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Posted on in Divorce

You and your spouse are getting a divorce, but it’s more than just your partnership that is splitting. Everything you acquired together must get split as well.

Texas is a community property state, which means the court will attempt to divide your assets by what is “just and right.” This isn’t always as simple as drawing a line down the middle. Understand how the court defines a fair split to make sure you get your fair share.

What is community property?

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An ex-spouse in Texas has the right to legally enforce a court order to collect any unpaid alimony and child or spousal support that was not received. In an example circumstance, an executive residing in McKinney, Texas, failed to make his mandated monthly spousal support payments to his ex-wife. Through their divorce decree, the former music-industry mogul was ordered to pay his former spouse $13,500 each month for support. As reported by the Dallas Observer, when those payments stopped, his ex-wife sued in Collins County and asked the court if she could sell his sailboat as a means to collect on his past-due support commitments.

While it may not always result in a devastating setback to receive an occasional late payment, serious harm could result when anticipated and much-needed financial support stops altogether. To collect on unpaid support, a spouse may need to take civil action and report their ex for being in contempt of a court order.

In some cases, a judge may issue a wage garnishment to withhold support payments directly from an ex’s weekly paychecks. A judge may also place a lien on a former spouse’s property. If an individual is genuinely unable to make payments due to a financial hardship, applying for a modification of the support order may be necessary.

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Ironically, all property rights once belonged to men, including children treated as property under the law. Women did not have any legal rights to their children.

As women gained more influence, laws relaxed and public attitudes eventually changed to the other end of the spectrum. Society reasoned that up until a child reached the age of four years, maternal care was essential for optimum growth and development.

Parental rights to share custody

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Posted on in Child Custody

Summer break is here for many families in McKinney, Frisco, Allen and Plano, Texas. The children get restless and everyone wants a vacation. You may be wanting a fresh coat of paint for the inside or flowers for the outside. Or you may just want to move. If you are divorced and have children, you need to check your divorce decree before you do. Chances are you may be limited in your move options.

It is the policy in the State of Texas to encourage frequent contact between parents and their children when the family is no longer intact. So, after a divorce or custody case, the Court, more often than not, imposes a geographical restriction on the child’s residence. You may have heard of parents saying their divorce decree prohibits them from moving. Well, the divorce decree only restricts the child’s residence.

Posted on in Divorce

The Ramage Law Group is proud to present our new divorce brochure. For more information, click here to read our new divorce brochure.

In Texas, the Office of the Attorney General explains that to establish a legal connection between father and child, you have to establish paternity. With established paternity, your name appears on your child’s birth certificate, you receive legal rights in accordance to childcare and you can protect the child’s legal connection. You also receive a father’s right to medical records and school records. Likewise, paternity provides a foundation for custody rights.

If you are not married to the mother, to establish paternity, you need to sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity form. You can complete the process quickly by simply signing a form with the mother. Parents have an opportunity to sign an AOP before the child’s birth, during and after.

In other situations, you may use a court order to establish paternity. After you open a case with the Office of the Attorney General, you go through the process to determine paternity. There will likely be DNA testing to prove paternity.

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As you proceed with your plans to obtain a Texas divorce, you may experience an uneasy feeling that your spouse has set about attempting to hide marital assets from you, especially if you and (s)he represent a high-asset couple. As you probably already know, Texas is a community property state in which, per law, spouses own all marital assets 50/50 and must divide them up that way in a divorce. Consequently, should your spouse indeed be hiding some of these assets, (s)he will receive more than (s)he should during the divorce and you will receive less than you should.

Unfortunately, due to today’s technology, spouses have more opportunity to hide assets and more ways in which to do it. In addition, as FindLaw explains, such hidden assets may be exceedingly difficult to find and therefore require the services of a forensic accountant to discover and track them.

What forensic accountants do

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It’s April – Autism Awareness Month!

What is Autism? It seems to be mentioned in the news almost daily. Our families with children on the spectrum each have their unique understanding of Autism and how it has affected their lives and their children’s lives. However, does the public truly understand Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism Spectrum Disorder refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills and social reciprocity, repetitive behavior, deficits in verbal and nonverbal communication, and unique strengths and differences. Autism’s most obvious signs tend to be seen between the ages of 2 and 3, such as when a parent notices that her child does not respond to her, engages in repetitive behavior, or concentrates on an object rather than interacting with parents and other family members. However, some of the more subtle signs of autism may be overlooked or misunderstood in some children only to be diagnosed later in life.

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Your divorce agreement or decree puts to rest the legal issues involved in the divorce. That said, it does not necessarily resolve all the practical issues. Some of those practical issues involve following up on your retirement accounts.

You’ll want to ensure any division is completed correctly and that your accounts are as you want them going forward. Here are a few tips.

Follow up on your QDROs

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The Fathers’ Rights movement involves a large array of different groups. On the whole, however, the movement fights for more equal child custody (conservatorship, possession and access) rights for fathers.

In the U.S., the movement arose in the 1960s and 1970s, after divorce rates began rising dramatically. At that time, many courts operated on the presumption that it was in children’s best interest to live primarily with their mothers. As a result, mothers got the large majority of the available time with their kids, while fathers were often relegated to “visitor” status.

Many divorcing men found themselves responsible for large alimony and child support payments, even though they had little say over their children’s upbringing and got to spend only a few days a month with their kids.

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Are you enjoying Spring Break with your children? Spring and Summer give parents time to reconnect and bond with their children, especially after divorce. If you share custody of your children, chances are you need to begin planning for your summer possession periods.

Where to Start?

The first place to start is your most recent custody order, whether it is your divorce decree or an order modifying your divorce decree. First, weekend possession continues during the summer, except when each parent is enjoying extended visitation with the children. If you have a Texas Standard Possession Order and are the non-custodial parent, you should have given notice to the other parent of a thirty-day period in which you plan to exercise summer possession of your children. If you failed to give notice, no need to worry. Your summer possession period defaults to the month of July. The custodial parent may then take a weekend from your extended summer visitation period by notifying you on or before April 15 of his desired weekend. Additionally, the custodial parent may also designate a weekend that is outside of your summer visitation during which you may not exercise visitation, so long as it does not interfere with Father’s Day weekend or your designated summer possession.

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Posted on in Divorce

When you divorced, you probably did not anticipate all the possibilities that could make a change in custody necessary. Like many parents, you may have assumed that once the Judge signed your divorce decree, custody and visitation were set in stone. However, sometimes arrangements become unsuitable for the parents and the children. It is possible to modify custody orders in Texas, so you do not need to feel stuck with an unworkable order. However, there are conditions that must be met before the Court can modify your existing arrangement.

Change in Custody

The term “custody” is commonly used to describe the child’s primary residence. In other words, which parent establishes the child’s primary residence. If a parent wants to change that custody arrangement, he must show a material and substantial change in circumstances of a parent or a child, and that the requested change is in the child’s best interest. When is there a material and substantial change? It depends on the facts, and often the timing of the request is critical.

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Custody battles can drain your soul. They can be exhausting. It is inevitable that parents want to give in on issues just to buy some peace and to get the pain to stop. But just like a band-aid falls off over time, exposing the wound, the temporary fix to your custody issue may eventually no longer work, revealing the same problem it was meant to stop. This is why we advise our clients to think ahead. And if you can’t think ahead, let your attorney think ahead for you and explain what life may look like under the temporary fix – 1, 2, 3 years down the road. There are three areas where thinking ahead may stop you from making a poor decision that could affect your child’s future.

Child Support

A parent involved in a bitter custody fight wants the pain to stop. She is tempted to give in to her husband’s suggestion that he reimburse her for reasonable expenses instead of paying child support. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, look into the future when that spouse questions why the other parent bought a particular pair of shoes from Nordstrom’s rather than WalMart. Or questions the brand of milk she purchased for the children? What is reasonable is left to the reimbursing parent’s discretion. A parent who agrees to waive child support, or who accepts child support below the state guidelines, should be careful. Once you have agreed to no support, you may not be able to modify support in the future. Texas law requires a material and substantial change in circumstances of a conservator or a child before an order may be modified. A party’s change in income, standing alone, may not be sufficient to allow the court to modify the prior child support order once you have already agreed to accept below guideline support. Be careful and think ahead!

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Did that really happen? Did she really say that? Did he just deny telling me he wanted a divorce? Am I crazy? Why is she asking me to stay when she told me to leave? If you are married to, or in a co-parenting relationship with, someone with Borderline Personality Disorder or a Narcissist, you have asked these or similar questions many times. Unfortunately, the family court system unintentionally fuels the soul for certain personalities that thrive on conflict and it can make divorce or co-parenting very difficult. What do you do when you are engaged in a court battle with someone who has a personality disorder?

Knowledge is Power

First, arm yourself with knowledge – knowledge about your spouse, the nature of her mental illness, and how to avoid engaging in conflict. There are many books about divorce and personality disorders. Get one and read it. splitting by Bill Eddy or Stop Walking on Eggshells by Randi Kreger are good resources. Make sure your attorney has a good understanding of personality disorders, as well. The handling of these cases requires different skills and knowledge from what is required of a typical divorce.

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Spring is on its way! Most of us get restless in the Spring. We think of projects we have put off. We clean out closets and the garage. Spring cleaning consumes some of us. What if your Spring includes a planned divorce or move? There are some things you should consider before making decisions about what to do with the house, typically the most valuable marital asset.

Perhaps you are planning to divorce and are on friendly terms with your soon-to-be former spouse. Perhaps you are thinking that you will place the house on the market before you hire an attorney and go ahead and split the proceeds 50-50. At first blush this may make sense. After all, Spring seems to be the right time to sell a house in the Frisco, Allen and McKinney areas. But, be careful. This may or may or may not make the most sense for you in your divorce.

The first question you should ask is when was the residence purchased? If it was before the marriage, it will be the separate property of the spouse who purchased it, even if there has been a refinance after the marriage. There may be reimbursement claims to the community estate for improvements made to the separate property during the marriage. If the house was purchased during the marriage, and it makes sense to sell the property, there may be a reason not to divide the proceeds equally. The law in the State of Texas does not presume or require a 50-50 division upon divorce. Rather, it must be equitable. An equitable division takes into consideration many other factors, such as the nature of all the assets to be divided. Each asset does not necessarily get divided. Rather, it is the entire value of the estate that is divided.

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If you’re involved in a high-conflict divorce, there is a fair chance your ex will try to conceal income or assets in order to reduce their obligations.

If you suspect this could be happening, discuss your concerns with your divorce attorney. They can review your finances for evidence of suspicious activity and bring in a financial expert, such as a forensic accountant, if necessary.

What should you look for if you suspect hidden money?

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Especially in a high-conflict divorce, it sometimes seems necessary to do whatever it takes to get conservatorship (custody) of your kids. That might include exaggerating the frequency of your caregiving, for example, to present a more favorable picture to the court. It could also involve making false statements about the other parent’s caregiving — or even fabricating abuse or neglect allegations.

Don’t do it. There is a very good chance you will be caught, and doing it could bring about just the consequences you most fear — less parenting time for you and more for your ex.

In Texas, child custody is called “conservatorship,” and the order dividing time between the parents is called a standard possession order. What other states call “visitation,” Texas calls “possession and access to a child.” In the large majority of cases, both parents get some time in possession of the child. They may also receive joint managing conservatorship, which essentially means sharing the authority to make significant decisions about the child’s life.

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Spring and Summer give parents time to reconnect and bond with their children, especially after divorce. If you share custody of your children, chances are you need to begin planning for your summer possession periods. At The Ramage Law Group, we have an office in Frisco and McKinney, Texas staffed with child custody attorneys working with several clients on this very matter due to a lack of shared time over the recent holiday. Maybe it is time for you to also review your current order and fight for more time?

Where to Start?

The first place to start is your most recent custody order, whether it is your divorce decree or an order modifying your divorce decree. First, weekend possession continues during the summer, except when each parent is enjoying extended visitation with the children. If you have a Texas Standard Possession Order and are the non-custodial parent, you will need to give notice to the other parent of a thirty-day period in which you plan to exercise summer possession of your children. If you fail to give notice, your summer possession period defaults to the month of July. The custodial parent may then take a weekend from your extended summer visitation period by notifying you on or before April 15 of his desired weekend. Additionally, the custodial parent may also designate a weekend that is outside of your summer visitation during which you may not exercise visitation, so long as it does not interfere with Father’s Day weekend of a party’s designated summer possession.

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The Ramage Law Group has 27+ years of experience in helping families in the McKinney, Frisco, Plano, Allen, and surround areas specifically in Family Law and Divorce. We have found that although some coping strategies are great in theory, they do not always work effectively in practice.

We conduct client feedback throughout the entire divorce process as we understand how difficult this process can be while filled with such uncertainty and often agony that we have created 5 Coping Strategies that seem to work based off the feedback from our clients. Please feel free to try these yourself or perhaps share with a loved one who is going through the very process.

  1. Rumination – STOP THE LOOP IN YOUR HEAD by simply addressing it head on. Imagining the worst possible outcome and all that it implies actually stops the ruminating (usually coupled with discussions with a therapist) as now it becomes something we can tackle and deal with. Rumination is the repetitive and intrusive thoughts that the brain unconsciously searches for and results in that endless loop of rumination that preoccupies us during times of stress, sapping our emotional and cognitive energy.
  2. Managing Negative Emotions – TURN DOWN THE VOLUME OR SWITCH THE CHANNEL. Choose to focus on WHY you feel the way you do and not WHAT you are feeling. When you focus on the WHY it allows for a “cool” processing while when you focus on the WHAT it yields a “hot” processing and can open the door to even more rumination.
  3. Staying Balanced: Savoring. – DO THE UNCOMMON AND SAVOR WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY. Generally speaking, things that make us happy, stop making us happy after some time (it is called “hedonic adaptation” or “the hedonic treadmill”). We are made happier by things that aren’t commonplace. So yes, eating chocolate now and again as a treat will make you happier than it will when it is an everyday thing.
  4. Looking to the Future: Abstract Thinking – THINKING ABOUT WHAT YOU WANT IN ABSTRACT TERMS OPENS UP MORE POSSIBILITIES FOR ACTION than thinking concretely. During divorce, clients typically are very focused on simply getting through it than thinking about where they want to be next. So, if you miss companionship and sharing, instead of thinking concretely about an individual who might give you that (and how you might meet him or her), you think about companionship and sharing in abstract. This makes you realize that a sense of companionship can come from many situations (lunch with a friend, movie date, happy hour, etc.).
  5. Making Sense of the Experience: WRITING… OR MAYBE NOT… as sometimes going back and writing what emotions you may be experiencing during the divorce process may actually lead to more rumination. Some have found it beneficial to write in a stream of consciousness style focusing on their deepest emotions or in first or third person, exploring the breakdown of the marriage as a turning point in their lives and what they have learned from it. You may need to determine if this helps you or not.

At The Ramage Law Group, you are more than just a case to us. You are a client and a member of the family. We believe in making sure we leave you in a much better place than when you first came to us, and we will not stop until we get there. And we will get there!

When marriages break down, there is usually some resentment and anger. It’s natural. Sometimes, however, the divorcing spouses go through a long period of rage and blame. For exes with children, that can lead to difficulty co-parenting.

Assuming that neither spouse is guilty of child abuse or neglect, however, you are going to have to work together on raising your children. You’ll need to be civil to each other at countless events involving your kids, ranging from parent night at school to weddings and grandchildren.

How can you build a productive co-parenting relationship when you weren’t able to maintain a positive marriage? It won’t be easy, but there are steps you can take to make it easier.

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A family lawyer does much more than simply provide legal answers. Our lawyers explore a variety of different solutions to help you achieve your goals and secure your family’s financial and emotional future and stability.

To discuss your case or set up a consultation, call us at 972-562-9890 or use the online contact form.

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