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January is famously known as the month when most divorces are filed, although there's no iron-clad proof that's true. However, once the holidays are over, many Texans want a fresh start when they determine their marriage no longer works.

Whether you’re already divorced, in the process or just considering if it's the right time, it's likely one of the most stressful and sad experiences of your life. But, just as New Year's signifies rebirth, there are things you can do to shift the focus from the pain to future opportunities.

New Year. New You!

Most of us make New Year's resolutions to lose weight, exercise more and be healthier. Many times, those last only a few weeks. But positively coping with divorce can make 2022 and beyond healthier for you and your family. Here are eight divorce resolutions to consider:

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Many people put off divorce until after the holidays, not wanting a marital dispute looming over what is supposed to be a festive time. The wait may be even longer for Texas spouses who have put off a decision due to the uncertainty of the pandemic.

With 2022 in full swing, you may decide that it's the right time for a fresh start, but you’re not sure how to proceed. Understandably, you may be caught up in the emotions of taking that step. But it's crucial to do everything you can to ensure the best financial situation possible.

Taking inventory of marital assets

One way to deal with the fear and uncertainty is to take control of the process when preparing for divorce. Creating a checklist of marital assets not only makes the process less stressful but can help you achieve better results. Your list should include:

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Many people see January as a month of renewal, and divorce filings typically tick upward after the holiday season. For Texas couples considering a divorce, it's usually not a snap decision but rather the culmination of months or even years of unhappiness and conflict.

Some spouses stay together for the sake of their children. Others stay for financial, societal pressures or other reasons long after the closeness they once experienced ceases to exist. Here are five common reasons you may wish to seek a divorce and get a fresh start this year.

You and your spouse work against each other

Resentment and anger can linger for years when spouses don’t see eye-to-eye on major or minor issues and have the same arguments over and over without resolution. This often leads to conscious or unconscious polarization, where each party demonizes the other to anyone else who will listen.

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As a parent, you only want what's best for your kids. But it can be overwhelming when your child has special needs. In addition to the daily challenges at home, you must ensure that they receive the best education possible.

Federal law gives children with disabilities the right to receive a free and appropriate public education in Texas – one that's individually designed to meet their disability. However, schools often don’t interpret the law correctly or, in many cases, fail to observe those rights.

What is special education?

In 2004, Congress passed the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), which broadly defines special education as “specially designed instruction” meeting the unique needs of children with disabilities. The law directs schools to create individualized plans for children with specific disabilities. To be eligible, your child must:

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Each Dec. 2, we celebrate National Special Education Day, commemorating the anniversary of the nation's first law protecting the rights of children with special needs. President Gerald Ford signed the law in 1975.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) guarantees every child an appropriate public education. The law requires school districts to provide services and instruction for children with disabilities and other eligible conditions.

Four benefits of an inclusive education

If your child is eligible for special education, you may worry that they are kept apart from other kids their age. But most spend the majority of their time in general education classrooms in Texas. This inclusive learning environment has many benefits, including:

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If you have a child with special needs, you likely worry about them receiving an appropriate education. State and federal laws help ensure that they receive instruction tailored to their specific needs.

Once your child qualifies for special education, the first step is the Admission, Review and Dismissal (ARD) process, where a committee designs a plan for how the school district will meet your child's educational requirements.

What does the committee do?

ARD committee meetings must occur at least once a year but can happen more frequently if warranted. The purpose is to design or evaluate an individualized education program (IEP), which defines the instruction your child will receive, how the school must provide those services and how to measure progress. As a parent, you are a vital part of this proceeding.

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If your child has special needs due to a disability and qualifies for special education, you may worry that it places a label on them that will be hard to overcome. The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Texas laws rule that children with disabilities are eligible for a free, appropriate public education.

This education often means school-provision of special education and related services designed to meet your child's unique needs and help them prepare for additional education, employment and independent living. As a parent, you are an integral part of designing and measuring your child's educational progress.

Overcoming special education myths

Many Texas parents worry that unfair and untrue notions about special education may adversely impact their children. Here are four common myths about special education and the facts:

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A Texas couple, who are not Native American, attempted to adopt a part-Cherokee and part-Navajo boy but were stopped by the Navajo Nation. After a years-long legal battle, the Navajo tribe withdrew its objection, and the couple was able to adopt the boy.

Native American tribes have the right to object to non-Native parents fostering and adopting Native American children. This is because of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) that became federal law in 1978.

What is the Indian Child Welfare Act?

The ICWA laws were passed over 40 years ago as a reaction to decades of separations involving Native families during the 19th and 20th centuries. For decades, children were often forcibly removed from their homes and sent to boarding schools run by white missionaries.

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November is National Adoption Month, which raises awareness of the urgent need for adoptive families for children in the foster care system. If you are considering adoption, you have several options to choose from in the Lone Star State.

During the 2020-2021 fiscal year, which ended Oct. 31, nearly 4,600 adoptions occurred while about 3,000 other children await their “forever homes,” according to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

Options for adoptive parents

As long as you are a responsible adult (age 21 or older) and meet some basic requirements, you are eligible to adopt a child in Texas. Here are some ways to become an adoptive parent:

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Texas does not require you to hire a private attorney when adopting a child. However, consulting with a lawyer who regularly deals with adoptions can help make the complicated process smoother.

Experienced adoption lawyers understand the challenges and can guide you through the application process, court proceedings and protect your rights and interests every step of the way.

Requirements for adoptive parents

In the Lone Star State, you can pursue a private adoption or choose to adopt through the Texas foster care system. While the journey is different for each route, the requirements for adoptive parents are the same. You must:

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Thanksgiving and Christmas are full of robust and joyful times. But if you and your child's other parent have a challenging relationship, the season can be anything but jolly.

You and your co-parent have many factors to consider when scheduling parenting time, such as your kids’ ages, the distance between households, family religious beliefs and traditions.Much of what you decide depends upon how well the two of you get along. If it's a combustible relationship, it's best to put differences aside and focus on your children's happiness.

Setting a sensible schedule

Holiday schedules are usually included in your Texas parenting plan, but co-parents typically choose one of two ways to share time.

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Spousal maintenance – also referred to as “alimony” in many jurisdictions outside of Texas – continues to be among the most controversial issues in family law. This is partly because of media influence. Some spousal maintenance cases – such as those involving celebrities – are published in the mainstream media, and sometimes the amounts of maintenance awards can be astounding to observers. Spousal maintenance won’t stop being controversial anytime soon, but the reality of maintenance is quite different from what lay people often assume. In this post, we’re going to give a quick review of spousal maintenance and how this concept works here in Texas.

Spousal Maintenance is Based on Two Basic Conditions

Not only is spousal maintenance not award in all cases, the qualifications for spousal maintenance are actually quite high in Texas. To qualify for spousal maintenance, the requesting spouse needs to meet two conditions: (1) the requesting doesn’t have the means to provide for basic needs at the time of the divorce, and (2) one of four other circumstances must be present:

(a) The provisioning spouse must have been convicted of domestic violence within two years of the divorce filing

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No matter how your divorce unfolded, there is no question that divorce can be one of the most challenging experiences a person can go through. Divorce can be a stressful and emotionally draining experience for multiple reasons. For one thing, divorce represents the breakup of a very powerful relationship, the type of relationship which many people expect to last a lifetime. In addition, the divorce process itself is complex and can require an enormous amount of time, energy and money. Given the heavy demands which divorce can impose, people should take the time to develop strategies to cope with the toll of divorce. People in any stage of the process can benefit from these tips – those at the beginning, middle, or finish line.

#1: Reach Out to Friends for Support

As your divorce comes to a close, it can be tempting to isolate yourself from others. Some people withdraw because this seems like a good temporary way to cope with the situation. The truth, though, is that you should try to reach out to your friends for emotional support during this time. Divorce represents the end of a relationship, and this is all the reason to reach out to friends and embrace the existing relationships you have. Your friends can be a tremendous source of comfort and support during this challenging time.

#2: Talk to a Therapist

Another possible strategy is to talk with a professional mental health specialist or therapist. A therapist can also be a great way for you to destress and discuss some of the things on your mind. During a divorce, there can be a tendency to bottle up many of our emotions and thoughts for the sake of pushing the procedure along. Though this may be the case, we still have a need to release our thoughts and process our emotions. Therapists are trained to exchange information and provide resources when it comes to emotional regulation and processing. Talking to a therapist can be a great way to cope with the demands of divorce.

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New legislation went into effect on Sept. 1, 2021, affecting Texas parents with 50/50 or shared custody orders. The new law expands the beginning and ending times for weekend stays with the child's noncustodial parent.

The reason for the law is to provide children more time with their noncustodial parent (called the “possessory conservator” in the new law). With these new beginning and end times, the possessory conservator is able to have about 46% of the total time with their child.

Here's how it works

The new law allows for an Expanded Standard Possession Order (ESPO). If you are the noncustodial parent, this order will extend your child's time with you. Instead of picking your kids up from school on Friday, you will get them after school on Thursday until Monday morning when you drop them off at school.

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The holiday season is filled with a lot of joy and fun activities for Texas families. But some divorced parents look to them with dread when navigating parenting time with their former partner.

Parenting plans typically include major holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving, but others like Halloween are frequently left out. The keys to keeping the day “scary but fun” for your children are planning and cooperation.

Halloween options for co-parents

Since Halloween falls on one night per year and is a community-based holiday focused on trick-or-treating, it can be more challenging for parents to divvy up. Still, many options exist, such as:

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“Just be glad you don’t have children.” Statements like that often come from well-meaning friends or family members trying to console others who choose to end their marriage.

While divorces not involving co-parenting issues may be less complicated for some Texas spouses, the experience is just as painful and one that requires diligence in protecting your future.

Divorcing later? Plan now!

The first days of fall have arrived, and the holidays are right around the corner, so you may have already decided to wait until next year to file for divorce. That may seem like a lot of time but use it wisely. Here are some things to consider:

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Divorce can be a very “me-centric” experience for Texas parents, and that's understandable. We’re all human, and when your once-loving marriage ends, it's understandable how bitterness and anger can threaten to consume you.

But when you have children, it's crucial not to let those feelings overwhelm you and your former spouse's responsibility to lessen the pain for your kids. Many have also found that conquering those negative feelings by focusing on their children's well-being can provide relief.

Don’t give in to these co-parenting “don’ts”

Our last article focused on two approaches to co-parenting with your ex and added some tips for healthy problem-solving outcomes. Here are some common actions every co-parent should try to avoid:

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Happily married Texas couples don’t agree about every matter regarding their children. So, there's no reason to expect that co-parenting with your former spouse will be a cakewalk.

The trick is – despite any bitter or angry feelings you may still have for your ex – to put those emotions aside and focus on what's best for your children when parenting disputes arise.

Two ways to problem-solve with your co-parent

Successful co-parenting requires patience, open communication and empathy. That may sound like a tall order for some. Depending on the space you and your ex are in, here are two problem-solving methods to consider:

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You and your former or soon-to-be-former spouse have already gone through a lot. Divorce is never easy, especially when you have kids and hard or angry feelings persist with your ex-partner.Chances are you have diligently worked to keep those emotions in check to avoid making things harder for you and your children. Now your goal becomes creating a peaceful co-parenting relationship.

Positive steps for healthy and productive co-parenting

Psychological studies show children of divorce can thrive when both parents remain actively and positively engaged in their lives. It may take a lot of work to get to a peaceful place with your ex, but here are some signs you are accomplishing your goal:

  • Sticking to the schedule: Having a predetermined plan makes the arrangement easier for everyone and shows that you and your former spouse can honor your commitments to your children.
  • Being flexible: While this might seem like a contradiction, stuff happens! It's a healthy sign when you’re willing to accommodate your ex's last-minute work emergency. They’re likely to do the same for you.
  • Talking to each other: When last-minute adjustments are necessary, co-parents in a healthy relationship talk to each other first before telling their kids about a change in the schedule.
  • Attending events together: Healthy co-parents can attend their children's sporting events, recitals or other activities together without any drama by putting their kids first.
  • Recognizing each other's purpose: Even if little or no love remains between you and your ex, both of you are the most important people in your children's world.

Agree to disagree, and move on

Chances are you and your ex-spouse didn’t see eye-to-eye when your marriage was happy, and you almost certainly will continue to disagree about many things in the future. A big part of avoiding angry confrontations is having an experienced lawyer draft a comprehensive parenting plan.

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Texas classrooms are opening as schools attempt to return to the new normal. Along with in-school learning, students are once again participating in a wide variety of extracurriculars in sports, music and other social groups. Some divorced parents may struggle with this new schedule. But is it possible to alter your current custody or visitation order?

Considerations for modifying parenting plans

The Texas Family Code doesn’t include the phrase “extracurricular activities” when establishing or modifying parenting plans. If you want to change a custody or visitation order, the court only considers specific factors, including:

  • The child's age and safety
  • The original custody and visitation orders
  • Distance between the two parents’ homes
  • Financial impacts

The judge has 100% discretion in these requests with the overriding objective of ruling in the child's best interests, even if a modification would make the situation easier for you or the other parent.

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