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Frisco divorce lawyerDivorce is hard. Even the most amicable divorces involve feelings of sorrow, guilt, anger, or regret. While having a great divorce attorney who listens to you and understands the approach you want to take cannot help you resolve your feelings about your divorce, it can make an enormous difference in the ease and outcome of the divorce process. If you are considering divorce, you already know you have a wide range of family law firms available to you. Here are five tips for choosing a Texas divorce attorney that suits your needs. 

Knowledge and Experience

A great divorce attorney need not have been practicing for decades in order to provide you with the best representation. But if you hire someone straight out of law school, you may be taking a gamble even if you get a better price. Choose someone who clearly knows the law and is willing to put it to work for you. 

Realistic Expectations

As in other areas of life, if a prospective divorce attorney is promising you something that sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Even if you have the greatest attorney in the world, you are not likely to get everything you want out of your divorce. An honest attorney will help you set realistic expectations while still respecting your needs and preferences. 

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Texas CPS investigation lawyerLearning you are being investigated by Texas Child Protective Services can feel like you are living in a waking nightmare. In addition to the questions you have and the anxiety you feel, you may also be dealing with feelings of indignation and outrage. Considering that CPS is notorious for getting involved in situations where the idea of parental neglect is ridiculous (and for frequently neglecting to get involved in situations where children are in serious danger), it can feel like an enormous waste of time. 

However, it is still very important to take any investigation seriously, whether you feel it is merited or not. CPS has an enormous amount of power and many good parents have gotten trapped in the cogs of the system. Fortunately, you can maximize the chances of a favorable outcome by getting aggressive legal help from a Texas family law attorney. 

What Will CPS Agents Do? 

The first question many parents have is why they are being investigated in the first place. Accusations of abuse and neglect are easily made but much harder to defend against. People like neighbors, teachers, and even vindictive exes can make anonymous reports without any thought as to how their actions could upturn the lives of the parent against whom the accusations are made. 

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Frisco divorce attorneysCouples seeking a divorce in Texas are often so focused on making sure their assets are split evenly that they forget to consider that other things besides assets can have a major impact on their future finances. A great divorce decree will make sure that assets are not only divided fairly, but that spouses are set on an equal footing moving into the future as well. 

This is where the tax implications of divorce come into play. While you may not file your taxes for a year or more after finalizing your divorce, you can bet that your divorce will be reflected in your next filing. Avoid unpleasant surprises by asking yourself these three questions about taxes as you negotiate your Texas divorce. 

Are You Splitting Roth and Tax-Deferred Accounts? 

Roth IRAs and Roth 401(k)s do not get tax deductions when you put money into the accounts, but the contributions are not taxed upon withdrawal if the money has been in the account for at least five years and the owner is over age 59 and a half upon withdrawal. In contrast, tax-deferred accounts like 401(k)s and traditional IRAs offer tax benefits up front but can have hefty withdrawal taxes and fees later on. If you are dividing these both in your divorce, consider your future plans carefully and whether you might need liquidity anytime soon. 

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Collin County divorce lawyerParents who are divorced or who have never been married may no longer have to live together, but they will have to deal with a complex set of laws detailing their shared responsibilities toward their minor children. When both parents share custody (known as “conservatorship” in Texas) and one parent wants to move and take their child with them, the parent who wants to move cannot simply make this decision on their own. 

If you would like to relocate with your child, or if your co-parent wants to move and you object to the move, read on and then contact Frisco, TX family law attorney who can help you with your case. 

Showing the Move is In the Best Interests of the Child

The primary concern of Texas family law courts is ensuring the best interests of the child are understood and protected. Generally speaking, a child is understood to benefit most when both parents are involved in her life; to this end, when parents share conservatorship, one parent cannot move with the child without getting the consent of the other parent or the court. 

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"CollinIn some states, couples can pursue something known as a “legal separation” that allows them to address many of the issues that are normally handled in a divorce without formally finalizing a divorce. In Texas, however, there is no such thing as legal separation. Couples who no longer want to live together but do not want to officially file for divorce do not have the option to separate their property and establish child custody orders without getting divorced. If you are not sure whether you want a divorce but you no longer want to be with your spouse, speak with a Texas divorce attorney to explore your options. 

Reasons for Not Getting Divorced

Even though many couples no longer feel in love or may even struggle to be polite to each other, the thought of divorce may be unworkable. This may be for religious reasons, since some religions prohibit divorce, financial reasons, such as joint tax filing benefits, or social reasons, such as avoiding the stigma for divorce for the couple and their children. Whatever the reason, rest assured that you are perfectly normal and that many people have been in your situation before. There is no shame in discussing your situation confidentially with an attorney who can give you legal advice. 

Trial Separation

Many couples have benefitted from a trial separation in which one parent moves out on a long-term basis. While this can give a couple time apart, it does not resolve important issues like property division, alimony, or child custody. However, a separation may allow a couple to see what life is like without each other, to seek couples therapy, or take time to recover from an episode of infidelity. 

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Collin County divorce lawyerCouples in Texas and elsewhere across the United States frequently get divorced because of financial problems. Whether it is the stress of never having enough to make ends meet or the fiscal irresponsibility of one spouse that has driven the other spouse away, dealing with major financial crises during divorce is an exhausting and complicated endeavor. 

Perhaps no financial situation is more difficult than trying to manage bankruptcy during a Texas divorce. Unfortunately, sometimes divorce and bankruptcy unavoidably occur at the same time and spouses must then make difficult decisions about how to navigate their situation. 

Should We File for Bankruptcy Before Divorce? 

Bankruptcy is a federal process, meaning it takes precedence over divorce, which is a state process. When you file for bankruptcy, the bankruptcy court will put a stay on any creditor to prevent them from garnishing wages or collecting on debt. Because divorce involves issues related to a couple’s finances, such as dividing marital property and setting child support payments, a divorcing couple needs to get permission from a bankruptcy court to settle their financial affairs. It is generally difficult and impractical to try to remove a bankruptcy court’s stay so you can pursue a divorce during bankruptcy. 

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Texas child support lawyerOnce you divorce or separate from your child’s other parent, you will probably want to move on and establish a relationship with someone new. Especially for younger people, remarriages and new relationships are often accompanied by new children. While your children with a second or even third partner can be a joyful and enriching part of your life, children are expensive and this is doubly true if you get divorced or separated again and must now make more than one child support payment. 

When faced with this situation, even the most generous and responsible parents will likely have fears and anxieties about being able to afford to support their children and themselves. Worries about falling behind on child support are common, especially because unpaid child support carries serious consequences. 

What Is the Maximum Child Support Amount I Have to Pay? 

No matter how many children you are paying for, Texas law limits the monthly net income for which a parent has to pay child support. As of the writing of this blog, the child support net income cap is set at $9200 a month. Any money over that does not need to be considered for child support payments unless a child’s needs justify it. 

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Texas alimony lawyerJust a few decades ago, women getting divorced in Texas could practically be guaranteed to receive spousal maintenance (also known as alimony) from their husbands. Women working outside the home, to say nothing of pursuing high-income careers, was a relatively rare phenomenon. 

Thankfully that has changed. As women achieve ever greater strides in workplace equity, there is a flip side to being the primary breadwinner in a family that many women do not think about until divorce: Alimony payments to an ex. Texas law provides spousal maintenance in certain situations, but it says nothing about the gender of the person making payments. Under the right circumstances, women in Texas may end up paying their husbands “manimony.”

How Is Spousal Maintenance Calculated in Texas? 

Getting spousal maintenance in Texas is not as easy as it used to be. In fact, Texas divorce cases begin with the presumption that alimony is not appropriate and the spouse requesting financial support must overcome that presumption. For a court to award spousal maintenance, the spouse requesting it must meet at least one of the following circumstances: 

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Frisco divorce lawyerGetting divorced in Texas changes a lot of things about family life. During the school year, the rigid schedules of school and extracurricular activities often prevent the option of flexibility - and the potential confusion and conflict that can come along with it. But during the summer, the changes that come with a divorce can become more obvious when children are out of school and both children and parents may have more time on their hands. 

If this is your first summer after a divorce, it is important to be prepared for a potentially challenging period. Even if with the best parenting plan, issues with visitation schedules (also known as possession and access schedules) can arise. Here are some tips for Collin County parents managing their first summer break after separation or divorce. 

Maintain Consistency

While the lack of regularity in your children’s schedules may make it tempting to be lax in your parenting agreement, experts say this is not a good idea, especially if you tend to experience a lot of conflict with your spouse. Try to keep a regular schedule and avoid situations that could expose the children to conflict or uncertainty. Consider placing a calendar in a visible location in your home so your children can see upcoming visitation dates and know what to expect. 

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Texas High Asset Divorce LawyerWhen two busy, ambitious people with successful careers and substantial asset ownership get divorced in Texas, special complications can arise due to the more valuable and complex nature of the assets. High net worth individuals, typically defined as owning liquid assets worth between one and five million dollars, generally have a more difficult time negotiating issues like child support, spousal support, and property division. Here are the ways that a high net worth divorce can affect these issues. 

Child Support

Generally, child support is determined using both parents’ net resources and how much time each parent spends with the children. For high-net-worth parents, net resources will include their income after taxes as well as bonuses, income from rental properties, capital gains, dividends, gifts, and more. While there is a cap on the amount of a parent’s net resources that can be considered when setting child support payments, a child’s actual expenses can make payments higher than the typical formula might suggest. 

Spousal Support

Spousal support is common in high net worth divorces because one spouse’s income often vastly exceeds the other spouse’s income, making the lesser-earning spouse financially dependent on the other for sustaining their lifestyle. Spouses can make a contractual agreement about spousal support payments, or a court can set it for them, but spousal support is not automatic and certain eligibility requirements may need to be met in order to qualify. 

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Frisco divorce lawyerDo-it-yourself projects are all the rage right now. Whether it is updating your home, training your new puppy, or even getting divorced, Texans love doing things themselves. Online software makes it possible to get divorced without the help of an attorney for around $500, making DIY divorces appealing to many people. However, as with all DIY projects, getting divorced by yourself is not a foolproof undertaking and mistakes can end up being very costly and difficult to resolve. If you are considering divorce in Collin County, Texas, here are a couple of things to keep in mind before you choose to do it yourself. 

You Could Save Money - But You Might Not 

The most common reason people seek a DIY divorce is that the expenses associated with hiring an attorney may seem overwhelming. However, it is important to note that divorce topics that initially seem simple can become quite complicated upon further investigation. Couples often end up needing to hire their own attorney when they realize negotiating issues like asset division and child custody is more difficult than they thought. If finances are a concern in your Texas divorce, keep in mind that you can often hire an attorney to provide services as needed. That way, you can handle the parts you are comfortable with and still get knowledgeable legal help for the rest. 

Your Divorce Could Go Faster - But an Attorney Is Likely the Fastest Option

Couples seeking a DIY divorce may also believe that filling out and filing paperwork themselves will save them time. However, legal paperwork must be filled out carefully and precisely. Small mistakes can require re-writing and, if you do not live close to a courthouse, you could miss additional time at work when you have to re-submit paperwork. Courthouse clerks are not allowed to provide legal advice, so when you have questions, it can take long, complicated research to ensure you have the answers you need. Alternatively, you could hire an attorney, who has experience in these issues, can answer complex questions right away, and can fill out the paperwork while you do other things. Even if your divorce is uncontested, having an attorney to ensure your agreement is fair and and likely to be approved by a court can save you from wasted trips to a courthouse. 

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Frisco military divorce attorneyDividing personal and marital property is a difficult part of almost any Texas divorce, but the addition of military benefits adds an extra layer of complexity. Both spouses want to ensure they are protecting themselves and there is a finite amount of financial resources, so some conflict about property division is inevitable. If you or your spouse are members of the armed services of the United States and you are pursuing divorce, be sure you have a Texas divorce attorney who understands the implications of military benefits on your property settlement. 

Texas is a Community Property State

Texas encourages spouses to reach a property agreement themselves using the community property guidelines, meaning that any assets acquired during the marriage are split as close to 50/50 as possible unless there is a good reason to do otherwise. Spouses can negotiate certain assets for others as they set their own financial priorities. 

The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA) is an act of Congress that allows states to divide military benefits according to their own divorce laws. This means military benefits can be considered community property and are divisible in a divorce. However, there are some limitations. 

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Collin County domestic violence lawyerDomestic violence is a serious matter and victims are offered protection under Texas law. While it can be difficult to take a stand against your abuser, Texas offers several protective orders that are intended to keep an abuser away from a victim, his or her children, or other family members.

Restraining orders are often mixed up with protective orders, and it is important to note that restraining orders only require one party not to contact the other. Protective orders, on the other hand, are more comprehensive and can require an abuser to stop engaging in abuse, threats, or stalking. Here is an overview of the protective orders available to Texans. If you or someone you love is suffering from domestic violence, consider getting the help of a Texas family law attorney right away. 

Order of Emergency Protection

Given in the most serious situations, a magistrate in a criminal court can approve an order of emergency protection when a victim of domestic violence, an arresting officer, a guardian, or a prosecutor requests it. Orders of emergency protection are issued after an alleged abuser commits sexual assault or other sexual abuse, human trafficking, indecent exposure, or stalking and has been arrested. 

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Frisco child custody attorneyAs marijuana use becomes more acceptable all over the U.S., it has increasingly become legal for recreational purposes in many states around Texas. This has made marijuana easy and inexpensive to get, and many parents may use marijuana without thinking twice about potential consequences for a child custody case. 

Unfortunately for Texans who enjoy THC, recreational marijuana is still illegal. If you are getting divorced or are trying to get custody of your children, using marijuana - even when you are not around them - can negatively impact your case. 

Marijuana and Texas Family Courts

When Texas judges are making decisions about which parent will have conservatorship of or possession and access to a child, they will consider the child’s best interests first and foremost. If a parent is using marijuana illegally, this could easily reflect poorly on a court’s perception of that parent. Even if a parent is using medical marijuana, allegations that marijuana or any other substance is used unsafely or irresponsible could negatively impact a judge’s willingness to see a child spend significant time with that parent. 

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Collin County child custody attorney Divorces with minor children and custody disputes in Texas can be emotionally charged and hard to resolve. Parents with the best intentions often find themselves locked in disagreement or vengefulness, and the best interests of a child may end up getting overlooked. 

In cases involving minor children, Texas courts may appoint a person called a “guardian ad litem.” While this may seem like a fancy Latin name, a guardian ad litem is simply a person who is in charge of finding out what would be in a child’s best interests. In this blog, we will discuss what a guardian ad litem is and what she does in a Texas divorce or custody dispute. 

What is a Guardian ad Litem? 

A guardian ad litem is an agent of a Texas family court. Her job is to act as a representative for a child and speak for the child’s interests when necessary. Guardians ad litem are often appointed in complex cases in which it may be difficult for a judge to determine a child’s best interests. Guardians ad litem are only involved during the court case and do not continue to represent a child forever. One parent or both parents may be ordered to pay for the cost of the guardian ad litem in their case. 

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shutterstock_556197010.jpgDuring the divorce process, a couple will need to divide multiple different types of marital property. In addition to physical property, spouses will also need to address ownership of financial accounts and other complex assets, including retirement accounts or pensions. When dividing retirement assets, spouses should use a qualified domestic relations order, or QDRO. Understanding the purpose of these types of orders and the benefits they provide will ensure that spouses can protect their financial interests during the divorce process and in the years to come.

Dividing Funds in Retirement Accounts

For employer-sponsored retirement accounts such as 401Ks, a person will have a certain amount deducted from their income before paying taxes. The money saved, which will grow through investments made by the plan holder, will usually remain in an account until a person reaches retirement age, and they will pay taxes when the funds are withdrawn. 

During their divorce, a couple may agree that some of the funds in a retirement account in one spouse’s name will be withdrawn and transferred to the other spouse. However, simply withdrawing the amount will result in penalties if the account holder has not yet reached retirement age, and taxes will apply to the withdrawal. To avoid this, the court may issue a QDRO that will specify the amount that should be withdrawn and transferred to the other spouse. When a QDRO is provided to the plan holder, penalties and taxes will not apply to withdrawals, and the other spouse can roll the funds over to their own account.

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shutterstock_1069590962.jpgMany spouses considering divorce have concerns about the financial ramifications of the split. Divorce can be costly, and divorce expenses can grow even more if you make financial mistakes along the way. Knowledge is power, and thankfully, when you know what to look out for, you can minimize the amount of money you spend in the process of getting a divorce

Not Realizing That Marital Debt Becomes a Shared Responsibility 

Many couples carry the weight of debt together. In many cases, two partners will come to an understanding about who is responsible for what percentage of the marital debt. However, when spouses decide to get a divorce, casual agreements do not always apply in the eyes of the law. 

For instance, imagine that you and your partner verbally agreed that you are responsible for 20% of the debt and your spouse will take care of the 80% remaining. Unfortunately, this type of agreement is not enforceable by the court. If your spouse fails to hold up his or her end of the bargain, creditors may come after you for payment. Paying off debt before the divorce is finalized can help mitigate this financial stressor.  

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denton asset division lawyerWhen a couple chooses to end their marriage and get a divorce, disputes related to property division can become complex and contentious. Spouses will be required to divide all of their marital assets and debts, and disagreements about how to do so can be difficult to resolve. However, matters can become even more complicated if one spouse is accused of hiding assets in an attempt to avoid sharing them with the other spouse. In Texas, this is known as “fraud on the community,” and a spouse who is accused of committing this form of fraud may face consequences.

Addressing Issues Related to Hidden Assets

Community property consists of all assets and debts that a couple acquired during their marriage. This property must be divided between the spouses in a manner that is fair, ensuring that each party will have the necessary financial resources going forward. However, there are a variety of ways that a spouse may attempt to conceal assets in hopes that they will not have to share them with the other spouse. Methods of doing so may include:

  • Physically hiding money or property - A spouse may conceal cash in certain locations, such as a safe in their home, a safety deposit box at a bank, or other hiding spots. They may also use marital funds to purchase valuable items such as artwork or jewelry and then undervalue these items during the divorce process.

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frisco paternity lawyerEvery child has two biological parents. However, there are some situations where a person may not be recognized as a child’s legal parent, and in these cases, paternity may need to be established through the legal system. Doing so will protect the rights of the parent and the child. Both parents will be able to maintain a relationship with their child and be involved in raising them, and the child will have the right to receive child support to ensure that their needs will be met. Paternity can also provide other benefits, such as making sure a child has access to family medical history and giving a child the right to receive an inheritance from their parent or qualify for certain types of benefits, such as Social Security. Parents will want to understand the procedures that can be followed to legally establish paternity.

Acknowledgment of Paternity and Court-Ordered Paternity

It is usually unnecessary to establish paternity when parents are married, since a mother’s spouse is presumed to be a child’s legal parent. In addition, a person will be presumed to be a child’s parent if they were formerly married to the child’s mother, and the child was born within 300 days after the couple’s marriage ended, including through a divorce, annulment, or death. A presumption of paternity will also apply if a person lived in the same home as the child during the first two years after the child was born and told others that they were the child’s parent.

In situations that do not meet the criteria described above, parents will need to take additional steps to establish paternity. The simplest and easiest way to do so is through an acknowledgment of paternity (AOP). This is a legal document that both parents will complete and sign. If necessary, an AOP may state that the child’s presumed father is not the biological father. In these cases, the presumed father will also need to file a denial of paternity.

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Tips for Co-Parenting After Divorce

Posted on in Child Custody

Frisco child custody lawyerWhen a couple with children goes through a divorce, in most cases, they still must have some kind of relationship with each other as they co-parent their children together. Some parents are able to develop a routine that works for their family with little or no conflict at all. Unfortunately, many other parents experience difficulties as they try to work through residual acrimony left over from the divorce that often spills over into their co-parenting relationship.

Having a solid parenting pan in place can help reduce these conflicts and make everyone’s lives – especially the children’s – so much less stressful. The following are some co-parenting tips that can also be helpful.

Promote Consistency

Although you and your ex-spouse are no longer married and parenting under the same roof, you both need to remain on the same page when it comes to how you deal with your children. Although not all rules will be the same at both parents’ homes, having consistency in bedtimes, activities, and allowed behaviors goes a long way in helping children adjust to their new life of having two homes and two routines.

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