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Fort Worth Family Law Blog

Court allows woman to use Facebook to serve divorce papers

Texas residents who are seeking a divorce may wish to know about an unusual way to let a former spouse know that the marriage is ending. In certain extreme circumstances, parties may be able to use social media to alert their former spouse of a divorce.

A New York woman, who separated from her new husband shortly after their 2009 marriage, has convinced a court to allow her to use the social media site Facebook as a means to serve divorce papers. The judge allowed this method only after all other possibilities were exhausted. Reports indicate that the woman attempted to reach the man through phone calls, emails and even with a private detective. When none of these attempts were successful, she petitioned the court to let her try Facebook because she knew he checked in on it regularly.

Delinquent child support in Texas nears $11 billion

Many custodial parents in Texas rely on child support to make ends meet, and they often lack the financial resources to adequately provide for their children when these payments are delinquent. While over $3.5 billion was paid in child support to children in Texas in 2013 according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, noncustodial parents in the state still owed almost $11 billion.

Single mothers are particularly hard hit by delinquent child support. These payments make up 39 percent of their household income and raise a quarter of them above the poverty line. Authorities have a number of ways to collect delinquent child support, but figures show that these efforts are unsuccessful 40 percent of the time. While child support payments can be a vital source of income for custodial parents, they do not always place an undue financial strain on parents who are required to pay. In Texas, child support payments can total between 20 and 40 percent of a noncustodial parent's income depending on the number of children involved.

Foreign adoptions hit 30-year low in U.S.

Texas residents interested in adoption may be interested to learn that new data released by the U.S. State Department shows that foreign adoptions have fallen to their lowest level in more than 30 years. Americans adopted 6,441 babies from foreign countries in the 2014 fiscal year, which is down from 7,092 in 2013. It is the lowest number of adoptions since 5,749 were adopted in 1982 and a massive drop from the approximately 23,000 that took place in 2004.

According to adoption agencies, the sharp decline is due to a few factors. In China and South Korea, anti-adoption nationalist sentiment has grown, while in other countries, such as Ethiopia, new policies have been enacted to promote domestic adoptions. In 2013, Russia also banned adoptions by Americans after the U.S. sanctioned Moscow for human rights violations.

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.

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