There is no denying the fact that property division can be a contentious issues during the divorce process. While you have one idea of what should happen, your soon to be ex-spouse may have another.

Develop a comprehensive property division checklist

Issues involving assets and debt division are usually resolved through negotiation, but sometimes a dispute over these issues must be resolved through litigation. In either case, there are things you can do before then to put yourself in position to succeed. Most importantly, you need to create a comprehensive property division checklist.

As the name implies, this is nothing more than a list of the many assets that require division. You can break this down into four categories:

  • Personal property — These are items you typically keep in your home, including motor vehicles, furniture, electronics, collectibles, guns, clothing and home office equipment.
  • Real property — In addition to the family home, this can include rental properties, business property, a vacation home and undeveloped land.
  • Financial assets — Common financial assets include bank accounts, cash on hand, retirement accounts, pensions, life insurance cash value, stocks, bonds and mutual funds.
  • Business assets — These can include an ownership interest in a corporation, partnership, limited liability corporation of sole proprietorship. A professional degree also falls into this category.

Along with a property division checklist, make a list of the many debts that you share with the other individual. This can include but is not limited to credit cards, personal loans, student loans, car loans and mortgage. Debt division is every bit as important as asset division.


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How to Modify Child Support

How to Modify Child Support

How to Modify Child Support

The court will always apply the “best interest of the child” standard in any child support modification order, but given that threshold requirement, there are a number of ways to modify child support orders.

  • The parties can agree to modify the order.
  • A substantial change must have occurred for one of the parties to the original suit or to a child that the court has jurisdiction over.
  • Three years have elapsed since a judge signed the time the prior order and you want to revisit the order.

The Parties Agree to a Modification of Child Support

The path of least resistance is for the parties to come to an agreement on modifying the child support order. The Texas Family Code provides set standards for how child support payments are calculated. So even if you and your ex agree on the modifications, you need to be prepared to justify the new amounts if they deviate from those standards. Even if you agree among yourselves to a new child support amount, you still need to draft and present a modified order to the judge and it won’t go into effect unless and until the judge signs it.

You Show a Substantial Change in Circumstances

A substantial change in circumstances can refer to the child or a parent. For example, when it applies to a child that is covered by child support it refers to a change in what is needed to care for the child. A change could occur, for example, because of an increase in the child’s medical needs requiring additional support and care or less support and care.

When it comes to a change of circumstances of the parent paying child support, this commonly occurs when the parent’s financial situation is altered. For example the father who is paying child support may have lost his job or his income might otherwise have been lowered to the extent that he can no longer make the court ordered payments. On the other hand, if his income has gone up substantially, his ex-wife may seek to raise the child support payments due to a change in circumstances.

Applying the Three Year Rule

If three years have passed since the child support payment order you do not have to show a substantial change in circumstances to seek a modification of the order. As a general rule, if you are seeking to increase or lower the child support payments by a minor amount that is based on the Texas Code methods of calculating child support, the court will usually allow the change.

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In June the maximum amount of child support that can be ordered under the Texas Child Support Guideline will increase effective Sept. 1. This change in the law will, in effect, raise the amount of maximum child support under the Texas Child Support Guidelines from $1,710 per month to $1,840 per month for one child.

Those who are currently paying child support or receiving child support, or those who may be doing so soon, could be affected.

What is the Change?

Under the Texas Child Support Guidelines, child support is determined based on one’s net monthly resources, i.e., income received per month less specific enumerated deductions. Once one’s net monthly resources are calculated by the court, then a percentage is applied based upon the number of children before the court (i.e., 20% for one child, 25% for two children, 30% for three children, etc.). However, the Texas Child Support Guidelines provide a “cap” on the amount of net monthly resources that can be used to calculate child support.

This “cap” means that no matter how much one person may make in net monthly resources each month, the Texas Family Code limits or caps that amount which, in turn, limits or caps the amount of child support one has to pay. Currently, that “cap” is set at $8,550.00 in net monthly resources, but it will increase to $9,200.00 on Sept. 1. This change in the law has the effect of increasing the amount of maximum child support under the Texas Child Support Guidelines for one child from $1,710.00 to $1,840.00 (i.e., 20% of $8,550.00 versus 20% of $9,200.00).

The Texas Family Code does allow one to request an amount of child support that deviates from the amounts as calculated by the Texas Child Support Guidelines (i.e., “above-guideline child support”), but those are typically rare circumstances.

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Texas family law states that a court may modify a child custody order if the change is in the best interest of the child and one of the following applies:

1. The circumstances of the child or parent have materially or substantially changed since the date of the original child custody order or order to be modified.

2. The child is at least 12 years of age and will tell the court in private chambers with the judge that he/she would like a change.

3. The custodial parent has voluntarily given the child’s care and custody to another person for at least 6 months.

Material or Substantial Change

What could be acceptable as a change for the Texas family courts? Examples include a parent’s remarriage, a medical condition the affects a parent’s ability take care of the child, a parent’s criminal record, a parent’s change in residence, family violence, drug or alcohol related issues, and other material changes concerning adequate care and supervision of the child.

Child Wants Change

The child must be at least 12 years of age and maybe interviewed in the judge’s chambers. The court will consider the child’s desire but only make a change if it is in the child’s best interest.

Custody Relinquishment

This happens when the custodial parent has voluntarily given up custody of the child to another person for at least six months. This does not apply to a period of military deployment or duty.

After finding one of the three prerequisites, the court must still consider whether the change will be in the child’s best interest. The court will consider factors affecting the child’s physical, emotional, mental, education, social, moral or disciplinary welfare and development.

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Protecting your rights Your response when your ex violates your court-ordered visitation rights depends on the circumstances. For example, if you fear your child is in danger from your ex, a reasonable response is to contact law enforcement. In most other cases, however, a more systematic approach is effective.

This begins with keeping a log of the times when your ex fails to honor your visitation rights, such as denying you time with the child, showing up late for drop-offs or constantly rescheduling. The next steps you can take include the following:

• Meet with your ex to discuss the reasons for the denial of visitation. Your ex may have concerns you can alleviate, and you may be able to avoid taking any unpleasant steps to protect your rights.

• Make a non-emergency call or visit to the police station so you have a formal report of the violation.

• Reach out to an attorney about seeking enforcement of your visitation order through the courts. This may include exercising your right to make up for visitation time your ex has previously denied.

• Discuss with your attorney the option of seeking a modification of your court order to obtain more time with your child.

• File a motion asking the court to hold your ex in contempt for refusing to comply with the court-ordered visitation plan. This is a drastic step that may result in fines or even jail for your ex, so think carefully before making this move.

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Couples in Texas should know that the divorce process can be very stressful, both financially and emotionally. There are a number of issues that have to be addressed, many of which can result in heated disputes. However, divorcing couples can use mediation to help to resolve conflicts and arrive at mutually agreeable divorce settlement terms.

People who have children or a number high-value assets or debts form the marriage can use a family law attorney or family mediator to help guide them during the divorce. Another bonus of divorce mediation is that it can limit the emotional, financial and time costs commonly associated with a conventional and litigated divorce.

Reducing the costs associated with divorce is a wise business decision. According to nation-wide surveys, the costs of divorce obtained through mediation range from $1,500 to $3,000, compared to $15,000 to $40,000 in costs for divorce obtained through litigation. The lowered costs can be significantly beneficial to families who may be experiencing financial difficulties when supporting two households.

Opting for mediation during the divorce process may also reduce future legal costs. There can be many points of contention during a litigious divorce, which can result in both parties filing many legal modifications and appeals. Such extended legal conflict can be a burden on a family’s finances.

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1. Get the child support in writing: Child support obligations are created by court orders. If you don’t already have a formal written agreement with your ex, you need to go to court and get it in writing.

2. Talk to your ex-spouse: You don’t have to talk to them if there is friction between the two of you, but it doesn’t hurt to try. Negotiating with them is quicker and cheaper than many other options of getting child support money.

3. Keep the other parent involved anyways: You may feel like pushing someone who isn’t paying child support away, but it’s not a good move. By keeping them involved in your children’s daily activities and other things going on,that helps your ex stay invested in your children and they may be more likely to pay child support when they can afford it.

4. Don’t depend on child support: If your ex isn’t dependable, never build their child support payments into your budget. Keep it separate, that way if it stops, it won’t hurt your child. Any money you do get from your ex can be saved.

5. Ask your ex to at least pay some: If they can’t pay all of the child support, ask them to pitch in what they can. Some money is better than no money and eventually, if you go to court, they may still have to pay back what they owe.

6. Get the courts involved: If your ex isn’t making any effort to pay, you can get the courts to garnish your ex’s wages, withhold their tax refunds, or even toss them in jail.

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