Protecting Your Family's Future
 

Texas Man “Camped Out” on Million Dollar Marital Property

Sharafat Khan, a 69-year-old Lakeview resident, spent nearly six months living in the front yard of his seaside mansion after his wife asked him to leave, demanded his keys, and changed all the locks. Though Khan maintained that he had no access to any money, rendering him essentially homeless, he admitted that his camp-out on the couple’s front lawn was essentially a protest, telling reporters that he could stay with friends, but prefers to be on “my own property.”

Khan has let it be known that he is diabetic and has high blood pressure, concerns that have brought visits from the Lakeview police on more than one occasion. After neighbors and passersby started bringing him food, his wife posted a sign on the front lawn, asking people not to leave food for him. “If you want to feed him, take him to your house,” the sign read, also expressing concern that any food left might become infested with maggots.

Khan’s family, however, has not shared the sympathy with his situation that his neighbors have. His 30-year-old son, Zain, said that Sharafat Khan physically and emotionally abused his wife, citing a September 2008 incident where Sharafat Khan was arrested for domestic violence. Zain also said that his father stole money from marital accounts to give to relatives in California. Zain has taken his father for medical and psychiatric treatment, but says his father always leaves and returns to the front lawn of the marital home.

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At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at 281-420-8020 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

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Breaking Up Finances in a Divorce

When your marriage ends, one of the most difficult and perplexing tasks can be dividing up (and protecting) assets. Here are some of the most common mistakes people make financially in the middle of a divorce:

Failing to Consider Tax Implications When Dividing Property

One of the ways in which people commonly don’t end up getting a fair deal has to do with the potential tax consequences of owning certain property. Experts say it’s important to determine whether the dollars you are receiving are pre-tax or post-tax dollars. For example, if you take assets in an IRA in exchange for allowing your ex to keep the house, you will incur a tax obligation when you take distributions. However, your ex may incur no tax consequence upon the sale of the house, provided the net gain on the sale is below that allowed under the Internal Revenue Code.

Failing to Divide All Financial Accounts

There’s no benefit to keeping any joint accounts with your ex. In addition to bank accounts, you need to change credit cards, investment accounts and any debts/loans, including your mortgage. It’s also critical to change the beneficiary on life insurance policies, annuities, retirement accounts and investment portfolios.

Allowing Emotions to Control Financial Decisions

When it comes to dividing assets, you have to resist the urge to put any emotional attachment on a piece of property. If you do, you’ll likely pay a price for it. Don’t try to establish your own value for a house, or for personal property. Always get a professional to appraise marital assets at fair market value.

Failing to Account for All Assets and Income

In the rush to be done with a divorce, parties often fail to obtain a thorough accounting of assets and liabilities. It’s a good way to get the short end of the stick in a divorce property settlement—one in six people in a recent study admitted to hiding a bank account from a spouse.

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At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at (281) 420-8020 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

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The Relationship Between Money Concerns and Marriage Rates

The Impact of Money Concerns on Marriage Rates

Studies show that, as American culture has moved toward gender equality in the workplace, the role of marriage has changed significantly. In a recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center, more than twice as many adults over the age of 25 said they were not married, more than double the rate from a study done in 1960. Currently, one in five over 25 are single—in 1960, it was just nine percent.

According to researchers, the trend has been consistent over the last half century—each generation has been less inclined to enter into marriage than the previous one. Experts say the reasons are many, but that the single biggest factor has been the move toward gender and pay equality in the workplace.

Stephanie Coontz, author of Marriage, a History: From Obedience to Intimacy, and How Love Conquered Marriage, says that access to birth control and improvements in household technology have made marriage less about economics and more about love and companionship. But before women started having greater opportunities and earning potential, many women considered their options limited and viewed marriage as the best economic alternative. Many men also perceived a wife as a benefit, but primarily as someone to take care of the home and cook the meals while the man provided for the family.

The Pew study found that men are more likely to stay single than women, a statistic that seems tied to the trend that more and more men under the age of 50 are not working (presumably living with parents). Of the single women polled, four out of five said that the most important characteristic in a potential mate would be a steady job. The odds of that—just slightly more than six employed men available for every 10 women.

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at (281) 420-8020 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

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Social Media and Divorce

It’s a different world now, with Facebook, Twitter and other social media networks available to anyone with a computer or a smartphone…and that applies to divorce proceedings, too. Many parties to divorce have started to use social media sites to gather evidence in family law disputes. What can seem like innocent posts—pictures from a vacation or of a new car—can be used to question your need for support or to show that you have the capacity to pay more than your order states.

While state ethics committees have started attempts to rein in certain online activities by lawyers in divorce cases—two New Jersey attorneys face disciplinary charges for having a paralegal “friend” the ex of a client—it’s still prudent to keep any opinions, remarks or comments about your divorce off the Internet. Judges have been known to consider statements made on Facebook when making custody decisions, and any evidence properly obtained online can be used against you. For example, pictures posted from a party or bar to a public site may be used to question your qualifications as a parent.

Unfortunately, you may be a victim of social media posts by well-meaning friends and family. It’s a good idea to tell loved ones that, until your divorce is final, you request that they not post any comments about you or pictures of you on any social media site. And it goes without saying that you should never use any social media outlet to speak disparagingly of your ex-spouse (or of your children, as did one mom who subsequently lost custody).

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at (281) 420-8020 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

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The Consequences of Lying to Your Children in a Divorce

It Doesn’t Pay to Lie to Your Children

The Consequences of Lying to Your Children in a DivorceMost parents would agree with the statement that it’s not a good thing to lie to your children. Unfortunately, most research shows that children learn to lie by observing their parents. Often, the parent who doesn’t tell his or her child the truth is acting out of perceived attempts to protect the child. A parent may worry that the child lacks the resources to fully understand an issue, and may tell the child that nothing’s wrong, when it’s clear that something is. The message to the child—it’s okay to lie in certain situations. The other potential side-effect of not telling your child the truth—he or she may start to doubt his or her perceptions or may stop trusting you.

So does that mean you reveal all the gory details of everything in your life to your child. No, say experts. For example, if you are upset about something and it’s apparent to your child, you may get the question, “Are you okay?” “I’m fine” is clearly not an honest answer. But you don’t have to disclose the full nature of your unhappiness. It can be enough to say to your child, “Thanks for noticing that I am upset. I will be okay. I just need to take care of some things.”

It’s also healthy to help you children understand that sadness and disappointment are part of life. If you acknowledge to your child that something makes you sad, but you have the ability to move forward, you child will learn that the same approach is possible for them. And when you make a mistake, don’t be afraid to admit it to your child. It will encourage them to be candid with you when they’ve done something wrong.

A common misperception is that kids don’t know what’s going on unless you tell them. The reality is that kids are far more sensitive to changes in routine, tone of voice, level of confidence and happiness than they are usually given credit for. They know when mom and dad aren’t talking to each other, or even when they are being testy with each other. They know something is different if you are a parent of divorce and you have a new girlfriend or boyfriend, even if you haven’t told them.

Contact Stewart Law, PLLC

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 10 years of experience to clients in south Texas.

To learn how we can help, call our office at 281-420-8020 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

Se Habla Espanol | ASL and ESL Services Also Available

Guidelines for Social Media Use during Divorce

Social Media and Divorce: Playing It Smart

Guidelines for Social Media Use during DivorceIf social media is a big part of your life, you have likely used it to share information about nearly every aspect of your life, and to keep friends and family up to date on how you are doing. But if you are going through a divorce, you need to be very careful about what you say and how you appear online. Here are some strategies to avoid potential problems through social media during a divorce.

  • Don’t use social media to air dirty laundry, vent against your ex or try to gain favor in your divorce proceeding. The old adage “anything you say can and will be used against you in court”—it applies to what you say on Facebook, too.
  • Create separate circles—If you have “friends” on Facebook who might share with your ex, put them in a separate circle and don’t share private information with them.
  • Consider that almost anything you do may be used against you—Need to post pictures of yourself at a concert or bar, or out shopping? Think about how it might play in court. Could your ex use it against you, perhaps to support an argument that you had substance abuse issues or that you were financially irresponsible.
  • Think about your safety—If you have been in an abusive relationship, you may want to keep a low profile. Posting pictures of yourself at a favorite hangout can tip your ex off as to where he or she can find you.

The best approach, though, is to simply be willing to close your social media accounts until your divorce is final. You may wonder how you can do it, but people have actually been able to communicate with each other for thousands of years before the advent of the Internet. It will assure that nothing you say or do on social media will come back to harm you.

Contact Stewart Law, PLLC

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 10 years of experience to clients in south Texas.

To learn how we can help, call our office at 281-420-8020 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

Se Habla Espanol | ASL and ESL Services Also Available

Visitation and Co-Parenting in Texas

Visitation vs. Co-Parenting

Visitation and Co-Parenting in TexasIn Texas, as in other states, courts in custody proceedings give priority to the “best interests of the child.” The courts also distinguish between physical custody (now called “managing conservatorship” in Texas) and legal custody. Managing conservatorship or physical custody refers to the actual physical residence of the child. Legal custody addresses the rights of the parent to participate in decisions regarding the child’s welfare, such as medical, educational, religious or other special needs.

With respect to physical custody, courts in Texas prefer to grant “joint managing conservatorship,” where both parents have access to the child, and the child spends some time in the home of each parent. In many instances, the child will spend a greater amount of time with one parent, who is labeled the “primary joint managing conservator,” or custodial parent. The other parent is customarily granted visitation (now referred to as “access”) with the minor child.

There is no “standard” co-parenting arrangement, though. The parents are typically free to work out agreements, such as alternating weeks with each parent, provided the court finds that such an arrangement is not disruptive to the child. Parents also have the ability to negotiate all other issues related to custody and visitation, from holidays and vacations to participation in extra-curricular activities.

If the parents cannot work out an acceptable arrangement, the court will order conservatorship and access, based on a number of factors, including:

  • The stability of each home
  • The fitness of each parent
  • The current and prior relationship between parent and child
  • The physical and emotional needs of the child
  • The input of the child, if the child is 12 year of age or older

Contact Us

At the law office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 10 years of experience to clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at 281-420-8020 or contact us online.

We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our office is open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

Se Habla Espanol | ASL and ESL Services Also Available

Legal Issues for Single Moms

Legal Issues for Single Mothers—Establishing Paternity

Legal Issues for Single MomsIf you are an unmarried mother of a minor child, there are a number of legal issues about which you need to be concerned, so that you can protect yourself and your child. One of the most important is determining who the biological father is.

Establishing Paternity

Unless you can establish paternity or get the father to agree to paternity, you won’t be able to collect child support, and will have to support your child entirely on your own. Paternity can also make your child eligible for a wide variety of benefits through the father of the child, including medical insurance, veteran’s benefits, Social Security and inheritance.

Paternity may be established three different ways in Texas:

  • By presumption—if you were married to the father or lived continuously with the father for a period of time before the birth of the child, there is a presumption of paternity. The alleged father may challenge paternity through DNA testing
  • By voluntary acknowledgement—the alleged father may sign a legally binding document stating that he is the genetic father of the child
  • By court order—the mother or the alleged father of the child may ask the court for an order establishing paternity. A child who is old enough may also ask the court to order paternity testing.

Contact Us

At the law office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 10 years of experience to clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at 281-420-8020 or contact us online.

We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our office is open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

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Can I Move after My Divorce?

Relocation after Divorce in Texas—What are the Limitations?

Moving boxes in empty roomUnder Texas law, when parents divorce with minor children, the court establishes what is known as “managing conservatorship,” formerly known as custody. In most instances, the court awards joint managing conservatorship, consistent with the state’s stated objective of keeping both parents involved with the life and upbringing of the child. Achieving that objective can be complicated, even when both parents live in proximity to each other. But what if one of the parents seeks to move, for work or for any other reason? Are there restrictions on a custodial or non-custodial parent’s ability to relocate after a divorce?

Obtaining Permission of the Court

As a general rule, the court order in a divorce prohibits the custodial parent (known now as the “primary parent”) from moving outside a certain area without permission of the court. The area specified is customarily the county in which the child lives and all contiguous counties.

Even if your order does not clearly address relocation, you must provide notice to the non-custodial parent if you plan to move and take the minor child with you. The non-custodial parent has a right to challenge the relocation and may ask the court to schedule a hearing to resolve the matter. In making its decision, the court will give priority to the best interests of the children. As the custodial parent, you will have to show good reason to move—a better job or to be closer to family are both common reasons. However, you will still need to demonstrate that it will be in the best interests of your minor children to relocate.

Contact Us

At the law office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at 281-420-8020 or contact us online.

We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our office is open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

Se Habla Espanol | ASL and ESL Services Also Available

Can I Get Back Child Support to the Date of Birth?

Retroactive Child Support—When Does the Obligation Start?

In Texas, the custodial parent of a minor child has a right to pursue child support from the non-custodial parent, whether they were married or not. Especially in cases where the alleged parents were not married, and there are no divorce proceedings, it can be months before the mother asks the court for an order of child support. If the court grants the request, when will the obligation to pay support begin? Will the court automatically include support from the date of birth of the child?

Married vs. Unmarried Parties

If the parents were married, the court will usually order support effective to the date of separation or filing of a divorce complaint.

If the parties were not married, the court has the discretion to order support as of the date of the birth of the child. The court can also require that the non-custodial parent pay some portion of medical expenses associated with the birth of the child, including pre-natal exams and hospital/delivery costs, provided those expenses are not covered by insurance. As a general rule, though, Texas courts typically do not order retroactive child support for a period of more than four years.

Retroactive support is not automatically granted, though. If the custodial parent does not ask for retroactive support, the court will typically not grant it.

Contact Us

At the law office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at 281-420-8020 or contact us online.

We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our office is open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

Se Habla Espanol | ASL and ESL Services Also Available

 
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