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Austin TX Family Law Blog

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Bethenny Frankel Will No Longer Have to Pay Ex $12,000 Per Month in Spousal Support

When is spousal support awarded in Texas?

TV personality Bethenny Frankel recently won a significant victory in court when a judge ruled her spousal support obligation to estranged husband Jason Hoppy has ended.  Frankel had been paying her soon to be ex-husband $12,000 a month in temporary maintenance pending finalization of the divorce.  Frankel publically stated she was “pleased” to have the obligation end.

Frankel and Hoppy are embattled in a dispute over the correct interpretation of their prenuptial agreement and a trust agreement involving the couple’s apartment, estimated to be valued at $7 million.  In the prenup, Frankel and her legal team urged that Hoppy waived any right to spousal support or alimony.

Read more . . .

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Until Death-or Twitter- Do You Part

Can social media posts be used in a divorce case?

Once upon a time, you promised to love and honor each other in sickness and in health until death do you part.

But life’s no fairy tale and, for whatever reason, things have changed. Maybe you’re parting on good terms or maybe it’s ugly. But if there are children involved, you’ll still be bound forever through that shared tie-- so it’s best to make every effort to co-parent nicely for the sake of the children.

While your divorce lawyer is handling the legal proceedings, you might be tempted to move on with your new life.

Read more . . .

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Spousal Maintenance In Texas—Are You Entitled To It?

Are you experiencing financial difficulty during or following your divorce action?  Under the Texas Family Code, spousal maintenance is awarded when one spouse cannot provide for their own needs post-divorce or during the pending matrimonial case.  The requesting spouse must make a showing to the court that he or she has attempted to acquire financial stability during the divorce action

In addition to a spouse’s ability to be fiscally self-sufficient, courts consider several factors in determining whether a spouse is entitled to spousal maintenance.  This may include the partners’ economic resources, pre-existing child support obligations, education or other proficiencies and skills, and health status, such as a disability that stops a spouse from gaining or maintaining employment.

Read more . . .

Monday, June 27, 2016

Texas Court Says Divorced Spouse Can Keep Receiving Alimony Despite Long-Term Cohabitation

When does "living together" constitute common law marriage resulting in an end to alimony payments?

When a divorced spouse who receives alimony remarries, the alimony payments are expected to come to an end. Indeed, for the ex- paying the alimony, the remarriage of a former spouse may be a fond hope.

But what if the spouse does not formally remarry and simply cohabits with another person? Is this an "informal marriage" or "common law marriage" that ends the obligation to make alimony payments? In a recent case in Dallas, Texas, the answer was "no."

A Sharply Divided Court Allows Alimony to Continue

The case involved a couple who had been divorced since 1997.

Read more . . .

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Pop Star Iggy Azalea’s Common Law Marriage

What is required to form a common law marriage in TX?

Most of us go the traditional route when getting married. Usually, we find someone to officiate and have some type of ceremony, whether it is religious or otherwise. But, did you know that you could be considered married in the State of Texas without having a ceremony of any kind.  This is called common law marriage and is at the center of a lawsuit involving Australian born pop star Iggy Azalea.

Maurice Williams, a Texas rap producer, who recently changed his name to Enzo Wienberg, is claiming that he and Azalea entered into a common law marriage shortly after Azalea came to the United States.

Read more . . .

Monday, April 25, 2016

Complex $100 million International Divorce Plays Out in Houston Court

Some divorces are relatively straightforward. Others are not -- as evidenced by an ongoing bitter divorce battle in Houston. Pakistani natives -- who are residents of Harris County, Texas -- are seeking a divorce of their five-year marriage. The problem is that the couple cannot agree on whether Texas or Pakistani laws should govern the dissolution -- and the implications for the wife are dire to say the least.

Under Pakistani divorce laws, which are derived heavily from the traditional laws governing Islam and the dissolution of Islamic marriages, a husband is considered legally unwed from his wife by repeating “I divorce you” three times in succession.
Read more . . .

Friday, April 15, 2016

Do I Need a Prenuptial Agreement?

How do I know if I will benefit from a prenuptial agreement?

A prenuptial agreement is a contract signed before two parties enter into a marriage that describes how assets will be divided by the couple in the event of a divorce. As the average age of people entering into marriages goes up, we see that many of these people have accumulated assets early in life and that they want assurance as to how these assets will be divided in the event that their marriage falls apart.

Read more . . .

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Divorcing? Get Ready to Review Your Finances

How does a divorce affect a person’s finances?

When you have a significant life event such as a marriage, the birth of a child, or a death, you must usually evaluate how this impact’s our finances. It might not seem like it, but divorce has just as large of an effect on your finances as any other life event.

Read more . . .

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Prenuptial Agreements May Not Be Necessary, But Prenuptial Financial Discussions Are

What should young couples discuss about finances before they get married?

According to a 2012 study published in Family Relations, arguments about money are the most common predictor of divorce. Nonetheless, finances are at the bottom of the list of topics most young couples talk about. With the threat of divorce so prominent in modern society, is seems only reasonable that engaged couples should spend some time discussing their attitudes about, and expectations of, financial matters. Following are some themes to direct your discussions and hopefully put you both in a better place relative to the economic aspects of marriage.

[1] Individual Perspectives on Money

Each member of the couple has been raised in a different family and these differences have to be discussed in order for each to understand the other's perspective. It is important to know not only the level of wealth or poverty your intended grew up with, but the behavior surrounding that environment. Was the family prone to strict spending practices or did one member frequently splurge while the other scrimped? What were the family's priorities in terms of spending -- home furnishings?  clothing?   cars? education? vacations?  Did your fiancé(e)'s parents always consider "buying the best" to be a good investment or were they bargain hunters?

[2] Put Your Financial Cards on the Table

Unless both partners understand and communicate their individual financial situations, they will not be able to make reasonable decisions as a couple. They have to know one another's earnings, student loan debt, mortgage or rent, savings and credit score. They also have to fess up to any history of binge-spending, stinginess, or a tendency to lend or borrow.

[3] Show Each Other the Money

Since you are going to be married and, presumably, share a budget, you should show your partner an outline of your income and your expenses. It may be that you are already aware of one another's spending and saving habits, but there is no substitute to actually seeing the numbers in black and white. You may be amazed to find out that you spend more on entertainment than groceries or that your partner saves half of his or her salary. Revelations of this kind should be prerequisites of marriage so they don't become areas of contention and so that you can combine your budgets into a plan that suits you both.

[4] Look to the Future

While no one has a crystal ball and unforeseen occurrences are to be expected, you should discuss very basic futures plans, such as whether you want to live in a city, suburban or rural community and whether you want to have children.  Don't make the assumption that your spouse to be shares your desire of a large family unless you have discussed the matter. Also, you should both be aware that the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture estimates the cost of rearing one child at more than $245,000.

[5] Make Some Money Management Decisions

It is important to make a decision about whether you will keep separate bank accounts in addition to contributing to a joint account. You should also discuss who will pay the bills. Will one partner pay the rent or mortgage and the other pay for other expenses? Will the money simply be pooled? How much will each spouse require for day-to-day living expenses? How big must a purchase be for both parties to agree that it is necessary?

[6] The Uncomfortable Prenuptial Agreement

While not every couple signs a prenuptial agreement, it may show a certain amount of maturity to do so, particularly if the two members of the couple come to the marriage with widely varying assets, or if this is not a first marriage and there are stepchildren to be considered.

It is extremely helpful to be guided through premarital financial discussions by an experienced estate planning attorney who will know which questions to ask and whether you have need for legal documentation. Discussions about financial matters are not usually easy, but they are considerably easier before the wedding then after years of marriage. It is astonishing how quickly bills and spending habits can lead to marital discord.  You may be pleased, surprised, or dismayed by the results of a premarital financial discussion, but it's much better that these feelings be explored before, rather than after, the wedding vows are taken.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Alimony Changes When the Receiving Spouse Cohabits with Another

How is alimony affected by the cohabitation of the spouse receiving it?

Divorce is difficult under any circumstances, usually involving financial, as well as emotional, stress. In recent years, when many spouses are both working outside the home, alimony may not be part of the divorce agreement, or may be paid by either spouse to the other, regardless of gender, depending on income levels. How long alimony will be paid is variable.

The Terms of the Divorce Agreement Usually Determine When Alimony Ends



When the divorce is finalized, even if alimony is to be paid for an extended period, it typically is stipulated to terminate if the receiving spouse remarries, unless the original court document states otherwise. In some states, however, there are judges who, under certain circumstances, have the discretion to decide that alimony will continue after the receiving spouse remarries.

Does alimony stop if the recipient cohabits with another partner rather than remarrying?

Whether alimony will be terminated or reduced depends on where in the U.S. you reside and under the particular circumstances of your marriage and divorce. The following variations are possible:

  • In most states, alimony will be terminated or reduced only if cohabitation alters the recipient's need for economic support
  • Other states, however, will terminate alimony regardless of economic need once cohabitation occurs
  • In still other states, cohabitation will have no effect on alimony

Examples of Differences in Alimony Laws from One State to Another

In New York, alimony will only be terminated if the recipient not only lives with another, but also considers herself or himself to be a spouse of the other party. Since very few recipients are willing to do this if it means losing money, alimony is rarely terminated in New York.

In Illinois, on the other hand, a relatively recent ruling viewed a couple as cohabiting since they were intimate, sexually and otherwise, on an ongoing basis, even though the recipient's significant other lived in a separate residence.

In Arkansas, alimony cannot be terminated unless the cohabiting couple has a child together!

In Tennessee and California, it is assumed that the recipient's need for financial support is reduced or eliminated once he or she begins a relationship of cohabitation, so, unless the recipient can prove otherwise, alimony payments will be reduced or terminated.

In Texas, courts only award alimony if: [1] the marriage lasted for at least 10 years [2] one parent must care for a disabled child and therefore can't work or [3] the paying spouse has committed domestic abuse within two years of the divorce. In addition, in determining the length of time for which alimony must be paid, the court will consider each spouse's education, employment skills, age and health, and the duration of the marriage.

In states in which there are no specific laws to address the effect of cohabitation on alimony, the judge's ruling is difficult to predict. No matter what the state law is, however, if your particular divorce agreement stipulates what will occur if the receiving spouse becomes involved in a relationship of cohabitation, your agreement will remain legally binding.

In all situations, the onus is on the person requesting an alteration of alimony arrangements to prove that the ex-spouse's financial situation has significantly improved. If you are in the midst of setting up a divorce agreement to cover such situations, or if you are already enmeshed in a conflict in regard to alimony and cohabitation, it is essential that you contact an experienced family law attorney to vigorously defend your rights.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Divorce Filings Reveal Startling Domestic Strife for 'Affluenza Teen'

By now, many people nationwide have heard of the “affluenza teen” – a Fort Worth-area teen who obtained a shockingly light sentence after killing four people while driving drunk and underage. Citing the poor parenting skills of his mother and father, along with the irreversible effects of being spoiled his entire life, the child’s counsel somewhat successfully invoked the “affluenza” defense to help his client avoid the maximum possible adult sentence for his actions.

The perpetrator has since garnered additional nationwide scrutiny after apparently fleeing to Mexico with his mother, who is also facing charges for absconding with her child in violation of his probation. Now, after being thrust into the limelight, details of the parents’ 2006 divorce have emerged, shedding light on a little-known concept occurring with increasing frequency in divorces nationwide: adultification.

What is ‘adultification?’

When two parents go through a divorce, it is not uncommon for one or both to experience loneliness or isolation – particularly if the divorce was especially troublesome or came about unexpectedly. In some scenarios – as is alleged in this story – parents begin to treat their children as adult friends rather than vulnerable children, often asking them to fulfill inappropriate roles as the parent’s confidant and mentor. For a child enduring adultification amidst a divorce, the unsuitable changes in dynamics can create a confusing and dangerous mental health scenario for the child.

In the case of the “affluenza” teen, details of a divorce-related home study have been made public, revealing startling instances of adultification between the then nine-year old and his mother. More specifically, the psychologist detailed that “[the mother] has [the child’s] bed in her room and considers [the child] to be her protector….[the child] has a bedroom but prefers to sleep in a separate bed in his mother’s room.” The psychologist further noted that this arrangement was “very unusual and highly questionable.” The counselor further noted that the child commented he wished his parents wouldn’t “put him in the middle” – and was not surprised the child’s life had run its course the way it did.

If you are looking for help in ensuring the best possible arrangement for your children post-divorce, please do not hesitate to contact a reputable child custody attorney today!

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