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Recent blog posts

While U.S. divorce rates have declined in recent years, the numbers remain sobering. According to the American Psychological Association, about 40 to 50% of marriages in the U.S. ultimately end in divorce.

Whether a marriage has lasted one year or many, spouses often end up pooling many of their assets as well as sharing personal belongings. When facing divorce, deciding who gets what can be confusing and contentious. Texas couples should know that, if they cannot negotiate with each other about a fair division, the court will distribute property according to state law. This is why the assistance of a divorce lawyer is so important.

What is community property?

Along with eight other U.S. states, Texas is a community property state – meaning that nearly all property that either spouse acquires during the marriage is considered “community property” – and belongs to both partners equally. In addition to earned income, retirement benefits and investments, community property can include vehicles or real estate that one or both couples purchased while married, regardless of whose name is on the title.

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Ending a marriage can take a devastating emotional, physical and personal toll on everyone involved. That anxiety often leads spouses to make poor decisions in the heat of the moment.

That's why it's crucial that you control your emotions and focus on all the vital things that can help you reach the best outcome and the promise for a new and brighter future.

Avoid unnecessary conflict

An acrimonious divorce process can create long-term effects, such as financial stress, mental health problems, behavioral issues in children and future co-parenting difficulties. With the help of an experienced family law attorney, you can maintain significant control by focusing on three areas:

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For months, therapists and family law experts have predicted a surge in divorces here in Texas and elsewhere as shelter-in-place restrictions are relaxed or lifted.

These experts say there are two primary reasons. First, a lot of estranged couples didn’t have a choice but to live together as the pandemic worsened. Second, the stress of being cooped up with each other was the final straw for many.

Choosing the next step

Regardless of which spouse decides to file for divorce, or if both of you are in agreement, you’re now faced with another challenging decision on how to end your marriage. The default method is litigation, while others pursue alternative dispute resolution, such as collaborative divorce.

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Once a marriage ends and children are involved, the traditional approach for joint custody is a two-household situation, where children are shuttled back and forth. Many of their possessions are either duplicated or also transported from house to house.

However, a relatively new approach called “nesting” is gaining popularity across the country. Also known as bird-nesting, this strategy allows children to stay in the family home after their parents’ divorce, and mom and dad are the ones who take turns moving in and out to care for them.

What are the advantages of nesting?

While many argue this approach creates a more stable environment for children during an anxious and worrisome time in their lives, it's not just the children who don’t have to move around every few days. What also stays put are:

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When spouses begin the divorce process, emotions typically run high, making it extremely difficult for both parties to share the same space. A contentious split may lead one spouse to move out of the family home to avoid confrontations.

However, from a strategic point of view, the spouse who leaves can be at a disadvantage in the divorce case, and that disparity can be even more significant if the other spouse remains in the home with their children.

Staying in the home has two important upsides

While moving out of the family home technically doesn’t mean you forfeit any legal rights, there are strategic and legal incentives for staying, such as:

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When a couple gets divorced in Texas and children are involved, courts use a set of factors to decide the child's best interests. These issues address the physical and legal elements of sharing children, known as conservatorship in the Lone Star State.

Judges have wide latitude for determining what is in a child's best interest, and which parent is best suited for primary conservatorship. However, much of their guidance stems from a 1976 lawsuit over terminating parental rights – Holley v. Adams, 544 S.W.2d 367 (Tex. 1976).

What are the “Holley factors?”

As a result of this precedent-setting case, judges use a list of considerations when determining the best interests of a child in Texas, including:

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Texas considers any assets acquired by a married couple to be community property, meaning both parties own it. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean couples will split marital assets equally when they get divorced.Texas law provides that the division of property is fair and equitable, according to what a judge considers to be “just and right.”

Factors determining a “just and right” split

Assets include wages, real estate, personal property, pensions, employee benefits and others. However, not everything spouses own is deemed community property. These can include items owned before the marriage, assets such as inheritance or gifts received by just one spouse and some personal injury awards. Texas courts apply the “just and right” rule by considering:

  • Reasons for the divorce and who was at fault for the breakup
  • Length of the marriage
  • Who will have custody of children
  • The difference in earning ability for each spouse
  • The health of each spouse
  • Prospects for future employment
  • Need for future support

The Supreme Court of Texas allows courts to consider other factors, such as each spouse's abilities and capacities, potential benefits that the spouse not at fault would have received if the marriage had continued as well as education, business opportunities and the size of each estate.

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Child support payments can make a significant difference in a child's life after parents decide to end their relationship. It is also one of the most crucial issues to address during a divorce or break-up between parents. Working out who will pay, how much and how the payments can be used typically adds to an already tense situation.

Raising a child is expensive, regardless of whether parents live together or apart. Support payments are calculated by the state, and courts can have the final say on how the funds are used to support a child's upbringing, ensuring that their basic needs are met and preventing future complications or hardships.

Repercussions for neglecting or refusing to make payments

Texas has stiff punishments for child support evaders. Parents who miss payments can be found in contempt of court. Consequences include:

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Most couples who decide to end their marriage hope for a quick and painless process. But in many cases, divorce turns out to be anything but easy. Tempers can flare as couples argue over money and property or custody of children – in addition to the underlying reasons for the split itself.

But, if a workable agreement with your soon-to-be ex seems unlikely, or they are reluctant or unwilling to come to the negotiating table, is litigation the best or only option? There are many elements to consider before you decide to let a judge here in Texas make decisions for you.

Key considerations for taking a divorce to trial

While anger may be justified in cases where a spouse mistreated you, courts typically take a practical approach over dividing property, and deciding where your children will live. Consider these factors before going to trial:

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Posted on in Child Custody

Father's Day is just around the corner. Are you a concerned dad? Concerned about your children and your rights? Custody is not just for moms. If you are a dad seeking custody, consider these three things.

First, ask yourself why. Why is this important to you? Are you looking for equal time with your children? Are you afraid the courts will only see you as a weekend dad? Or, are you the more stable parent? Is your spouse a risk to your children? The answer to these questions will make a difference in court and a custody agreement.

The second thing you should do is look around and gather evidence. Do you have videos, pictures, or audiotapes of you and your children showing you to be the best dad you can be? If you're concerned about your spouse or that your spouse is a risk to your kids, do you have evidence that shows what that risk is. If you want to fight for custody, you need to be prepared with evidence so the court can see that and make a decision that is in the best interest of your children.

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The current quarantine is affecting marriages worldwide.

Marriage is hard. It takes two people to show up, sometimes as their best selves and sometimes not, and steadfastly face the joys and challenges of sharing a life.

Social distancing has brought many couples together. Having time to slow down has put a spark back in many marriages.

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Divorce can be a traumatic experience for both spouses after a once-loving relationship disintegrates. A split can lead to overwhelming disappointment, anger and anxiety over the future. Those feelings are also intense for children when their parents decide to go their separate ways.

Kids will have many questions, such as where they will live, where they’ll go to school and whether they’ll have to leave their friends. They’ll also wonder what will happen to them during school vacations and summer break. Perhaps most worrisome is how often they’ll be able to see BOTH of their parents.

Breaking the news requires a thoughtful approach

Parents who decide to end their marriage must be ready for these questions and ready to discuss the fears and anxiety their children will likely have. As a parent, you should consider:

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Billions of people across the globe are struggling to find a new “normal” amid the coronavirus pandemic. While lockdown orders and other restrictions begin to ease a bit here in Texas, there is no playbook for how and when to resume regular activities.

During an uncertain time, we can be part of the problem or the solution. That's true for every individual as well as parents who share custody of their children. Co-parenting is difficult even during the best of times and has become even more challenging during the past several weeks.

Co-parenting stress relievers

Everyone has been affected differently by the pandemic, and it's essential that parents take steps to protect their physical and emotional well-being for everyone's sake. Actions that can help reduce stress include:

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But you’re not married to your child's mother. Does it matter? Legally, yes.

The definition of “family” is changing, and studies show that unmarried parents are becoming increasingly more common today. You and your child's mom may sail blissfully into the future, parenting your sweet bundle of joy as a happy family unit. But if you and the mom decide that you must go your separate ways, what rights do you have regarding your child?

Under Texas law, there is no presumption of paternity if the parents of a child are not married at the time of conception or the time of birth. What that means is that the father has no parental rights or obligations. Without a court order, the mother can refuse to allow you to see or care for your child. And this refusal can affect your extended family as well. Or the mother can move out of state without your permission.

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Posted on in Child Custody

There's an App for everything. So why not an App for Co-parenting?

Children need stability, calm and security as they grow-up. Which parent are they spending the weekend with? Who needs to sign their school field trip note? The concern of these parental jobs is not their burden, and it's our role as parents to have it covered, allowing our kids to be kids.

Some parents can move into co-parenting rather seamlessly, while others feel like they have fallen into the deep end of a murky pool. And the ones’ who can suffer while you’re treading water are the children.

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The past two months have turned everyone's lives upside down. It's been especially difficult for those are divorcing and had to postpone the process until the health emergency settles down.

Governor Greg Abbott allowed his stay-at-home order to expire on April 30. It is only a few days until the courts reopen. How have you fared during this stressful time?

Finding hope after a “pandemic divorce”

While it hasn’t been an easy time, there are steps you can take to reclaim a positive outlook for the future, both in your professional and personal lives:

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Many families in Texas may welcome the extra time spent together due to Gov. Greg Abbott's stay-at-home order during the current health care situation.

But for others, the increased interaction may aggravate an already tense situation between spouses whose marriages were previously strained. Many believe it will lead to an increase in divorces.

Weighing the economic impact

But some experts are saying, “not so fast.” While some marriages may be strengthened during this period, others believe the number of divorces could actually decrease due to financial considerations related to lost income.

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Receiving the best possible financial outcome is vital when you are going through a divorce. But dividing marital assets can be complicated when one spouse receives his or her income through various means, including bonuses or stock options.

When compensation comes solely from a salary, negotiations are likely to be straightforward, and the timing of the divorce will typically not make a difference. However, it's vital to understand where your earnings come from and how the process could impact them.

Types of income and possible effects of divorce

If your compensation package includes any of these provisions, an experienced family law attorney here in Texas can help you protect these assets during negotiations:

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Posted on in High Conflict Family Law

Fear the Cloud

Today, people are texting more and talking less, with today's average adult spending 23 hours a week texting. According to a recent study, Americans exchange twice as many texts as they do phone calls. With that in mind, you would think that we would take a little more care in what we send via text message, but for whatever reason, the social etiquette we show on social media, in person, and on the phone all goes out the window when we text. From lewd photos to incriminating confessions, people will say just about anything via text, all the while mistakenly believing that no one else is watching (or reading). But this could not be further from the truth.

Not many of us understand the “cloud”. That great database in the sky. But rest assured, anything you write or send via text message is stored there and can be accessed at any time—yes, even deleted messages. Because of this, it is extremely important that you refrain from saying anything incriminating or potentially harmful to your character via text message. Especially if you are going through divorce.

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Telling your kids you’re getting a DIVORCE! In the top ten of the most dreaded conversations ever. Deciding how to tell the kids is bad, but answering their questions after can be worse. Lead with love and honesty, while also considering your child's emotional maturity. Consider the questions below before you sit down with your kids.

1. Why? Usually, this is the toughest one to answer, mostly because you’re trying to answer that very question for yourself. To respond without your own pain and anger coming through to your child can be particularly challenging, because your child is looking for assurances. “If I know why this is happening, maybe I can fix it” Let them know that they are loved and that the change is going to be hard but will make everyone happier in time.

2. Are you going to get back together? For children, the idea that this is only temporary would be a much easier pill to swallow. Explaining the new normal and assuring them that both of their parents will always be there for them can help to soften the blow that you will not be getting back together.

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