DOES TEXAS RECOGNIZE LEGAL SEPARATION?
When Texas couples have a marital dispute that’s too serious to repair, divorce may be the only option. Texas, unlike most other states, does not legally recognize separation.
This has consequences at the end of a marriage because Texas is a community property state. Everything that was owned by the couple remains marital property, subject to property division in a divorce, even though spouses may live apart or keep separate residences.
Couples, however, can agree to a contractual separation instead of seeking temporary orders from a court. They may enter a separation agreement that is a legally-binding contract, which does not require a court proceeding.
Spouses seeking a contractual separation negotiate and enter an agreement that is binding and settles some of the issues when a marriage ends. The spouses usually separate their debts and assets, settle property division matters and agree to provisions providing for their children’s care.
This contract does not legally end the marriage, even though the couple lives separately. A separation agreement may, though, serve as the basis for court-issued divorce decree or an annulment order erasing a marriage that was illegal or not valid.
A spouse does not file a complaint seeking separation or for these agreements nor do they have to file for divorce or annulment. Moreover, courts do not issue orders approving or enforcing these agreements or play a role with their negotiation.
Violations of this agreement are treated as a breach of contract. When this occurs, the other spouse may file a civil lawsuit and ask the court for an order mandating that the spouse comply with the terms of the agreement.
These settlement contracts, like prenuptial agreements, can help resolve issues when a couple ends their marriage.
Five Tips for Surviving Christmas During A Divorce
Traditionally, Christmas is a time for bringing the family together to celebrate. However, when you are in the middle of, or have recently completed, divorce proceedings, the holiday can feel much less festive.
Below is a list of five tips for surviving a divorce during the holidays:
1. Surround yourself with positive people. Try to steer clear of negativity. It goes without saying that divorce is very stressful and takes a tremendous amount of mental and physical energy. Hang out with friends who uplift you and try to steer clear of those who bring you down.
2. Treat yourself to something special. Visit a day spa. Buy that bracelet you’ve had your eye on. When you give more to yourself, you have more to offer others.
3. Stay mindful of your health and well-being. Eat healthful meals. Make sure you get enough exercise and sleep. Try not to drink to excess.
4. Create new traditions. You now have the freedom to spend Christmas and other holidays in any way that you’d like! Take a personal vacation, or if you’re feeling altruistic, volunteer to work a shift or two in a soup kitchen and help those who are truly in need.
5. Set realistic expectations. Maintaining realistic expectations for the holiday season can go a long way towards reducing stress and frustration. Practice good self-care, establish clear boundaries, and take things one day at a time. It will get easier!
HOW DO COURTS DIVIDE COMMUNITY PROPERTY IN A TEXAS DIVORCE?
Understanding the way property is divided is very important in a divorce. This is often the most disputed issue in a divorce, after child custody.
In most states, the law follows a standard known as equitable division, meaning that the division must meet guidelines of fairness. However, Texas follows a different standard known as community property when overseeing asset division in a divorce.
Community property is a type of joint ownership. Assets purchased by the married couple are combined with assets that were earned by the couple during their marriage. The husband and wife own them equally and all debts are incurred equally. This is true regardless of who has the title in the assets.
Generally, each spouse in Texas gets an equal share of community property and also incurs the marital debt equally. However, this does not mean that everything is always split 50-50. While some types of assets, such as a joint checking account, may be relatively easy to split in half, others are not. Complex assets, such as retirement plans, stock options and ownership stakes in a business, can be very difficult to divide fairly.
Another important fact to note about property division is that the law gives the court some discretion in how the property will be divided. Courts are instructed to order a division of property in a manner that the court considers fair and just. Therefore, when deciding on property division, courts can consider the needs of the parties and any children they may have.
ESTIMATING MONTHLY CHILD SUPPORT PAYMENTS
The custodial parent of a child, should expect the other parent to be ordered to pay a certain amount of child support every month. The online “child support calculator” allows the custodial parent to estimate what the payments will be.
In order to get a child support estimation, the custodial parent will need financial documentation. This should include both parents’ monthly income, any tax benefits either parent receives and the amount of debt the former couple is responsible for paying. There are other factors that could have an impact on the monthly child support payments, such as how much time the child spends with each parent.
However, that the child support calculator can only estimate child support. Once the parent formerly requests child support, the actual amount he or she may receive could be vastly different that what the calculator estimated. This is because the judge could incorporate additional costs into the calculation, especially if the child has special medical needs or if the parents have agreed to private school.
Once a child support order is in place, the noncustodial parent is responsible for making timely payments to help with the costs of raising a child. While there are many noncustodial parents who follow the order and make the payments, others try to dodge their financial responsibilities. If that happens to be the case, a judge can help the custodial parent get the child support he or she is owed.
HOLIDAY CUSTODY ARRANGEMENTS IN A DIVORCE
Texas parents who are considering a divorce may want to consider the various challenges presented during the holidays. Family courts become busier around the holidays due to disputes regarding which parent the children spend time with during the season. To avoid circular arguments about promised holiday custody agreements, it is best to get both parents to agree on an arrangement in writing.
Holiday parenting negotiations often involve agreements in which the children may spend Thanksgiving with one parent and Christmas with the other, then alternate the following year. Alternating year arrangements also make it possible for one parent to spend Christmas Eve with the children and another Christmas Day. Split time arrangements are viable for parents who maintain strong communication with each other. These agreements allow children to enjoy the holiday with both parents and are ideal for parents who live close to each other.
ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION IN A TEXAS DIVORCE
Avoiding the trauma of the courtroom has become the preference of many divorcing couples in Texas. Most divorces are complicated affairs — especially when there are children involved. Fortunately, divorce laws allow couples to choose to resolve their issues through alternative dispute resolution methods.
Not only can you avoid the confrontational atmosphere that typically accompanies the fight to win a courtroom battle; you can also avoid the sometimes high costs related to litigation. All these methods require is the ability of the two of you to sit down and discuss important issues along with the support and guidance of your attorneys.
What are the alternative dispute resolution options in divorce?
There are two main types of alternative dispute resolution options for divorcing spouses:
• Divorce mediation involves a qualified and impartial third-party mediator to facilitate negotiations and encourage communication and compromise. A mediator may not provide legal advice, but each party’s legal counsel may be present to provide legal and moral support.
• Collaboration is a process that takes place between the two spouses — each with his or her attorney present — in formal settings with the aim to draft a divorce settlement.
What happens after successful negotiations?
In most cases, if couples manage to reach an agreement, the attorneys can draft a final settlement agreement that details the decisions made during negotiations — regardless of the method you used. The attorneys will then present the written agreement to the judge, and unless it shows obvious favor for one of you, the court will approve the settlement. The judge will then issue a divorce decree to finalize the divorce and to show the resolutions reached on the main issues.
Who pays for the children’s health insurance in a Divorce Case?
The sharing of parental rights and responsibilities extends beyond the end of a Texas marriage. Divorce agreements define the physical, legal and financial duties of co-parenting. Among the most important considerations is how children’s medical needs will be covered.
Health support obligations are not optional. Federal laws, including the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and state laws require parents to make sure children’s medical expenses are met. Parents or — in the absence of a spousal agreement — judges also decide how uncovered medical costs, like co-payments and deductibles, will be paid.
Non-custodial parents often include children on their health insurance policies, whether the plans are offered by employers or purchased independently. When both parents have employer-provided coverage, children may be listed on both policies. One insurance company is the primary carrier, while the other acts as a backup for expenses that aren’t covered by the first policy.
Courts assess the financial ability of each parent to contribute to the payment of children’s insured and uncovered medical and dental costs. In some circumstances, neither parent has an employer-provided plan or can afford private insurance. Income-based government programs like Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP, may fill the gap.