Protecting Your Family's Future
 

Preventing a Financial Disaster After a Divorce

How to Deal with the Financial Downside of Divorce

With the U.S. divorce rate ranging between 40 to 50 percent, there are many people dealing with post-marriage life in Texas. The transition can be financially crippling for those who had combined savings and/or debts with their former partners. With a little preparation, however, couples can avert a lot of trouble later down the road. 

The Financial Harm of Divorce

Divorce can be financially straining for many exes. For one thing, separated couples will have to pay for two households using the same income they had before splitting. Additionally, the process of divorce can be expensive, especially if there are long, drawn-out battles. After all, getting divorced means hiring attorneys and financial advisors, both of whom could cost exorbitant amounts of money. To make matters worse, several individuals lack basic financial literacy. One could make bad decisions without knowing about it. The following are some of the most common financial consequences of divorce. 

  • Debt: When you get divorced, you and your spouse will have to split up any shared debt. This is all the more pertinent when one of the soon-to-be exes owes a lot of money, be it in the form of student debt or something else. Otherwise, either spouse could soon find themselves saddled with a financial burden they didn’t ask for but one that will haunt them for a long time to come.

  • Credit score: Speaking of debt, you should be aware of your former partner’s credit score and how this score will affect yours. After all, it would be regrettable if either party got punished for the lack of responsibility of the other.

  • Retirement: Divorce can even impact retirement. In fact, studies show that divorced individuals are at a higher risk of running out of assets while retired than non-divorced individuals.

  • Plans for the future: Not only can divorce harm a couple’s financials today, but it can also interfere with any plans they may have for the future. For instance, even though you may intend to send your children to college, a divorce might force you to reevaluate that decision. Any money you’ve saved in anticipation of college fees might have to be paid for alimony or child support instead.

Possible Ways to Minimize the Financial Damage of Divorce

Fortunately, you can prepare for the unique issues of your divorce. Consider the following methods for minimizing the financial damage.

  • Learn to be financially literate: It’s extremely important for both individuals in a marriage, regardless of who is the breadwinner, to learn how to be financially literate. This will protect their interests and help them plan for their future.

  • Get a prenup or a postnup: Prenuptial agreements can be a lifesaver. On the one hand, they can help couples figure out how they’ll split their assets long before negative emotions and resentment seep into the picture. On the other hand, by dictating how the assets should be split, they minimize the conflict on that front. The only problem is that many couples neglect to get a prenup before marriage. Fortunately, these spouses can resort to a postnuptial agreement, which can perform many of the same functions.

  • Plan ahead: Lots of problems that arise from divorce can be averted if the couple plans ahead. Going back to the aforementioned example of college fees — even though many divorced couples may find it difficult to foot the bill for education, they might have an easier time if they put their money in a 529 plan. The money will then grow tax-free and can also be withdrawn without fees so long as it is used for educational expenses.

  • Speaking to an experienced professional: Obviously, there are many ways you can shield your finances. Bearing that in mind, it’s wise to talk to an experienced attorney. Most divorce lawyers have seen countless cases before and are aware of the best tips and practices to protect your money. A good attorney will also be aware of the little nuances that the layman could miss, such as how alimony is taxable but mortgage payments aren’t.

With all that said, if you or someone you know is going through a divorce, contact Stewart Law PLLC today at (281) 420-8020. You can also find our offices in Baytown, Texas.

Dealing with College Costs in a Divorce

Planning for Children’s University Expenses During Divorce

For many parents in Texas, university costs are a major concern. Statistics show that the cost of a university education has been rising consistently over the years, and this trend is expected to continue. The financial impacts of divorce can be significant, but a family law attorney in Texas can help divorcing parents to reach an agreement and a plan to pay for their children’s higher education.

Texas Law and University Education

The Texas Family Code requires both parents to support their children until the age of 18. It does not contain provisions mandating support for university costs and other expenses after a child reaches legal adulthood. Still, the U.S. education system generally expects that parents will receive support, as financial aid awards are often based on parental income. Students need access to their parents’ tax information to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the standard form used for most university financial aid decisions, including federal student loans.

College costs will not be ordered by a judge as ongoing child support after the age of 18, given the limitations of the Family Code. However, in many cases, both parents want to ensure that their children have access to the best educational opportunities possible. This means that parents often decide to include a provision for managing university costs as part of the divorce decree through mediation or a negotiated settlement. 

College Expenses Are On the Rise

According to The College Board, the cost of attending university rises by around 3 percent each year. Every year of attendance at a four-year private university averages over $46,000 in costs when tuition, fees, and room and board are included. Even attending a public university costs over $20,000 annually when these costs are taken into account. These increases are expected to continue into the future, meaning that college costs are a major expense for the vast majority of parents.

529 Plans and University Savings After a Divorce

Many families open 529 plans, special savings accounts that require distribution for educational costs. While they can only be used for certain expenses, the owner and beneficiary of the account can be changed at will. As a result, many parents may want to maintain these accounts and reach an agreement during a divorce about how they will be handled. 

In some cases, parents may want to divide the 529 account in half, with each parent responsible for a portion of the savings. In other cases, they could choose to add both parents to the account on an ongoing basis to monitor education savings. A family law attorney can provide advice on how to handle education savings accounts in the divorce process.

Negotiating College Costs in a Divorce Settlement

University expenses are a financial concern, and like other financial issues, they can be included in a divorce settlement. By laying out plans as clearly as possible during mediation with a Texas divorce lawyer, you can help to avoid future disputes over educational costs. 

Remember that a divorce decree is a legal document, and parents will be bound by the decisions they make, barring a return to court. In some cases, you may be able to reach a detailed financial agreement. In other cases, you may be able to communicate intentions. Either way, making a legal agreement about educational expenses can help the kids to make decisions and plan for the future, something strongly in the best interests of the children.

Another factor to keep in mind is that custody matters when it comes to financial aid. Only the custodial parent’s income is considered on the FAFSA. This designation is different than that of legal custody and reflects who the child lived with most for the previous year. Parents should come to an agreement about which parent will play this role, taking all factors into account, including financial aid eligibility. 

When you are thinking about how to protect your children’s future during a divorce, you can turn to a Texas family law attorney for help and guidance. Call the experienced divorce lawyers at Stewart Law at (281) 420-8020 to set up an appointment for a consultation in Baytown.

Negotiating a Parenting Plan in the Child’s Best Interests

The Importance of Negotiating a Parenting Plan With an Ex

One of the hardest parts of the divorce process for couples with children involves determining custody and visitation arrangements. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, 45.2 percent of the divorces that took place in the Lone Star State in 2013 involved children. If you’re involved in a custody dispute, an experienced family law attorney may be able to help you negotiate a settlement that will enable you to get the time you want to spend with your children.

Texas Conservatorships

Texas statutes use the word “conservator” instead of “parent” when describing the legal rights and responsibilities of guardians. Conservatorship as defined in Texas Family Code – FAM § 153.005 is a broader definition than parent since it includes guardians like the Department of Family and Protective Services, other licensed child-placing agencies and other adults with a protective interest in the child as well as biological parents. If the biological parents cannot agree to an acceptable custody plan, then a family court judge will decide the specific terms of the conservatorship. In deciding on the terms, the judge will act in what he or she deems are the best interests of the child.

The two types of conservatorship in the Lone Star State are:

  • Joint managing conservatorship: Family courts typically begin with the presumption that it’s in the best interests of the child that both parents be named conservators. This arrangement is called joint managing conservatorship. However, joint managing conservatorship may not mean that both parents have equal rights of possession and access to the child.
  • Sole managing conservatorship: Sometimes, the family court judge will make one parent the sole conservator. This includes situations in which one of the parents has no interest in assuming the responsibilities of guardianship. It may also apply when one parent has a history of violence, addiction or abandonment, or if extreme conflicts exist between the parents regarding subjects like education or religion. The parent who is not the sole conservator may still have visitation rights. He or she is referred to as the possessory conservator while the parent who’s been named as the sole conservator is referred to as the managing conservator.

Standard Possession Orders

Texas statutes define visitation rights as possession and access to the child. If parents cannot agree on a visitation schedule, the family court judge may use statutory guidelines to impose one. These guidelines go to such extreme lengths to be fair to both parties that the results may sometimes seem a tad excessive.

For example, take the degree of specificity incorporated into Texas Family Code – FAM § 153.314. Holiday Possession Unaffected by Distance Parents Reside Apart. This statute addresses which parent shall have rights of possession to the child on holidays like Christmas, Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day as well as on the child’s birthday. This statute states the possessory conservator shall have possession of the child between the end of school and December 28 on even-numbered years while the managing conservator shall have possession of the child on odd-numbered years. This degree of specificity and inflexibility may strike many as extreme, but it’s what divorcing parents face if they can’t put their differences aside and work together to negotiate a parenting plan that’s in the best interests of their child.

Negotiating a Parenting Plan

The only way to avoid being subjected to guidelines such as those contained in Texas Family Code – FAM § 153.314 is to negotiate a parenting plan with the other parent of your child. If both parents sign off on a parenting plan, a Texas family court judge will sign off on it too, in most instances.

This can be a difficult task if your communications with your soon-to-be former spouse or partner are tumultuous. However, amicable relations between parents are almost always in the best interests of the child. An experienced Texas family law attorney may be able to help you and the child’s other parent come to an agreement that works for everyone. Call Stewart Law in Baytown, Texas, today at (281) 420-8020 for more information.

What to Know About the Various Grounds for Divorce

Understanding Grounds for Divorce in Texas

While Texas allows for a no-fault divorce, there are some grounds for ending a marriage that can be used to simplify the legal process. For the past decade, there have been right around 80,000 divorces every year in the Lone Star State. If you’re thinking about ending your marriage, consider getting in touch with a Baytown family law attorney who can help you understand the different grounds for divorce.

What Is a No-Fault Divorce in Texas?

When married couples are looking to separate, the primary option available in Texas is to file for a no-fault divorce. This only requires the spouse to tell a judge that the marriage is essentially over and that neither partner can fix the marriage. At least one spouse is required to tell the judge that the marriage cannot be supported because of issues with incompatible personalities that have caused the relationship to be destroyed and have eliminated the possibility of reconciling. A no-fault divorce can be entered by just one spouse and proceed even if the other spouse objects to it. This usually allows the divorce proceedings to progress somewhat quickly.

Fault-Based Grounds for Divorce in Texas

In Texas, it’s also possible for one spouse to assert that there are fault-based grounds for divorce, of which there are six types. In order for a spouse to assert that there are fault-based grounds for divorce, they will need to have enough proof about the grounds that are being stated. Furthermore, they will need to show that these grounds warrant a divorce. If the grounds cannot be formally approved, the divorce will not be granted. The main grounds for a divorce that are acceptable by a Texas judge include:

  • Being separated or living apart for three years or longer
  • Being abandoned by a spouse for at least one year
  • The confinement of a spouse to a private or state mental hospital
  • Adultery
  • Cruelty
  • Felony where the spouse is imprisoned for one year or longer

Filing based on one of these reasons indicates that the reason was the cause for the divorce. However, the other spouse can get the opportunity to contest the reason for the divorce. This means that the grounds must be proved by the filing party.

How Condonation Can Apply to Your Case

In Texas, condonation is a type of defense that can be used within fault-based divorce proceedings. Given the highly emotional aspect of many divorce cases, it’s possible that one spouse can accuse the other of the aforementioned grounds solely to draw the proceedings out and make them more complicated for the other spouse. Laws in Texas have taken this specific situation into account and provide the spouse who is being accused with the ability to deny the claims and instead request a no-fault divorce if the spouse who has filed for the divorce actually condoned the behavior that they are accusing them of.

Although this type of defense can be used by individuals who are being levied with fault-based allegations, the judge must also believe that reconciliation is possible in order to accept the defense. Since fault-based proceedings can last for a lengthy period of time, this type of defense is mainly used to alter the fault-based divorce filing to a non-fault filing. The two things that a spouse must prove with this defense are that the other spouse forgave them for their actions and that they are remorseful and never committed the act again once they were forgiven. No matter what type of divorce you would like to seek, Baytown attorneys can help you identify what your best option is and when it should be used.

If any of the seven grounds for marriage apply to your case, call our Baytown family law attorneys today at (281) 420-8020. We would be happy to schedule a confidential consultation about moving forward with a divorce.

What the Best Interests of the Child Really Means

Factors That Determine the Best Interests of the Child

According to the CDC, the divorce rate was 3.2 per every 1,000 marriages in 2014. While that figure is lower than it has been in past years, it means that parents and children may need to prepare for life after divorce. In your divorce proceeding, the needs of the child are given top priority. Contact our family law attorneys to understand the factors that determine the best interests of the child.

The Child May Play a Role in a Custody Proceeding

When it comes time to determine who gets custody of your child, he or she may be given some say in the matter. This largely depends on how old your child is and how mature a judge perceives the child to be. It is important to note that a judge is not bound by the child’s wishes when creating a custody order in your case. Furthermore, you aren’t necessarily bound by your child’s stated desires, either, if you and your spouse choose to create a parenting plan outside of court.

Does the Child Have Special Needs?

best interests of the childIf your child requires specialized care or access to a specialized educational environment, that could be a factor in creating a custody order. Most likely, you will be given custody of the child if you live closer to the school or medical facility where your son or daughter receives treatment. The opposite could be true if your former spouse lives closer to the services your child needs. Of course, this assumes that your former spouse is capable of being on-time to appointments or administering other care in a timely fashion.

Is Either Parent Physically or Mentally Abusive?

In the event that you are seen as mentally or physically abusive toward your child, that could result in limited parental rights after a divorce. The same would likely be true if your former spouse acted inappropriately with your children. However, it is possible that a judge would allow supervised visitation as long as whoever had problems in the past worked toward resolving them.

For instance, you or the child’s other parent could be ordered to take parenting or anger management classes. In some cases, these classes can help you or the other parent gain a new perspective on how to raise a child and make positive changes to raise a son or daughter in a healthier way.

Does Either Parent Have Mental Health Issues?

You won’t necessarily be denied custody or visitation rights simply because you have a history of mental health problems. The same is generally true for the child’s other parent. However, a judge will want to know that you have a plan in place to keep your symptoms in check. It may also be necessary to have a plan for when a nervous breakdown or panic attack may make it impossible to be with the child temporarily. A family law attorney may be able to further explain how mental health issues could impact a custody decision.

Can You Be Civil for the Child’s Sake?

Just because parents can’t get along with each other doesn’t mean that they can’t work together to raise their children. Ideally, the law would like to see both parents share custody of their children whenever possible. Assuming that you and your former spouse are able to provide a safe environment for your child, it is likely that both will be given the opportunity to play a significant role in his or her life.

However, if you and the child’s other parent can’t get along, it may be necessary to engage in parallel parenting. What this means is that each parent maintains a relationship with a child with minimal interference from the other. Generally speaking, parents will only communicate with each other if there is an important issue related to the child. Even then, communication may only occur by digital means and with strict protocols set in place.

If you are looking for help with a family law issue, contact the family law attorneys at Stewart Law PLLC today. This can be done by calling our office in Baytown at (281) 420-8020 or using the contact form on our website.

How to Determine the Correct Division of Marital Property

How Marital Property Is Evenly Divided

While divorce can be complicated, the proceedings will be more straightforward if you and your spouse can agree on how to divide the marital property. On average, there have been around 80,000 divorces per year in Texas over the past decade, many of which have had to contend with the property division process. That’s why divorcing couples often hire family law attorneys who can provide valuable legal advice and representation.

How Property Is Divided During a Divorce

In most cases, the divorcing couple will make the decisions on their own about how the property and assets are going to be divided. Keep in mind that marital property also refers to any debts that have been incurred during the marriage. When a couple is making this decision without the assistance of the courts, assistance could be provided through a mediator. The mediator is a non-partial third party who can help a couple negotiate an agreement. When an agreement cannot be made, the dispute over property or assets will be sent to a judge.

While the majority of states determine who gets what based on equitable distribution, Texas divorce laws require assets to be divided based on whether or not they are classified as community property. When assets, a piece of property, or debts are considered to be community property, they will be divided evenly among both spouses. Any assets or debts that are classified as non-community property will be kept by the owner.

Who Gets to Keep the House?

marital propertyIf you and your spouse currently own a home, you may be wondering who will be able to stay in the house after the divorce has been settled. In the event that children are involved, it’s likely that the parent who is considered to be the primary caregiver will stay in the home with the children. If children are not involved, the name on the deed and title will determine who gets to keep the house. This means that it could be possible for this spouse to ask the other one to leave the home.

 

Difference Between Community and Non-Community Property

When it comes to Texas divorce laws, the division of marital property depends on whether the property is classified as community or non-community property. Community property refers to any earnings that were obtained during the marriage as well as any items or assets that were acquired from these specific earnings. For example, this could mean a sofa that was purchased during the marriage. Any of the debts by either spouse that were incurred during the marriage are considered to be community property debts.

Non-community property is considered to be any type of asset that is regarded as being the separate property of one spouse and not the other. Examples of non-community property can include pension proceeds, awards for a personal injury, and any inheritances that were initially received by a single spouse. If the couple purchases a home with the separate funds of one spouse, the home will be considered to solely be the property of that individual following the divorce. While a business that was owned before a marriage will be labeled as non-community property, some aspects of the business could be community property if the company’s value increased during the marriage.

When a home or other piece of property has been purchased with both community and separate funds, it’s likely that the entire property will be labeled as community property following the divorce. Given that there are many factors involved in the division of marital property, you may want to get in touch with one of the family law attorneys at Stewart Law PLLC. We will assist you during the process to make sure that you understand every facet of the law that pertains to your case. Legal counsel could look out for your best interests during the division proceedings.

If you have a good idea about how your marital property is going to be divided and would like to begin divorce proceedings, call our Baytown family law attorney at (281) 420-8020 to schedule a confidential consultation.

What You Should Know About Visitation Rights for a Grandparent

Visitation Rights for Grandparents in Texas

If you have a grandchild that you would like to visit on a more regular basis, you should be aware of the various visitation right laws in Texas. In more than 50 percent of child visitation cases, the visitation rules and guidelines are not decided by the court, which means that family members can oftentimes make the final decision on visitation. Understanding what your visitation rights are as a grandparent will allow you to be prepared for any situation where visitation rights are in question.

Grandparent Visitation Laws in Texas

Parents invariably have more rights to their children than grandparents, which is true even if the grandparent has a very close bond with the child. If you wish to petition for visitation rights to visit your grandchild, there are a range of visitation laws in Texas that can determine whether or not your petition is granted.

There is no federal law that determines what the visitation rights should be for a child’s grandparents, which means that these rights are decided on a state-by-state basis. Past cases, such as the Troxel case, have shown that a grandparent visitation is largely appropriate as long as it serves the best interests of the child. A parent must have a relatively strong reason as to why the grandparent’s visitation should be denied for it to be stripped legally.

When a grandparent wants to gain visitation rights for their grandchild, they can petition the court to do so. Visitation rights for the grandparent are only allowed when:
visitation rights for a grandparent

  • One adoptive or biological parent currently has parental rights of the child
  • A denial of the visitation rights by the grandparent would create issues with the emotional and physical well-being of the child
  • The grandparent seeking visitation is a parent of the child’s custodial parent, and the parent is unable to take care of the child

Situations where a parent is unable to take care of their child can include the extended incarceration of a parent, the death of a parent, or the proven mental incompetence of a parent.

Can a Grandparent Gain Custody of a Child?

Along with general visitation rights, it’s possible for the grandparent to obtain custody of the child in certain situations. However, a court cannot grant custody to the grandparent unless the parent is wholly unable to provide for the emotional and physical needs of the child. It’s also possible to gain custody in the event that at least one parent agrees to the changes in custody. The only way for a grandparent to seek custody of the child is to file the request for custody in an ongoing custody case. While the rights of the child’s parents are always considered first before the visitation or custody rights of the grandparent, it’s possible for the parents of the child to lose their rights in specific situations.

Does Adoption Affect Visitation Rights?

If your grandchild is being put up for adoption by their parents, you may wonder how this will affect your visitation rights. Adoption fully terminates the rights of the parent to their child. Your rights as a grandparent are only granted via the rights of the parent, which means that you will likely lose all of your visitation rights with the child. There is, however, one exception to this rule that you may need to be aware of, which is in the case of an adoption by a stepparent. While the grandparent must still prove that their visitation is in the best interests of the child, and that it doesn’t directly interfere with the relationship between the child and stepparent, it’s possible to gain back visitation rights. If you have questions about your visitation rights as a grandparent, speak with our family law attorney. We can provide you with the education you need to make informed decisions about your family’s custody battle.

If you have questions about your visitation rights as a grandparent or wish to know more about your legal options, call one of our Baytown family law attorneys today at (281) 420-8020.

What Do Texas Visitation Rights Entail?

What Your Visitation Rights Should Be in Texas

When you’re seeking a divorce and you have children, it’s likely that you will need to deal with visitation rights during the process. In 2013, around 50 percent of noncustodial parents had visitation rights with their children. If you want to know more about visitation rights and how they apply to your case, contact one of our family law attorneys.

What Does Child Visitation Law Constitute?

In Texas, child custody is referred to as “conservatorship,” and instead of calling the parent primarily in charge a custodian, he or she is named the child’s “conservator.” However, for ease of reading, we will use the more familiar terms throughout.

The child visitation laws in Texas focus on the rights of any noncustodial parent to visit his or her child. In most cases, these laws provide that parent with the ability to take custody of the child for short periods on specific dates and times. Either the parents agree on a visitation schedule or this schedule is determined by a judge. It’s sometimes possible for these schedules to be altered in the future based on certain events or situations. Child visitation is usually determined by the best interests of the child, which is something that a judge will take into account when deciding on what the noncustodial parent’s visitation rights are going to be.

How Is a Visitation Schedule Determined?

visitation rightsIn the state of Texas, there is a standard possession order that provides each parent with equal access to and possession of the child while at the same time focusing on the child’s needs during the school year. It’s also important to understand that the guidelines for creating a schedule for visitation can change if the child is under the age of three. In this case, the child’s circumstances are typically taken into account. Some of the factors that contribute to this decision include:

 

  • How available the parents are to act as caregivers
  • How the child is directly affected by being separated from one parent or the other
  • Whether any siblings are going to be present during possession of the child
  • The general needs of the child and the desirability of a basic routine

Some schedules that are made for child visitation will also take holidays into account, which means that one parent may have the child for a few holidays each year with the other parent having custody of the child for the remaining ones. Such schedules vary from one family to the next for any number of reasons. The primary one would be the needs of the individual children involved. The focus of the schedule is intended to be based on the requirements of the child rather than those of the parents.

Keep in mind that visitation rights and the right to possession of the child for a specific period can be altered depending on the distance of the noncustodial parent from the child. A change may be implemented based on whether or not that parent lives within 100 miles. Any requested modifications to the initial schedule created for visitation will depend on whether the alterations fit with the best interests of the child in question. What’s best for the youngster this year may not be best five years from now.

How a Family Law Attorney Can Assist You

If you’re going through the lengthy divorce process and trying to determine what visitation you will have with your son or daughter, you may want to contact one of our professional family law attorneys here at Steward Law PLLC. We understand the statutes in Texas that pertain to visitation rights, and we can help clear up any confusion that you might have on the matter. We’re also able to assist with divorce cases and provide you with representation in court. Since child custody and visitation rights can be among the more complicated aspects of a divorce, you may want to seek professional legal counsel to guide you through the process.

If you’re getting ready to file for divorce and would like to know more about your visitation rights, call our Baytown office at (281) 420-8020 to speak with a family law attorney who can address your questions.

Dissolving a Common-Law Marriage in Texas

Common-Law Marriage and Divorce: What You Should Know

Texas is one of only nine U.S. states that recognize common-law marriage. The dissolution of this type of union can be fraught with many of the same types of issues that beset formally married couples who are contemplating divorce, so the services of a family law attorney can be very useful.

What Is a Common-Law Marriage?

A common-law marriage is a relationship between two people who are cohabiting and describe their relationship to family and friends as a marriage, but it hasn’t been formalized by a license or a ceremony. Common-law marriages can take place between same-sex couples as well as between a man and a woman. Each state that recognizes common-law marriage has its own sets of legal prerequisites and stipulations pertaining to this arrangement. The Lone Star State’s prerequisites are among the most liberal.

Some states stipulate continuous cohabitation over a certain period of time as a prerequisite for verifying the existence of a common-law marriage. In Texas, however, a common-law spouse only has to demonstrate that:

  • Both partners were older than 18 years of age at the time they entered into the relationship.
  • Neither partner was married either formally or informally at the commencement of the common-law marriage.
  • The two partners agreed to the marriage.
  • Following the initiation of the common-law marriage, the two partners lived in Texas as a married couple.
  • The two partners represented themselves to others as a married couple.

Additionally, Texas gives common-law spouses the option to sign and file a Declaration of Informal Marriage with the clerk of the county in which they reside. While the state does not use strict determinations that involve the chronological length of a relationship in stipulating the existence of a common-law marriage, if a couple has been separated for two years or more and has taken no formal steps to end the relationship, the state assumes the couple never intended to marry.

Proving the Existence of a Common-Law Marriage

Proving that a common-law marriage existed can be problematic after the fact, particularly if one of the two partners disputes its existence. Family courts often use inference to verify the existence of the relationship after determining that one person used the other individual’s surname. Courts also examine:

  • Joint tax returns
  • Co-signed leases
  • Joint purchases
  • Inclusion on health care and life insurance policies
  • Applications for public benefits

common-law marriage

Common-Law Marriages and Property Rights

In Texas, common-law spouses are presumed to have the same rights in property disputes as those who’ve been more formally married. Texas is a community property state, which means that, with a few exceptions, all property, profits and debts acquired during a marriage are assumed to belong to both people.

This stipulation applies whether the marriage was contracted by a license or through common law. As a common-law spouse, you are entitled to benefit from the same equitable distribution of assets from which a formally married person is entitled.

If your common-law spouse dies intestate, you have the right to claim a portion of his or her estate as long as you can demonstrate the validity of your common-law marriage.

Common-Law Marriage and Divorce

Obtaining a divorce in a common-law marriage follows the same ground rules in Texas that apply to dissolutions of more formal marriages with the added complication that spouses must first prove to the family court that they were actually married. In Texas, there are several grounds for divorce in a common-law marriage, which include:

  • Insupportability
  • Mental or physical cruelty
  • Adultery
  • Felony conviction
  • Confinement in a mental hospital
  • Abandonment
  • Separation

Note that “living apart,” which is grounds for the dissolution of a more formal marriage, cannot apply because it is only relevant when spouses have lived separately for three years or more. In these situations, the state assumes that common-law spouses who’ve been living apart for two years or more never intended to wed.

If you’re thinking of ending your common-law marriage, contact a family law attorney at Stewart Law in Baytown, Texas, at (281) 420-8020 for the support and assistance you need from a family law attorney.

Aspects of Child Support You Should Understand Prior to Your Divorce

Most People Divorcing Have to Deal With Child Support

For those who have children, child support is among the most important issues that will need to be agreed upon or settled by a judge when a marriage ends. Sixty percent of couples who are seeking a divorce have children, which means that child support is commonly dealt with during these cases. If you’re ready to file for a divorce and you require representation, get in touch with our child support attorney at Stewart Law PLLC to discuss your particular situation.

What Is Child Support?

Child support is a term that refers to the payments one divorced parent must make to the other who has primary custody of the child in question. These payments are ordered by the court and can be determined solely at the discretion of a judge. While the primary goal of child support is to provide money to cover the basic needs of food, clothing and shelter for the child, these payments can also cover a large number of additional expenses that include:

  • Child care
  • Special needs
  • The cost of education
  • Comprehensive medical attention

In the state of Texas, the child support payments that one divorced parent receives from the other are not limited to a specified set of expenses, which means that they can be used for almost anything the child requires. The main factors considered by the court when determining how much the child support payments should be include the income of the parent who needs to make the payments, the financial necessities of the child, and the amount of money that’s required to maintain the current standard of living for that child.
child support

Can Child Support Amounts Can Be Changed?

While the judge who is presiding over the divorce makes the decision about what the amount of child support is going to be, it’s possible for the parents to request that the amount be adjusted. In Texas and nearly every other state in this country, there are set guidelines to determine how much money will need to be paid by the parent who does not have custody of the child. However, if both parents agree on a number of conditions, they may have the ability to alter the recommended child support amount. This is much easier to accomplish during an uncontested divorce.

Child support payments are designed to begin immediately after the final judgment that dissolves the marriage. However, even after the final order has been made by the judge who is presiding over the divorce, the order may still be modified if necessary. Modifications are sometimes allowed due to changes in the financial situation of one parent or the other. If you have any issues receiving the child support payments to which you’re entitled or making the payments required of you, contact our firm to assess the circumstances.

How Our Family Law Attorneys Can Provide Assistance

Here at Steward Law PLLC, our child support attorney wants to make sure that the needs of our clients are met at all times. We’ll answer any questions you have about child support and how it pertains to your divorce. While child support and child custody are two of the primary issues that need to be resolved when obtaining either an uncontested or a contested divorce, this doesn’t means that these issues are always difficult to settle. With an experienced attorney by your side, you’ll know what to expect throughout the entire divorce process, and this includes negotiations about child support. Our attorneys can also help you identify approximately how much you should be receiving in child support payments so that you’ll have a clear idea of what to expect from the judge presiding over your case.

If you’re about to file for a divorce and you have questions about child support, call our office in Baytown, Texas, at (281) 420-8020 to speak with a family law attorney and obtain the assistance you require.

 
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Stewart Law PLLC