Terry L. Hart, Attorney at Law

Houston Family Law Blog

Increasing the chances of avoiding divorce court

Couples ending their marriage may begin a stressful and expensive battle, especially if they have children. Fortunately, there are methods for avoiding these difficulties and staying out of the courthouse while undergoing a divorce.

Mediation allows the spouses to control their spousal support, property division and custody issues without a court imposing rulings on them. A neutral mediator helps couples design their own solutions to matters that must be acceptable to each party. Mediation also helps assure that divorce issues remain confidential.

Texas child support changes

Separated or divorced parents and their children may be eligible for more support after September 1. A law took effect that requires parents paying child support to provide dental insurance to their children. Parents who pay child support have been legally required to pay for health care insurance in addition to other living expenses. Many supporting parents already voluntarily paid for dental insurance before this new law.

This support obligation may not take effect immediately for every parent, however, because of court rulings. New court cases requiring child support will probably require dental insurance payments.

3 tips for telling children about a divorce

For any couple breaking up, sharing the news with the people in their lives is a difficult aspect of the split. Married couples who are also parents together have one particular audience that is most important to inform: the kids.

Telling children about an impending divorce can be a challenge for all parents. No matter the family dynamics during the marriage, a divorce will bring major changes to the lives of everyone in the family. With that in mind, it’s important that parents prepare for sharing this news and go into the conversation with a plan in place to mitigate any potential issues.

Unfriending social media during divorce

A divorcing spouse has many opportunities to undermine their case for spousal and child support, property division and other important matters. The misuse of social media is a misstep that can be used against a spouse during divorce.

First and foremost, everything posted on Facebook, Twitter and other open forums can, and very likely will, be used against the posting spouse during a divorce. Pictures about vacations and purchases can undermine arguments about the ability to pay support, for example. Posting pictures about dates and partying can resurface in a custody battle.

Open communication is key during the school year

Any relationship benefits from a healthy dose of communication. However, when a relationship goes south, there’s a good chance you want nothing to do with that person. For marriages, bad communication and emotional disconnect are warning signs. You might be looking to divorce as an option, but you’re worried about how it will affect your child.

Dividing retirement assets in divorce

Splitting a married couple's assets is often difficult during divorce. However, property division of retirement assets has its own unique concerns. Specific rules govern dividing 401(k) plans, pensions and individual retirement accounts. Annuities are also difficult, and couples may have to trade assets to avoid cashing in an annuity and losing significant value.

A qualified domestic relations order is required for 401(k) plans and pensions. A QDRO is a judicial decree that sets forth a spouse's right to receive any part of an account owner's qualified plan. These orders are submitted to plan administrators and then plan assets may be transferred to the spouse's name. Dividing a 401(k) plan with a QDRO allows a one-time tax break. Rolling these funds immediately into a new IRA also eliminates taxes or penalties. Beneficiaries must be reviewed to assure that there are no unintended recipients, such as the soon-to-be former spouse.

Prenups are front and center

Prenuptial agreements serve as insurance for resolving issues if marriages end. Changes in the nation's tax laws concerning divorce and the increased use of prenuptial agreements have focused more attention on them. If done correctly, these agreements outline financial rights and responsibilities and set forth agreements on property division before marriage. Prenups can also lower the length and tension of the divorce process.

Changes to the federal tax law have also prompted many married couples to review existing agreements. Previously, spousal support payments were deductible to the spouse who paid alimony and were taxable as income to the spouse who received it. Prenuptial agreements were often based on this long-standing tax rule. Effective Jan. 1, 2019, spousal support is no longer deductible to the payor or taxed as income to the payee spouse. This also applies to prenups entered after Dec. 31, 2018, or amended after that date.

Signals that a marriage could be on the skids

A good relationship is difficult to find. You were one of the lucky ones who managed to find the perfect person and grabbed on tight. Over time, though, things have begun to change. Where there was once non-stop excitement and joy, now there’s uncomfortable silence. Or worse, the painful noise of arguments.

Marriages are difficult relationships to maintain. People change, and sometimes their partner doesn’t change with them. People in a bad relationship are often the most blind to it. If your relationship has felt off, consider these four signs that it may be time to end things.

Packing a prenup for college

Going to college is the time for sons and daughters to learn about finances and other business matters. It is also a good time to begin discussions about prenuptial agreements and their part in a divorce. College is an important time for dating and waiting until one is engaged or in a serious relationship may lead to complications and bad feelings.

A prenup is not necessarily bad and may be considered a marriage insurance policy for an event that may never occur. These agreements can help reduce the stress and complications of divorce.

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Terry L. Hart, Attorney at Law
4265 San Felipe Street
Suite 1100
Houston, TX 77027

Toll Free: 877-576-7390
Phone: 713-581-1773
Fax: 713-968-9817
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