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Fort Worth Family Law Blog

Avoiding legal pitfalls in Texas divorces

Texas couples often make many mistakes when it comes to filing for divorce. These mistakes can range from benign to criminal, with consequences ranging from needless legal expenses to making unnecessary financial concessions in the final decree. How this plays out depends on the couple and the specifics of a given case, but for couples who do not choose their fights wisely, they can win every battle and still lose the war.

One costly mistake many divorcing spouses make is failing to obtain an exact figure regarding marital assets and finances. This can lead to expensive litigation later, or require amending the divorce decree, meaning more legal fees. Fighting over how much child support a noncustodial parent must pay is another pitfall. An extra $100 per month in child support is worth the legal investment for a child of age 3, but typically not for a 16-year-old.

The Garner and Affleck divorce and prenups

While many Texas residents may be following the news that Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner are divorcing after a fairly lengthy marriage and three children, they may not be aware of some of the implications of when the divorce was filed. In California, where the couple resides, marriages are not deemed to have been long-term ones until they have reached the 10-year point. In the Garner and Affleck case, Ms. Garner filed for divorce 10 years and one day after their marriage.

Waiting for 10 years may have implications on the amount and duration of spousal support to which the lower-earning spouse may be entitled under California law. Although both Mr. Affleck and Ms. Garner entered into their marriage with significant assets, it may have been a consideration Ms. Garner was instructed to follow by her attorneys. Another possibility is that the couple had a prenuptial agreement, which are becoming increasingly popular. Many such agreements establish per-year settlement amounts to be awarded by the higher-earning spouse to the lower-earning one. Some condition settlements upon reaching certain milestones.

Factors that help courts decide who keeps the pets in divorces

Courts in Texas and around the country have traditionally viewed family pets as personal property in divorce cases. However, many couples consider their pets as family members. As a result, instead of awarding ownership to whoever is listed as the owner on the animal's registration or license, courts in some states are basing their rulings on the best interests of the pets.

One factor that is considered is which spouse takes care of the family animals on a day-by-day basis. This includes who feeds them the most, makes sure that they have water, takes them for walks or cleans the litter boxes more often, and who gives them the most affection.

Relationships with parents matter to family law courts the most

Courts in Texas and other states typically try to act within the best interests of any minor children in divorce cases, and this means that judges will usually fashion orders that will allow both parents to have some involvement in a child's life. Therefore, certain issues a parent has might not automatically invalidate his or her chances for custody. To highlight how the child custody process might work, many are speculating about what could happen to the children after the high-profile split of Kourtney Kardashian and Scott Disick.

The reality tv show stars have three children, and one attorney mentioned that Scott's colorful past does not necessarily bar him from gaining custody of his children though his history of substance abuse could make it difficult. While one parent could have trouble in family court when struggling with addiction or joblessness or having a history of spousal abuse or mental illness, some parenting rights may still be granted especially if the other parent is not in opposition.

Divorce requires division of marital debts

Texas is a community property state. This means that, in the event of a divorce, an equal split of property will be the default approach unless negotiation and documentation determine otherwise. Included in the separation of financial affairs are debts, and the couple will need to account for loans, credit card balances, medical debts and mortgages during the divorce process.

When looking at credit cards, the debt is typically assigned to the person whose name is on the account. A joint account, however, would obligate both ex-spouses to divide and pay the debt, even if only one of the parties was responsible for charging purchases on the card. This approach could be expected to apply to other consumer indebtedness.

Texas and other states consider movement for joint custody

Fathers in Texas who are seeking joint custody of a child after a divorce might see a change in the way courts make this determination. Whereas in the past, it was nearly automatic that the mother would be granted custody with the father having limited parenting time, that is under increased scrutiny in 2015 as an attempt to balance these decisions is underway.

The idea of shared parenting is garnering more attention as at least 20 states are looking at ways to give fathers a better chance of having joint physical custody with the mothers. The decision to give custody to the mother as a matter of course is often due to ingrained beliefs as to what is in the best interests of the child. The mother is frequently viewed as being better equipped to care for the child whether or not that is, in fact, the reality in individual circumstances.

Celebrity divorce raises Social Security quaestions

Texas residents may have read media reports indicating that the Hollywood power couple Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner are likely to be ending their marriage. Garner and Affleck will file for divorce just before their 10-year wedding anniversary according to the reports, and this timing has raised the eyebrows of some family law attorneys. Remaining married for at least 10 years makes sense as far as Social Security benefits are concerned, but this may not be a major consideration for movie stars with an estate worth an estimated $150 million.

A husband or wife who have been married for at least 10 years may elect to receive Social Security benefits before reaching full retirement age. If one spouse opts to retire early, the decision will not impact the amount of benefits that the other will receive once full retirement age has been attained. However, these advantages are lost if the couple files for divorce before they reach their 10-year anniversary.

Polygamist leader's wife seeks child custody

Texas parents may have heard that, on June 10, it was revealed that a wife of Lyle Jeffs, a polygamist and a leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, filed for custody of two of her children after she feared that they would be taken away. In a juvenile court hearing, her attorney stated that the mother, who is in the process of getting a divorce from Jeffs, feared that the children would be moved without the mother's knowledge.

According to the report, the mother is Jeffs' first wife. When they decided to get divorced, they both allegedly agreed to share custody of the two children, though they would primarily live with the mother. Jeffs additionally reportedly agreed to pay $1,000 in child support and cover some of the expenses of raising the children.

Financial mistakes to avoid in a divorce

Texas residents who are divorcing should keep in mind that there are a few common financial mistakes that people tend to make in this situation. One of those arises from not having handled the household financial affairs. People should familiarize themselves with this if necessary, and if they cannot get the needed information from their spouse, they might want to use the services of a forensic accountant. Such a professional can go over accounts and may even be able to locate any hidden assets.

Another mistake individuals make is failing to get good financial and legal help. Not all divorces are complex enough to require an enormous legal team, but it is important to see that one's interests are well-represented. While a divorcing couple cannot use the same attorney, there is usually no conflict in having the same financial adviser.

Custody dispute involving 1 of the Gosselin kids

Texas residents who enjoy reality television shows will likely be familiar with Jon Gosselin. The 38-year-old father was a titular character on the popular show "Jon & Kate Plus 8" until he was booted from the program following a contentious 2009 divorce. Gosselin's ex-wife received primary custody of the couple's eight children, and the show continued after being renamed "Kate Plus 8." While Jon may no longer appear regularly on television screens across the country, he continues to be material for gossip columnists.

The latest media reports concerning Gosselin involve a possible child custody dispute. However, the former television star is said to be seeking custody of only one of his children. The rumored legal action is thought to be motivated by claims of cruel treatment from her mother made by Gosselin's 11-year-old daughter. The girl is also said to have told her father that she no longer wishes to appear on her mother's popular television show.

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