Protecting Your Family's Future
 

Online Divorces Now Simpler in Texas

There’s a new online method for filing for divorce in Texas, and many believe it will greatly simplify the process, providing benefit to many Texans. Texas Divorce Online offers a three-step methodology for resolving most divorce issues:

  • Create an account
  • Respond to an online questionnaire
  • Submit your case for processing

Once your case has been received, a licensed attorney will review it and prepare all necessary documentation. Because of the questionnaire, the pleadings can be customized to meet your specific needs.

It’s important, though, that you ask yourself a few basic questions to determine whether an online divorce is in your best interests. Such a process may be ideal if you have no assets, no children, and nothing to distribute or fight about. But here are some red flags that ought to lead you to contact an experienced family law and divorce lawyer:

  • How complex is your marital estate? Did you bring property into the marriage? Did you receive an inheritance during the course of the marriage? Under the community property laws of Texas, your marital estate can be divided between those assets that constitute separate property (brought into the marriage, acquired by inheritance, received as a gift, etc.) and community property (essentially all other property). Separate property goes to one person, whereas community property is divided equally.
  • Are there minor children? If so, you’ll have to determine who gets custody (now called “managing conservatorship”) and what visitation (now called “access”) will look like.

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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Elder Divorce

In what is probably not a surprising trend, more and more couples are seeking divorce after their children have left home. A recent study by the Council for Contemporary Families, at the University of Texas at Austin, found that the divorce rate for people between the ages of 50 and 64 has jumped in the last few years.

Researchers say that divorce and re-marriage has long been a trend among baby boomers. What they now see, though, is that many boomers are filing for divorce…again. Experts attribute some of the increase to the perception that second marriages are typically less permanent and solid as first marriages. However, the study found that a significant percentage of boomers now filing for divorce are ending their first marriage, often after 35-40 years.

The study found a number of different motives for the late-in-life divorces. For many, there was no compelling reason for the divorce—the parties acknowledged that, after years of raising children and being held together by their common desire for the well-being of their children, they simply didn’t have a lot in common anymore. At the other end of the spectrum, though, were parties (mostly women) who now believe they can end a marriage in which they were victims of physical or mental abuse. In addition, the study found that many couples find they have a completely different view of retirement—some see it as an opportunity to travel and do things without the restriction of a job. Others simply want to stay at home.

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

“Affluenza Teen” Parents Getting Second Divorce

The parents of Ethan Couch, the Texas teen whose lawyers effectively used the “affluenza” defense to avoid jail time after he killed four bystanders in 2013, have filed for divorce for a second time. Fred Couch, Ethan’s father, filed a complaint asking the court to end his marriage to the boy’s mother, Tonya. The couple divorced once before, but remarried in 2011. Though Texas allows for at-fault divorce when one of the parties is incarcerated—Tonya Couch has been in the Tarrant County jail for some time—Fred Couch alleged in his divorce complaint that the reason for the divorce was his wife’s treatment of him. He alleged that Tonya had withdrawn approximately $30,000 from their account and called him, telling him he would never see her or their son again.

Ethan Couch was arrested and charged in the deaths of four bystanders after he drove through a 45 mph zone at 70 mph, striking and killing the victims as they sought to help a woman whose vehicle had broken down. Couch was convicted for drunk driving and for intoxication manslaughter, but ended up with 10 years probation after a psychologist testified at his sentencing hearing that he suffered from “affluenza.” The psychologist alleged that Couch did not have the capacity to associate bad behavior with any consequences because his parents had taught him that “wealth buys privilege.”

The judge in the Couch divorce case has ordered Tonya Couch to submit to a psychological exam to determine whether she is fit to stand trial.

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

The Pros and Cons of a Prenuptial Agreement

If you are considering getting married, and you are bringing significant assets into the marriage, or have children from a previous marriage, you may be thinking about putting a prenuptial agreement in place. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of a prenuptial agreement.

The Benefits of a Prenuptial Agreement

A valid prenuptial agreement can allow you to:

  • Identify what is and what is not marital or community property
  • Protect any property you owned before the marriage
  • Ensure that your estate plan is followed
  • Minimize expense and acrimony if the marriage fails.
  • Clearly state any unique or special agreements between parties

Contrary to what many believe, a prenuptial agreement can strengthen a marriage. If money and financial matters are a major concern, identifying in advance how they will be dealt with removes any uncertainty, and allows you to focus on your relationship. In a healthy marriage, money is a necessary topic for discussion. If you discuss it up front, it can lead to greater openness and communication in other areas as well.

The Detriments of a Prenuptial Agreement

A prenuptial agreement is essentially a business decision. If your marriage is not fundamentally built on financial expectations, needs or desires, there may be no need for a prenuptial agreement. If love or romance is at the core, a prenup will seldom support or enhance that.

Sometimes, though, the timing may just be wrong. If you discuss financial matters too early in a relationship, you may never be able to get past the perception that your marriage is mostly about money.

Before you enter into a prenuptial agreement, you want to check with a lawyer. Based on what you want to protect, you may not need a signed document—you may be protected by existing provisions in state law.

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

The Benefits of Preparing for Divorce

Though divorce is always emotionally difficult, you can minimize some of the financial, personal and time challenges by thoroughly preparing for the process, once it’s clear that divorce is inevitable. Here are some of the things you can do.

Protect Yourself Financially

Whether you are the sole breadwinner, a stay-at-home-parent or one of two working parents, a divorce will have a significant impact. You may face the significant loss of income, be required to pay substantial amounts in child or spousal support, or wind up with a big chunk of the marital debt.  To minimize the impact, put together a file that contains all of the following:

  • Pay stubs for the last two years
  • Bank statements for the last two years
  • Current investment and retirement account statements
  • Documentation of any life insurance policies
  • Copies of tax returns for the last five years
  • A copy of your credit report

Protect Your Right to See Your Children

Custody is never an easy matter to resolve. You want what’s best for your children, but you also want to play an active role in your child’s life. All states use the standard of the “best interests of the child” when determining who will have custody. If you believe that custody may be an issue, you need to do the following:

  • Identify what you believe will be in the best interests of your children and why
  • Document anything about your ex that you believe may put your children at risk. Remember, though, that this is not about disparaging your ex—it’s about protecting your children. Don’t exaggerate isolated incidents in an attempt to gain favor with the courts. You’ll only hurt  your children in the process

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

Landing On Your Feet after Divorce

When you are going through a divorce, it can be difficult to believe that life will return to normal again. It will go on, but it won’t ever be the same. There are specific steps you want to take to make certain that you are moving forward, so that the past won’t keep catching up to you.

Get a New Bank Account

This is actually a good idea as soon as you know you are going to file for or be a defendant in a divorce proceeding. You want to start putting your money into your own account, so that your ex doesn’t have unlimited access to it. You should also close any joint accounts you had with your ex.

Replace Your Credit Cards

Terminate any joint credit cards immediately. It may also be time to think about whether or not you want to open new cards. Divorce can be an emotional time—if you are prone to spending money in response to emotional trauma, you might be better served not opening a new credit card. Furthermore, because you won’t have financial stability for a little while, you may want to operate primarily on a cash basis for a while.

Change Your Beneficiaries

If your ex is named as a beneficiary on a life insurance policy, IRA, retirement plan or in a will, you need to modify that. With respect to insurance, you may want to obtain a life insurance policy on your ex (owned by your ex) to cover alimony or child support in the event of his or her premature death.

Notify the Government When Necessary

The IRS and the Social Security Administration should be notified of your divorce.

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

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.

No Prenuptial Agreement for Janet Jackson

Recently, former fiancée of Janet Jackson, Wissam Al Mana, announced that he would be avoiding a pre-nuptial agreement to protect his billion dollar fortune.  At the advice of his lawyers, he did draw up an agreement that stated if he and Jackson ever got divorced, she would take with her $500 million, upon the condition that they must have been married for at least five years. However his rejection of this initial prenuptial agreement was seen as declaration of true love.  This is being criticized, however, by those who believe that marriage is also a business arrangement, and that it would be in his best interest to protect his assets before marriage. Full article.

In Texas, parties can enter into written premarital contracts which focus on the disposition of their separate property as well as future community property before entering into marriage.  However, the agreement cannot violate any laws, and it cannot be against public policy.  Agreements must be signed by both parties before marriage.  These contracts then become effective on the date of marriage. Additionally, premarital agreements terminate on the death of one of the spouses.  In a divorce though, the court is only allowed to split property during that is deemed to be community assets.  It is imperative that parties seek independent legal counsel before signing a premarital or post-marital agreement.

It is wise to consider a prenuptial agreement to protect your assets in the event of a separation or divorce. Stewart Law, PLLC, will help you know your rights and advise you in these matters as they have over 8 years of experience in the area. They provide legal counsel to men and women in divorce and family law matters across many Texas State counties.  For an initial assessment and consultation of your case, contact us online or call our office at (281) 420-8020, at a reduced fee of ($50).

 

 
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