Articles Posted in Divorce

Can I Make a Marital Property Agreement?

There has been a lot of discussion about pre-marital agreements in media and it is something most people are probably somewhat aware of. Follow this link: Premarital Agreements in Texas for more information on premarital agreements. So, what about after you are married, are you stuck with all of your property acquired after marriage becoming community property if you didn’t execute a pre-marital agreement? Of course not! I probably wouldn’t have dedicated an entire blog post to this subject if that was the case.

Why Does it Matter?

There are lots of things associated with Super Bowl Sunday. Snack food and memorable commercials are two that come to mind. Some other things associated with Super Bowl Sunday might not be such a good idea when it comes to your case that involves family law. This blog is going to discuss five of those things that you may want to keep in mind on Super Bowl Sunday.

  1. Lay off the obnoxious posts on social media. You may think you’re being funny by posting a mildly offensive meme about Tom Brady this Sunday, but as the saying goes, treat everything you put in writing as if it is going to be read aloud in open court. Your best option is to avoid posting at all in order to prevent anything being used against you in your family law case. If you must post, keep it positive and definitely don’t post any pictures that involve alcohol or drugs.
  2. Don’t drink around your kids. Many allegations get thrown around when parents are fighting over their children. One of the more common ones involve accusations of drinking or even doing drugs around kids. This can really hurt your case. Don’t give the other side any more mud to sling at you just because you wanted to let loose on Super Bowl Sunday. Also, it should go without saying, but never drink and drive.

Taking the time to decide what changes will need to be made because of the realities of the divorce is an important step in the divorce process. Many people enter into divorce without taking into consideration the changes that are going to need to be made after the divorce and without having a realistic idea of how much divorce costs. This blog post is going to address 5 financial issues that that should be considered when planning for your divorce.

  1. Where are you going to get your insurance from? One of the largest costs in most people’s budgets is the cost of insurance and healthcare. While people are married the cost of insurance may be coming from one employer and if you are planning on divorcing it is important to factor in how you will be covered for insurance after the divorce.
  2. How much is the divorce going to cost? Consulting with an attorney when contemplating divorce can be helpful in gauging how much money is going to be spent on the actual divorce and how that is going to impact your bottom-line for your divorce year. Costs of attorney’s fees can add up quickly in a divorce and it is important to factor them into your planning for your divorce. Attorneys can explain how much money will be spent on getting the divorce process started and the possible ways that the costs of divorce can be covered and how they may be changed throughout the process.

What is a Mediated Settlement Agreement?

If you reach an agreement in a mediation, more precisely called a Mediated settlement agreement or MSA for short, the agreement is binding on you and all other parties you are agreeing with in a family law case as long as the MSA is drafted in the way that is required under the Texas Family Code. The agreement must be the result of a mediation, hence the name, which is basically just the meeting of both parties with a neutral third person facilitating the conversation so that the parties can come to an agreement. Texas law encourages mediation as a cost-efficient and time-efficient way of settling disputes. One of the benefits of mediation is that instead of a judge who has only a glimpse into the lives of parties based on evidence presented to him or her, during a mediation the parties who know their situation and family the best get to come to an agreement that works for them and is custom to their situation.

One downside to a mediation could be that as opposed to a judge who should know what the consequences of their decision could potentially be, parties could be making agreements in a mediated settlement agreement using language that will have consequences after the agreement is entered that they did not intend. One of the reasons that we trust judges to make decisions for us in legal matters is that in general they have years of experience dealing with similar matters and they should understand what all of the legal jargon that goes into an order actually means.

Why is everyone talking about fault and no-fault divorce lately?

Fault divorces have been in the news lately in Texas because Representative Matt Krause from Fort Worth authored a bill that would get rid of so-called “no-fault” divorces in Texas. Right now, all fifty states allow for a no-fault divorce. Currently under the Texas Family Code a Judge can grant a divorce based on either “fault” or “no-fault” grounds. This fault or no-fault option is something that only 17 states and the District of Columbia currently allow. “No-fault” is known by family law attorneys as insupportability, basically there is no proof required to obtain a divorce based on the ground of insupportability. Section 6.001 of the family code simply states, “[o]n the petition of either party to a marriage, the court may grant a divorce without regard to fault if the marriage has become insupportable because of discord or conflict of personalities that destroys the legitimate ends of the marital relationship and prevents any reasonable expectation of reconciliation.” Most family law attorneys say the majority of divorces that they file are based on insupportability because it speeds up the process and reduces the stress related to divorce for many parties.

According to Representative Krause, the bill in its current draft would not actually get rid of all no-fault divorces. The bill in its current form would only apply to divorces with children or “unilateral” divorces. Basically, if there are no children of the parties seeking the divorce and both parties agree that they want to get divorced this bill would not apply and the ground of insupportability would still be available to obtain a divorce. The idea behind this according to proponents of the bill is to promote stability for children and prevent quick acting divorces. Opponents of the bill worry that this bill would increase the cost of divorce and lead to an increase in domestic violence as a result of parties being unable to easily obtain a divorce.

Aren’t half of marriages going to end in divorce no matter what?

Sort of. It is true that about 40 to 50 percent of marriages in America end in divorce. With numbers that high, some might assume that divorce is almost inevitable in most marriages. But research indicates that there are certain things that successful couples are doing to keep their marriages successful while there are things that couples who end up divorcing are doing that make divorce almost certain. Understandably, most of our clients are past the point of looking for ways to save their marriage, but hopefully some of the people who are seeking out this divorce blog may be able to use the research to make positive changes in their marriages and avoid the costly and stressful process that is divorce.

What does the research show about divorce?

Can I appeal my divorce while still accepting benefits from the parts of the judgment that work in my favor?

As with most questions asked about the law, the answer to whether you can appeal a part of your divorce while accepting benefits from the parts of the divorce you do like is, it depends.  More accurately, the answer is, probably not. This is because of a legal concept called estoppel.

What is estoppel?

When the judge signs your divorce decree you and your ex must abide by the terms of the decree from that moment. If you or your ex does not comply with the terms you can be held in Constructive Contempt. Constructive Contempt is a type of contempt that is used to enforce the court’s order making the party perform an act that he or she has failed to do. Contempt is either civil contempt or criminal contempt and the court can either impose a fine, imprisonment, or both in any case. For civil contempt, the court will try to persuade your ex to abide by the order, for criminal, the court is invoking punishment for an act your ex may have completed that offended the court.

Once your ex has failed to comply with the divorce decree or custody order, you and your lawyer will need to make sure and do several things before the court will seek compliance from your ex.

Plead a proper contempt

A trial court has plenary jurisdiction (complete control) over a case for 30 days after the judge signs the final judgment in a divorce decree. During those 30 days, one of the parties may file a motion for a new trial or a motion to modify, correct, or reform a judgment. That is, either party can file a motion to have the divorce re-tried before a court or if a party is not satisfied with the final judgment given by the court, then the party can file to have it changed. But, each party only has 30 days from when the judge signs the final divorce decree to do so. Rule 329b(c) requires that these motions be in writing and signed by the court for them to be enforceable. Parties cannot give their consent to allow the court to have more control than what it specified in the rule.

Take, for example, the Dallas Fifth District Court of Appeals Case, In the Interest of M.A.C. and M.T.C. Here a Final Decree of Divorce was rendered on August 28, 2013. The Mother filed motions for a new trial and a motion to modify, reform, and correct the judgment on September 6, 2013, well within the 30 days set out in the rule, but the record did not contain a written and signed order from the trial court on either motion. Because there was no written and signed order, both motions were overruled by law on November 11, 2013. But, the record in the case contained a “First Amended Decree of Divorce” signed on January 22, 2014. Thus, the father here filed a motion for a new trial January 27, 2014 were he argued that the trial court’s plenary power had already expired when the First Amended Decree was signed.

The two motions the mother filed were overruled by law November 11, 2013, seventy-five days after the final divorce decree was signed. When she filed the motions, the court retained control over the matter for 30 days after the law overruled the motions. Therefore, the court here had control over this case until December 11, 2013, one hundred and five days after the Final Divorce Decree judgment was signed. The First Amended Decree signed on January 22, 2014 was void because the court no longer had jurisdiction or plenary power over the matter.

How do I prove that I am in a common law marriage?

Texas is a state that recognizes common law/informal marriages but certain elements must be met to prove that a common law marriage between a man and woman exists. Section 2.4019(a)(2) of the Texas Family Code establishes these elements. If a person wants to prove that an informal marriage existed, he or she must be able to prove each of the following. First, it must be established that both persons have made an agreement to be married. After this agreement has been made, during the time that the informal marriage is alleged, both persons must live together in Texas, as husband and wife. While living together it must also be shown that both persons represented to others in the community that they are husband and wife.

In a Texas First District Court of Appeals case, Miller v. Prince, Miller was unable to establish that she and Prince had a common law marriage because she did not live with Prince during the relevant times of the alleged common law marriage. During the course of the relationship, Miller moved to California and then returned to Texas in 1994. When Miller returned to Texas in 1994, she did not live with Prince and therefore was unable to meet that element needed for a common law marriage to be established. A person must be able to prove all of the listed elements when trying to establish a common law marriage. Because Miller and Prince did not live together at the relevant times the court found there to be no common law marriage. Even if Miller had been able to offer some proof to the other elements of common law marriage, it still would not have been granted because all criteria must be met.