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Fort Worth, Texas Divorce Law Blog

Making co-parenting work during the holiday season

For children in Texas, the holidays can be a time of great excitement and anticipation. If divorce is part of the equation, however, seasonal happenings can also be a source of stress and potential conflict. This is especially true when children have to go back and forth from one parent's home to the other. Whether the end of a marriage is new or not, having a solid co-parenting plan in place during the holidays may effectively ease stress for children and prevent serious disagreements from affecting everyone emotionally.

Assuming that child custody arrangements have already been made, the first step commonly recommended is for parents to keep the focus on their children when it's time to deal with holiday situations. Putting feelings of animosity aside may require assistance from a therapist or support from friends. Former partners are also encouraged not to attempt to "punish" each other by limiting time with children or being unreasonable about visitation flexibility.

Dividing retirement accounts in divorce

Division of assets is one of the most critical steps in many Texas divorces. The marital home, vehicles and business interests might be points of contention as they can be worth a lot of money. Retirement accounts, too, can be among the most valuable assets that a couple has developed, and dividing them between the parties can be contentious.

According to a 2016 survey of members of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, the most common points of contention in divorce are alimony, at 83 percent, pensions and retirement accounts, at 62 percent, and business interests, at 60 percent. Dividing retirement accounts and pensions can be more complicated than dividing other assets, as there can be tax consequences or special requirements placed on the process.

Substance abuse adds new concerns for children in divorce

Being married to someone with a substance abuse problem in Texas can lead to a number of difficulties, including financial troubles, frequent disagreements and physical altercations. As a result, marriages that involve substance abuse are at a higher risk for divorce. This process is further complicated when children are involved and child safety concerns are raised.

According to an interview conducted by MarketWatch with a Charlotte-based attorney, it is important for the sober parent in a divorce to monitor all interactions children have with the parent struggling with a substance abuse issue. Some parents are unable to provide for basic child care when intoxicated, and they may also take risks like driving while intoxicated with children in the vehicle. Unfortunately, it might be difficult to prove alcohol abuse because the definition of abuse can vary widely. As such, it is important to document abusive behavior and report any signs of physical or sexual abuse to the proper authorities at once.

Parallel parenting to avoid conflict after divorce

The ideal situation for divorced parents and their children is one in which the estranged couple can have an amicable and cooperative relationship as co-parents. However, this is not always possible. Research shows that witnessing conflict between their parents is the most damaging element of divorce for children. Texas couples who want to avoid this but who cannot get along may want to consider parallel parenting.

The basic idea behind parallel parenting is that in order to avoid conflict, parents will essentially avoid one another. In order to do this and still share custody or allow one parent visitation rights while the other has custody, parents need to put a detailed schedule into place. Their plan needs to be very structured, and they also need a method of indirect communication. This might be sharing calendars or agreeing to only communicate using email. In a co-parenting situation, in contrast, there is a great deal of interaction.

In a high asset divorce, planning is key

As the effective date for new legislation regarding alimony and taxes approaches, Texas couples who are seeking a divorce and negotiating a settlement might be concerned with completing the process before January 1st, 2019. Alimony, which could previously be deducted by the payer and reported by the receiver, will no longer count as a deduction for the payer. This means that in some cases the payer will find themselves in a higher tax bracket than before, while still having to pay alimony. However, if the agreement is finalized before the effective date of the changes, the divorce can be grandfathered in with the old legislation applied.

For couples going through a high asset divorce this means that careful planning needs to be balanced with the benefits they are seeking. While the motivation might be there to finalize the divorce before the end of the year, it is also important to make sure the deal makes sense and is beneficial in the long run. To begin, each person needs to be clear about what they really want and what they are willing to give up. They should also be aware of the same for their ex-spouse.

Texas parents might consider nesting for their kids' sake

Since divorce is never easy for anyone involved, some parents have taken to a solution meant to soften the blow for their children. It is called nesting or bird nesting, and the idea focuses around the children staying in the family home while the parents alternate time in and out of the house. Some parents share a small apartment, so when one parent is in the family home with the kids, the other stays in the apartment.

This nesting concept offers children an opportunity for as little interruption in their routines as possible. It gives them the chance to get used to the fact that mom and dad are separating or divorcing without completely turning their world upside down. The kids get to stay in familiar surroundings, and they get to attend their same school. It makes it easier on the children who don't have to pack and move with each visit.

Negotiating child custody and support after a divorce

Texas parents who decide to divorce may wrestle with difficult issues about how to handle possession and access to their children. In many cases, they are able to negotiate an amicable division of parenting time and present it in family court. However, when they have a more difficult or fraught relationship, the situation can easily devolve into a battle over time with the children. Once a judge is forced to rule, both parents may feel as if they are treated unfairly.

In particular, fathers may be concerned about gender bias in child custody disputes. After all, across the country, the vast majority of decisions result in a mother obtaining full or primary custody of the children. However, in most of these cases, fathers were content with access time and did not seek additional possession; when dads actively seek custody, they are likely to achieve greater success. In addition, joint custody is increasingly a standard favored across the country, even though fathers may still face judges whose decisions are tainted by bias or traditional views of parenthood.

Avoiding the pitfalls of keeping the marital home after a divorce

Of all of the possessions and types of property that can be jointly accumulated during a marriage in Texas, the most significant one is often the marital home. It's also likely to be a source of contention between couples. But there are times when one spouse offers to sell their share of the property to the other one. Even when such a move is made in good faith, there are some potential pitfalls associated with assuming sole ownership of a home that was once jointly shared.

If a home is in both individuals' names, property division of this nature typically involves what's termed a quit claim deed. The potential problem with transferring property this way is that signing over the right to ownership does not automatically change loan responsibility. If mutual loan obligations exist, the spouse owning the home may be affected by their ex's inability to pay their share of the loan. Other possible issues include undiscovered defects that could result in repairs the home-owning spouse can't afford to make.

Divorces involving high assets affected by tax law changes

Taxes are often far from the minds of divorcing spouses in Texas during the process of dissolving a marriage, but taxes can present themselves with unexpected costs in time for those who are unprepared. Kiplinger has published findings by a tax attorney that show some divorcing spouses may face higher taxes with changes in the various laws regarding payments for alimony and child support after a divorce.

These findings also point out that certain divorcing individuals may be affected by state laws requiring specific deadlines for divorce filings in order to avoid higher taxes. In California, for instance, waiting periods may affect how a divorce filing ends up costing more for some people who are already in the process of negotiating settlement terms.

Temporary child custody agreements

Parents in Texas who file for divorce may request a temporary hearing shortly after the case is filed so that major issues like temporary child custody and support can be decided. A parent may also consider granting temporary custody to another person if they are temporarily unable to care for a child due to an illness or difficult financial circumstances.

A parent can grant temporary custody of their child to another person without giving up their parental rights. In a divorce case, a parent who is not awarded temporary custody is usually granted liberal visitation.