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Houston Business and Family Law Blog

Can FaceTime be written into your child custody agreement?

If you are preparing for divorce in Texas, you should familiarize yourself with the laws that might apply to your situation. For instance, Texas happens to be one of only eight states in the entire nation that continue to operate under community property division guidelines. That may impact your settlement. Concerning child custody and visitation, there are new developments in the system that might benefit you and your children, especially if you are a non-custodial parent.

Some parents divorce and wind up living in close proximity to each other, which makes it convenient to shuttle children back and forth between houses. But if you end up living a great distance from your former spouse, perhaps even in another state, maintaining an active relationship with your children -- that includes ample time spent together -- may prove to be a tremendous challenge. This is where virtual visitation might come in handy.

Where do your children's "best interests" lie in your divorce?

Like most conscientious parents, you work hard to help keep your children healthy in mind, body and soul. Parenting is a rewarding but daunting task. You're not naive enough to think your upcoming divorce is not going to affect your kids in any way. Perhaps you've been reading articles or books about how to help children fare well when their parents decide to end their marriages.

Your children are your main priority in life. The court agrees that you should do everything possible to set the tone for success as you help your children adapt to a post-divorce lifestyle. Your children's best interests are of paramount importance to the court in all decisions regarding custody, visitation and support. The problem is that parents often disagree on the interpretation of "best interest."

Texas marital property: Will your assets be split in a divorce?

While Texas grants many freedoms to its residents, some divorcing people here feel restricted when it comes to the division of property. That's because Texas is one of a few states in the nation that operate under community property laws in divorce.

If you and your soon-to-be former spouse are on good terms and you are looking forward to a swift, down-the-middle settlement, then you chose a great state in which to live and file for divorce: Generally speaking, your marital property will likely be split 50/50 in divorce. If you are not happy with this notion of asset division, you may need detailed advice and a good legal strategy.

Can I appeal or change my divorce decree, or is it permanent?

Going through the divorce process is rarely, if ever, easy. While you may be able to get through it without having to fight things out in front of a judge, you may not. Sometimes litigation is necessary. In some cases, a judge gets to make some big decisions that may not sit well with you. If that happens, you may be wondering if the decree or judgment is permanent and whether you can appeal it.

The answer depends on what the problem is and how the decree is issued. It may be possible to appeal the ruling, but other options may be available to address what you feel is wrong or unfair.

Is an uncontested divorce right for me?

Are you and your spouse considering divorce? Do you want to avoid fighting things out in court? If you do, an uncontested divorce may be the right move for you.

Many couples in Texas who are thinking about ending their marriages do not want the dissolution process to be an emotionally exhausting series of fights. Many people are able to come to agreeable terms through private negotiations or other means.

How are taxes handled for alimony?

When you are ordered to pay alimony or if you have an order to be paid alimony in Texas, one thing you have to pay attention to are your tax obligations at the federal level. The IRS has very specific rules for what you must claim when paying or receiving alimony. Not meeting your tax obligations can lead to serious fines and penalties that can really add up.

To begin with, the IRS may define alimony a little different than the court has defined it or how you see the situation. Payments that are made but were not ordered under a divorce agreement are not alimony, such as a payment you make before the court has ordered you to pay. Noncash payments or payments to for property use or upkeep are also not categorized as alimony. Any payment from community property income is also excluded. Finally, child support is never considered alimony.

What are some same sex couple custody issues?

As you likely know, same-sex couples face some unique legal issues when it comes to child custody. Texas courts are still adjusting to the legalization of same-sex marriage and laws have not quite caught up when it comes to divorce and custody issues. This can lead to sticky situations when courts are trying to decide custody.

The Spruce notes that in states like Texas where same-sex marriage was not legal prior to the Supreme Court ruling biological parents still maintain the greatest rights. Only through legal adoption can both partners claim parental rights their children. If you fail to adopt, one of you could end up with no rights or limited rights when the custody battle goes to court. 

Can you end your marriage while avoiding a divorce?

There are many reasons why a person would want to avoid divorce, even when he or she wants to end a marriage. Annulment is an alternative to divorce, and it can accomplish many of the same things that a divorce does. However, the main difference between the two is that while a divorce ends a marriage, an annulment makes it as if it never existed.

Annulment is not appropriate for every situation, nor is it an available option for every person who wants it. If you believe that you could file for an annulment or would like to know more about this legal option, you would be wise to seek a full understanding of your legal options before you make any important decisions.

Special concerns for same-sex couples divorcing

When same sex marriage became legal, it was a huge win for same sex couples, but it also presented new challenges in states, such as Texas, where it was not legal before the Supreme Court ruling. It is especially challenging when couples decide to divorce.

According to Time, one of the main challenges with same sex divorce is trying to figure out how to factor in the time the couple was together before their marriage became legal. For example, if a couple was married in a state where same sex marriage was legal yet lived in Texas where that marriage was not recognized, would they now be considered married the whole time since same sex marriage is now legal?

Looking back at a notable example of high-asset Texas divorces

Divorce proceedings in Texas are often complicated by financial concerns. This complexity is amplified in situations where either an individual party or the couple holds high value in pensions, real estate, property interests or other diverse financial products. One notable example is of such was the divorce of Expos owner Jim Crane.

The recent history-making World Series win by the Astros turned the congratulatory attention of Texas towards the franchise owner and his triumphant team. A couple of years ago, Mr. Crane was receiving some attention in regard to another matter: his high-asset divorce. Sports Business Daily ran an excellent summary of the high-profile couple's breakup, describing the terms of the settlement and the immediate results. Mr. Crane's spouse did not take any interest in Astros ownership: a holding that could be considered a business asset under state law and therefore might be subject to division.

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