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Collin County Family Law AttorneyThere is good news for advocates of family stability - not only are divorce rates falling, especially among younger age groups, but couples who do divorce are acting more carefully about how they choose to go about the divorce process. One option that has gained popularity in recent years is known as “collaborative divorce,” and it is particularly helpful to those who are concerned about avoiding unnecessary conflict throughout the divorce process. If you have children under age 18 or are simply looking for a peaceful resolution to the end of your marriage, collaborative divorce could be the right choice for you. 

What is Collaborative Divorce? 

Divorce has traditionally been a combative experience, and no wonder; many of the elements of divorce can feel zero-sum to both parties. After all, time a child spends living with one parent is time she does not spend in the other parent’s home. However, collaborative divorce still recognizes some of the inherent conflicts of interest while still respecting the effort to minimize hostility and protect minor children. 

Collaborative divorce involves both parents having a team of experts who guide them cooperatively through the divorce. This includes attorneys, as well as anyone else the parents feel could contribute: financial professionals, child psychologists, divorce coaches, and more. If, for whatever reason, the collaborative process is not successful, the entire team dissolves and each party’s attorney cannot go on to represent them in court litigation. 

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Collin County Child Custody LawyerParents frequently disagree about how to resolve matters related to child custody in a divorce, but sometimes these conflicts can become extreme. This is especially true when there are allegations of abuse or neglect from one or both parties. Getting to the truth can be difficult, and judges may be unsure of the best outcome for a particular case. When this happens, a common solution is for a judge to appoint a professional known as a “child custody evaluator” to a particular case. If you are involved in a court dispute over your minor children, whether during or after divorce, and a custody evaluator has been assigned to your case, it is important to understand the role of this professional and how you should behave to optimize your case’s outcome. 

What is a Custody Evaluator? 

A custody evaluator is a mental health professional who is also sometimes an attorney. Her job is to gather as much information as possible about a particular case. In order to get the information she needs, she can do the following: 

  • Complete psychological evaluations of both parents, their romantic partners (if applicable), and all children 

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Collin County Divorce AttorneyEnterprising spouses often start up businesses together, finding interesting and unique ways to bring extra money into their family coffer. Sometimes this looks like a formal business establishment, and other times it might be gradually buying up real estate to rent out on platforms like AirBNB. Whatever the format, when it comes time to divorce, a couple’s business needs to be divided just like any other marital asset

Dividing a business can be very difficult, however, as spouses often disagree about how much of the business is marital vs. personal property or what the true value of the business is. In cases like this, make sure you have the help of an experienced business owners’ divorce attorney who can assist you in resolving these tricky issues. 

Can One of the Spouses Keep the Business in a Divorce? 

Texas law requires community property to be divided in a “just and right” manner, which usually means something close to 50/50. If one of the spouses owned the business before getting married and did not protect that business with a prenuptial agreement, it can be very difficult to determine how much of that business is community property rather than the personal property of the spouse who originally owned the business. 

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Collin County Family Law AttorneyChild support might be determined by a state formula, but that does not stop it from becoming a high-conflict part of a divorced or separated couple’s relationship. The parent paying child support often feels angry and taken advantage of, while the parent receiving child support often feels as though the amount is insufficient to properly care for the child’s needs. Whatever the reason for dissatisfaction, the end result is sometimes that the parent paying for child support will try to hide income to avoid paying the full support payments he or she would otherwise be obligated to make. If you think this is happening in your case, it is important to contact a Texas child support attorney who can help you secure the support you need. 

Child Support Income Guidelines in Texas

Before a court can set child support payments, the judge needs to know how much money the paying parent makes and whether the child’s needs justify deviating from state child support guidelines (the paying parent is the parent who does not have primary possession of the child, meaning the child spends most of his or her time with the other parent). 

Texas child support guidelines use a parent’s annual income (rather than a monthly income) divided by 12 and reduced by standard expenses like taxes or health insurance payments for the child. When calculating income, the court will include all sources of money, including, but not limited to: 

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Collin County Divorce AttorneyTexas law requires couples who are getting divorced to divide their assets and debt. Usually, though not always, Texas - which is a community property state - divides assets equally between spouses. However, spouses who are afraid of getting shortchanged in their divorce or who are willing to take advantage of their spouse may be willing to hide assets to tip the asset division process unfairly in their favor. If you are getting divorced and are worried that your spouse may try to hide assets, make sure you have an experienced Texas divorce attorney. 

How Will I Know if My Spouse is Hiding Assets? 

Often, spouses will divide and conquer chores and responsibilities within a marriage. This often leaves one spouse in charge of managing a family’s financial affairs. If your spouse has been responsible for paying bills, tracking your bank account balances, and managing your retirement accounts, you may not have a full picture of your financial affairs, which could make it easier for your spouse to deceive you during the asset division process. 

While it is never possible to fully anticipate whether a spouse will try to hide assets, pay attention to your spouse’s behavior and see if your gut tells you things are not adding up. If you thought he or she made a certain amount of money, but their financial affidavit states otherwise, follow up. If a bank account balance seems low, find out why. 

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mckinney divorce lawyerFault & No-Fault Grounds for Divorce

The State of Texas is a “no-fault state,” which means, first and foremost, that fault is not required to obtain a divorce. In addition, this also means that Texas doesn’t have any disadvantages for those who initiate a divorce with no-fault grounds. In other words, if someone files for divorce with no-fault grounds in Texas, that person won’t automatically face any disadvantages when it comes to property division, or any other issue of the divorce. Of course, a spouse’s conduct during the marriage can still be consequential even when there are no fault grounds cited; but, a spouse will not be necessarily disadvantaged simply on the basis of filing with no-fault grounds. 

The Three No-Fault Grounds

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frisco child protective services lawyerIf you’re a parent, or grandparent, or even merely a concerned member of society, you should be aware of the basic purpose and operations of Child Protective Services (CPS) here in Texas. CPS performs a variety of specific functions, but all functions are ultimately carried out for the purpose of maximizing the safety and wellbeing of children. Here in the State of Texas, CPS is actually one of the departments of the Texas Department of Family & Protective Services (DFPS). 

We will devote several articles to CPS, with each article focusing on one particular aspect of its operations. In this post, we will concentrate on the termination of parental rights. As many people are aware, CPS can file a petition to terminate parental rights if CPS feels that such a motion is necessary. However, this can only be successful if certain conditions are met.

Grounds for Termination

In order for CPS to terminate a parent’s parental rights, two hurdles must be met: (1) CPS must identify and demonstrate the ground for termination, and (2) the termination must be in the child’s best interests. On the first hurdle, CPS must show through “clear and convincing” evidence to a judge or jury that the cited ground for termination exists. At the present time, the Texas Family Code recognizes a total of 21 separate grounds for termination of parental rights. The rationale of these grounds is self-evident; for instance, the first ground referenced in the Texas Family Code is leaving the child with another person, not the other parent, with no intent to return. Another ground is engaging in conduct which places the child at risk of serious physical or emotional harm.

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Posted on in Divorce

Collin County Divorce AttorneyDivorce looks a little different for everyone, but one thing is certain: Your life is about to change - a lot. Whether you anticipate a fairly peaceful divorce or a hostile separation, there are certain things you can do to get ready for divorce that will help the process move faster and more easily, plus help you recover more quickly once your divorce is finalized. Read on to learn more about divorce preparation and then contact a Texas divorce attorney for help with your case. 

Start Prioritizing Now

You may wish you could have your entire savings account and your full 401(k) balance, but that is probably not compatible with Texas divorce law - and even if it were, your spouse would hardly agree to it. Instead of thinking about everything you could have in a perfect world, think about what is really important to you. Do you want to keep your marital home? Do you hope to spend every Christmas with your children? Whatever the most important things are, start thinking about them now so you can discuss them with your attorney. 

Master Your Finances

Getting divorced today usually means learning to live on one income instead of two. When this happens, it can be difficult to begin budgeting and to getting approved for car loans or mortgages on your own. For these reasons and more, it is essential to have a thorough understanding of your finances before filing for divorce. Make sure you know your credit score, as well as any debt you owe individually or with your spouse. Begin budgeting for life on your income alone, and be sure to take into account whether you will be making or receiving alimony or child support payments. 

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Posted on in Child Custody

collin county grandparent visitation lawyerIn an ideal situation, a child is brought up with healthy regular contact with both parents, as well as all grandparents. In reality, of course, things don’t always work out this way, particularly when it comes to grandparents. Grandparents often play a vital role in the development of children, but the law simply doesn’t give too much weight to grandparents when it comes to legal rights with respect to grandchildren. In the State of Texas, grandparents can obtain legal custody of a grandchild, but doing so is quite difficult. When compared with legal custody, grandparents may seek a visitation order with grandchildren. But, as we will discuss, even obtaining a visitation order from a Texas court isn’t easy. 

The Basics of Grandparent Visitation Orders

The difficulty in obtaining a visitation order for grandparents ultimately derives from the simple fact that parents have the highest influence when it comes to their children. Consider this point: if grandparents can simply acquire a visitation order without much trouble, how would this affect the parents’ ability to raise their child? Texas courts recognize the importance of grandparents, and the role that grandparents play in the lives of grandchildren, but courts must follow the principle that parents have the ultimate authority.

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frisco visitation lawyerParental visitation is a very serious matter. The State of Texas believes firmly that children do best when they have regular, supportive interaction with both biological parents – or, with both adoptive parents, as the case may be. This is why Texas courts have an elaborate system in place to ensure that court-ordered visitation schedules are enforced properly. In a typical scenario, parents develop a custody agreement, and as part of that agreement one parent has a visitation schedule. That visitation schedule allows the non-custodial parent to visit his or her child in a predictable fashion. 

The problem, however, is that sometimes the visitation schedule is denied or not honored by the other parent. Sad though this may sound, sometimes the other parent may attempt to block contact between the children and the non-custodial parent. In these unfortunate scenarios, how can the visitation order be enforced? Let’s look at the steps involved.

Step #1: Ensure that No Modification / Clarification is Necessary

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Prenuptial agreements can be highly useful tools to preserve certain property interests in the event of divorce. More and more couples are utilizing these tools as people see the value in being able to predetermine certain outcomes with respect to property division. Prenuptial agreements can also be useful in predetermining spousal maintenance and other issues as well. When a prenuptial agreement is created in Texas, the creators need to follow certain steps to ensure that everything is done properly. In this post, we will go over these steps, one by one, so readers can have a sense of what this process looks like.

Step 1: Identify Goals / Interests

The first step is to simply identify the goals and interests of the parties involved. If neither of the parties have any goals which might be furthered by a prenuptial agreement, then a prenup won’t even be necessary. Prenups can only be used for specific purposes, they can’t achieve everything. So, for instance, if people want to use prenups to predetermine child support, this can’t be done, because it would be against public policy requiring both parents to support their children.  

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Posted on in Divorce

frisco annulment lawyerMost people have heard of the idea of “annulment,” but few people besides family law attorneys know what this idea really means. If you’re married, you are likely curious about the details of this concept and how this concept can potentially impact your marriage. In this post, we’re going to discuss the basics of this concept and then discuss the process for obtaining an annulment here in Texas.

Annulment vs. Divorce

When a married couple obtains an annulment, this means that the marriage itself was never valid from the beginning. Annulment therefore is a declaration that the marriage was “void.” This is the critical difference between annulment and divorce. A divorce is the formal dissolution of a valid marriage, whereas an annulment means that the marriage never existed in the first place. When a marriage is declared void through annulment, this declaration carries important ramifications. 

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Collin County child custody lawyerIt is a common, but incorrect, belief that in a divorce, the mother will prevail and have child custody issues decided predominantly in her favor. Under Texas law, all judicial decisions regarding child custody must be decided in the best interests of the children involved. The gender of a parent is rarely relevant to this consideration.  

In many cases, living primarily with the father is found to be in the best interests of the child. This is especially true if there is any factor suggesting that the mother could be potentially harmful to the children or is a less fit parent than the father. Fathers are frequently apprehensive at the outset of child custody proceedings out of concern that courts may be biased against them. While on a subtle level, some judges may have a slight bias in favor of the mother, outright discrimination is verboten. It is still prudent for a father entering child custody proceedings, incident to divorce or otherwise, to be represented by an attorney who is experienced in protecting the rights of fathers

How Are Child Custody Decisions Made at the Judicial Level in Texas?

Many child custody disputes are not decided by a judge at all, but by the parents using collaborative family law techniques such as mediation. This is the preferred route by many parents; however, in some cases it is necessary to bring the case before a judge so that the court can make decisions when the parents are unable to agree on a reasonable division of decision-making powers and physical custody schedule. 

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frisco prenuptial agreement lawyerIn many cases, spouses enter into marriages without even considering the potential benefits or usefulness of a prenuptial agreement (also called “premarital agreements” in some jurisdictions). In the popular imagination, prenuptial agreements are “tools of the rich,” used almost exclusively by wealthy couples in order to selfishly guard their premarital assets. Or, other people feel that a prenuptial agreement necessarily lowers the amount of trust in a relationship. The truth, however, is that prenuptial agreements are simply contractual agreements that spouses can use to predetermine how certain property will be distributed. Prenuptial agreements allow spouses to predetermine certain outcomes which would otherwise be left up to the courts. And, as we know, sometimes courts don’t always render decisions that are fully consistent with a person’s desires. 

In this post, we will go over how prenuptial agreements can impact inheritance rights. Spouses need to be aware of how the “default” inheritance rules operate so that they can determine these default rules may be adequate, or if a prenuptial contract is necessary.

Texas is a Community Property State

The State of Texas is a “community property” state, as opposed to an equitable distribution state. What this means is that all marital property is divided in a just and right manner after a divorce, unless there is a compelling reason for this not to happen. In other words, practically speaking, property is typically divided equally absent circumstances that justify a disproportionate division.  One of the key issues here, however, is that only marital property will be divided after a divorce. There is a popular misconception that a community property state will divide all property after a divorce; this is not true. Only property which is classified as “marital property” is eligible for division. 

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Collin County divorce lawyerA significant portion of the conflict in many divorce cases stems from the need to divide the entire marital estate evenly. It is not an easy task to accomplish a division that is agreeable to both parties. In many cases, particularly those involving high-net-worth divorce, there is often a dispute as to the value of certain assets. Whether you and your current spouse are preparing for litigation or attempting to settle your divorce through alternative dispute resolution methods, it is necessary to have a concrete valuation for marital assets. 

There are several methods for establishing the value of an asset through appraisal. Some spouses mutually agree on an appraiser, while others each have the asset appraised separately and take the average. The method by which you establish the value of an asset can have an important impact on the ultimate outcome of your divorce. An attorney can provide you with more information about valuation methods. 

Assets to Consider Having Appraised or Valuated

Many assets fluctuate in value over the years depending on a number of factors, including the current health of the market. Assets you may want to consider having appraised or valuated include: 

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McKinney domestic violence lawyerThere is simply no excuse for domestic violence. Domestic violence is an issue that affects members of every race and socioeconomic class. If you have endured violence against you or your children perpetrated by a spouse, romantic partner, or a member of your family or household, there may be steps an attorney can take on your behalf to help keep you safe and permanently separate you from your abuser. 

The Ramage Law Group takes domestic violence very seriously and is committed to providing assistance to victims. The process of escaping domestic violence is rarely easy or simple, but it can be done. Our goal is to protect you and your children from further violence and other forms of abuse that frequently accompany family violence. If you are experiencing domestic violence, our lawyers can take measures to help you begin a new life free from abuse. 

Legal Strategies for Protecting Domestic Violence Victims

If you are facing domestic violence, rest assured that you are not the cause of your abuser’s violence. If someone is physically abusing you, it is not because of anything you did or did not do - it is because the abuser is the type of person who inflicts violence on others. Strategies an attorney may be able to employ to protect you include: 

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Collin County divorce lawyerYou may not realize just how complicated or challenging divorce will be until you are in the thick of it. Between conflict with your spouse and the difficulties your children are experiencing, you may find that the path to divorce is rocky. This could be because you have significant marital assets to divide, or because your spouse is mentally ill. Maybe your attempts at resolving your divorce through mediation are going nowhere, or your split is leading to financial difficulties. Whatever difficult divorce situation you are facing, the important thing is to handle it with a clear head instead of giving into emotional reasoning. Your attorney can offer you additional advice that pertains to your particular situation. 

Challenging Divorce Situations and Solutions

Some difficult divorce situations people face include:  

  • High level of conflict - Divorcing a person you can no longer tolerate being in the same room with can be quite challenging. Every mediation session turns into a shouting match. You send your sister to pick up the kids so you do not have to see your spouse. Your ex is disparaging you on social media. One solution - other than going through litigation - is attorney-facilitated negotiation. This way, you never have to deal directly with your spouse; each of you need only communicate with your own lawyer. 

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Posted on in Divorce

Collins County Family Law AttorneyIf you are in the process of ending your marriage, there is a good chance that you are beginning to realize that your life is much different compared to when you were married. If you have children, the differences are probably even more notable. For many divorced parents, the first school year after the divorce is the most challenging, as they must establish new routines for their children and boundaries for the parents. When back-to-school season falls in the midst of your divorce, you will need to take steps to ensure that your children have every possible opportunity to succeed.

Figure Out a Way to Cooperate

Every situation is unique, and there is no easy way to decide how you and your spouse will work together regarding school. Decisions regarding child custody or conservatorship may still be pending, so you might both still share decision-making authority for school-related concerns. The best option is for you and your spouse to put your differences aside and to create a plan designed to let your child thrive in the new school year. If this is not possible, you may need to ask the court to issue a temporary order allowing you to make education plans on your own.

Planning for Open House

The new school year will probably start with some type of orientation or open house where you can tour the school, meet the teachers, and look at what your child will be doing this year. If you can manage it, invite events such as these with your spouse so that you both get the same information from the teachers and the school. If things are too tense, make arrangements to attend the events separately so that neither of you misses important information. You should both also have access to online resources for seeing your child’s assignments, grades, and other materials throughout the year.

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Collin County Divorce LawyerFinancial debt is a major cause for concern around the United States, at the individual and family levels, as well as on a collective scale. Families fractured by divorce or other types of similar stresses may be particularly susceptible to growing debt, as financial obligations may be harder to meet on a single income, combined with countless other contributing factors. However, a recent study suggests that parents with certain types of debt may place their children at increased risk for behavioral problems in the future.

Quality of Life Connections

The study was conducted by researchers at the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and looked at data from more than 9,000 children and their mothers over a period of nearly 40 years. The research also categorized debt into four distinct types: home, education, automobile, and unsecured debt, which included credit cards, certain loans, and medical debt. Looking for possible connections, the team also examined the socio-emotional health and behavioral concerns of the participating children.

According to the study’s findings, while larger amounts of total debt was associated with poorer behavior overall, home- and education-related debt were correlated with higher degrees of emotional health. Unsecured debt, conversely, was “associated with lower levels of, and declines in child socioemotional well-being.”

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Collin County Divorce AttorneyWe all know people who invest substantial time and energy in posting the details of their lives on social media networks such as Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram. In some situations, the attraction of social media is strong enough that it causes people to lose touch with the things that are happening in real life. While most people are able to use social media in a reasonable way—such as to connect with distant family and friends, others want to broadcast more to the outside world. When you are in the midst of a legal action that affects you personally, such as a divorce, it is important to recognize the dangers of putting your life out there for all to see.

Mixed Messages

The first thing you need to keep in mind about social media and divorce is that literally anything you post could eventually be presented as evidence in your case. Posting on the internet does not require ink and paper, obviously, but emails, text messages, and even screenshots of posts can be printed and presented in court. This is especially important if your social media profiles are at odds with what you have presented in your filings. For example, if you reported in your divorce paperwork that you are currently between jobs, but your profile on LinkedIn says you work for a buddy’s business—maybe under the table—questions are likely to be raised.

Similarly, you are likely to face questions based on experiences and photos you share on Instagram or Facebook. You might, for example, assume that your privacy settings prevented your soon-to-be ex-spouse from seeing the photos you posted of your recent trip to Jamaica. But, what happens if a mutual friend shows your spouse anyway? And how do your photos align with your claim that you do not have money for basic expenses? Even if someone else paid for your vacation, you are likely to have some difficult explaining to do.

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