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Matrimonial Law

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Annulling Your Marriage in Texas

Am I eligible for an annulment under Texas law?

Obtaining an annulment is a complicated process in Texas, but there are several advantages of seeking an annulment rather than a divorce.  An annulment is a legal proceeding by which a marriage is declared “void.”  While a divorce ends a previously valid marriage, an annulment ends a marriage that should never have been valid.  Many people who seek an annulment are not actually eligible for one, so review the grounds for an annulment carefully and obtain the assistance of an

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Friday, December 30, 2016

Protect Yourself With a Prenuptial Agreements

How important is a pre-marital agreement in Texas?

Planning for your wedding day is a joyous occasion, but in the midst of romance all couples should consider whether a prenuptial or pre-marital agreement may be wise to protect their financial interests.  While all of us plan and hope that our marriage will last forever, the reality is that many marriages do eventually end in divorce.  By including prenuptial planning in your wedding planning, you and your future spouse can protect your finances and ward against potential disagreements in the future. 

Prenuptial Agreements in Texas Defined

The Texas Family Code allows prospective spouses to enter into a prenuptial agreement prior to marriage.  Prenuptial agreements are all unique, but generally they will govern the division of property in the event of divorce, as well as the rights and obligations of spouses regarding separate and marital property.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Basics of Spousal Maintenance in Texas: How Much & How Long?

Must I keep paying spousal support after my ex gets remarried?

Spousal support is a component of many Texas divorces, and is designed to ensure that neither spouse experiences significant financial hardship nor impoverishment in the months or years following the dissolution of the marriage. Historically, one spouse had served in the primary “breadwinning” role while the other tended mostly to domestic matters, childrearing and homemaking. In the event of a divorce in this situation, the homemaker spouse often experienced an inability to find gainful employment – prompting the advent of spousal support laws to ensure that divorce did not necessarily lead to financial ruin to the spouse unprepared for the job market.

In Texas, a court may order spousal maintenance only if the “spouse seeking maintenance will lack sufficient property… to provide for the spouse's minimum reasonable needs.” Moreover, the court must find that the spouse seeking maintenance also fits into one of the following categories:

  • Has been a victim of domestic violence at some point during the marriage
  • Has a physical or mental handicap making self-support impossible or unduly burdensome
  • Has been in the marriage for at least 10 years and “lacks the ability to earn sufficient income to provide for the [his or her] minimum reasonable needs”
  • Is the primary custodian of a child of the marriage who needs continual care due to a mental or physical handicap

In most instances, spousal support does not last forever. Undoubtedly, the recipient spouse foregoes the right to support upon remarriage – and, possibly, cohabitation in a subsequent romantic relationship. In many cases, a divorce decree will specify a definite length of time for support payments, and will generally require the recipient to make reasonable efforts to secure a regular income.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Reluctant Texas County Grants First Same-Sex Divorce

With the nationalization of same-sex marriage, are spouses also guaranteed equal rights to the divorce process?

In June, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its historic ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which opened the doors for same-sex marriage in all 50 states. For states like Texas, which did not officially recognize marriage between same-sex partners, this ruling clarified the status of marriage as a fundamental right that cannot be denied to consenting, unrelated, unmarried adults – regardless of their gender.

With that issue out of the way, the ruling also brought to light another seemingly fundamental right within the marriage context: divorce. Intuitively, same-sex partners who are now allowed to marry should also be allowed equal access to divorce, right? Well, for one Texas county, the dissolution journey was a long one – and finally reached its conclusion in August, 2015.

Several years ago, two current Tarrant County women were lawfully wed in New Hampshire – a state which has recognized same-sex marriage for several years. After moving from the Northeast to the Fort Worth area, the couple opted to split – and filed the requisite paperwork to seek a divorce. Problem was that, at the time, Texas did not recognize same-sex marriage – and accordingly refused to grant a same-sex divorce. Moreover, the spouses tried an alternative option known as annulment – which nullifies a marriage as if it never took place. Unfortunately, this attempt was also struck down by the county court, prompting the women to appeal the rulings.

After nearly four years of legal wrangling, the Supreme Court’s holding in Obergefell finally solidified the notion that a state required to issue same-sex marriage licenses is also compelled to issue same-sex dissolutions – paving the way for equality in both marriage and divorce.

If you are considering a divorce and would like to discuss your options under current Texas law, please do not hesitate our experienced and dedicated family attorneys at Stinson Moyle, PLLC today: 512.320.9070.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Texas Senate Advances Law Prohibiting Use of Unconstitutional Foreign Laws in Family Court Matters

Can a Texas family court incorporate foreign laws, customs, or traditions in its decision-making process?

Family law is known for its multi-jurisdictional component, with parents often living in separate states or countries. Also, new Texas residents with out-of-state judgments must go through the exercise of enrolling their foreign judgment in the state of Texas to ensure its enforceability in the event of a conflict. In the end, the procedural and jurisdictional considerations involved in a complex family law matter can quickly reach global proportions – prompting lawmakers to consider whether certain customs and practices in other nations are appropriate for inclusion in Texas family law orders. 

Legislature takes aim at ‘unconstitutional’ practices 

With thousands of cultures and standard practices at play across the globe, it is not uncommon for a family law order to reach Texas courts containing a questionable requirement or mandate – particularly with regard to divorce or child-related orders. As a result, the Texas legislature made certain the American constitutional laws protecting children take precedent over any Full Faith and Credit argument, and included the following language in the recent Senate Bill 531: 

A ruling or decision of a court, arbitrator, or administrative adjudicator in a suit affecting the parent-child relationship may not be based on a foreign law if the application of that law would violate a fundamental right guaranteed by the United States Constitution or the constitution or a statute of this state.

The bill, which becomes fully enforceable as of September 1, 2015, works to ensure that all children are afforded the same constitutional protections regardless of their nation of origin. More specifically, the bill seeks to avoid the unintentional enforcement of orders which work to oppress or subjugate foreign-born children, or unlawfully prevent children from accessing their parent or siblings. 

If you are in need of assistance with your family law matter and would like to speak to a reputable attorney, please do not hesitate to contact the Austin, Texas family law attorneys at Stinson Moyle today: (512)320-9070. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

Why Prenups Aren’t Just for the Rich and Famous

How can the ordinary person benefit from a pre-nup?

Marriage is one of the most serious contracts you will enter into during your lifetime, but unlike other contracts - think mortgages, car loans, and employment agreements- the terms aren’t in writing. That’s why we encourage every married couple to enter into a pre- or post-nuptial agreement. 

Marital agreements get a bad rap because the only time most people hear about them is when a celebrity or ultra-wealthy couple is getting divorced. However, being rich and famous is not a prerequisite for entering into a marital contract. Nor do you need to be getting divorced to find a pre- or post-nuptial agreement useful. 

Here are a few examples of situations normal people may find themselves in where a marital agreement would be useful:
• Business owners and partners should always get a prenuptial agreement. If not, his or her new spouse could become liable for business debts. In addition, if the business owner were to die without an estate plan in place, the spouse could be forced to take on the role of business owner or partner.
• If one or both partners have children from a prior relationship, a marital agreement can help ensure that commitments made to those children are known and honored by the soon-to-be-step-parent. 
• If either partner is bringing a large amount of money, or a large amount of debt, to the relationship, a pre-marital agreement can shield that asset or liability from the other spouse. Nearly everyone today has some debt before marriage - be it credit card or college loans - so this is a real issue that needs to be dealt with that older generations just didn’t have to think about.
• Other assets can also be mentioned in prenuptial agreements. For example, a woman might have inherited a share in a family-owned vacation home at the shore. The house was to be shared by the woman and her sisters, and then passed down to the woman’s future children and her nieces and nephews. By putting information about the cabin in her prenuptial agreement, she can ensure that the wishes of her family are carried out.
Having an open conversation about assets, including businesses and property, debts, and children is something all couples should be doing. Writing a prenuptial agreement just takes that conversation one step further by putting it into writing. If you aren’t discussing these serious topics with you future partner you are doing more to damage your relationship than the supposed “curse” that comes with creating a prenuptial agreement ever will. 

If you would like to learn more about the benefits of prenuptial agreements, call our Austin family law and matrimonial attorneys today at 512-320-9070 to set up a confidential consultation. 

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