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Austin Texas Family Law Blog

What factors may affect community property divison?

Dividing up marital property in a community property state can be trickier than you might expect. Only a small handful of states, including Texas, use community property guidelines to determine property division, and if you choose to divorce here, your property division must comply.

Under community property guidelines, marital property is mostly split right down the middle. However, some circumstances may compel a judge to order that one spouse or the other take a greater or lesser portion of marital assets. Some of the factors that may influence how a judge weighs in on property division may include

  • Differences in the earning capacity of spouses
  • The physical condition of a spouse who requires special medical help to manage a condition
  • Differences in age between spouses, where one spouse has much less earning potential left in his or her career
  • Custody of children, especially as it pertains to one spouse keeping a marital home
  • Marital failures, such as cruelty within the marriage or adultery

Have you and your future spouse talked about money?

One of the greatest advantages of creating a prenuptial agreement with your spouse-to-be resides not in the actual terms you reach in the agreement, but in the process you and your spouse must walk through to create a truly strong agreement together. Prenuptial agreements are useful to many different couples for a variety of reasons, but the ancillary benefits to your relationship can be among the best aspects of the process.

In order to create a strong agreement that is likely to stand up in court, it is important for both you and your future spouse to fully disclose your financial lives to each other. This is discussed as "full and fair disclosure." The purpose of this is ensure that each party fully understands the scope of the agreement and the terms which they are crafting together. If one or the other party chooses not to fully disclose some aspect of his or her financial life in the process of creating a prenuptial agreement, the agreement itself may not stand up to scrutiny in court.

Do you know where your children are during a shared custody?

After you and your child's other parent arrive at a custody agreement, you might think that the difficult part is over. However, for many parents, the conflicts are only just beginning. Often, two parents use very different parenting styles, and often this means that one parent is less concerned with following the specifics of a custody agreement than the other. Conflicts can arise if one parent does not always inform the other where the children are if they choose to leave their daily routines. This is, understandably, a source of great frustration for many parents throughout the country.

If, for instance, your child's other parent has them for a week or two during the summer, they may decide to take a spur-of-the-moment vacation. You may think that this is a breach of your custody order, but it may not be, technically speaking. You must examine the specific wording of the order to see if both parents must inform the other of the whereabouts of the children in any given circumstance.

What could cause me to lose custody of my child?

Many parents wage a hard-fought war over child custody, and this conflict has many opportunities to continue well after a court hands down a custody order. Even if you obtain full or partial custody of your child after a divorce or separation from the child's other parent, there are still many things that threaten that custody. Be sure that you understand some of the behavior that may cause you to lose custody of the child you love.

While it may seem obvious, it bears repeating that courts do not generally prefer to leave a child in the custody of a parent who abuses or neglects that child. Many professions, such as medical care providers, are mandatory reporters, which means that they must report to authorities if they suspect a child is suffering from abuse or neglect. In these instances, you may not even see the revocation of your custody coming.

Who keeps the house in a divorce?

Divorces come in many shapes and sizes, varying greatly depending on the length of the relationship, the state where a couple resides, the assets the couple owns, and whether or not there are children in the marriage, among other things. Even in best-case scenarios, divorces are usually more complicated than the individuals seeking them might realize, and there are many potential setbacks on the road to finalizing the the dissolution of a marriage.

In almost all cases, it is wise to seek out the guidance of an experienced family law attorney who can help you and your spouse understand exactly what the divorce process looks like and how to properly prepare. Even if you fear that it is not possible to keep your divorce calm and professional, an experienced attorney can help maintain a professional approach and keep things civil.

What if my child's other parent ignores our joint legal custody?

Sharing legal custody of a child between two parents is often a complicated and difficult experience. In many instances, one parent may use this situation to punish the other parent for personal conflicts, or simply choose to be unreasonable when it comes to compromising on child rearing issues where both parents do not agree.

Many parents who share legal custody find that it is tempting to make decisions about the child's upbringing without consulting the other parent, but this is not a wise course of action.

Protect your marriage from money conflcts

Prenuptial agreements are not only useful in the event of a marriage falling apart, they can be exceptionally helpful for couples who come to the relationship with differing understandings of personal financial responsibility. In this way, a well-crafted prenuptial agreement can help two individuals create boundaries for each other so that the money-related disagreements that destroy many marriages never have to become an issue.

Such an agreement could be useful if one partner comes to the marriage with a great deal of personal debt or a poor record of paying bills in a timely manner. Finding a way to get on the same page about money matters is exceptionally important in a marriage, because the financial decisions of one partner often become the burden of the other.

What records should I keep if I pay alimony?

If you are living with alimony payments, you owe it to yourself to maintain detailed, accurate records about all the alimony you pay. Depending on the nature of your alimony agreement, you can probably deduct those payments come tax time, when this documentation becomes exceptionally useful. Documentation can also help clarify the situation if you and the recipient of the alimony have a disagreement about your payments.

The most basic type of records you should keep in this area are the details of each payment that you make, when you made it, where it was sent, the check number and a copy of the cashed check if you can get it. The more you document about your alimony, the more protection or validation you will have if an issue arises.

New law grants privileges to faith-based adoption agencies

Despite objections from non-faith-based adoption agencies and other non-faith-based organizations, Texas recently passed a law granting faith-based adoption organizations the right to follow their "sincerely held beliefs" in the policies that dictate how they conduct their services. While it is still unclear how far reaching the law will intimately be, the flexibility it allows faith-based adoption organizations is fairly broad.

This presents a number of troublesome possible legal conflicts for many prospective parents. Under the new law, an agency can refuse to place a child with a particular family for a wide variety of reasons. For instance, some agencies insist that families who apply through them for adoption must be church members and attend church services on a weekly basis, or may refuse to place a child with a same-sex couple (in this case, however, the organization is required to refer the prospective parent or parents to an organization that will work with them).

Prenuptial agreements and outside parties

Even a well-constructed prenuptial agreement may not be legally binding in some cases, such as if the contents of the agreement exceed the boundaries of what a court wishes to enforce. This is especially true if the agreement contains language that affects individuals who are personally party to the agreement. In many cases, this involves the rights or privileges of children, or of employees of the couple.

Let's say you and your spouse have a housekeeper you both care for greatly. In the prenuptial agreement, you and your spouse outlines who might get to retain the housekeeper's services in the event of a divorce. While it is certainly wise to create an agreement with a wide scope, you cannot expect a court to uphold this agreement if it places an unfair burden on the housekeeper. The housekeeper is not your property, and he or she has the right to choose for him or herself which spouse he or she may wish to work for, if either.