Barker Law Firm, PC
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Texas Family Law Blog

Don't lose your child visitation rights

Your ability to spend time with your children is the most precious thing you have. However, even though your kids are your own flesh and blood, it's still possible to lose your right to spend time with them. In fact, it's not uncommon for a Texas parent to be stripped of his or her parental rights and to no longer be able to spend an unfettered day, enjoying different activities with his or her children.

Situations like this -- in which a Texas parent loses child visitation rights -- might happen when the custodial parent successfully challenges the noncustodial parents status as a parent. This might happen in a contested stepparent adoption. The stepparent wants to adopt your child, you say no, and then your ex-spouse files a lawsuit to try and prove your lack of fitness to serve as a parent.

New tax rules for alimony: Who's getting the better deal?

The media has given a lot of attention and speculation to the new alimony tax rules that came along with the tax reforms recently passed by Congress. According to the "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act," for divorces finalized after year-end 2018, recipients of alimony will no longer have to report their alimony payments as income, and they will no longer have to pay taxes on it. Meanwhile, the payers of alimony will no longer be able to deduct the payments from their income each year.

This has lead to a host of criticisms of the new tax bill. Some commentators are saying that the tax bill will destroy a bargaining chip that divorce lawyers commonly used to settle alimony issues.

When talking to kids about divorce, make sure they know this

There is one conversation that ever divorcing parent dreads, and it involves telling your kids about the divorce. This is never easy, but if you do it the right way, you can -- at the very least -- make the process easier on your kids.

A successful divorce conversation requires parents to deliver some specific and positive messages to their children. It also requires follow-up. Be sure to constantly convey these messages to your kids again and again before, during and after your breakup:

  • Mom and dad have tried for a long time to make it work, and after a long time, we've finally come to this decision.
  • The decision to divorce doesn't have anything to do with the kids. It's an adult decision, and the children couldn't have done anything "better," nor could they have "behaved better" in order to prevent the divorce.
  • Neither Mom nor Dad have blamed one another for this. The children can keep loving the other parent without worrying that they have betrayed or been disloyal to the other parent. There is no blame in this divorce.
  • It's normal if you feel angry, sad, worried or curious about what your future will look like.
  • We continue to be a family. It's just that our family is beginning to change. Mom and dad will be living separately, but you will still see both parents on a regular basis.

What are the rules for divorce in Texas?

Every state has specific laws that change regarding marriage and divorce, and the state of Texas is no different. As such, if you're planning to separate from your spouse or get a divorce in our state, you'll want to prepare by understanding our state-specific laws.

Here are a few things you'll want to familiarize yourself with in this regard:

  • Residency: In order for a Texas family court to have jurisdiction over your divorce, at least one of the parties in your divorce needs to have lived in the state for the last six months, and needs to have been the resident of a specific county for the last 90 days.
  • Waiting time: Every divorce is subject to a waiting period. In other words, your divorce will not be finalized until at least 60 days has passed since the initial filing. Furthermore, you can't remarry prior to the 31st day after your divorce decree was signed. However, this 31-day waiting period can be waived if the court agrees.
  • Grounds for divorce: In order to divorce without fault, the couples need to have been separated for at least three years, or the marriage needs to be insupportable as a result of discord. In other cases, violence, cruelty, abandonment for a year, adultery, insanity for three years, felony conviction and imprisonment (with some limitations) are also grounds for divorce.

7 things to do before your divorce

If you've decided to get a divorce, there are a few things you should do before you set the wheels in motion on your proceedings. The list that follows is by no means complete -- and you may want to consider what you should do individually -- but this pre-divorce checklist will help you get started on the right track with your divorce planning.

Here's what you should do to prepare for your divorce at a bare minimum:

  • Update your living revocable trust and/or update your will: Take your partner's name off of these documents as a beneficiary. Take your partner's name off of these documents as a personal representative. Also, take your partner's children's names off these documents so they're no longer beneficiaries of your estate.
  • Draft and sign a durable power of attorney: You'll need a new DPA that doesn't have your partner listed as your agent.
  • Create a health care surrogate and living will: You'll need to draft and sign a health care surrogate that doesn't list your partner as your agent.
  • Check beneficiary designations: Check your life insurance policies and your financial accounts -- including bank accounts and investment accounts -- to ensure that your partner is not listed as a beneficiary. This is essential.
  • Update your irrevocable trusts: These documents will require professional attention to ensure that the interests of your partner and his or her children are completely terminated.

Is it time for me to get a divorce?

The decision to separate from one's spouse isn't an easy one to make. What will follow will inevitably be life-changing, especially if children are involved. For this reason, spouses who are considering the end of their marriages may wish to ask themselves several important questions before calling an attorney and/or divorce mediator.

Have you tried everything?

Can I hide my divorce proceedings from public view?

A large number of divorce proceedings happen in secret in Tarrant County, Texas. These are mainly divorce proceedings that relate to high-profile individuals, who are rich or famous, or both. However, when asked why these high profile divorce cases are completely invisible when searching in Tarrant County records, the District Clerk was unable to provide an answer.

The District Clerk said that 99 percent of the cases are searchable. Nevertheless, a select few simply could not be found. It's possible that they were difficult to find as a result of them having sensitive or confidential information. It's also possible that the identities of the litigants had been masked with initials, which is not uncommon in sensitive family court matters.

More millennials are signing prenuptial agreements

The term "millennial" gets thrown about casually — for good or for bad. Sometimes these 20- to 30-somethings are celebrated for their forward thinking. For example, they're often credited for having a mature outlook on marriage.

Most millennials wait until they know their partner better before they get married. Consequently, their divorce rates are lower than previous generations. Millennials are also more open to the advantages of prenuptial agreements.

A little known tip for winning your child custody suit

It's terrifying to think that you could lose physical custody of your child. However, numerous Texas mothers and fathers have lost the right to have their children live with them. Instead, they are relegated spending just a couple days a week, or less, with their children after losing their child custody suits.

However, there's one thing you can do that will help increase the chances that you win your child custody battle in court. The strategy is straightforward and simple: It involves keeping a journal of your parenting activities.

How can dads increase their chances of getting child custody?

If you're hoping to get custody of your children, and you're a dad, you may worry that Texas courts will favor the mother in your case. While there is a general concern of gender bias -- in other words, a concern that courts are more likely to award child custody to mothers -- fathers who approach their child custody cases in the right way may not need to worry about this.

Here are three things fathers can do to improve their chances of getting child custody:

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Sugar Land, TX 77479

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