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Houston Divorce And Family Law Blog

What is the role of the “standard of living” in a divorce?

When you are getting divorced in Texas and cannot come to an agreement on your divorce settlement, the court will step in to settle things. If this happens, the court will often look at the standard of living to help it make determinations. This is why you should understand what this term means and how it can affect your divorce.

Standard of living, according to The Huffington Post, is the basic way of life you became accustomed to when you were married. It mainly involves the economic factors and is usually applied when deciding alimony. The court will try to maintain this standard for you and your spouse.

Who gets the pets in a divorce?

When you are getting a divorce in Texas, there are a lot of things to consider. Who gets ownership of any family pets is something that can be confusing. The reality is that pets are considered property under the law, according to Forbes. This means they are distributed according to property division laws and not under custody laws.

The best-case scenario is for you and your spouse to agree on who will retain the pets. You can do this through mediation or negotiations. Just be aware that some spouses will use the close connection between a pet and their spouses to try to bargain for other property. If you come to an agreement, it will be written into your divorce agreement and be filed with the court.

The difference between separate and marital property

Although there are many topics to negotiate during a divorce case, property division may be one of the most difficult. At Fabio & Merrill, we understand that people grow attached to the personal items that they have accumulated during the duration of a marriage, and it can be hard to part with marital property. In a Texas divorce, however, only marital property is considered community property and is eligible for division. Separate property, on the other hand, may stay with the original owner.

Marital or community property consists of items and assets that the couple amassed while they were married. This includes homes, vehicles, vacations homes, furniture and even pets that the couple shared. Community property also consists of some items that are often overlooked, such as 401k plans, term life insurance policies, stock options, antique collections, travel rewards points, golf course memberships and gifts that spouses have given to one another during the marriage.

Do you need a forensic accountant for your divorce?

Divorce can make people do strange things. Sometimes, people who are planning to divorce will take steps to hide assets. They do this to keep the assets from being part of the divorce process. Sometimes, one spouse will withdraw cash and begin physically hiding it as a means of keeping it. Other times, money can be deposited in a secret or offshore hidden bank account. Sometimes, assets are hidden in plain sight, with one spouse purchasing expensive items that they intend to keep without disclosing their value during the divorce. These are just a few of the more common ways that people hide assets during divorce. Trying to account for all recent income during a divorce is very complicated.

That's why it is so important to work with an experienced family law and divorce attorney. If your attorney reviews you finances and agrees that there's reason for concern about hidden assets, you may need additional help. Your attorney can connect you with a forensic accountant, who can determine what happened to assets and income over the last few years. These experts have the ability to locate hidden assets and account for every dollar that wasn't part of your standard budget.

What does community property mean?

You may be aware that Texas is a community property state. This means, according to the definition from the IRS, that the state recognizes all property of married couples to belong to them as a couple and not individuals. This concept is important to understand for legal and taxation reasons. It also may affect your debts because you may be held accountable for your spouse’s debts even if he or she accrued those debts on his or her own.

Community property is an idea based on both of you contributing to the whole of your “community” or marriage. Since you both contribute, you both share equally in the benefits of those contributions, which is anything you own. All your property is split 50/50, along with your liability. You can end community property status only by moving out of Texas to a non-community property state, getting a divorce or if one of you passes away.

What are the guidelines for child support calculations?

When you have been identified as an obligor following a divorce, the amount of child support you must provide depends upon a number of factors, including what the child needs and the status of your own finances. Below are a few of the guidelines used by Texas courts to determine how much child support is equitable.

Under the Texas Family Code, the primary concerns in calculating child support owed by the obligor (that is, a noncustodial parent or other person legally recognized as responsible to provide support for the child in question) are the needs of the child and his or her age. Other important factors include:

  • Income, assets, property and debts of both the obligor and the person owed support (otherwise known as the obligee), as well as your respective capabilities to contribute to child support
  • Existing forms of support, such as alimony, received by or paid to either party
  • Whether you or your former spouse have guardianship or custody of another child
  • How much access you each have to the child in question
  • Provisions for current or future expenses, such as health insurance and post-secondary education, for the child

How might House Bill 65 affect the divorce process in Texas?

If you are a married Texas parent and you disagree with your spouse about whether to divorce, you may soon find it considerably harder to have that divorce granted. Per WSPA.com, an amended version of House Bill 65, which would put an end to what the state currently considers “no fault” divorces, is expected to pass, meaning it is likely to eventually become law in the Lone Star State.

If HB 65 does, in fact, pass, it will only impact you and your spouse if you meet certain criteria. First, you must have children in order to be affected by the bill, and second, you must be involved in a unilateral marriage, meaning your spouse desires a divorce and you contest it, or vice-versa. Currently, you and your spouse may be granted a divorce if only one party wants it. However, the state representative backing the new bill asserts that this is problematic because its limits the other party’s abilities to attempt to hold the family together.

Is your marriage working the way you want?

Typically, a marriage does not suddenly fall apart, rather, there is a steady decline in the relationship. And as time passes, a spouse may not even realize the degree to which things have deteriorated. But if you are starting to have doubts about the future of your marriage, it may be time to assess the situation.

Common methods used to conceal assets

Odds are, you did not walk down the aisle with anything less than complete trust in the person you were about to marry, but regrettably, trust and relationships in Texas sometimes fade over time. When a marriage is on the brink of failing, it is not uncommon for one spouse to begin to try and set his or herself up financially ahead of the split, and he or she may attempt to conceal assets in doing so. At Fabio & Merrill, we are well-versed in the tactics spouses sometimes use to hide funds from one another, and we have helped many clients make sure that any community property acquired during the marriage is divided equally.

If you suspect your spouse may be trying to conceal assets in an effort to not have to split them with you, be on the lookout for obvious signs, such as sizable withdrawals from your bank account that may be deposited into another, separate account. You should also be on alert if your spouse suddenly sells off assets to another family member or close friend. This is sometimes done ahead of a divorce, with an agreement between the two parties that the asset will then be sold or transferred back after the divorce.

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