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Fort Worth Family Law Blog

Alimony payments in Texas

When a former spouse pays their ex-partner any form of post-divorce payment, this is known as alimony or spousal maintenance. Most courts recognize two types of alimony, which include payments ordered by a court and contractual alimony, which is an agreement drafted by the two parties before the divorce proceedings. Contractual alimony is a post-divorce monthly payment agreement between spouses that does not have any limits on duration and amount or eligibility requirements. However, in order to qualify for spousal maintenance, a person must fit certain criteria.

Factors that a court could consider include whether spouses are able to provide for themselves due to a disability, whether they are caring for a disabled child from the marriage, the other spouse's ability to pay and the financial needs of both parties. In addition, the marriage in question may be required to have lasted at least ten years in order for one party to collect the payments.

Negotiating property division in divorce

Many couples in Texas struggle with dividing their residential property amicably while negotiating a divorce. Buying a spouse out of the property may prove to be difficult if both parties can't agree on terms due to individual equity and debt agendas. However, there are several strategies that many divorcing spouses have used.

People who have yet to officially separate or divorce may experience problems obtaining a new mortgage without the cooperation of the ex-spouse. The vacating party may need to sign a quitclaim deed in order to release their interest in the property and be clear of potential complications in the future. In some cases, the judge may award the home to a spouse who is unable to qualify for a new mortgage that refinances the ex-spouse out of the contract. Divorcees are often considered to be jointly liable by creditors if their name is still attached to the property.

Social Security and retirement accounts for older divorcees

Statistics show that men and women in Texas have recently started getting more divorces later in life than before. For example, 50 years ago only two percent of men and women between 65 and 75 were divorced. Now, the rate is 11 percent for men and 15 percent for women. These divorces are often between partners who have been together for decades and may have accrued significant retirement funds.

Property division can work differently for couples near or past the age of retirement. For example, Social Security has different rules for divorced couples. For example, if a person has reached the age of 62 and was married to his or her partner for at least a decade, that person might be able to claim some of their ex-partner's benefits. Even if the entire Social Security account is under only one ex-spouse's name, it is still marital property, and the other party may have a right to claim as much as half of the payment. This is true even if the ex-spouse on the account has remarried.

Divorce fees awarded to Frank McCourt's legal team

Texas couples contemplating divorce may want to consider the ramifications of settlement terms and language. A case involving former Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt and his ex-wife is an excellent example of this issue. Their divorce settlement in 2012 awarded Mrs. McCourt $131 million as well as luxury homes. However, she contested the settlement after her ex-husband later that year sold the baseball team for $2 billion. Her grounds for contesting revolved around the concern that he had shortchanged the team's value at the time of the divorce.

In September 2013, a judge rejected this claim. However, language in the original settlement assigned responsibility for legal fees resulting from such a dispute to any party contesting the terms. As a result, Mr. McCourt sought reimbursement of nearly $2 million in legal fees. In April, lawyers for his ex-spouse argued that this amount was excessive, but in a June decision, the judge presiding over the case determined that Mrs. McCourt was responsible for these costs. He reiterated the clarity of the terms in the initial agreement and their intent to prevent further litigation. He also noted that Mrs. McCourt was not unaware of the value of the Dodgers due to her involvement in team operations and access to accounting and legal professionals.

Financial tips for those going contemplating a divorce

Whether in Texas or any other state, the end of a marriage can be exhausting. The division of assets could prove to be an overwhelming task and some tips could prove helpful for getting those marital finances in order.The first step is to start putting together all necessary information. A good start is to copy tax returns for the last five years. It's important to foresee the possibility that the most honest person could try hiding income and assets. As a soon-to-be-ex, it is imperative to enter into divorce by first documenting total assets and investments.

Understanding the tax implications of divorce is an all-important second step. Division of assets can be very complex and often does not result in fair split. Prior to this process, consulting a divorce attorney or other financial adviser is an excellent idea. Assessing overall debt and finding out whether a spouse has accrued any undisclosed new debt are also important. Credit reports should be obtained from Trans Union, Experian and Equifax to determine which debts are shared and which are not.

Report ranks Texas number for child support collection efforts

The bad news is that many parents who rely on child support payments to help put food on the table and cover the basic costs of raising their children often don't receive the assistance to which they are legally entitled. The good news, however, is that the chances of these parents recovering some or all of this money are actually much better here in Texas than anywhere else in the nation.

While this may sound like hyperbole, consider a recently released preliminary report from the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement comparing and contrasting the child support collection efforts of the 50 states for federal fiscal year 2013.

Here, the report ranked the Texas Attorney General's Child Support Division number one for its total child support collection efforts, amount of child supported gathered per official and overall cost effectiveness.

Advocates call on State Dept to lift longstanding adoption ban

In 2010, the U.S. Department of State announced that it was following the lead of other Western nations in suspending all adoptions from Nepal, citing systemic problems that it believed cast doubt on the reliability of that country's adoption system.

Specifically, State Department officials indicated that otherwise unreliable documentation made it difficult to determine whether Nepali children had indeed been abandoned and otherwise satisfied the criteria set forth under U.S. law for being considered orphans.

Once the suspension was announced, the State Department agreed to continue processing the 62 pending adoptions of Nepali children by American families. However, the agency dictated that 55 of these cases had to be reinvestigated -- at the expense of the prospective families -- due to lingering concerns about the legality of the adoptions.

Experts concerned about growing use of Bitcoin in divorce cases

You may consider yourself to be a relatively savvy tech user, but there's still a very good chance that you aren't entirely familiar with all the products, programs, apps and other services available to consumers today.

For instance, you may have heard the term Bitcoin bandied about in news stories or run across it during your daily web surfing, but remained relatively uncertain as to what it is.

While a complete discussion of the ins and outs of Bitcoin is clearly beyond the scope of a single blog post, it is essentially a form of digital currency that enables people to perform transactions without the need for any banks or other intermediaries.

One of the primary advantages of Bitcoin, say proponents, is that it gives currency holders a considerable degree of anonymity, such that unlike the standard bank account, transactions are relatively hard to trace.

Overturned Texas child abuse claims cause child custody issues

When a parent loses custody for any reason, it is supposed to be only when it is in the best interests of the children who are involved. In some cases, the child is required to remain with one parent as part of a child custody agreement. In other, more unfortunate cases, a child is removed by the state of Texas due to allegations of abuse or neglect. Unfortunately, there are circumstances where the removal of a child is unfounded, creating situations of personal and legal turmoil.

According to a recent report, there are many cases of child abuse being overturned. Parents who were accused of having abused their children challenged the findings of Child Protective Services. Unfortunately, the report claims that even when a case is overturned, parents face additional issues because CPS decisions are often used in other judgments, including child custody disputes.

Another state grants adoptees access to their birth records

While it may seem difficult to believe, there are only a handful of states -- Alabama, Alaska, Kansas, Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode Island and Tennessee -- that grant adoptees the right to access their birth files.

This essentially means that in all other states, including Texas, adoption records remain sealed, such that the potentially valuable information contained therein (i.e., family medical and genealogical history) remains off limits.

In a move being hailed by many adoption rights advocates, another state is now set to join the ranks of these nine states.

Earlier this week, the New Jersey Adoptees' Birthright Bill was passed by state lawmakers.

This capped a rather hectic legislative session in which Governor Chris Christie conditionally vetoed the original adoption access bill passed by the state Senate back on April 28. Here, the Senate ultimately came up with a revised version that addressed the governor's concerns and passed it last week by a vote of 29-5. This, in turn, was forwarded to the Assembly, which passed it by a vote of 57-18 on Thursday.

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