Protecting Your Family's Future
 

What Should You Include in a Prenuptial Agreement?

Important Components of a Prenuptial Agreement

What Should You Include in a Prenuptial Agreement?If you are considering marriage and have amassed a significant estate, or you have children from a prior marriage, the preparation and execution of a valid prenuptial agreement can remove concerns about your financial protection and allow you to focus your energy on your relationship. Here are the key components of an effective prenuptial agreement.

Property Concerns

One of the most important components of a prenuptial agreement is the distribution of property in the event of a separation or divorce. The first thing you want to include in a prenuptial agreement is an accurate accounting of all property being brought into the marriage. Typically, the parties to a prenuptial agreement identify such property and simply state that, in the event of separation or divorce, all property owned individually before the marriage is considered separate property and will be returned in full to the party who owned it before the marriage.

There may be assets that have been partially paid for before the marriage—a house or car. There may also be assets that were owned before the marriage, but have substantially appreciated in value during the marriage—investments, real estate, or retirement accounts. The prenuptial agreement should clearly identify how such property will be divided. This is especially important in Texas, where community property laws generally hold that all property obtained during a marriage is community property and to be divided equally upon separation or divorce.

Debts Incurred

An effective prenuptial agreement will also establish who has responsibility for any debts incurred during the marriage. Typically, if there are secured debts, the party who receives the property also takes on the debt. Parties can also agree to have separate bank accounts, credit cards and financing arrangements for personal property.

Waiver of Alimony

It is not uncommon for a prenuptial agreement to include a provision that the parties agree that there will be no obligation to pay alimony in the event of separation or divorce.

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.

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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.

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Ending Child Support

How Do You End Child Support Obligations?

Whether you are in the middle of a divorce proceeding or your divorce was final years ago, if there are minor children involved, one of the key questions will be how and when the obligation to pay child support ends. Most people assume that it terminates once your child reaches the age of 18, but that’s not necessarily the case. The laws vary from state to state, and the parties can have a say in when support ends. In addition, support may be terminated if your child becomes “emancipated” or may be extended if your child becomes disabled and unable to meet his or her obligations.

The Law in Texas

How Do You End Child Support Obligations?Under Texas law, you generally have to pay child support until your child’s 18th birthday or until he or he graduates from high school, whichever comes later. The obligation to pay child support does not end automatically, though. The existing child support order must be terminated by the court or must be superseded by a new support order. Accordingly, you should review your child support order and determine when it is scheduled to end. You should also notify the state’ child support enforcement agency in advance when you believe that your child support obligation is about to expire.

The Effect of Emancipation on Child Support

One of the purposes of child support is to allow the custodial parent to cover expenses related to providing a home for the child. If your child becomes self-supporting, or takes other actions that constitute emancipation, your support obligation may be terminated. Other actions that qualify as emancipation include marriage, joining the military, or permanently leaving the custodial parent’s home.

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

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

She Claims I Am the Father of Her Child

Challenging Paternity in Texas

When you’ve had an intimate relationship with a woman and she’s pregnant, or has a child and claims it’s yours, what are your options when you are certain you’re not, or learn that it’s unlikely or questionable?

How Paternity is Established in Texas

Under Texas law, paternity can be established three different ways:

  • By presumption—If you were married to the mother at the time of birth, for a period of time before the birth, or simply lived with her continuously for two years prior to the birth, you are presumed to be the father. That presumption can, however, be challenged and you can voluntarily take a DNA paternity test to refute paternity.
  • By voluntary acknowledgement—You can sign a legally binding document known as an “Acknowledgement of Paternity.” If you obtain subsequent evidence that you may have signed the acknowledgement in error, you may be able to have it voided, based on the results of a DNA paternity test.
  • By court order—The mother, father or child (in limited circumstances) may ask the court to issue an order declaring paternity.

DNA Testing

Under modern DNA testing, paternity can be determined with a great deal of accuracy. Courts, though, typically require that the test find a 99% chance of paternity.

It is not necessary, though, to obtain a court order to have genetic DNA testing done. However, you will need biological information from both alleged parents.

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

Someone Called Social Services on Me

What to Do if Someone Calls Social Services on You

You get a notice in the mail or a phone call, or worse yet, a child protective services social worker shows up at your door. How do you best protect yourself?

If you get written notice or a phone call, your first step should be to contact an attorney. If you received a communication by telephone, keep the conversation short and don’t agree to anything. Advise them that you will have your attorney contact them.

If a child services social worker comes to your home unannounced, remember that you don’t have to let them in, unless they have a law enforcement officer with them and have a valid search warrant. This is highly unlikely, as the reason a social worker has come to your home is usually to obtain enough evidence to support an action against you. Tell them that they may not come in, ask for contact information, and advise them that you will have your attorney contact them. Don’t say anything more.

If you know or have reason to know that you have been reported to child protective services, you should start to document everything:

  • Keep a file with copies of all documents received from social services
  • Take pictures of your home, your children or anything that may be related to the investigation
  • If you are contacted by a social worker, send that social worker a follow-up letter documenting exactly what happened during any meeting or conversation.
  • Obtain a video camera, if possible, and be prepared to tape any interview or conversation with a social services worker

Be careful in all dealings with any representatives of child protective services. It may seem like they are trying to be helpful, that they understand your concerns, but they are often looking for any evidence to present against you in a hearing in court.

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

Common Visitation Mistakes

Visitation Mistakes Parents Often Make

Divorce and visitation are really hard on kids. As a parent, you don’t want to make a difficult situation even worse. Unfortunately, many custodial and non-custodial parents do just that. Here are some of the worst things you can do with visitation.

  • Use visitation as a tool to either punish or reward your ex-spouse—This applies to both sides. Custodial parents may falsely claim that children are sick. Non-custodial parents may claim they are unable to take children as agreed upon. In both instances, the children become pawns and they know it.
  • Use the time when children are picked up to discuss difficult issues—Disagreement is a part of life, but it doesn’t have to take place in front of your children. If you have a conflict that is between you and your ex-spouse, don’t discuss it in front of your children. They usually lack the development to understand that a simple disagreement won’t lead to a serious result.
  • Make your children feel guilty about visiting the other parent—It may often be entirely unintentional, but when you tell your children that you will miss them when they are with the other parent, they are inclined to feel responsible and guilty for leaving.
  • Let your children make the decisions about when and how long they will visit their non-custodial parent, or when they will go home—This puts unnecessary pressure on the child, as they don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings, but find themselves in a no-win situation.

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

Late Child Support or Spousal Maintenance Payments — Your Options

What to Do When a Support Payment Is Late

Your ex-spouse is late with a child support payment or hasn’t paid the alimony ordered by the court. What are your options?

Using the Power of the Court to Get Relief

Because the obligation to pay child or spousal support has been ordered by the court, your ex-spouse’s failure to honor that commitment can be considered contempt of court. If your ex-spouse is found to be in contempt of court, he or she can be fined or can face jail time.

In the state of Texas, child support enforcement falls within the purview of the state’s attorney general. The attorney general’s office has a number of avenues through which to pursue unpaid child support obligations, including:

  • Income withholding orders that mandate that money be taken directly from the obligor’s paycheck. Such an order may apply to workers’ compensation benefits or unemployment compensation. The attorney general may also seek to attach any federal or state income tax refunds.
  • The attachment of assets owned by the obligor, to be sold or used to pay support arrearages.
  • The requirement that the obligor pay or put up a bond to cover potential support arrearages.
  • The suspension of a passport or other professional licenses.
  • Notification to credit reporting agencies of the arrearage.
  • Criminal prosecution with a potential fine and/or jail time.

Don’t Deny Visitation

In Texas, as in other states, the right to visitation is not conditioned upon being current on all child support obligations. If you try to deny the noncustodial parent the opportunity to spend time with a minor child, you can find yourself facing a contempt of court proceeding.

Questions About Late Child Support or Spousal Maintenance Payments — Your 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. 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.

Does Child Support End at Graduation?

When Does a Child Support Obligation in Texas End? At Graduation? At Age 18?

As a parent, you want to make certain your child’s financial needs are being met. If you are no longer married to the child’s other parent, though, you want to know that you don’t have to be responsible for more than your fair share and that you are not paying support to your spouse when your child no longer lives at home.

Texas Laws Governing When Child Support Ends

In a divorce proceeding in Texas, the parties can agree that support will end at any time, though the courts are unlikely to approve of and enforce an order that has support ending before the child in question reaches age 18, absent highly unusual circumstances.

Under § 154.001 of the Texas Family Code, absent agreement by the parties, the court may require that one or both parents support the child until the age of 18 or until graduation from high school, whichever is later. The court can also order that child support end if the minor becomes emancipated or gets married. The death of the child also terminates the child support obligation.

If a parent is financially able, even though parental rights have been terminated, the court can mandate child support payments until the earlier of the child’s adoption the child’s 18th birthday or high school graduation (whichever is later), the child’s emancipation or the child’s death.

The Texas Family Code, in § 154.002, clarifies that support may be extended beyond a child’s 18th birthday if a child is enrolled in an accredited secondary school, is jointly taking high school and junior college classes or is a full-time student at a private secondary school that will award a high school diploma. However, payments will only be due if the child is in compliance with minimum attendance requirements imposed either by the state’s Education Code or the school where the child is enrolled.

Questions About Does Child Support End at Graduation? 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.

 
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