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Fort Worth, Texas Divorce Law Blog

How to handle drama in a custody case

Parents in Texas and elsewhere may experience high levels of conflict after a divorce is finalized. These conflicts could revolve around who should get custody of the child or how decisions should be made after a custody order is created. Ideally, children will get to spend time with both parents, and the adults should do their best to focus less on themselves and more on the needs of their kids.

When a conflict arises, it may be possible to come to a compromise without the need to go to court. If this is not possible, a judge can examine the evidence in a given matter and make a ruling. Generally speaking, a judge is going to want to do what is in the child's best interest and with minimal interruption to the child's life. Ideally, parents will document their efforts to communicate with each other prior to coming to court.

How to minimize asset loss in a divorce

Texas residents could put their retirement and financial future at risk by getting a divorce. One woman says that she lost nearly $1 million in retirement savings after she divorced her husband after 15 years together. A series of events after the divorce required her to spend about $200,000 in legal fees, and the woman claims that the money could have grown to $1 million if put into a retirement account.

Furthermore, she had to work to pay down the debt that was incurred during the divorce. Ultimately, the woman believes that she and her husband would have been able to retire at age 50 with millions of dollars in the bank if the divorce hadn't occurred. The couple did not have a prenuptial agreement prior to getting married. Going to court as opposed to a mediator to settle the divorce was another reason cited as to why the divorce was so costly.

Business owners and divorce

Business owners in Texas and around the country often invest a great deal of time and money into their companies. When an owner finds himself or herself faced with a divorce, the future of the business is often a significant concern.

When a couple divorces, every aspect of their lives is subject to scrutiny. This includes finances, and a business is considered an asset when it comes to negotiating a monetary settlement. One of the best ways to protect a business in a divorce is to have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that clearly defines what will happen to a business and its assets should a marriage come to an end.

Denial of visitation rights

Parents in Texas and around the country generally love their children and value their time with them. Unfortunately, there are situations in which a divorce leaves a parent without access to his or her children. This may be because a family law court has decided to stop visitation or a custodial parent is refusing to allow the other parent access to the kids.

Family law courts seldom completely prevent parents from visiting their children. This is because judges understand that it is important for children and their parents to have a relationship. If a court does choose to end or restrict visitation, is it typically because the court believes that it is in the best interests of the children to have limited or no contact with that parent.

Factors considered in major child possession decisions

In Texas divorce cases where children are involved, determining which parent will get possession of the children is often among the most contested issues. The family court judge has wide discretion in making the determination, and his or her ruling can vary widely based on the facts of the case. Parents can count on the judge using the best interests of the children as the broad standard, though, and there are a number of factors he or she will commonly weigh to arrive at a decision.

Generally speaking, courts prefer maintenance of consistency in the child's life over making major changes. This is especially true for younger children, and courts will be willing to consider lifestyle changes for the kids when they are older. The court will also consider the level and quality of each parent's relationship with the children, the physical and mental health of each parent and the accommodations available in each of the parents' homes.

Resolving child support cases in multiple states

There is a possibility that a child support order that was created in Texas will need to be modified in the future. The process of modifying an order may be more complicated if one or both spouses move to another state. Parents who are seeking child support in another state will be guided by the terms of The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA). Typically, the state where the order originates will continue to have jurisdiction over the matter.

However, parents can agree to transfer jurisdiction to another state. In the event that only the parent who is paying support moves, the originating state retains the power to send notices or make other decisions. If both parents move, the state where they currently live has the ability to modify the current support order. If each parent lives in a different state, the one who wants to modify the order should do so in the state where he or she lives.

Hiding financial information in a high-asset divorce

There are a lot of misconceptions about divorces involving wealthy couples in Texas and other states. One of the most common myths is the belief that only men hide assets to prevent their ex-spouses from getting their fair share. While hiding assets is a problem that happens in many divorces, it's not just men who do it. As the balance of earning power shifts in American households, more and more wive are trying to prevent their money from being distributed evenly.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, female spouses earn more than their husbands in one out of three heterosexual marriages. Within this group of marriages, women have control of the family finances in a vast majority of cases. They pay bills, monitor credit and make investment decisions. Due to the perception of gender, however, wives are rarely suspected of hiding assets.

Negotiating property division when pets are involved

When couples in Texas decide to divorce, they might struggle vigorously over sentimental items of property. For many pet owners, however, their animals are more than property, even if that is how they are understood in the law. "Pet custody" is increasingly becoming a part of divorce settlements as spouses determine how to negotiate their future arrangements for their dogs and cats. Animal custody is sometimes worked out to coincide with child custody schedules, but it can be handled on its own as part of the divorce agreement as well. Due to the important role that pets play in many people's lives, many spouses are thinking more about how to keep their bond with their animals even after a human romantic relationship ends.

Courts in some states are adjusting their traditional approach to pets to recognize that they are a unique type of property. In California, courts can make custody determinations for animals when the spouses do not reach their own agreement through divorce negotiations. In New Jersey, while pets are considered personal property, they are also understood to have a special sentimental value, and courts can issue shared possession orders. They can also hold hearings to assess both parties' level of attachment to the animal if there is a dispute about pet ownership.

Study finds mothers often at disadvantage in child custody cases

Divorced parents in Texas may assume that if they go to court and say their child is being abused by the other parent, that parent will lose custody. However, according to research by a professor at George Washington University Law School, even fathers who are abusive may get custody of their children.

The 2,000 cases the professor studied involved abuse and parental alienation. Parental alienation syndrome is a controversial concept advocated by a psychiatrist in the 1980s. It alleges that one parent will sometimes pressure a child to feel ambivalence or even hatred toward the other parent and that this may be accompanied by accusations of abuse. When mothers are accused of parental alienation, they are two times more likely to lose custody of their children than fathers who face accusation. In the study, no claims of abuse by the mother were credited if the court agreed that she was engaging in parental alienation. Just one in 51 mothers who claimed sexual abuse was happening had that abuse substantiated if the father also claimed parental alienation.

The four types of child support cases

The child support system in Texas can be a source of confusion to parents because it is often more complex than they expect it to be. There are four different categories of child support cases, which are based on their status under the Social Security Act of 1975's Title IV. These categories are IV-D cases, non-IV-D cases, IV-A cases and IV-E cases.

Non-IV-D cases are those in which the payor parent makes payments privately. Common situations for non-IV-D cases include parents having a legally binding agreement, and the payor parent has kept current with payments. It is not uncommon for non-IV-D cases to become IV-D cases. This can happen when a person was making payments and then stopped, so the other individual contacts the Office of Child Support Enforcement for help with collecting support.