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When a spouse exhibits hostile feelings toward their partner, children are often caught in the middle. This can lead to feelings of anger, fear or resentment towards one parent by the children. This is often referred to a parental alienation.

Parental alienation is a common syndrome in many divorces. This can result in children refusing to see or even talk to an alienated parent. This attitude can even influence Texas child conservatorship decisions.

What are the signs of parental alienation?

In a perfect world, divorcing parents put the needs of their children first, and many do. However, others driven by anger and bitterness against a spouse may lose sight of that and manipulate a child usingguilt or even direct disparaging remarks to damage the other parent's credibility. Signs of parental alienation include:

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You and your spouse have decided to part ways. You want your child to maintain a close relationship with both parents, but you also want to keep your child safe. You’re concerned about how your ex's bipolar disorder could affect their parenting abilities. Here are some considerations to keep in mind:

Symptoms of bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness characterized by extreme mood swings. During such episodes, bipolar sufferers may act in a way that's different from how they would normally behave. They may exhibit signs of either mania or depression – and will alternate between these two states:

  • Depression: Individuals in this state are often sad, exhausted and apathetic. They may be disinterested in things they would normally enjoy – such as hobbies or friends. They may find it difficult to get out of bed. This condition could affect a parent's ability to care for their children – from preparing meals to holding down a job.
  • Mania: In this state, individuals experience some type of “high” emotions. They may be happy and energetic – feeling as though they have superpowers – or they may be angry and agitated. Individuals in this state often act impulsively, without considering rationale or consequences to their actions. Excessive spending is common during manic episodes.

Options for handling a spouse's mental illness during your divorce

No parent should have to lose their relationship with their child solely because they have a mental illness. However, you may be worried about the safety and wellbeing of your child while in the care of a parent with a mental illness. If your child's safety is a concern during your divorce, you may be able to obtain a temporary child custody order issued for the duration of the divorce proceedings.

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Posted on in Child Custody

The year 2020 has delivered many hardships and heartaches. Whether you have been personally affected by COVID-19 itself (or have a family member or friend who has) or have managed to remain healthy, we have all been affected. Some have suffered job losses, schools just do not look the same, many are engaging in school at home guided by parents who are trying to navigate the virtual work and school environment. However, all negatives have a positive opposite. We have learned new skills, embraced technology, spent more one-on-one time with loved ones, and connected in new ways with our children. For divorced parents, co-parenting has become even more important, and many families have gotten creative to ensure that their children can still enjoy positive relationships with both parents. Co-parenting during the holidays is stressful in the best of times. Here are a few tips for co-parenting during the holidays in the midst of a pandemic.

First, try to get on the same page about the pandemic. Leading health experts are warning us that there will continue to be a rise in cases during the months of December through February, and many of us are seeing such a spike in our communities. The Texas Supreme Court has made it very clear that the pandemic does not override Court ordered possession schedules. However, if you or your child has been exposed, communicate with the other parent, quarantine when necessary, and keep everyone safe. But do not use the pandemic as an excuse to cut your child's other parent out of the picture. Children still need love and time from both parents!

Second, spend true quality time and reconnect with your children during your possession time. Frequently, the holidays are filled with busyness and consist of just going places for the sake of going places. Participate in virtual events, watch holiday movies on Netflix, bake cookies and decorate! Talk to your kids, and give homemade Christmas presents! Make sure your children grow up to remember the Christmas of 2020 as the time they had fun with their parents at home!

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The coronavirus pandemic has taken a tremendous toll on a majority of Americans. Hundreds of thousands have died, and millions more have suffered economic hardship due to job loss and other lost opportunities.

While vaccines are being distributed, these impacts of the virus are likely to be felt for months to come. COVID-19 has also exacted a toll on many marriages, some that were already struggling before the pandemic arrived.

Reasons for divorce during the age of COVID

The news hasn’t been all bad for married couples. Some marriages have become stronger as spouses pull together during a challenging time. However, being together in tight spaces with nowhere to go has forced others to reexamine their relationships, and many have not survived the scrutiny. Some of the top reasons for divorce during this time are:

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For many people going through a divorce, the family home will be the largest asset divided. While Texas is a community property state, that doesn’t necessarily mean marital property is split evenly. Instead, courts typically distribute assets in a“just and right” manner.

Despite the monetary value of a home, it's also one of the most challenging issues from an emotional standpoint due to the years and memories you’ve already invested. It's even more difficult for parents who don’t want to uproot their young kids from familiar surroundings.

Get an accurate appraisal

Obtaining a precise valuation of your home is essential to receive your fair share. While realtors use comparative market reports to determine a home's value, divorcing couples should work with a licensed appraiser, who considers additional factors. This is especially crucial when high-end upgrades are made to the property.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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