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Friendswood Family Law Blog

Alimony and spousal support in Texas

Individuals in Texas who are concerned about their financial situation after divorce may not be aware that alimony is only awarded in limited circumstances for limited periods. In fact, the term alimony refers to two different types of support. Spousal maintenance is court-ordered while contractual alimony is worked out in a written agreement between the former spouses.

The other primary difference between the two types is that spousal maintenance has specific legal parameters, and contractual alimony is not limited by those guidelines. Spousal maintenance is awarded for five, seven or 10 years. Exceptions may be made in cases where the former spouse is disabled or is caring for a disabled child. In those cases, the maintenance may be extended for the duration of the disability and indefinitely if needed.

Deciding what to do with the house in a divorce

Dividing a house in a divorce, as many Texans may know, is not as straightforward as it may seem. The debt an individual has incurred with marital real estate remains on credit reports until the mortgage is paid off or one spouse buys the other out.

Moving on after a divorce -- or even before the final paperwork is signed -- depends on eliminating debt that an individual no longer shares. For instance, if a divorce is imminent and one spouse is leaving the marital home, the other spouse may separate him or her from the mortgage or debt related to the property. Refinancing a mortgage and paying back any down payment the other spouse paid in the past is one way an amicable couple may work this out. The spouse who vacates the home could secure another mortgage.

Paul George seeking sole custody

Texas basketball fans may have heard that Indiana Pacers player Paul George is seeking confirmation that he is the biological father of a child born on May 1. The All-Star's paternity case includes a child custody issue as well.

In court documents, George said he wanted sole custody of a child he allegedly fathered with a New York City woman he met in Florida. According to the woman, a prenatal test showed that George was the biological father with an assurance of 99.9 percent, something that she says he has acknowledged since the birth by helping with expenses and in writing. The mother filed a motion in New York asking the courts for sole custody saying George's travel timetable would interfere. George contested that, saying he had the ability to care for the child and that shared custody would be detrimental to the child. He said the mother is not working and is living with relatives in New York.

Dodgers' owner wins divorce fees case

Two years after seeing the Dodgers sold, Texas baseball fans may be relieved that the ownership dispute is coming to an end. The former owner's ex-wife had claimed that she was shortchanged in their divorce because her ex-husband had undervalued his ownership interest in the team.

The ex-wife challenged the divorce settlement, claiming that the former owner had cheated her out of her fair share of the team's value. Just months after the divorce settlement, he sold the team for $2 billion in 2012. However, her share of the divorce settlement was a tax-free lump-sum payment of $131 million and a number of luxurious properties that the couple had acquired during their marriage of nearly 30 years. The former owner ran up legal fees of nearly $2 million in defending the settlement. He was successful in the defense when the judge in that case ruled in his favor. He was also successful in his argument that his ex-wife should have to reimburse him for these legal fees.

Pet custody is figuring more into Texas divorce cases

Pet custody disputes at the end of a marriage started to become more publicized after the recent divorce between Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas. Though this involved a well-known celebrity couple, this is becoming more of a divorce legal issue for pet owners from all walks of life. Part of the conflict in this issue is due to the fact that the law treats pets as personal property, while many owners regard their pets more as children.

There are few property division laws currently in effect that address pets, although one exception is the fact that some domestic violence laws allow a spouse who gets a restraining order to take custody of the pet. Some couples have begun to use prenuptial and postnuptial agreements to ensure that they get visitation rights with their pet. Adequate protection for a pet when abuse has occurred in a marriage is also a factor, because of threats or injuries to pets that have occurred out of retaliation against an ex.

Texas men fighting for parental rights

Two Texas men who were married in Washington, D.C., had their adoption petition denied by a Texas judge on June 11. An adoption lawyer who was not involved with the case believes that the ruling is based on the fact that Texas does not recognize same-sex marriages. She further stated that adoptions in cases such as this one had happened in the past and that the judge had the discretion to allow it.

The attorney for the couple believes that the petition may have been denied because of the way that it was written. When reached for comment, the judge who denied the adoption said that she could not comment on the case at this time. However, she did say that she strictly follows that law when it comes to cases such as these.

Halle Berry child-support settlement approved

Texas residents may be interested to hear that a Los Angeles Superior Court judge recently ratified a child-support agreement between the actress Halle Berry and her ex-boyfriend in regard to their 6-year-old daughter.

Under the May 30 agreement, Berry must pay $16,000 per month to her ex-boyfriend, a Canadian model, to support their daughter. This adds up to $192,000 a year. Reportedly, Berry must also pay for their daughter's tuition, while both parents are to equally divide the cost of her health care.

The basics of property division in a divorce

Texas is a community property state, meaning that assets acquired by either party during marriage other than by gift or devise are divided equally if the parties get a divorce. Employee benefits such as retirement funds may be included in the property that gets divided between couples upon their separation, which many people may not know when they initiate their divorce proceedings.

Dividing non-liquid assets can be a challenge, especially when individuals may be charged with early withdrawal fees for taking retirement funds out of an account too early. Some retirement benefits may be transferred between spouses through the use of a Qualified Domestic Relations Order. Individuals may also ask a family law professional about Texas laws regarding the transfer of a portion of IRA funds on a carryover basis. Especially in cases where couples are going through an amicable split, an attorney could help clients determine how to maximize the tax benefits to both parties through a transfer of specific assets. Individuals should take into consideration the after-tax value of each item of property.

Considerations before a divorce

Texas couples that are planning to divorce may wonder what issues need attention beyond the common child custody and spousal or child support. A simple list of additional considerations that commonly apply to divorces can help make the process flow more smoothly.

Many people are aware that property division is an essential part of divorce. However, they may not realize that tax considerations can impact their negotiations. For example, the spouse that keeps marital real estate will have a higher basis in the property that could result in lower capital gains tax if the property is later sold. The spouse giving up an interest in the marital home may want to consider that bonus when negotiating the buyout price. This is also a good time for spouses to review the mortgage. Whoever becomes the owner of the home should have the mortgage rewritten without the spouse, if credit allows. Failure to do this can cause credit problems for the spouse selling the home down the road.

How a DAPT can protect assets during divorce

Individuals in Texas who are considering marriage may not realize that a prenuptial agreement is not entirely reliable in protecting one's assets during a divorce. Prenuptial agreements are frequently contested, and the legal fees involved in a contested prenup can cost thousands. A Domestic Asset Protection Trust may be a good way to gain additional protection of assets.

A DAPT is an irrevocable trust, meaning that the trust creator has no control over the assets involved. This means that creditors, when looking to collect on claims, also have no control over the assets in the trust. However, the trust creator can still be a discretionary beneficiary in 15 U.S. states.