< McKinney Texas Family Law Blog | Puhl Law Group, PC

McKinney Texas Family Law Blog

What are my options for spousal maintenance?

At the end of a marriage, you and your spouse have the opportunity to decide on the details of the settlement. Of course, the two of you may have differing ideas on how to divide assets between the two of you and the amount of any support payments. Luckily, if the two of you can't agree, the state of Texas has laws to guide divorces in the state, and a judge can help you settle your differences in court.

One area often covered during a divorce is the concept of alimony or spousal support. If one spouse did not work, or made a significantly lesser income, he or she may receive support payments in the immediate aftermath of the divorce until he or she can gain more financial stability. This is especially true when the marriage was long, or one spouse was disproportionately responsible for the household maintenance. A spouse who was a high-earner with many assets may expect to discuss alimony during divorce proceedings.

Are there any drawbacks to drafting a prenuptial agreement?

Preparing to marry is an exciting time, but Texas couples would be wise to think beyond just the day of the wedding. There are many things that a couple can do to prepare for the future beyond the big day, and one of those things is to draft a prenuptial agreement.

Many people think that these types of legal contracts are only for the wealthy and the famous, but in reality, they can offer many practical benefits to people of all income levels. While there are many positive aspects to this step, it is helpful to consider exactly what you can accomplish with this type of legal contract and what you cannot do.

Mediation can help to take the tug of war out of divorce

You and your spouse realize that you cannot reconcile your differences. As a result, you decide to get divorced. However, the thought of playing tug of war with your soon-to-be ex is not exactly appealing. After all, getting a divorce is far from fun and games.

Fortunately, your divorce does not have to be an animosity-filled competition in Texas. Instead, you could work together to achieve a mutually beneficial result -- without further court intrusion. One route for pursuing this is divorce mediation, which offers numerous potential benefits. 

Protecting yourself from your future spouse's debt

You and your fiancé probably spend a lot of time doing fun things together. Perhaps you like to try new restaurants, go to concerts and even take romantic vacations together. You may also be planning an elaborate wedding that is sure to leave a dent in your budget.

One thing you may be noticing is that your beloved pays for many of these extravagances with a credit card. In fact, if you have seen the bill for these charges, you may also notice that your fiancé is not making much headway in paying it down. Now you may be wondering if that credit card debt is just the tip of the iceberg of the financial issues you may face when you are married. Is there any way to protect yourself from the risk?

How to 'do divorce' with kids

As a busy Texas parent, you likely spend a lot of time shuttling your kids to and from school events, sports activities and social engagements. In fact, perhaps you have described yourself like others in the past by saying you feel more like a personal chauffeur than a parent. Driving here or there (and everywhere!) seems to be par for the course of modern day family life. That's why when you told your children you were getting divorced, you worried how they'd handle the added stress.

Before you mentioned your plans, you determined in your mind to reach out for support from others who have trod the path before you to seek ideas as to how you might help your kids come to terms with the changes your divorce will affect in their lives. Sometimes, just talking to a friend who has been there is enough; however, if a more serious issue arises, such as a legal disagreement with your former spouse, it may be best to seek experienced guidance before things get out of hand.

A prenuptial agreement may be in your best interests

It is likely that you have witnessed people you know and love going through a divorce. Perhaps your own parents, friends or your business partner had to put life on hold while he or she sorted out property rights and divided assets. The lucky ones walked away with a satisfying settlement, but many probably spent months or years trying to rebuild their financial lives.

You don't want to go through that. In fact, you may have delayed marriage in the first place because of your fear of the messiness of a divorce. However, you may be interested to know that you can marry the love of your life and still protect yourself from much of the financial conflict of a potential divorce by drafting a prenuptial agreement.

Parenting Coordinator vs Parenting Facilitator. What is the Difference?

Have you experienced co-parenting conflicts and struggles due to poor communication during or after a divorce? If you have you might want to ask your family lawyer about utilizing a parenting coordinator or parenting facilitator. What is the difference in a parenting coordinator vs a parenting facilitator? When families are going through a difficult or contentious divorce sometimes a third party appointed by the court can help them settle their differences over parental arrangements. Sometimes the court will order the help of a parenting coordinator or parenting facilitator. The court would hold a hearing to decide if the case is high-conflict and in need of one, supported by good cause and the best interest of the child. In Texas, parenting coordinators and parenting facilitators are defined as, "An impartial third party appointed by the court, or by mediated agreement, to assist parents in resolving issues relating to parenting and other family issues arising from an order in a suit affecting the parent-child relationship." Parenting coordinators and facilitators are there to help resolve parenting conflicts. They cannot change a court order. But they can help parents come to a resolution on differences of opinions on raising their kids. For example, they can help parents work out hot-button issues like how much time the kids should be spending on homework. They could help the family come to an agreement on which extracurricular activities the kids should be involved in. And they could help parents agree on who are the approved caretakers of the child and who is not allowed to watch the child.

Benefits of Establishing Paternity for Unmarried Parents

According to the Center for Public Policy Priorities, 42% of single-mother families live in poverty; twice the rate of single-father families in Texas. Having a baby brings joy and new responsibilities for a family. If you happen to be having a baby but are not married to the father it can also deliver added stress, both mentally and financially. When parents aren't married, the law does not automatically recognize the biological father as a legal parent. Paternity must be established. Establishing paternity is determining a child's "legal" father and all the rights and obligations that go along with being a legal father. Why is it important to establish paternity? If you have a baby and are not married to the father, establishing paternity creates rights for both parents and the child.

When Is a Child Allowed to Testify in Court and When Is it Appropriate?

A divorce case that goes to court can be hard for every member of the family, especially the children. When is it appropriate for a child to testify in court?  In Texas, though there is no specific age at which a child can testify.  There are both legal and practical considerations to consider when determining whether it is appropriate to do so. The initial legal test is for the judge to determine is whether the child is "competent" to testify. This means essentially that the child must understand the difference between the truth and a lie, and must understand the moral responsibility of failing to tell the truth. According to Rule 601(a) of the Texas Rules of Evidence in regards to children being on the witness stand, children "who appear not to possess sufficient intellect to relate transactions with respect to which they are interrogated," are considered incompetent. Even if a child is competent to testify, children rarely testify at custody hearings. However, sometimes the child can speak privately to the judge. The Texas Family Code Sec. 153.009(a) requires a judge in a non-jury trial or hearing to interview in chambers a child 12 years of age or older to determine the child's wishes as to conservatorship or as to the person who shall have the exclusive right to determine the child's primary residence.  However, it is absolutely wrong to assume or tell a child that they get to decide where he or she will live once they turn 12 years old. Once your child turns 18 and is a legal adult, then a custody order does not apply and they can decide where to live. The closer your child gets to age 18, the more he or she has a say. It is generally up to the judge to decide whether or not to permit the attorneys to be present at the interview. If either party requests, the judge must have a court reporter in the judge's office to record the interview with the child. The parents are not allowed in the judge's office during the interview. The judge does not have to follow the child's wishes. Although a judge might listen to a child's wishes regarding custody he or she can decide not to do so because it is not in the child's best interests to live primarily with that parent.  Most judges will want to know why a child is selecting one parent over the other. Some kids want to live in the house with no rules and no chores.  The Judge must determine, based on the age, knowledge, maturity, intelligence and reasoning abilities of the child what weight to give to the child's preference. Aside from the legal authority to do so there are also practical considerations for the parent before deciding whether to have the child testify.  The ramifications of this decision may very well have negative implications for the child.  Careful consideration should be made before asking a child to choose between parents.  Just because you can doesn't mean you should.  

Claiming and Protecting Dependency Exemption for a Non-Custodial Parent

A parent is entitled to claim a dependency exemption for each child they support. A dependency exemption works just like a tax deduction.  It reduces taxable income resulting in the taxpayer paying less income tax. The exemption amount is adjusted each year for inflation. For tax year 2017 and 2016, the exemption amount is $4,050 subject to a phase-out for high income taxpayers.

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