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Friendswood Family Law Blog

Tax issues of the divorce process

Texas residents who have recently gone through a divorce may be interested in an article that discusses some things to watch out for around tax time. The marital dissolution can have different consequences, depending on each person's individual situation.

One of the initial issues surrounding a divorcing couple's taxes is the question of what filing status to use. Generally, a person's filing status is determined as of Dec. 31, no matter what day of the year the divorce occurs. If the divorce proceedings are still ongoing as of that date, then the appropriate filing status will be either a joint return or married filing separately. Divorced taxpayers can either file as single or alternatively use the head of household filing status if they are the caretaker of a qualified dependent child.

High-profile divorce highlights spousal harassment

In Texas and throughout the nation, those who experience embarrassment or harassment during a divorce are not alone. The Washington Post highlights a high-profile divorce that has devolved into harassment. According to the Post, political insiders Tony and Heather Podesta are living through such a situation. The Podestas are noted lobbyists and are well connected politically through Mr. Podesta's consulting firm, Podesta Group, and through Mr. Podesta's brother, John Podesta, President Clinton's former chief of staff.

Podesta alleges that his estranged wife is seeking to both embarrass and harass him. One form of harassment that he alleges in a recent court filing is Ms. Podesta's recent actions involving the couple's extensive art collection. Podesta alleges that she sent letters to noted museums requesting that they prohibit him from donating any art to these museums. He also alleges that Ms. Podesta changed the locks to a dwelling in Venice, Italy, that they co-own.

Determining how to split complicated assets in a divorce

Some individuals filing for divorce in Texas may have concerns that their soon-to-be ex will try to conceal some assets to avoid having them counted as community property subject to an equal division. People may want to look out for more than just international bank transfers or investments when trying to find all of their spouses' assets. Some spouses may also try to hide funds before a divorce by loaning them to another family member interest free or by telling a close friend or family member to make a big purchase with the divorcing spouse's money.

Even if a spouse is not suspected of tampering with financial data or hiding assets, it may still be a good idea to conduct an inventory of all marital property and to issue discovery requests and subpoenas of business records to figure out the nature of any complex business assets. Certain assets may be illiquid, making them hard to value. It may then be necessary to retain a financial planner or accountant to help establish a fair value for such items.

How to be prudent when going through a divorce

Houston residents who are going through a divorce may wish to heed some advice from some family law attorneys regarding social media. Posts on social media may come back to harm a party to a divorce if they are introduced in court. Even if someone tries to block the account of his or her ex and all of the friends of that ex, there is no guarantee that the post will never make it into the wrong hands; social media is never private.

Even posts made by a divorcing couple's children may be problematic in proceedings to determine child custody and visitation. If an underage child posts pictures that show the child drinking alcohol or in possession of drug paraphernalia, the parent who was watching the child at that time may be held accountable in court. Even if a child is shown doing something seemingly innocent, like jumping on a trampoline, one parent may try to show that the custodial parent was allowing the child to do something dangerous.

Unforeseen issue from divorce settlement agreement

A recent court ruling about a divorce settlement agreement may interest residents of Texas. A divorced father had a daughter past the age of emancipation from whom he had become estranged. She had been accepted to Cornell Law School at a cost of $74,580 a year. The divorce settlement obligated the father to pay 50 percent of the daughter's postgraduate educational costs, including tuition, books, fees and room and board.

The father argued in court that he should not have to pay the costs for Cornell due to his poor relationship with his daughter, his own financial difficulties and the fact that a less expensive school could have been chosen. He also contended that his ex-wife had inherited money intended for the daughter's education costs. He offered to pay $7,500 per year for Rutgers Law School, instead. The trial judge and the appellate court were not persuaded by the father's case and ordered him to pay a total of $112,500 toward the Cornell education.

Effect of the Affordable Care Act on divorce

Texas couples may be interested in one of the unintended effects of the newly-implemented Affordable Care Act. Divorcing spouses may now be free of one major concern when they split up.

Before the Affordable Care Act was passed, the availability of health insurance was often dependent on employment. When one spouse was not working, it could be very difficult both to reenter the workforce and to obtain coverage when divorced. Because of this, some family law attorneys say that it was common for health insurance to be used by the other spouse as a way to keep a marriage together. Additionally, if the spouse had a preexisting condition, it could be even more difficult to obtain health insurance.

Divorce courts seeing more pet custody cases

Texas readers may find it interesting that more couples are taking their pet custody battles to court. According to a survey conducted by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, around 27 percent of the attorneys who responded said that they have seen an increase in the number of pet custody battles over the past five years.

The survey revealed that dogs are by far the most likely to be at the center of a custody dispute, with cats coming in at a distant second. Courts tend to view pets as an asset to be divided similar to other assets in a divorce. The survey also noted that 20 percent of the respondents had seen an increase in court decisions that declare pets as an asset in a divorce. In addition, courts are permitting pet custody cases, according to 22 percent of the responding lawyers.

Number of single fathers increasing

Texas residents may be interested in a recent Pew Research Center study on the rising number of single-father households. Between 1960 and 2011, the number of households with minor children headed by single fathers increased from 300,000 to 2.6 million. There are many reasons that have been suggested for this statistic, including the rising divorce rate and a trend among parents to not marry.

Another factor is a change in the view of many courts, which in years past tended to award physical custody to the mother as this was presumed in the best interest of the child. It was assumed that men could not provide childcare, but that is less valid as men have increasingly assumed caregiver roles while more women enter the workplace. The result has been an increasing societal acceptance of men in nurturing roles, and they have begun to demand equal child rearing time and have gained confidence in their ability to be caregivers.

Move-away cases present a challenge in Texas custody decisions

One of the most difficult decisions a Texas judge makes in custody cases is determining whether to grant a custodial parent permission to move out of the non-custodial parent's jurisdiction. Although the best interest of the child is the standard the court uses in making custody decisions, it is not readily apparent what benefits a child in so-called "move-away" custody cases.

If the custodial parent moves away, the other parent loses an important bond with the child. He or she no longer gets to help with homework, attend sporting events or have regular chances to interact with the child. Children may grow more emotionally distant as they become older and place peer commitments above their desire to have visitation with the non-custodial parent.

John Cleese opens up about alimony

Texas residents may be interested to learn more about recent updates in celebrity divorces. In a recent interview, John Cleese dispelled notions that being a famous actor means that he has unlimited resources. The comedian, best known for his role in Monty Python, disclosed that he still works at age 74 to pay court-ordered alimony to his third ex-wife.

Cleese and his ex-wife, a psychotherapist, were married for 16 years. They did not have any children together. When their marriage ended, the divorce settlement required Cleese to pay approximately $13 million as a property settlement, plus alimony of close to $1 million per year until 2016. Shortly thereafter, the comedian launched a one-man show called "The Alimony Tour." His recent comments suggest that the title held more truth than fans may have thought. Cleese revealed that, by the time he finishes paying, he will have given between $23 and $24 million to his ex-wife. He sold four properties that he owned and still has to work to make his payments.