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

McKinney Texas Family Law Blog

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.

When Does My Child Support Obligation End in Texas?

If you are contemplating a divorce and already have children together, you may be wondering when your child support obligation ends in Texas. In most cases the law requires you to pay child support until the child is considered an adult. A child is considered an adult when the child turns 18 of age or graduates from high school, whichever comes last. Though it may not seem like it, especially with the boomerang generation, 18 signals adulthood in Texas.In a divorce case, a family court will determine the amount of child support the non-custodial parent must pay the custodial parent. Sometimes these payments need to be modified for a variety of reasons but to be enforceable this modification must be reflected in a court order. Verbal agreement is not the correct way to modify a child support payment. Informal agreements often lead to argument and eventually possible repercussions from law enforcement.

What is the SDU (State Disbursement Unit) and what does it do for me?

Raising children is difficult. Having the means to provide for them is an important aspect of the job. The Texas Family Code orders that all child support payments must go through the Texas SDU (State Disbursement Unit), and they disperse them. What can the SDU (State Disbursement Unit) do for you? Whether you are receiving the child support or providing child support, the unit can prove beneficial for both parents.The SDU (State Disbursement Unit) is responsible for processing child support payments. SDU (State Disbursement Unit) was established by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 to help establish a central place where child support payments are processed. This has increased the accuracy of keeping track of payments and custodial parents getting their payments faster and more efficiently. The Texas legislature made it a policy of Texas to enforce child support orders to make sure the children of Texas are cared for. If parents aren't taking care of their children, then the state of Texas must go through the state welfare programs. In most cases, it is the non-custodial parent that pays child support. Generally, this is the parent the child doesn't live with and spends less time with. The amount of child support that the non-custodial parent pays depends on several factors, including their income and how many children they support. Wage withholding is written in the divorce decree. This means the SDU collects child support payments directly from the employer.  The wages are taken out of the payor's paycheck and sent to the SDU (State Disbursement Unit) for payment to the custodial parent. This third party collection helps to alleviate problems between the obligor and obligee in regards to giving or receiving payment. Many people do not work for a company and are self-employed.  Even in this situation, it is still a good idea to go through the SDU to keep a record of payment. The SDU (State Disbursement Unit) offers  many ways for an obligor parent to pay the custodial parent. You can mail a payment, pay at the office, online or by phone. You can pay by cash, credit card or bank draft. Another great benefit of the SDU is it leaves a paper payment trail. That way what was paid and when is clear to both parties to help avoid unnecessary conflict. It is important to retain a family law lawyer that knows how to handle child support issues. A family lawyer can make sure your children receive the financial support they deserve. Puhl Law Group, P.C. has the experience you need. Please call to schedule an appointment today.

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