For many Texans, their 401(k) plan is one of their largest assets – particularly for those who have made regular contributions throughout their career. On top of that, 401(k) plans often hold symbolic significance above and beyond their sheer dollar value. To some, they represent safety, security, and an end to the monotonous rat race. For others, they are a prize, a badge of honor earned after countless late nights at the office. However, no matter the role they play in your life, the thought of losing half of your hard-earned nest egg can be terrifying. This begs the question: how much of your 401(k) is actually at stake in a Texas divorce? Continue Reading ›
A Texas premarital agreement can help protect each party’s assets in the event a marriage ends in divorce. Premarital agreements may also include other provisions, including a requirement to submit certain issues to binding arbitration instead of for determination before a judge or jury. In a recent case, a husband attempted to vacate an arbitrator’s decision, arguing he had exceeded his authority.
Texas family law includes a presumption that parents should be appointed joint managing conservators. The law does not require, however, that the parents be given equal possession just because they are joint managing conservators. Tex. Fam. Code § 153.135. There is a rebuttable presumption that the standard possession order is in the child’s best interest, but that presumption only applies to children who are at least three years old. For younger children, the court must consider “all relevant factors.” The statute specifically requires the court consider who provided care before and during the proceedings, how separation from either party may affect the child, the availability and willingness of the parties to care for the child, and the child’s needs, along with other specified factors. Tex. Fam. Code § 153.254.
A father recently challenged the possession schedule and decision-making authority granted to the mother, arguing in part that the court should have awarded equal time or the standard possession schedule.
When a divorcing couple reaches a Mediated Settlement Agreement (“MSA”) that meets the statutory requirements, the parties are entitled to a judgment on that MSA. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. §§ 6.602(c). In some cases, however, things can change after the MSA is agreed upon. In a recent case, a wife challenged the way a court addressed changes arising after the MSA was executed, but before the final decree of divorce was entered.
Fault in Divorce
Divorces may be granted without fault, but Texas still allows divorce to be granted on fault-based grounds in certain situations. For example, a Texas divorce may be granted in one spouse’s favor if the other committed “cruel treatment” that makes the parties continuing to live together “insupportable.” Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 6.002. Physical abuse can constitute cruel treatment, but physical abuse is not required for a Texas divorce court to find cruel treatment. When the court finds fault-based grounds for divorce, such as cruel treatment, the court may consider the fault in dividing the property. Specifically, the court can award a disproportionate share of the community estate to the spouse who is not at fault. A husband recently challenged such a disproportionate property division in his divorce.
The wife said the husband stopped paying attention to her after his business partnership went sour. She also said he had called her names and accused her of cheating, in addition to being violent against her around four or five times.
The wife alleged that, during one incident, the husband had closed a door on her arm after he had filed for divorce. She called the police, and the husband agreed to leave. The husband, however, claimed that he had simply closed the door after the wife left the room, but she forced it back open. He claimed the door hit him, then whipped back toward her and hit her elbow. He said he agreed to leave for a few hours after the police arrived, but ultimately decided to leave permanently so their child would not see them argue.
What is a Mediated Settlement Agreement?
A mediated settlement agreement (“MSA”) in a Texas divorce is binding if it meets certain requirements. It must state that it is not subject to revocation in bold letters, capital letters or underlined text. It must also be signed by each party and the party’s attorney, if present. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 6.602. Some Texas courts have held that an MSA may be unenforceable if it is obtained by fraud, duress or coercion.
A husband recently challenged an MSA, partly on the grounds that he allegedly signed it under duress.
The parties had been married since 1981. Some of the property acquired during the marriage was held by a limited partnership in which the parties owned a 95% interest. In August 2017, the husband was arrested after the wife reported he had threatened her with a firearm. The wife filed for divorce the very next day.
Texas, unlike many states, still recognizes common law marriage (also known as an “informal” marriage). Unlike with formal marriages, a common law spouse often has to prove that the marriage even existed before getting a divorce. A party may prove that an informal marriage exists by showing that the parties agreed to be married, then lived together as spouses in Texas, and represented themselves to others as married. TEX. FAM. CODE ANN. § 2.401(a)(2).
In a recent case, a woman challenged a determination that she and her former romantic partner had not established the existence of an informal marriage. After they broke up, the man filed for a declaratory judgment that there was no informal marriage, but the woman counter-petitioned for divorce, alleging that they were informally married. The woman argued they had an informal marriage starting in August 2014, but the man argued they had only been “boyfriend/girlfriend” or domestic partners.
A court may order one joint managing conservator to pay Texas child support to another joint managing conservator. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 153.138. The child’s best interest is the primary consideration in determining child support. There may, therefore, be occasions where a court orders the parent with primary physical custody to nonetheless pay child support to the other parent, when they are both joint managing conservators. A mother recently challenged an order to pay child support when she had been awarded the exclusive right to determine the child’s primary residence.
With an increasing number of couples having children in their 30s, or skipping having children altogether, pets are taking on a whole new role for many Texas couples: a temporary stand-in for children and sometimes even a permanent replacement. As a result, more Texas couples consider their pets to be members of the family now than ever before. Pets now accompany us to restaurants, sleep on memory-foam mattresses, and even have their own social-media accounts. However, when it comes to divorce, many Texas couples are understandably unsure what might happen to their “fur baby.” Will their pet be awarded to their soon-to-be ex-spouse, never to be seen by them again? Will the Court order shared possession of their pet, like it would a child? Is it possible to get court-ordered FaceTime sessions with a miniature poodle?
Pet Custody in Texas Divorce
While a few states, such as California, Alaska, and Illinois, have given legal recognition to the unique role that pets play within the family, Texas law still considers pets to be personal property in the divorce context. As a result, Texas divorce courts are unlikely to order shared possession of a pet like they would a child. In this regard, Texas divorce law creates a zero-sum game: either you are awarded the family pet or your spouse is. With this in mind, it is important to inform the Court to whom the family pet should be awarded and why.
What is a Partition or Exchange Agreement?
In Texas, spouses can enter into agreements (often referred to as “partition or exchange agreements“) during marriage, partitioning community property between themselves. A partition or exchange agreement must satisfy several requirements to be valid and enforceable, including being signed by both spouses. However, when the stakes are high, some unscrupulous spouses may trick their unknowing partner into signing the partition or exchange agreement under false pretenses or, even worse, forge their partner’s signature. Recently, one husband did both.
Ninth District of Texas Court of Appeals