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Fort Worth Family Law Blog

Garnishing Social Security benefits for unpaid child support

For people in Texas who are receiving child support, it is important that the payments are on time and paid in full. Frequent family legal issues that arise center around what to do if the payments are not being made or if there are back payments owed. In some instances, the parent who has been ordered to make the payments receives some form of Social Security. An available avenue for a parent who has failed to receive the payments is to take steps to garnish a portion of the supporting parent's Social Security benefits.

It is important to know the facts as to which benefits can be garnished. Forms of Social Security such as disability and retirement can be requested to collect what is owed in back child support. If these payments are not enough to cover what's owed, it is also possible to pursue tax refunds.

Obtaining a protective order during divorce

Individuals in Texas who are divorcing and dealing with domestic violence in their relationship may want to obtain a protective order. A protective order can stop another individual from stalking or threatening them. In an emergency, a court can issue a temporary protective order than can later be replaced with one that lasts for up to two years.

A county office, local domestic violence center, attorney or legal aid program may all be able to provide an individual with forms for a protective order, and applying is free. If a divorce is in process, the protective order must be filed in the same county as the divorce. However, a protective order cannot be used as part of divorce proceedings.

Don't forget about retirement assets during your divorce

Getting divorced at any age can have a significant impact on your finances. It is important to understand how your divorce may change your retirement goals, especially if you are close to retiring. 

News reports continue to show that the divorce rate among couples over 50 increased during the last 25 years. Older couples often have more assets to divide during the divorce process, but it is vital to address how your retirement savings will be split so you can effectively plan for your retirement. 

Study compares divorce rates of health care professionals

Texas residents looking to enter the health care field may want to learn about a new study on the divorce rates of medical professionals. Researchers in Massachusetts analyzed the responses to survey questions that were posed to more than 240,000 health care professionals between 2008 and 2013. The data was gathered from doctors, nurses, dentists, pharmacists and health care executives.

Despite popular belief that busy doctors are more likely to get divorced, the study actually found that the opposite was true. Fewer than 25 percent of doctors who were surveyed reported that they had been divorced, making them less likely than most other categories of health care professionals to be divorced. Participants in the study who were the least likely to be divorced were pharmacists, who reported being divorced 23 percent of the time.

Community property and divorce in Texas

When two people choose to get a divorce in Texas, they must figure out how they will divide their assets. This can be particularly difficult, especially if both parties brought property into a marriage or obtained a large amount of property or financial assets.

There are two types of property: separate and community property. Separate property is property that is brought into a marriage by one person. Unless that property is commingled during the marriage, it will belong to the same person should the couple divorce. Community property is considered to be any property that was acquired during the marriage. This property is subject to being divided should the couple get divorced.

Divorce and personal injury settlements

In some cases, Texas couples decide that it is time to divorce even if they are waiting on an award from a personal injury or medical malpractice settlement. While it may seem like the award should be split evenly, this is not always the case. In general, the division can depend on who is entitled to receive the award and may be determined by a number of different factors unique to each case.

When an award is received, it must be determined what money can be considered separate or marital property. Some courts consider any compensation awarded to one spouse to be considered separate property. Others consider all compensation awarded during a marriage to be marital property. Still, others determine who sustained what damage and if those damages were shared. These judges often consider shared damages as marital property and damages sustained by only one of the spouses to be separate property.

Marriages, partnerships and finances

As Texas residents may know, traditional marriages are fully protected legally and financially by state and federal laws. After the Supreme Court ruled the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, many same-sex couples now are guaranteed the same protection. Married couples are given legal and financial benefits by more than 1,000 laws, but few states recognize or provide benefits to domestic partnerships and civil unions of unmarried couples. In some cases, registered domestic partnerships and civil unions are protected in some states for such things as health insurance and unemployment, but not on the federal level. However, even when states recognize unmarried partnerships and unions, the couples do not have federal protections.

Although domestic partnerships and civil unions are not marriages, all states that offer them also allow same-sex marriages. Married couples, regardless of gender, are allowed federal benefits, but unmarried couples are not. Some states extend benefits to domestic partners and civil unions, but those benefits vary from state to state. A couple's marital status affects income taxes, social security, retirement accounts, health care, property and debt, so couples considering legal unions may need to choose carefully between marriage and partnerships.

Making divorce easier for Texas divorcees

While stories of billionaire oil tycoon Harold Hamm's $975-million check may come to mind in recent divorce settlements, not every divorce will be this extreme. The average Texas couple doesn't have millions in the waiting, of course, but every dollar counts. With the right amount of preparation, couples can spend their money much wiser during divorce disputes.

For every 1,000 Texan couples who get married, 11 will be getting a divorce by year's end. Individuals facing divorce can better utilize their funds by knowing when to speak to professional legal counsel versus when it might be a better idea to air out private matters with loved ones.

Noncustodial parents may be granted virtual visitation

Parents in Texas who are seeking visitation rights might be concerned that they will not be allowed to stay in contact with their child as much as they would like. A parent in this situation may want to request that virtual visitation be included in the visitation order. As the name implies, virtual visitation is a type of arrangement where technology, like video conferencing, email and instant messaging is used to facilitate communication between a child and a noncustodial parent.

A parent who has been awarded virtual visitation may be able to stay in closer contact with a child who has moved to another state with their custodial parent. The noncustodial parent could potentially read their child a bedtime story or view a sports event live through video conferencing technology. The child may also have the ability to speak with their parent face-to-face after losing a tooth, winning an award or going through another major life event.

Getting a divorce in Texas when uncontested

A divorce usually entails determining a plan for any children a couple might have and dividing property and debts. An individual can get a divorce in Texas if they or their spouse have lived in the state for six months or longer. However, a couple usually cannot finalize a divorce while a wife is pregnant so that information about the baby can be put in a divorce decree. This applies even if the other spouse is not the father of the child.

To receive a divorce, one must download and fill out the proper forms, file and make copies of the divorce petition, give a spouse notice and wait for a response. A divorce is contested if a spouse does not agree to the terms one sent, and a divorce is uncontested if a spouse agrees to sign a divorce decree and waivers or does not answer during the appropriate period.

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Fort Worth, TX 76102
Phone: 817-984-4610
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Fax: 817-334-0394
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