Protecting Your Family's Future
 

Minimizing the Impact of Divorce on Your Children

When your marriage has ended and you’re experiencing the emotional turbulence that’s a part of divorce, the last thing you want to do is make life more difficult for your children. The divorce is going to hurt them—that can’t be avoided. But there are steps you can take to cushion the blow, to minimize the impact of the divorce.

Give Priority to Your Children’s Emotional Needs

Your children have fewer tools and less experience to draw on when it comes to coping with the radical change that divorce will bring. Accordingly, if they are going to make it through your divorce relatively unscathed, you have to pay close attention to their needs, and may need to adjust your actions to minimize the impact on them. You may need to “clear the air” with your ex, but it doesn’t have to be done in the presence of your children. You may need to vent or let go of feelings you’ve held in for a long time, but don’t do it with your children.

Don’t End Your Relationship with Your Ex—Modify It

The healthiest children of divorce come from situations where divorced parents remain in relationship and communication. Don’t view the divorce as terminating your relationship with your ex—consider it an opportunity to establish a new relationship. The more cooperative you are with your ex, the more your children see you working together, the more relaxed your children will be and the better they will adjust to the divorce.

Work Out Rules and Discipline Cooperatively with Your Ex

One of the hardest things for kids of divorce is learning and complying with different sets of rules at different households. To the extent possible, work with your ex to establish rules that apply at both households—when to go to bed, brushing teeth, etc. It takes away a lot of the confusion and anxiety that children can feel.

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.

Se Habla Espanol | ASL and ESL Services Also Available

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.

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

Change Your Will after a Divorce

Change Your Will after a Divorce

Change Your Will after a DivorceIn the midst of the many emotions that come with divorce, one of the last things you often think about is what will happen to your property in the event of your death. But you need to attend to it as soon as possible. If you have put a will or trust in place, naming your soon-to-be ex as the beneficiary, there’s a good chance they will inherit a part of your estate, should something happen to you. If you don’t specifically name your ex-spouse, but simply state that you leave certain property to “my spouse,” your property may ultimately go to others (since your ex is no longer your spouse), but your heirs could face a long and expensive battle to accomplish that end.

Tear Up the Existing Will or Trust

The simplest way to invalidate the terms of a will or trust is to destroy it. When you execute a will or trust, you will have only one authentic copy of the document—the one with your original signature on it. Typically, you’ll put it in a safe deposit box or leave it with your attorney for safekeeping. If you tear up the document, it should no longer be binding. However, if others don’t know of your intent to revoke the will, a copy may potentially be used to show your intent. The other potential problem with simply revoking or tearing up your existing will—if you die, your estate will pass under laws of intestacy.

Your best move, then, is to prepare and execute a new will or trust, one that specifically revokes all prior wills and trusts. You can use one of the many simple will forms found online—provided they comply with the formality requirements of your state. You are generally best-served, though, by hiring an attorney to prepare and execute a new will for 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

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.

Se Habla Espanol | ASL and ESL Services Also Available

Will I Have to Sell My House after a Divorce?

Do You Have to Sell Your House as Part of a Divorce in Texas?

Texas is a community property state. Under the community property laws, all items obtained during the marriage, with limited exceptions (such as inheritance), must be divided equally between the parties. How does that apply to the family home? Obviously, you can’t divide the real estate, with one spouse living in one half of the home and one spouse in the other. Do you have to simply sell the property and split the proceeds?

Your Options with Respect to Real Property in a Divorce in Texas

While you may ultimately have to sell the property, it is not required under Texas law. If one spouse can afford to keep the home and meet its payment obligations, the other spouse can sign title to the property over to the first spouse. The best way to do this is to refinance the home in the new owner’s name. If you are unable to obtain refinancing, you can execute a warranty deed and deed of trust allowing one party to assume ownership the house. This allows an added measure of protection, as both parties remain on the note and, if the party residing in the home fails to keep the mortgage current, the other spouse can foreclose and assume ownership.

If you choose to transfer ownership to one spouse, you want to pay close attention to the value of that transaction, as it can be offset against the division of remaining marital property. For example, if there’s $100,000 of equity in the home, you should expect to have a $50,000 offset against other personal items, investments, financial accounts or business interests.

If neither of you can afford to keep the home, the best alternative is to sell it and split the proceeds. Another option is to do nothing, but allow one party to remain in the home until the real estate market improves. This can be a complicated maneuver, though, and you need to be very clear about when the property might be sold.

Questions About Will I Have to Sell My House after a Divorce? Custody, Divorce, and Family Law Attorney, Baytown, Texas

Stewart Law, PLLC, located in Baytown, Texas, provides legal counsel to parents involved in relocation issues, child support and custody matters, divorce, and other family law cases. If you have questions about how to stop your ex from moving away with your child, or other custody, divorce, or family law matters, we can give you advice that will help you decide how to proceed. For an initial assessment and consultation, contact our family law firm online or call our office at (281) 420-8020, at a reduced fee of $50.

Life after Divorce — What Are Your Relocation Options?

Moving with Your Children after a Divorce in Texas

It’s not unusual these days after a divorce for an ex-spouse to want to relocate, either to take a new job, to be closer to family or just to get a fresh start. Maybe they plan to remarry and the future spouse lives in another part of the state or country.

In Texas, you can’t just pick up and move when there are minor children involved. Citing public policy that both seeks to assure that children have regular and continuing contact with both parents and that parents are encouraged to share the rights and duties of raising children, the legislature has put laws in place that allow relocation only when it is determined to be in the best interests of the minor children.

The “best interests of the children” must be established on a case-by-case basis, but courts in Texas and across the country will consider a broad range of factors when making the determination, including:

  • The age of the children
  • The reasons for (and against) the move
  • The nature of the child’s current relationship with each parent
  • The ability of the noncustodial parent to have frequent and continuing contact with the children
  • The effect a move will have on family relationships
  • The child’s extracurricular activities in the community

In most instances, the final divorce decree will prohibit the custodial parent from moving outside a predetermined area without the permission of the court. There is no set distance, as the court will look at the factors above and determine whether a move across the state or to another state will be in the best interests of the child.

Even if your divorce judgment is silent on the matter of relocation, you must still notify the noncustodial parent if you want to move away from the local area. The other parent may seek a temporary restraining order prohibiting you from moving until the court can hold a relocation hearing. At the court proceeding, you can provide information to demonstrate that moving will be in the best interests of your children, but ultimately the court will make that determination.

Questions About Life after Divorce — What Are Your Relocation Options? Custody, Divorce, and Family Law Attorney, Baytown, Texas

Stewart Law, PLLC, located in Baytown, Texas, provides legal counsel to parents involved in relocation issues, child support and custody matters, divorce, and other family law cases. If you have questions about how to stop your ex from moving away with your child, or other custody, divorce, or family law matters, we can give you advice that will help you decide how to proceed. For an initial assessment and consultation, contact our family law firm online or call our office at (281) 420-8020, at a reduced fee of $50.

Can I Represent Myself in a Divorce Proceeding?

Representing Yourself in a Divorce Proceeding

There’s an old adage that says that a person who represents himself in court has a fool for a client. With the extensive material available to walk you through a divorce proceeding, and with access to the Internet, is this still true?

You Can Represent Yourself

Texas law does not prohibit you from acting pro se (on behalf of yourself). Before you decide to act as your own attorney, though, it’s really important to understand the risks.

  • Will you be taken advantage of by your ex-spouse or by opposing counsel? If there is little at stake — no children, no property, no likelihood of alimony — there is likely little risk and representing yourself may pose no problems. However, if there is any complexity to your case, you will be at a distinct disadvantage if your ex-spouse has an experienced attorney. You may find yourself participating in hearings or conversations in which you have little or no understanding of what is being discussed.
  • Do you have the time to properly prepare? A divorce can be a time-consuming matter. If you work full time and have children, you may find it difficult to find time to prepare. You may need to review documents, research case law, prepare pleadings and attend hearings.
  • Do you fully understand all your options? Do you know about mediation or negotiated settlements? Are you comfortable negotiating with an experienced lawyer?

What You Will Have to Do

The divorce process is fairly complex, with a very specific timeline. First, you will need to prepare certain documents. If you are seeking the divorce, you will have to prepare and file a divorce complaint (known as a petition) with the court. If you are being sued for divorce, you have the right to file an answer to the petition. Your petition will tell the court who you are and what you want the court to do. You must also provide formal notice to your spouse that you are seeking a divorce.

Once you file the petition, the court will issue “standing orders,” essentially ground rules for while your divorce is in process. If there are contested matters, the court may designate a specific period of time for “discovery,” when the parties prepare and exchange information to help determine the outcome. Once you have come to agreement on all issues, you must put your agreements in writing and have the court issue an order documenting the terms of your divorce.

Questions About Represent yourself in a Divorce Proceeding? Custody, Divorce, and Family Law Attorney, Baytown, Texas

Stewart Law, PLLC, located in Baytown, Texas, provides legal counsel to parents involved in relocation issues, child support and custody matters, divorce, and other family law cases. If you have questions about how to stop your ex from moving away with your child, or other custody, divorce, or family law matters, we can give you advice that will help you decide how to proceed. For an initial assessment and consultation, contact our family law firm online or call our office at (281) 420-8020, at a reduced fee of $50.

Visitation Rights for Step-Parents

You love your stepchildren as if they were your own biological children. You nurtured them. You watched them grow. You celebrated their achievements. You picked the kids up. You fed them dinner. You worked the calendar. You loved them wholeheartedly. And now you’re getting a divorce.

How do you continue to maintain a loving relationship with your stepchildren after divorce? Are you scared that the divorce will spell the end of your relationship with your stepkids? What are the rights of stepparents when it comes to visitation with their stepchildren?

In the past, stepparents’ rights to visit their step children after a divorce didn’t really happen. However, with more than 50 percent of all marriage ending in divorce and an even higher percentage of second marriages ending in divorce, stepparents’ rights are part of the conversation of divorce these days.

Many states allow stepparents to seek visitation rights. Other states allow “interested third parties” to request visitation rights. Judges will look at factors that include these, when making a decision about granting you visitation rights:

  • How long have you played a parental role to the children?
  • How involved are you with the children on a day-to-day basis?
  • How close is the bond between you and the children?
  • What financial contributions have you made to the support of the children?
  • How much detriment or harm will come to the children if you are no longer involved in their daily lives?

This last, detriment, is especially critical when the biological parent does not want to allow you visitation access to the children. The judge will decide based on the other factors and how harmful it will be to the children not to have you in their lives. This is because the family law standard is to act in accordance with what is in the best interest of the children.

As you move toward the divorce, talk to your partner about visitation with the stepkids and how you can continue to play a role in the children’s lives. Ideally, the biological parent will support this idea for the children’s sake.

As for the children, no matter what happens, let them know how much you love them, how much you want to be in their lives, and that you are divorcing your partner, not them. Work hard to stay connected and levelheaded with your soon-to-be ex as that will help in fostering more continuity for the children.

Custody and Visitation, Divorce, Post-Divorce, and Family Law Attorney, Baytown, Texas

Stewart Law, PLLC, located in Baytown, Texas, provides legal counsel to parents and stepparents involved in issues relating to visitation and custody, enforcing a divorce decree, child support, divorce, and other family law cases. If you have questions about any family law matter, we can give you advice that will help you decide how to proceed. For an initial assessment and consultation, contact our family law firm online or call our office at
(281) 420-8020, at a reduced fee of $50.

I’ve Inherited Money During Our Marriage. Do I Have to Split that If I Divorce?

You will not have to split money that is inherited with anyone except Uncle Sam. That is the case whether or not you divorce. The money you inherit is yours. It is not considered marital property.

If, however, you have signed that money over to your spouse, or placed that money in a joint bank account, the money then becomes marital property. So, it is wise to keep inherited money separate if you are anticipating a divorce.

The inheritance and any gift given to you alone for that matter, is yours and yours alone. Community property is everything that a husband and a wife own together. Community property would include such objects and assets and earnings that were acquired during the marriage. These would include a business and a house, regardless of who purchased it and whose name it is in. This would also include al debts that are contracted during the marriage.

Separate property includes inheritances and gifts received during the marriage, anything that was owned by one spouse before the marriage began, and anything either spouse had earned after the couple separated.

Divorce, Property and Inheritance Division Questions? Family Law Attorney, Baytown, Texas

Stewart Law, PLLC, located in Baytown, Texas, provides legal counsel to individuals involved in support and custody matters, divorce, and other family law cases. If you have questions about keeping an inheritance that you were given during your marriage, property division, divorce, or any other family law matter, we can give you advice that will help you decide how to proceed. For an initial assessment and consultation, contact our family law firm online or call our office at (281) 420-8020, at a reduced fee of $50.

 
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