s a closer look at the qualifications for each, and why you might want to file for one over the other. 

      No-Fault Grounds for Divorce

      In a no-fault divorce, neither spouse is held accountable for the breakup. As a result, judges are not allowed to consider culpability when dividing things like child custody, marital property, and alimony. 

      Texas’s three “no-fault” divorce grounds are as follows:

      1. Insupportability. In other states, this option is more commonly known as “irreconcilable differences.” Unsurprisingly, this is the most commonly cited grounds for divorce in Texas, since it’s essentially a catch-all for “no longer getting along.” 

      To file under these grounds, you must be able to prove that your marriage is no longer “supportable,” because constant discord is destroying your relationship. There also can’t be any hope of reconciliation, farther down the road. 

      1. Living Apart. For these grounds to apply, you and your spouse must have been living apart for at least three years. This option might be appropriate for spouses who have had an extended separation prior to filing for divorce. 
      2. Confinement to a Mental Hospital. It’s not enough to have a mental health condition. In order to qualify here, one spouse must have been confined to a mental hospital for at least three years, and have no hope of recovering. (We’re guessing it won’t shock you to learn these grounds aren’t used very often.) 

      Generally speaking, no-fault divorces are less contentious. As a result, they’re faster, more cost effective, and less toxic, overall. These types of divorces can often be resolved out of court, through either mediation or collaborative divorce.  

      In Texas, it’s perfectly acceptable to file under “no-fault” grounds even if there has been fault.

      At-Fault Grounds for Divorce

      Unlike a “no-fault” divorce, all’s fair in love and war for “at-fault” grounds. Here, blame is absolutely on the table, and judges are allowed to consider the “guilt” of one spouse over the other, and hold them accountable, accordingly (often in the form of alimony). 

      The Texas Family Code outlines four acceptable at-fault grounds; they are: 

      1. Cruelty. This is applicable whenever one spouse acts with “cruelty” toward the other, for an extended period of time. While domestic violence would naturally fall under this category, the vague wording in Texas law leaves it open to interpretation. 

      Generally speaking, any physical or mental harm can qualify, so long as it’s willful and persistent. (However, a singular, egregious event might also qualify, depending on the circumstances.)

      1. Adultery. If you can prove your spouse cheated, then you can file under these grounds—furthermore, your proof doesn’t even have to be as strong as a photo or video. In Texas, circumstantial evidence can be damning enough, if it leads to only one logical conclusion. 

      We should note, however, that “emotional cheating” does not qualify. For adultery to count, it must be physical. 

      1. Abandonment. To qualify under these grounds, one of the spouses must have left voluntarily, with clear intent to never return. This abandonment must have lasted longer than a year; a return visit at any point during that time could potentially disrupt your argument under these grounds. 
      2. Felony Conviction. Committing a crime is not enough for these grounds. For it to qualify, the spouse actually has to be convicted, and spend more than a year in prison. (Though, if your circumstances don’t rise to the level of felony conviction, keep in mind that you can always file under cruelty or insupportability.)  

      At-fault divorces can have a huge impact on things like child custody, visitation, and the division of marital property. These breakups are often marked by high levels of controversy, making them more expensive and difficult to litigate. Because of this, we generally recommend avoiding them whenever possible. 

      If you’re interested in filing under at-fault grounds, it’s important to speak to a family law attorney about your options.  

      DO YOU NEED HELP WITH DIVORCE GROUNDS IN TEXAS?

      The grounds you choose will have a huge impact on the trajectory of your divorce journey. These terms set the tone for negotiations, and can even influence things like marital property and alimony. Which is why it’s so important to have an experienced family law attorney fighting at your side.  

      If you have more questions about grounds for divorce in Texas, we want to hear from you. Call North Texas Family Lawyers at 972-402-6367, or schedule a consultation online, and together, we can figure out what grounds are right for you. 

    • Helping Clients Through an Emotional Process

      At North Texas Family Lawyers, we help clients get through the emotionally charged, legally complex process of divorce. From the initial consultation to final outcome, we remain at your side, providing personalized representation. We discuss the unique issues of your case and help you identify options and objectives. In the end, we want you to make decisions in your best interests and those of your children.

      Not only is Texas one of the easier states to get a divorce in, but it also allows clients to secure a marital dissolution with an average of 61 days, one of the fastest processes in the country.

      CONTESTED AND UNCONTESTED DIVORCES

      The type of divorce will affect the amount of time necessary to get through the process. Contested divorces often involve a longer process, especially if both sides are involved in a bitter dispute. Uncontested divorces where both sides are in agreement start with the filing of documents. Following that step, a waiver of citation must be filed with the courthouse clerk. Both spouses must appear before a judge on or soon after the 61st day for a judge’s approval or denial.

    • Protecting Assets During Divorce

      Comprehensive Complex Property Services for over 100 Years

      At Neal North Texas Family Lawyers, we provide creative family law solutions with the goal of saving our clients money, time and anguish. Our decades of experience resolving family law disputes mean we know how to provide the support that families in transition often need.

      At the same time, we realize that a part of the anguish of divorce results from worries and unanswered questions about the future. Who will own key assets? Who will be responsible for which marital debts? And how will child support and spousal support payments affect my family’s future and quality of life?

      If you are divorcing and have questions regarding the protection of your assets, contact the Lewisville, Texas, law firm North Texas Family Lawyers. We are here for you, ready to represent your best interests.

      Our Experience and Qualifications Illustrate Our Ability to Protect Your Assets During Divorce

      Few family law firms in the Lewisville area bring our focus, credentials and level of experience to the protection of marital assets:

      • We practice family law exclusively
      • Our lawyer team includes board-certified family law attorneys
      • We work closely with a certified divorce financial planning expert

      Our experience protecting and dividing property ranges from the division of homes and debt to disputes involving family-owned businesses, pensions, trusts and property protected in premarital and post-marital agreements. For more information regarding our firm and the protection of your property during divorce, please contact our office.

    • How Will Mining and Drilling Rights Be Handled in Divorce?

      Many divorcing couples in Texas need qualified legal help when dividing mineral and oil revenues and potential mineral and oil revenues during a divorce. To protect your interests, mineral rights need to handled and addressed when dividing property.

      At the Lewisville, Texas,we at North Texas Family Lawyers, have handled dozens of divorce cases involving mineral and drilling rights in Denton County, Dallas County, Collin County, Wise County, Tarrant County and other counties across Texas. We can provide knowledgeable legal counsel and aggressive legal representation in cases involving:

      • Land on which no oil or gas leasing has yet occurred
      • Land that is currently producing revenue/royalties for you and your spouse

      Experienced Lewisville Mineral Rights Lawyers and Family Law Attorneys

      Current and future drilling and mineral rights can be divided just like any other property. Our firm focuses on dividing high net worth property while saving families money, time and anguish.

      Our attorney team has decades of family law experience and works with a certified divorce financial planning expert to safeguard your property rights. Additionally, we can work with an oil and gas specialist to ensure that your financial interests are maximized.

      We are experienced in dividing initial mineral rights bonus payments and can work with your neighborhood if it worked together in leasing negotiations with an oil and gas firm. For more information, please contact our firm.

    • How Will Divorce Affect My Practice?

      Professional practices are subject to ownership division upon divorce in many instances. If you have worked hard to build a thriving practice, who can help ensure that the practice’s value won’t be inflated when property is allocated during divorce? And if your spouse owns a professional practice, which law firm has the experience and resources to ensure your interests are protected and your ownership share is maximized?

      The family law and property division lawyers of North Texas Family Lawyers have handled hundreds of divorce cases involving the valuation of professional practices and the division of high-value property. We assist both licensed professionals and spouses in accurately appraising fair values for professional practices and licenses, and in fairly dividing marital property.

      At North Texas Family Lawyers, we draw on decades of combined years of legal experience to answer key questions when determining the value of professional practices, including:

      • What factors contributed to the success of the practice?
      • Has the business appreciated?
      • What are the practice’s tax obligations and debts?
      • What is the value of the business’s real estate property and intellectual property?

      Our extensive experience is complemented by input from our certified divorce financial planning expert, who was recently listed as “One of the Best Financial Planners in Dallas” and who has numerous credentials and licensures related to divorce and property division law. For more information, please contact our firm.

    • Complex Financial Divorce Lawyers

      When a couple divorces and a family-owned business is involved, the division of the business can go in one of several directions, and any number of issues may be disputed. For instance:

      • A judge may order that the business be divided equally.
      • A dispute may arise regarding the valuation of the business.
      • A spouse may attempt to obtain part ownership in the business.

      The result of negotiations or litigation can greatly affect the assets of either party after the divorce is finalized. If you are divorcing and wish to protect your interests in a family-owned business, it is essential that you obtain qualified, knowledgeable and aggressive legal help.

      At the Lewisville, Texas, North Texas Family Lawyers, we have represented spouses’ interests in businesses for decades. We draw on our vast experience and work with our certified divorce financial planning expert to maximize clients’ assets during the division of complex property. We can work effectively to maximize or minimize a cash pay out for a business, fight for your exclusive ownership of a business or otherwise protect your interests.

      Was your business yours exclusively before your marriage? Did your spouse make only minor contributions to your business, or did you contribute heavily toward your spouse’s business?

      We have resolved cases in which businesses have been declared the sole possession of one spouse, and we have succeeded in limiting a spouse’s payout to just the appreciated value of the business during the length of the marriage. We have worked with countless business owners and owners of professional practices and can work effectively to protect your interests. For more information, please contact a Lewisville business valuation lawyer at our firm.

  • Child Custody

    • James’ Custody Battle Staying in California

      Television personality Jesse James is currently involved in a custody dispute with ex-wife Janine Lindemulder. James received permission from a California court to move with his daughter to Austin, Texas, from Orange County California, as long as he allowed Lindemulder to have extended visitation time.

      Lindemulder claims that James is not allowing her scheduled parenting time, in violation of the California court’s order. James had petitioned to have the hearing on these claims in a Texas court. The California court refused James’ request to move the hearing.

      James had recently questioned his ex-wife’s fitness as a parent. In October of 2008, the custody order was modified after Lindemulder was sentenced to federal prison for tax evasion. After her release, Lindemulder, a former adult film actress, appeared in another adult film. Lindemulder has stated that she is now finished with the industry. James contends that this directly impacts her fitness as a parent, and therefore that she should not be allowed to have custody or visitation with their child.

      Child Custody Law in Texas

      Even though the details of this case are being played out in public, many parents find themselves in similar custody situations. Custody is awarded based on the best interests of the child. If the parties can work out a parenting plan, it keeps the court from having to make a decision based on limited information.

      The rules in Texas permit a change of custody when material changes justify the modification. If one parent is unfit to care for the child, the noncustodial parent may request that the court change the custody agreement. The party requesting the change will need to show how circumstances have changed, and show why they are more qualified to care for the child.

      If you have questions about an existing custody order, or are in a current custody dispute, contact an experienced family law attorney to discuss your options.

    • Texas Child Support: Beyond the Necessities

      The focus of state and federal child support laws is to establish standards and guidelines that are in the child’s best interest and ensure that children of separated or divorced parents receive certain basic necessities.

      Basic necessities included in base child support calculations are things like shelter, food, clothing and medical coverage. Several expenses contribute to these costs such as mortgage or rent, utilities, doctor visits, meals and school supplies.

      Each state has guidelines that determine the range of child support that needs to be paid by parents based on their incomes and expenses. Texas statutes do not define everything included in the term “needs,” but courts have interpreted child support coverage to be more than just bare necessities. Custodial parents, however, must present evidence about a child’s additional needs such as special educational programs or other activities.

      Expect the Unexpected

      While parents may feel frustrated when child support payments increase as their children’s needs change, all parents, whether married or divorced, know that unexpected costs will appear during their children’s lives. It is with this understanding that Texas courts consider the addition of child support costs above the base calculations on a case-by-case basis when these expenses prove to be in the best interests of the child.

      If you are the parent of one or more children and are facing the prospect of child support obligations, or you currently pay court-ordered child support, you may have questions about support calculations in Texas. For sound legal advice about potential or existing child support, contact an experienced family law attorney. A lawyer can go over the unique details of your situation, and explore how you can provide for both you and your children’s needs.

    • Texas Divorce and Child Custody: The Fifty-Fifty Generation

      Divorce experts and counselors across the country have noticed a recent change in child custody preferences for newly divorced parents. More parents are choosing fifty-fifty joint child custody, where the kids spend close to the same amount of time with each parent.

      The generation of children that are products of this custody arrangement have been dubbed the “fifty- fifty generation”.

      Previous generations’ views on custody tended to lean more heavily on the mother as the primary caregiver. Experts suspect that the recent change in perception may have resulted from fathers becoming tired of being the parent who only “visited”.

      Some mothers are struggling to let go of their actual or expected role as the primary caregiver. They worry that they are the only one that can give their kids the home life and daily routine that their children are accustomed to, but Dads can be good parents too.

      Research on the impact of divorce on children has shown that kids handle the stress of a divorce best when both parents remain actively involved in their lives. There has been no definitive research on the impact of the fifty-fifty parenting schedule on children.

      Divorce experts have also noticed a more creative, open-minded approach to splitting custody time in modern families. It is now more common for the parent who has moved out of the “family home” to come back and help with the kids’ daily routines or to eat a meal with the family.

      Being open-minded, having good communication and allowing for flexibility in schedules are good approaches parents maintaining a fifty-fifty custody arrangement should keep in mind.

      The fifty-fifty arrangement is not the best option for all families. A knowledgeable divorce attorney can help couples consider their options and decide on the best parenting plan for their circumstances.

    • Preventing International Child Abduction in Texas

      Having a child abducted is the worst fear of most parents. When it is a parent committing the abduction the situation presents a variety of challenges, especially when the child is taken to a foreign country. Luckily, a variety of legal requirements and systems are in place to prevent these situations from occurring.

      National Efforts to Stop International Child Abduction

      The U.S. State Department’s Passport Issuance Alert Program (CPIAP) allows a parent or parents to register a child under 18 in a database that will alert them when a passport application is submitted for that child. If a parent or parents object to the application, all U.S. Embassies and all U.S. passport agencies throughout the world are placed on alert.

      This program plays a vital role in preventing not only the international abduction of a child by a stranger, but more commonly the international abduction of a child by a parent without proper child custody.

      The State Department’s top official on child abduction says the problem of international parental abduction is very serious. In 2010, only 578 of the more than 1,500 children abducted to foreign countries by a parent were returned to the U.S.

      Children are often used as pawns in their parents’ battles, and CPIAP seeks to prevent the worst-case abduction scenario by requiring the consent of both parents before issuing a passport.

      Measures Preventing Parental Abduction in Texas

      In 2003, Texas passed legislation, which empowers courts with a variety of options if the risk factors of an international parental abduction are present. The options include appointing a conservator to take over the role of the parent presenting the risk, and filing with the State Department court ordered passport and travel restrictions for the child.

      A new law taking effect in September will also make such abductions Texas felonies as well.

      An Attorney Can Assist

      CPIAP and the Texas legislation are valuable tools in protecting children caught in the middle of a contentious relationship between parents, but custody and kidnapping can be complicated matters. If you believe your child is at risk for being abducted by his or her parent, contact an experienced family law attorney to discuss the precautions you can take to protect your child.

    • Private Judging in Texas: A Time-Saving Option to Consider

      Court systems in Texas and all across the country are feeling the pinch of budget cuts. According the National Center for State Courts, 29 state court systems face budget cuts in 2011. These cuts likely result in layoffs and longer wait times for getting a case heard.

      In particular those involved in civil matters, such as divorce and child custody cases, may face longer wait times. In response to such delays some people are choosing to use a little-known option: they are hiring private judges to hear their cases. Texas is one of five states that allow parties to use private judges. Many Texans do not know about the option of private judging in Texas and how they might benefit from using a private judge in their family law matters.

      Private Judges in Texas

      The Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code allows parties to use private judges in civil and family law matters if both parties agree. Upon the motion of the parties to the district judge assigned to the matter, the judge will issue an order that a private judge will hear the case on a given date and time and stay the matter in the district court pending the outcome of that hearing.

      Private judges are retired district judges who served on the bench at least four years. Private judges have all of the same powers as a district judge in Texas, such as ruling on motions, issuing temporary orders, issuing temporary injunctions and holding bench trials. The only thing a private judge cannot do is hold a jury trial. Therefore, in the parties’ motion to the district judge to request a private judge, the parties must waive their right to a jury trial.

      Once a private judge issues a decision in a matter it is final and binding. The decision stands as if it were issued by the district court judge. If the parties wish to appeal, they must do so to a Texas Court of Appeals.

      Benefits of Using a Private Judge in Texas Family Law Cases

      There are many benefits to using a private judge in a family law matter such as divorce or child custody case. Among the benefits are:

      • Saving time: parties can ensure that the case heard faster than if they waited for the district court, usually within one month – this is especially important for family law issues so that people can resolve matters on move on with their lives
      • Ease of scheduling: the parties are not at the mercy of the court’s schedule so they can pick a date and time that is least intrusive in their lives
      • Saving money: some may balk at the initial cost of hiring a private judge, but by guaranteeing that the hearing will occur at a certain date and time, clients may actually reduce their costs in that they do not have to pay the lawyers and expert witnesses to prepare for trial several times only to have the matter delayed again and again in district court
      • Picking a judge: the parties have the chance to make sure they have a judge they know and trust to rule fairly
      • Privacy: private judges are not allowed to hear cases in the courthouse, so the hearing takes place in more private locations – this may be more comfortable for the sensitive topics that often come up in family law matters

      The events that led to the court date are turbulent enough without the added stress of trying to figure out when the case will finally be heard. If you are involved in a family law matter do not hesitate to contact an attorney who can discuss the options available to you including private judging.

    • Factors Used to Determine Child Custody Arrangements in Texas

      When there’s a divorce, many issues need resolving. Debt and property allocation and spousal support are among the long list. However, one of the more difficult, complex and emotional issues involves children. Even in an uncontested divorce, figuring out which party gets custody of the child is difficult and often stressful.

      Parties can and are encouraged to come to a mutual agreement on issues regarding their divorce. Sometimes they can find success through medication or collaboration methods. But, when these options aren’t feasible-whether due to the hostile nature of the relationship or particular circumstances relating to the child-a court will step in to make decisions. Typically, child custody determinations, and other decisions affecting the children, will be made based on what’s known as the “best interests of the child.”

      Understanding the ‘Best Interests of the Child’ in Texas

      The definition of “best interests of the child” is used differently in each jurisdiction, but generally it’s referred to custody decisions that will result in the most superior or safest environment for the child to live, grow and thrive.

      In the state of Texas, the courts look at the following “best interests” factors that include but are not limited to the child’s:

      • Age
      • Physical or mental vulnerabilities
      • Access to proper health and nutritional care
      • Access to appropriate discipline and supervision
      • Past history of any physical or mental abuse
      • Access to extended family or support system

      Courts examine these factors in the context of present circumstances, but also future situations the child may encounter as he or she grows.

      If a child is over the age of 12, courts will often consult the child on his or her living preferences.

      Typically, in the state of Texas, joint conservatorship (where both parents maintain equal rights and decision making power over the child’s care and upbringing) is desired. However, this isn’t always possible. Depending on the circumstances, one parent may be awarded sole conservatorship.

      Consulting With a Family Law Attorney

      There are so many complex issues that need to be examined and determined when it comes to issues relating to child custody in Texas. Coupled with an already stressful situation, making decisions relating to a child in a marriage can be overwhelming for everyone involved. Seeking the help of an experienced Texas family law attorney who can offer neutral guidance about the laws and options available is advised.

    • How will custody be split?
      In Texas, a conservatorship is granted to the parent who will receive custody of the child. If the other biological parent is unfit, the parent with custody will be the sole conservator of the child. In most cases, however, the court tries to grant as much time as possible to both parents (in the best interests of the child) and will create a joint conservatorship, where the parents work together on a visitation schedule to raise the child.
    • If I don’t have custody, do I have to pay child support?
      If you have parental rights with the child, it is almost assured that you will have to pay child support to the parent who has the most time with the child. The amount you pay will be based on a variety of factors, including how much visitation time you have, your income and the needs of the child.
    • What do I need for a custody schedule to work?
      During divorce (or other family law situations), the parents can work together to present a proposed custody schedule (or visitation schedule) to the family judge in the case. When creating this schedule, seek the guidance of an experienced family law attorney who knows what the judge is looking for and can help you create a proposal that is likely to be quickly approved and that meets the needs of all involved.
    • Can I block the other parent from custody?
      In Texas, it is highly unlikely that you can receive sole custody or conservatorship of the child, blocking the parent from any custody or visitation rights. This is usually reserved for situations where the other parent has displayed dangerous tendencies, including abuse, alcohol or drug issues or mental issues, or has been found unfit to parent.
    • Fighting Parental Alienation Issues

      Though parental alienation was first identified as a syndrome within the psychiatric community more than 35 years ago, the public at large has only recently become aware of it. Clients of our firm used to express concerns regarding parental alienation only rarely. Now, parents regularly have questions and express concerns regarding it.

      Generally speaking, parental alienation is a dynamic that usually occurs due to divorce or parental separation, in which a minor child expresses unjustified hatred or unreasonably strong dislike of one parent, making access by the rejected parent difficult or impossible. Though parental alienation is not an official or technical legal term, parental alienation can have legal repercussions.

      Are you unable to visit your child due to possible parental alienation? Do you face a potential change in your child custody rights due to your child’s unfathomable feelings toward you?

      The Lewisville parental alienation lawyers North Texas Family Lawyers have decades of legal experience handling family, child custody and visitation disputes, including parental alienation. In addition, our team includes attorneys who are board-certified in family law and mediation.

      Our experience and qualifications have resulted in hundreds of positive results and in recognition throughout the Texas legal community: Our team includes lawyers who have been selected for inclusion on Super Lawyers lists and who are Board Certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in Family Law. Also, our firm is AV-rated by Martindale Hubbell. For more information regarding how our firm can assist you in resolving parental alienation challenges, please contact our firm.

  • Financial Planning

    • Staying Focused on Long-Term Financial Planning During Divorce

      Shortsightedness is often a recipe for financial disaster in divorce

      During a divorce it is easy to get caught up in the immediate concerns, such as determining who will keep the house and how child custody will be managed. Although these concerns are important, many people going through a divorce tend to overlook the more long-term considerations, according to USA Today. Considering how one’s post-divorce life is likely to take shape can and should have a significant impact on the decisions a person makes during the actual divorce process.

      Circumstances change

      A divorce is one of the most momentous and difficult periods many people will have to go through. The end of a marriage signals the beginning of a very different life, which for many people can mean coming to terms with being a newly-single parent or trying to reenter the workforce.

      As NBC News points out, people who have spent the majority of their marriages at home raising children are likely to feel the biggest shock in their post-divorce lives. Raising a child while also trying to find work is not only emotionally difficult, but obviously leads to financial strains as well. In many cases, people preparing for a divorce underestimate just how big a change their lifestyles will have to undergo once the divorce is finalized.

      Emotions get in the way

      Focusing on long-term goals is almost always a prudent and responsible course of action, but such focus is difficult in the midst of a divorce. The end of a marriage is an extremely emotional time for many people and it can become tempting to get caught up in short-term goals, such as holding on to the marital home, rather than considering long-term solutions.

      Many people going through a divorce, for example, want to get through the process as quickly as possible. In such cases, a spouse may rush into signing a final divorce order as a way to quickly “move on.” While it is understandable that some people will want to restart their lives sooner rather than later, divorce is a serious issue that deserves to be treated carefully and with proper preparation. Many of the decisions made during a divorce, like spousal support and division of marital property, will have repercussions for years afterwards, but they can be extremely difficult to undo if they eventually turn out to have been handled unsatisfactorily.

      Legal advice

      It should go without saying that anybody going through a divorce should contact a family law attorney to discuss the specifics of their case. However, when it comes to family law, many attorneys focus solely on helping clients through the actual divorce process and pay little attention to what a client is likely to deal with after a divorce is finalized. Finding an attorney who is committed to a client’s post-divorce life and interests can be difficult, but such an attorney, once found, is an invaluable asset when it comes to working out long-term goals during a divorce.

    • Hidden Assets

      In many marriages, one spouse handles most or even all aspects of financial investing and management. Problems may arise in the event of divorce if the spouse who has managed the couple’s finances chooses not to disclose all assets, because undisclosed assets cannot be divided or accounted for during property division.

      At the Lewisville law firm of North Texas Family Lawyers, our lawyer team has worked to protect clients’ financial assets for decades. We have the experience, knowledge and professional resources to thoroughly investigate divorce cases involving hidden assets such as:

      • Overseas accounts
      • Stocks and bonds
      • Tax shelters

      We use our extensive experience and the services of a certified divorce financial planning expert as well as forensic accountants, investment specialists and other professionals when investigating hidden-asset issues.

      In addition, our certified divorce expert is a certified fraud examiner (CFE) with proven expertise in fraud prevention, detection and deterrence. CFEs are trained to:

      • Identify evidence of fraud and uncover fraud
      • Prevent fraud

      CFEs must achieve 20 hours of Continuing Education every year to maintain certification.

  • Marital Agreements

    • More Couples Turning to Premarital Agreements

      When preparing for a wedding, most are focused on the details of the day, such as finding the perfect flowers and deciding how to diplomatically arrange everyone for dinner. Increasingly, though, many are adding prenuptial agreements to the list of things to contemplate before the big day arrives. According to a recent survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 73 percent of family law attorneys report an increase in the number of premarital agreements over the past five years.

      Though premarital agreements were once considered the domain of the wealthy, people from all backgrounds are coming to realize that these agreements can be incredibly beneficial.

      Despite the vows of “till death do us part,” many marriages end in divorce, and many people entering marriages recognize this fact. A prenuptial agreement can help to avoid costly and drawn out divorce proceedings.

      Such an agreement allows a couple to determine the terms of a hypothetical future separation when they are on good terms. This is generally easier than agreeing upon a plan for separation when a marriage is ending, relationships are strained and tensions are running high.

      If instead, the marriage lasts forever, the premarital agreement simply becomes irrelevant. There is no disadvantage to having such an agreement in place.

      Factors Contributing to the Increase in Prenuptial Agreements

      Beyond the fact that the agreements simply make sense, circumstantial factors may contribute to the rise in pre-nups. In many cases, people are entering second or third marriages. After going through a difficult divorce once, people may be more inclined to take precautionary steps just in case the marriage does not last.

      Even for those entering first marriages, the average age of marriage is rising. In turn, those who are getting married have had more time to accumulate assets, and therefore may have a greater interest in protecting these assets.

      For anyone preparing for a wedding, it is at least important to consider a prenuptial agreement. Regardless of whether you ultimately want such an agreement, it is important to understand your options. Speak with a knowledgeable family law attorney to discuss your circumstances and the steps you can take to protect your interests.

    • 4 Benefits a Pre-or Postnuptial Agreement Can Offer for Any Couple

      Pre or postnuptial agreements can help a couple achieve peace of mind, consensus on important issues, financial protection and a smoother separation.

      Premarital and postnuptial agreements were once considered a necessity primarily for high-asset individuals and couples with disparate financial backgrounds. Today, however, many people in Lewisville turn to these agreements to provide mutual protection in the event of a divorce. A premarital or postnuptial agreement can offer various invaluable benefits that make drafting one of these contracts worthwhile for couples of almost any financial background.

      1. Financial security

      A well-crafted premarital or postnuptial agreement can protect the financial interests of both spouses and any of their dependents, including ex-spouses and children from prior relationships. As The Wall Street Journal explains, these agreements can do all of the following:

      • Protect each spouse’s separate property from future claims
      • Determine how property that a couple acquires while married would be divided in the event of a divorce
      • Stipulate whether one spouse would be responsible for paying the other spouse alimony after a divorce

      A premarital or postnuptial agreement that holds up during divorce proceedings can eliminate disputes about these elements of the divorce. This can further protect spouses financially by reducing their legal costs.

      2. Defined expectations

      Drafting a pre- or postnuptial agreement can also be beneficial because it can help a couple establish similar financial expectations, according to U.S. News. Financial issues are a common cause of marital fights. Drafting a formal agreement about these matters can help couples ensure that they hold similar or at least compatible views about potentially contentious topics, such as alimony obligations in the event that one spouse leaves the workforce to support the family.

      3. Peace of mind

      A preexisting agreement may also help mitigate the stress and uncertainty that can arise during a contested divorce. Since family law judges use discretion and subjective criteria to decide matters such as marital property division, predicting how a contested divorce will end can be challenging. Spouses who draft premarital or postnuptial agreements can feel confident in receiving a tailored, fitting outcome in at least one component of the divorce settlement.

      4. An efficient separation

      Finally, a pre-or postnuptial agreement can support a more expeditious divorce by determining certain aspects of the settlement in advance. Of course, this is only the case if the agreement is not challenged during the divorce. According to Forbes, these agreements may be contested on various grounds, including fraud, overly unfair terms or coercion on the part of either spouse. Therefore, it is essential for spouses to avoid signing these agreements under questionable circumstances.

      Accordingly, spouses who wish to protect themselves with a pre or postnuptial agreement should consider partnering with an attorney who has experience drafting these contracts. An attorney may be able to help a spouse understand his or her rights and avoid harmful oversights when signing one of these agreements.

  • Property Division

    • Property Division in Texas Divorces

      One of the major difficulties that accompany a divorce is determining how to divide a couple’s property and debts between the two parties. In community property states such as Texas, a judge dividing a couple’s property begins with the assumption that everything the couple has acquired during the marriage, they own jointly.

      Community Property

      Texas statutes define community property as “property, other than separate property, acquired by either spouse during marriage.” This includes income each spouse earns. Separate property is property that each spouse owned prior to the marriage. Unless the spouses agree otherwise, in a Texas property division the court will generally divide the community property equally between the spouses and each party will keep his or her separate property.

      Determining Community and Separate Property

      The court first needs to distinguish what is community property and what is separate property prior to dividing the couple’s assets.

      • Community property: all earnings by both parties during the marriage and everything either party acquired with those earnings; debt acquired during the marriage is also community unless the debt collector specifically seeks one spouse’s separate property for satisfaction of the debt
      • Separate property: everything each spouse owned prior to the marriage, inheritances or gifts given to only one spouse during the marriage, pensions that vested prior to the marriage; anything purchased with separate property funds remains separate property
      • Mixed community and separate: property that the couple purchases with a combination of community and separate funds is mixed community and separate property and the spouse seeking to show that there is a separate property interest in the property has the burden of showing that interest; if a spouse owned a business prior to the marriage the business is separate property but any expansion of the business is community property.

      Dividing up property during a divorce can be complicated and stressful. It can be burdensome to try to prove ownership of something prior to the marriage or prove how marital funds were used to acquire property. If you are going through a divorce contact an experienced Texas family law attorney who can protect your interests during the property division process.

    • Understanding the difference between separate and marital property

      Understanding the differences between community and separate property may make the divorce process easier for some couples.

      One of the most difficult topics to deal with in a Texas divorce case is that of property division. After years or even decades of marriage, the thought of distributing all of the property and assets that were accumulated throughout the marriage may seem overwhelming. Texas is a community property state, meaning that in most cases, all marital property is divided equally in half between spouses. However, not all property and assets are considered community property. When people understand the differences between marital and separate property, they can increase the likelihood that they will get everything they deserve in the divorce settlement.

      Marital property

      When people think of marital or community property, they may think of the family home, vehicles, furniture and bank account funds. Marital property, however, encompasses everything that the couple has amassed during their marriage. According to Forbes, it isn’t uncommon for couples to overlook certain marital funds, such as insurance policies, 401k plans, pensions, stock and other investments. Non-traditional items, such as expensive antique collections, art, wine, coins, horses or classic cars are also considered marital if they were acquired while the couple was married. Even elite golf course memberships, cemetery plots and funds derived from trademarks, copyrights and patents may be divided in a divorce settlement. Gifts that spouses gave to one another during the marriage may be considered community property as well.

      Separate property

      Certain property and/or assets that a person receives prior to and during the marriage may remain solely with the original owner. For example, a person who receives inheritance money before or during a marriage and keeps that money separate from marital funds, may be exempt from having to split those funds in the divorce settlement. According to Texas statutes, separate property may also include the following:

      • Money received from personal injuries
      • Property owned prior to the marriage
      • Money acquired from separate property, such as equity or interest earned
      • Third-party gifts given to either spouse before or during the marriage

      When the other spouse is added to a property title, or the separate funds are deposited into a joint bank account with other spouse, the items may become marital, and therefore, eligible for division.

      Receive what is rightfully yours

      Going through the divorce process can be emotionally and financially trying. Many people may find that the process of creating a fair and just divorce settlement can be extremely difficult and overwhelming. Whether you are thinking of filing for divorce, or you have been facing a court battle and need additional legal assistance, you may want to speak to a family attorney who understands how divorce works in Texas.

    • Guiding and Protecting Clients in Complex Property Division

      If you are going through a divorce that involves a family-owned business, you face crucial questions. Can and will the business continue? If yes, who will own it? How much is the business worth? And how should each spouse be compensated for his or her interest in the business?

      At the Lewisville, Texas, family law firm of North Texas Family Lawyers, we have individually and collectively earned extensive recognition for our ability to identify assets and income, value businesses and protect clients’ rights in the division of complex property, including family-owned businesses.

      If you and/or your spouse owned or established your family business during your marriage, the business will likely be included in a property division settlement or order. Because Texas is a community property state, if you or your spouse owned the business prior to marriage, a property settlement may be limited to business appreciation during the marriage. Questions of whether a spouse contributed to the value of the business during the marriage will likely also come into play.

      Our attorney team includes board-certified family law lawyers and works closely with a certified divorce financial planning expert to ensure clients’ property rights are protected during divorce. We are experienced and knowledgeable regarding business considerations involving:

      • The assessment of cash flow
      • The valuing of businesses
      • Analyzing ownership and investment in businesses

      When necessary, we work with additional experts like forensic accountants and even private investigators to value the business and fully identify your interests. For more information, please contact our firm.

    • Valuation of Professional Practices

      What Is the Value of Your Practice? How Do You Put a Value on a Career?

      The valuation of professional practices is a critical part of your divorce. Without effective legal representation, professional practice owners may lose a significant portion of their business, and spouses of business owners may not receive their fair share.

      To obtain the legal help you need to ensure a fair outcome regarding the valuation of a professional practice, contact the Lewisville, Texas, North Texas Family Lawyers. Few law firms in the Dallas area can match our:

      • Experience. Our six attorneys have decades of years of family law experience
      • Focus. Our firm practices family law exclusively, including wills, trusts, guardianship, probate and estate planning.
      • Credentials. Our team includes three attorneys who are Board Certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in Family Law and two lawyers included on the Texas Super Lawyers lists. Also, our firm is AV-rated by Martindale Hubbell.
      • Creativity. We provide tailored solutions and provide legal assistance ranging from amicable negotiations to aggressive courtroom litigation.
      • Access to expertise. We work with a certified divorce financial planning expert who is highly skilled regarding the valuation of businesses and assets.

      Professional practices involve more than office equipment and real property. We are skilled at determining the future value of professional licenses, intellectual property, client bases and more. For more information regarding valuing professional practices during divorce, please contact a Lewisville business valuation lawyer at our firm.