Month: February 2019

Online divorce in Houston, TX Divorce Attorney

Online Divorce in Texas: Don’t Do It

Online Divorce: Probably Not the Bargain You Think It Is

When you make the decision to end your marriage, it’s only natural to want to pursue the easiest path forward. While online divorces are on the rise and you may be tempted by their seeming expedience and low cost, proceed with extreme caution. A uncontested divorce that begins with both parties in complete agreement on every conceivable point can end up being a contested divorce, and an online divorce has very few mechanisms to protect your best interests. If you are facing a divorce in Texas, consult with an experienced Houston divorce attorney.

Divorce and Your Financial Future

The dissolution of a marriage is exceedingly stressful and fraught with emotion. Further, the outcome will likely significantly affect your finances far into the future. You don’t want to leave your financial future to chance, and even seemingly minor missteps in an online divorce can leave you less financially secure. When you’re going through a divorce, you’re going through a lot, and this isn’t the best circumstance for tackling Texas State law on your own.

Texas Divorce Online

While forging ahead with an online divorce may appeal to your desire to expedite the process, keep expenses to a minimum, and move forward with dispatch, it’s important to give the matter some serious thought. Even a relatively straightforward divorce that doesn’t involve children can quickly become complicated. The stress and emotions brought on by divorce can push otherwise reasonable people into extremely unreasonable actions. What begins as an amicable divorce can quickly morph into something far more complicated. Further, if you’ve begun on the path toward an online divorce and end up needing to hire a lawyer in the end – which isn’t uncommon – it could easily cost you more and take longer than it would have if you’d hired an attorney in the first place.

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Common DIY Mistakes

Divorce is complicated, and the law is complicated, and as such, going it alone is rarely a good idea. There are several common mistakes that couples make when pursuing an online divorce:

  • Child Custody Arrangements

Many couples going through what they believe to be amicable divorces assume that they’ll continue to agree about child custody arrangements into the future and that they’ll deal with changes as they evolve. Child custody arrangements, however, are naturally one of the most critical issues for parents facing divorce. After divorce, your lives will change, and it’s very difficult to predict if you will continue to see eye-to-eye regarding these arrangements. You want what’s best for your children; protect yourself by working with an experienced custody attorney from the outset.

  • Division of Marital Property

Many people assume that their marital property will be split evenly down the middle in a divorce. As discussed in our family law blog article, “Property and Debt Division in Texas-What you Should Know” the State of Texas, however, has considerable discretion in the division of community property and takes many variables into consideration in determining a “just and right” division of that property. Things can become more complicated still when it comes to determining precisely what is marital property and what is individual property. The division of your marital assets involves many important details – including tax implications – that can have financial repercussions far into your future; don’t leave it to chance.

  • Tax Implications

After your divorce, the custodial parent of your children – the parent with whom they primarily live – is generally entitled to all the tax benefits that come from claiming your children as deductions. Divorce is complicated, and taxes are complicated – and you may not even want to think about the two in conjunction with one another. The tax implications of your divorce are likely to be significant, and letting the chips fall where they may is not a good idea. An attorney will help you better understand the tax implications of your divorce and what you can do to protect you and your children’s financial futures.

  • Spousal Maintenance

Spousal maintenance – or what you may think of as alimony – is not the norm in a Texas divorce, but there are circumstances in which it plays a role. Spousal maintenance in Texas refers to the money that a higher-earning spouse pays a lower-earning spouse – but only when certain requirements are met. These requirements focus on the number of years you were married, your separate earning potentials, and other factors that contribute to your individual capacities to support yourselves. While it’s far from a given, if you are entitled to spousal support, you don’t want to forego this income. Read our article, “Texas Divorce and Spousal Maintenance” for more information.

  • Consideration of Your Future

The fact is that your life is going to change in fairly dramatic ways after your divorce. You and your ex will be maintaining separate households, and your children will likely be dividing their time between both of them. This is not only more expensive but also more time consuming than the life you share under one roof. It is difficult to comprehend all the changes you are about to experience, and as such, it’s difficult to plan for them. A dedicated Houston family law attorney has the experience and knowledge to help you carefully consider the details of your divorce and to ensure that you pursue a divorce decree that protects your rights and allows you to move forward with confidence into your future.

Every divorce is unique to its own set of circumstances. The outcome of your divorce, however, will significantly affect your future, and the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you’re doing everything within your power – under the guidance of an experienced family law attorney – to ensure that you protect your rights can be invaluable.

Before Considering an Online Divorce, Consult with an Experienced Houston Divorce Lawyer

An online Texas divorce is very unlikely to be in your best interests – there’s just too much at stake not to seek experienced legal counsel. The dedicated lawyers at the Rudisel Law Firm, P.C., in Houston, have the experience, commitment, and skill to help you pinpoint your priorities and to aggressively advocate on your behalf. We’re here to help, so please contact or call us at 713-781-7775 today.

abandonment texas divorce

At Fault Divorce in Texas: Abandonment

Fault in a Texas Divorce: Abandonment

Texas is what’s known as a “no-fault divorce state,” which means that couples get end their marriages without proving that one spouse was at fault for the breakdown of the relationship. Instead, most divorces in Texas are based on the marriage having become insupportable – the two spouses can find no common ground on which to reconcile their difference. Not every Texas divorce, however, follows this path, and sometimes fault – in the form of abandonment – plays a part. If you and your children have been abandoned by your spouse, seek experienced legal counsel; your financial future could depend upon it.

People also read: Does Adultery Play a Role in a Texas Divorce

The Legal Definition of Abandonment

You know how difficult it is to cope with your spouse’s abandonment. It’s important to understand, however, that there is a legal definition of abandonment, the elements of which must be met before you can seek a Texas divorce that’s predicated on abandonment. Specifically, there are two necessary elements:

  1. Your spouse left you (and your children if you have them), and his or her intent was to abandon you.
  2. Your spouse has been gone for at least a year.

If these two elements aren’t both applicable to your situation, it doesn’t rise to the level of abandonment. Further, the burden is on you to show that your spouse actually intended to abandon you.

Community Property

Because Texas is a community property state, everything that you and your spouse accrue during the course of your marriage is owned equally by both of you. You shouldn’t take this to mean that your marital property will be split evenly down the middle at the time of a divorce, however. The State of Texas, instead, seeks a “just and right” division of marital property, which allows the court considerable discretion when it comes to dividing your property in a Texas divorce.

Abandonment and the Division of Marital Property

While most divorces in Texas aren’t fault-based, that doesn’t mean that a divorce based on abandonment will proceed exactly like a no-fault divorce. In fact, the issue of abandonment is likely to play a significant role in how the court determines a division of property that is just and right given the circumstances. If you and your children have been abandoned, you have no doubt suffered financial and emotional hardships that were borne of that abandonment. One obvious financial burden is the fact that while your partner was AWOL, your household had to keep going without his or her income. The judge presiding over your divorce will likely give this fact serious consideration in determining a just and right division of your marital property.

Abandonment and Your Children

During divorce, child custody arrangements are of universal primary concern – they typically take precedence over even the division of marital property. If your spouse has abandoned you and your children, you’ve been through an exceedingly difficult time that likely includes extreme financial and emotional setbacks. Caring for your family without the support of your spouse is obviously an overwhelming hardship, and the court isn’t likely to lose sight of this fact.

When it comes to issues related to child custody, Texas courts typically proceed with the presumption that keeping a healthy and ongoing relationship with both parents after a divorce is in the best interests of the children. If one parent has abandoned the family for a year or more, however, it may well mitigate this presumption. In matters of child custody – as in the division of marital property – the judge wields a considerable amount of discretion, and he or she can use this discretion to significantly limit the amount of access your soon-to-be ex will have with your shared children.

Abandonment and Its Effects on a Texas Divorce

When it comes to abandonment, the negative effects are difficult to overstate. Once it’s established that your spouse’s abandonment directly contributed to the dissolution of your marriage and deprived you and your children of the expected continued benefits of that marriage, it will likely guide the court toward a decision that grants you a greater share of the marital property. Further, it will likely color the court’s view of what’s in the children’s best interests. The court considers several factors in evaluating the legally mandated best interests of the children:

  • The stability of your home
  • Which one of you acted as the children’s primary caregiver during the marriage
  • The physical and emotional needs of the children

If a parent abandons the home for an entire year, it represents a strong indication that said parent isn’t likely to shine in any of these categories.

Spousal Maintenance

What other states often call alimony, the State of Texas generally refers to as spousal maintenance. Texas courts don’t often grant spousal maintenance. To begin, you must be able to demonstrate that you don’t have enough property and/or income to provide for your basic needs. One of several additional strict parameters, however, must also apply:

  • You were married for at least ten years, and you are the lower earner – who cannot provide for your own basic needs.
  • You are the lower earner, and you cannot provide for yourself because of a physical or mental disability.
  • You are the lower earner, and you have custody of a child you share – a child who has a mental or physical disability that precludes you from working toward your own financial independence.
  • Your spouse is the higher earner, and he or she has been convicted of committing family violence against you or your children in the two years prior to the divorce filing.

If you do qualify for spousal maintenance, the court can take your spouse’s abandonment into consideration in awarding that maintenance.  See our family law blog article Texas Divorce and Spousal Maintenance for more information.

If Your Spouse Abandoned You, Consult with an Experienced Houston Family Law Attorney Today

Divorce is always difficult, but abandonment can make it that much more overwhelming. The dedicated legal team at Rudisel Law Firm, P.C., in Houston is here to help. Our compassionate divorce attorneys have the experience, knowledge, and determination to advocate aggressively in defense of your best interests throughout the divorce process. For more information, please contact or call us at 713-781-7775 today.

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divorce decree modifcation in Texas

Modifying Divorce Decrees in Texas

Modifying Your Texas Divorce Decree

If you’ve been through a divorce in Texas, you know precisely how emotionally exhausting that is, and once you’ve made it to the other side, the last thing you want to think about is going back in and making changes – even if they’re in your best interest. It’s perfectly understandable that you don’t want to rock that boat. Sometimes, however, circumstances change to such a degree that the divorce decree no longer adequately addresses the issues, and a modification is the best mechanism for correcting this discrepancy. If you have questions about potential modifications to your divorce decree, consult with an experienced Houston family law attorney today.

Your Divorce Decree

Every Texas divorce process begins with the filing of an Original Petition for Divorce and ends when the judge signs the final Divorce Decree. The process is stressful, and there are no guarantees about the outcome. Most divorces are concluded via mediation rather than in front of a judge. Mediation involves you and your divorcing spouse, your respective attorneys, and a neutral third party all striving to negotiate compromises on the issues involved in your case. When mediation is successful, it ends with a Mediated Settlement Agreement. If you’re unable to come to a resolution through mediation, your case will go before the judge. No matter how your divorce is resolved, you’ll end up with a Final Decree of Divorce that outlines every order determined (no matter how the determination was accomplished). This decree is highly specific, and it dictates how you and your ex will proceed with regard to child custody arrangements, finances, and the division of assets and debts.

Circumstances Evolve

As your children get older and you and your ex-spouse’s careers and lives evolve, your divorce decree may or may not keep up with your lives. If you find that your situation has changed enough to warrant modification, there is a legal mechanism for pursuing such a change. Except in situations in which either you, your ex, or your children have experienced a substantial change in circumstances (that occurred after the divorce was signed), the law doesn’t favor such modifications. If you believe your situation warrants modification, speak with a knowledgeable Houston divorce lawyer today.

Petition to Modify a Divorce Decree

Generally, you can file a petition to modify a divorce decree after at least one year has passed since your original decree was executed. The types of modifications that are most common involve spousal support, child support, and child custody orders. Let’s take a closer look:

  • Child Support Modification

If you or your children’s circumstances have undergone a material and substantial change since your divorce order was signed, your child support orders may be modifiable. Further, if it’s been three years since your child support orders were signed or were previously modified and the monthly amount of your child support differs from the current Texas child support guidelines contained in the Texas Family Code by 20 percent (or by at least $100), your child support orders may be modifiable. Additionally, changes such as a spouse’s increased salary, a change in your children’s needs, or a change in with whom your children are primarily living, could warrant a child-support modification request.

  • Child Custody Modification

What you probably think of as child custody is referenced by the State of Texas as “possession” or “access.” The parent who is the managing conservator determines the children’s primary residence and is entitled to child support (if it is part of the decree) while the possessory conservator is generally granted a visitation schedule with the children and is obligated to pay child support (if it is part of the decree). If the managing conservator voluntarily relinquishes the role as primary caregiver for at least six months, the parent who takes on the role can file for a modification that names himself or herself as the primary caregiver. Further, once a child reaches the age of 12, a motion can be filed that allows the child to discuss his or her opinions related to primary residency with the presiding judge in the judge’s chambers. Issues related to your children’s custody arrangements are obviously your top priority, and if you have concerns, consult with an experienced Houston family law attorney today.

  • Spousal Support Modification

What many other states call alimony, Texas identifies as spousal maintenance. There is a presumption against awarding maintenance unless the marriage at issue lasted over ten years or there are other specific circumstances present. A significant change in circumstances could warrant a modification to the amount or duration of spousal support or could eliminate the support altogether. Spousal support is based on highly specific circumstances, so if you think your spousal support order warrants modification, you need experienced legal counsel.

Making Modifications

Sometimes an ex-spouse simply doesn’t adhere to the arrangements outlined in the divorce decree, and that’s unfortunate, but it does not mean that you can make modifications on your own to attempt to remedy the situation. For example, if your ex isn’t paying you the child support you’re owed, you cannot alter his or her visitation schedule in retaliation. This is a matter for the court, and you must go through the proper channels to have the situation rectified. If you, your ex, and/or your children have experienced a significant change in circumstances since your divorce decree was signed, you may be eligible to have that decree modified; an experienced Houston divorce lawyer will explore your best options with you.

If You Have Questions about Modifying Your Divorce Decree, an Experienced Houston Family Law Attorney Can Help

You’ve already been through your divorce, and you probably don’t want to revisit those difficult times. However, if you, your ex, and/or your children have experienced dramatic changes in circumstances, you may be eligible to modify your divorce decree to better accommodate the circumstances in which you find yourself living. While such modifications are often complicated, the dedicated legal team at Rudisel Law Firm, P.C., in Houston has the experience and commitment to aggressively advocate for the modifications to which you are entitled. We’re here to help, so please contact or call us at 713-781-7775 today.

Child Custody and Home State issue Texas Divorce

Child Custody and Leaving the State before a Divorce

Divorce and Moving the Kids out of State

If your spouse moves your children out of state before either of you has filed for a Texas divorce, it can be to your detriment when it comes to the determination of child custody. If you haven’t begun the divorce process, there may be very little that you can do about the move, but it’s also true that the court may interpret your spouse’s action as wrongful conduct – and this can affect how it ultimately determines custody. If you have questions about how a move out of state with your children – either your own move or your spouse’s – could affect custody, you need an experienced Texas family law attorney.

When the Move Takes Place

Before the court issues a custody order regarding your children, you both share equal rights to possession and access of your children. This means that you can both make important decisions related to your children – including what state they’ll live in – independently of each other. This does not, however, mean that it’s a good idea to move out of state with your children before filing for divorce – such a move can backfire on your custody plans. Experienced legal counsel will guide you through the process of obtaining a court order that identifies each of your parental rights and responsibilities as you navigate the divorce proceedings.

Can I Ensure that My Children Remain in State when They’re with Their Other Parent?

Once there is an order in place regarding time with your children, it typically means that when they are with you, it is your time with them and you can take them where you’d like within that time frame – and the same is true for their other parent. If one of you wants to take your kids out of state, you are free to do so as long as you do so within your designated time. The court may, however, take extenuating circumstances into consideration on a case-by-case basis in determining if additional travel restrictions are warranted.

Which State Determines Orders for the Children

If your spouse has moved out of state with your children and they have lived together there for the six months prior to filing for divorce, Texas probably doesn’t have jurisdiction regarding opening a custody case for your children. Under the Texas Family Code, a new case can only be established if two elements are met:

  1. Texas is the child’s “Home State.”
  2. No other state has jurisdiction (or the other state has declined jurisdiction).

Texas identifies a Home State as being the state in which the children lived with a parent (or with someone acting as a parent) for at least the six consecutive months that precede the commencement of a child custody proceeding. In other words, only the state in which the child lived for the last six months has jurisdiction over the child’s custody. If a child is younger than six months old, this restriction refers to the state the child has lived in since birth.

Child Support

If your children have lived outside of Texas for six months prior to you filing for divorce, Texas will no longer have jurisdiction over custody of your children. As such, Texas can’t issue visitation orders, can’t grant you decision-making rights, and can’t force your divorcing spouse to return to the state with your children. What Texas can do, however, is compel you to pay child support.  Texas Family Code allows that a parent living with his or her children outside of Texas can ask for the establishment of Texas child support from the other parent (who does live in Texas).

For more information on support read our family law article, “Houston Child Support Lawyer: Child Support in Texas“.

What if Texas Is My Children’s Home State?

If Texas is your children’s Home State, and your divorcing spouse has moved them out of state, you have options, but it is important to act quickly. If you seek legal relief, you must file for divorce before your kids have been living out of state for six months in order to retain Texas jurisdiction. In such an instance, the court can take action and may instruct your soon-to-be to either return with the children to live in Texas or to return the children to live with you in Texas.

What if My Children Have Been Living out of State for More than Six Months?

If your children have been living out of state with their other parent for more than six months, it means that Texas is no longer your children’s Home State, and in most situations, Texas will have no jurisdiction other than ordering you to pay child support. While you can still obtain a Texas divorce, you won’t be able to address child custody within that divorce.

Addressing Your Concerns

If you are facing a Texas divorce and a move out of state is part of that process, consult with an experienced Houston family law attorney before you take the plunge and move your children out of state – the court could consider your move wrongful conduct, and it could adversely affect the custody of your children. Conversely, if your spouse has moved your kids out of state – or you’re concerned that he or she might do so – time is of the essence. Once you’ve filed for divorce in Texas, the court can issue a custody order that precludes your spouse from moving your kids out of state during the pendency of the divorce proceedings. Whatever your unique situation, you need skilled legal guidance.

If You Have Child Custody Concerns, Contact an Experienced Houston Family Law Attorney Today

Issues related to child custody are often hotly contested during divorce. If you have concerns about moving your children out of state – or about your spouse moving them out of state – during the divorce process, the dedicated legal team at Rudisel Law Firm, P.C., has the experience and knowledge to advocate you and your children’s best interests. We’re here to help, so please contact or call us at 713-781-7775 today.