3 Things You Should Know About Social Media Before, During and After Your Divorce

In 2019, social media is just as popular as ever. Studies show that social media has 3.397 billion active users worldwide. That’s more than 42 percent of the world’s population. With such significant usage, it’s no wonder that social media has impacted the way courts handle divorce. In fact, polls show that 81 percent of divorce attorneys now consider social networking evidence worth presenting in court.

1. What You Do on Social Media Can Be Used Against You in Court

Remember that your spouse can use what you do and say on social media against you in divorce or custody proceedings – whether or not they can currently see it. The law allows spouses to request social media records as evidence of many things, including:

  • Your income and spending habits
  • Proof of where you were at specific times
  • Violations of restraining orders
  • The company you keep
  • Your communications with your ex
  • Your state of mind

So, complaining about your spouse on Facebook isn’t a good idea – even if you set the filters so they can’t see your profile. And avoid bragging about big purchases, trips and job promotions. Those things can lead to disputes over property and spending. In fact, it may be a good idea to take a break from social media in general when going through the divorce process.

2. Destroying Evidence or Playing Tricks Can Get You In Big Trouble

As damaging as social media posts can be, destroying them can be worse. Texas courts place harsh consequences on parties who intentionally destroy evidence. If the court finds that you have intentionally destroyed text messages, chat sessions or social media posts, you may be in more trouble than if you had just left the messages alone.

Likewise, it’s also not a good idea to try to “trick” or “bait” your ex through social media communications, text messages or posts. The plan could backfire and have a negative impact on your case. Instead, tell your lawyer if you believe that your spouse is not being truthful.

3. Get Legal Help as Soon as Possible

If you think that a divorce may be in your future, it’s a good idea to talk with an attorney sooner rather than later. The meeting is private and confidential, so your spouse will not know that you contacted counsel. In getting an early start, you can begin making plans ahead of time, including how to protect yourself financially, preserve your relationship with your children and move forward with your life.

You can also have time to adjust your social media habits accordingly before you’re in the middle of a heated divorce. Consider all of your posts as if you were viewing them through the eyes of the court. That way, you won’t be left at a disadvantage because things you have posted in the past can be used against you.

Questions About Social Media? Ask a Lawyer.

If you have questions about social media in divorce, get started by scheduling a confidential consultation with a lawyer at the Ft. Worth, Arlington/Mansfield, or Alliance/Keller office of the Schneider Law Firm, P.C. Call 817-755-1852.

Sources
https://www.natlawreview.com/article/family-law-social-media-evidence-divorce-cases
https://www.brandwatch.com/blog/amazing-social-media-statistics-and-facts/

Who Keeps the Pet in a Texas Divorce?

The relationship you have with your pet is like nothing else. Pets can be man’s (or woman’s!) best friend, a constant companion and a source of comfort – especially during a difficult time. So, it’s no wonder that we often see divorces in which spouses’ greatest source of conflict is deciding who will keep a beloved family dog or cat. If you’re worried that your divorce may affect your relationship with your pet, here’s what you should know.

Texas Law on Pets in Divorce

Currently, Texas law treats family pets the same way it treats property. Courts seek to divide the property equally, deciding who gets the pet the way they would decide who gets any other asset – without regard to a spouse’s personal connection with the pet or where the pet would be happier.
Essentially, the current law treats a beloved family pet the same way it would any other personal property, like a lamp or a desk. In theory, a court could order that a pet be sold and the profits be divided equally between the two spouses.
Courts have explained this decision in the context of resources: Courtrooms are already full of people who are involved in heated child custody disputes or child custody modifications. Courts have said they simply don’t have the resources to hear pet custody cases, too.

The Law Might Be Changing…

Legal experts think that the law may change in the future. In fact, it already has changed in states like Alabama, Vermont, Alaska and California, and a change in the law seems likely in New York. These states have taken first steps to considering “puppy custody” by taking the best interests of a dog into account when determining which spouse the dog should live with.
Legal experts explain the change by taking into account the pet’s significance: Why should the law prevent spouses from dividing time with a pet? After all, the courts already let spouses work through extensive conflict related to inanimate objects. For many people, family pets are much, much more significant than any object.

How to Protect Your “Pet Custody” During a Divorce

So, how can you protect your relationship with your pet during a Texas divorce? If your relationship with your pet is important, mention it to your lawyer right away. Knowing that it is critical, your attorney can strategically work to protect your relationship with the pet during the divorce process. Often, it is possible for your attorney to negotiate with your spouse’s attorney so that the dog or cat lives with you after the divorce.
To get started protecting your relationship with your pet, call the Fort Worth, Arlington, or Keller/Alliance office of Schneider Law Firm, P.C., at 817-755-1852.

Sources:
https://www.law.com/texaslawyer/2019/02/25/the-best-interest-of-the-dog-a-beloved-pet-is-mere-property-in-a-divorce-but-maybe-not-for-long/

https://www.americanbar.org/groups/gpsolo/publications/gpsolo_ereport/2018/april-2018/pet-custody-who-keeps-pet-when-couples-divorce/

When a Child Custody Order Is Confusing

We sometimes hear from parents who are confused and upset by the court orders they received from Texas courts. For example, a child custody order might say different things on different pages, or it might be written in a way that doesn’t make sense or that’s too vague to follow.
The court order makes child custody and visitation a challenge, and it can cause disagreements between the parents. Sometimes, one parent accuses the other of not following the order when that parent was just following a different part of the order. Not following the order is called “being in contempt.” It’s a serious problem that can get you into deep trouble in Texas courts.

A Motion to Clarify

If your child custody order doesn’t make sense to you or the other parent, or if it’s causing conflict in your custody arrangement, there are actions you can take. Texas law allows parents and their attorneys to file something called a “motion to clarify.” The motion asks a court to clarify an order if the court finds that the order is not specific enough and that one parent could be held in contempt if the order was clarified.
Your lawyer can help you seek a motion to clarify before the court finds that one parent is in contempt, as part of a contempt proceeding, or after a denial of a motion for contempt.

What a Motion to Clarify Doesn’t Do

When the court grants the motion to clarify, it simply rules to change the order to be less confusing. There are things that a motion to clarify does not do, including:

  • Substantively change the order: A change in a court order is called a “child custody modification.” If you would like the order changed so that the terms of the arrangement are different, seeking a modification is probably a better fit for you. Talk with your attorney.
  • Apply retroactively to hold a parent in contempt: The order only applies going forward, so you can’t ask the court to clarify the order, and then immediately hold the other parent accountable for not following it in the past.

Get a Lawyer’s Help for Confusing Child Custody Orders

When a child custody order is confusing, it’s best to get legal help. Following only your interpretation of the order can lead to trouble. And if the other parent isn’t following the order because of confusion, get legal help too. Your attorney can protect your interests and your relationship with your child. Start by calling the Arlington office of the Schneider Law Firm, P.C., at 817-799-7125.

Sources:
https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/FA/htm/FA.157.htm
https://texaslawhelp.org/article/clarifying-visitation-orders-answers-common-questions#toc-2

Business Valuation in Divorce: How it Works

In a divorce, property division can be complex. When a family business is involved, it can be especially complicated. Here’s what you should know.

Background: Property Division During Texas Divorces

Texas is a community property state, which means that property acquired by both spouses during a marriage is divided 50/50 during a divorce. The property acquired during the marriage is called “community property,” and other property is called “separate property.” Separate property includes things like property acquired before the marriage, property received as a gift by only one spouse and property inherited by only one spouse.
Businesses are divided according to these property division rules. If a business was started during the marriage by both spouses, a Texas court would be likely to consider it community property. But what if it was started by one spouse before the marriage, and then grown by both spouses working together? A Texas court might decide that part of the business was separate property and part was community property.
And what about the value of the business itself? How much is 50/50? Businesses are valued based on their fair market values – the amount that would be paid in cash by a willing buyer who would like to buy the business, but wasn’t forced, to a willing seller who would like to sell, but wasn’t forced.
It’s common for the spouses to disagree about the value of the business. The spouse who operates the business and plans to keep it after the divorce typically wants the valuation to be low. At the same time, the other spouse typically wants the business valued at a greater amount so they will receive a greater portion of the assets.

The Role of Experts in Business Valuation

Spouses and their lawyers typically turn to experts to assist in business valuation. These experts are usually certified public accountants (CPAs) who are accredited in business valuation. Sometimes one spouse hires a CPA. Other times, both sides hire their own experts to conduct independent valuations as part of the divorce process.

How the Value of a Business Is Determined

There is no one right way to value a business, and different CPAs may use different methods to arrive at different numbers. Different methods for business valuation include:

  • The asset approach: This approach calculates the value of the business by finding the value of the business’s assets after liabilities have been subtracted.
  • The market approach: This approach compares the business to other, similar businesses in similar markets.
  • The income approach: This approach looks at economic data to project the future income the business will generate. CPAs then convert that number into a present-day value.

No matter which method he or she chooses, a CPA has to review a significant amount of information in order to value a business. The financial records are critical, and business valuation often takes time and resources.

In Business Valuation, Have the Right Legal Team

If your divorce involves business valuation, your lawyer can work with a well-regarded CPA to properly value the business and make sure your rights are protected. Start by calling the Arlington office of the Schneider Law Firm, P.C., at 817-799-7125.

Sources:
https://www.law.com/texaslawyer/2019/03/20/business-valuations-in-divorce/

Dividing Retirement Assets in a Divorce

Couples save for their retirement in many ways. Over time, retirement assets can accumulate and become one of the most significant assets to divide in a divorce. At the Schneider Law Firm, P.C., we work hard to protect our clients’ interests now, and in the future, so we pay special attention to protecting their retirement savings.
When we talk about retirement assets with our clients, we discuss:

  • Pensions
  • Deferred compensation accounts,
  • 401(k) accounts and 403(b) plans
  • IRAs
  • Other retirement savings

How Texas Family Law Divides Retirement Assets

How Texas law divides retirement assets depends on when the contributions were made. Texas is a community property state, which means that property acquired during the marriage is divided 50/50. Property acquired before the marriage is considered separate property. The spouse who originally had it can keep it.
Accordingly, when retirement asset contributions were made before the marriage, they are considered to be separate property. When retirement asset contributions were made during the marriage, they are community property – even if the contributions were made by only one spouse. Like other community property, the retirement assets are divided between the spouses.
It sounds simple, but it isn’t. Documenting and calculating which retirement assets are separate property can be exceptionally complex. For example, it’s common for separate and community property to exist within the same retirement account. Lawyers often consult with financial experts to make an accurate calculation.

Other Factors

Pensions, military retirement and Social Security spousal benefits all have different rules for eligibility, as well as for when an ex is entitled to receive funds. And for most retirement accounts—like 401(k)s—Texas courts aren’t required to divide the asset 50/50 like other community property.
Through their lawyers, divorcing spouses sometimes work out agreements that are best for the couple and that do not require cashing out part of a 401(k). For example, a spouse might keep the 401(k), but the other spouse will keep a vehicle with a value equal to that spouse’s share of the community property.

Questions About Your Retirement Assets? Ask a Lawyer.

When your retirement assets are on the line, it’s important to get advice that’s tailored to your exact situation. Get started by scheduling a confidential consultation with a lawyer at the Ft. Worth office of the Schneider Law Firm, P.C. Call 817-755-1852.
Sources:
https://texaslawhelp.org/article/dividing-retirement-benefits-upon-divorce#toc-1

How Long Does a Divorce Take in Texas?

How long will my divorce take? It’s one of the most common questions new clients ask when they are just beginning the divorce process. Each case is different, and it’s impossible to predict the future, but here are some general guidelines about divorce timelines in Texas.

Texas Family Law Sets Divorce Timelines

Texas law sets certain timelines for divorce. Before a spouse can file for divorce, at least one of the spouses is required to have lived in Texas for at least six months and in the county where the petition is filed for at least 90 days.
If the spouses meet this requirement, a petition for divorce can be filed. The petition must be on file with the court for at least 60 days before the court can grant a divorce. The divorce can be finalized after the 60-day waiting period is over.

Conflict and Complexity Play a Part in Divorce Timelines

If the parties agree about the major issues in their divorce – things like dividing assets and deciding child custody matters – their divorce can be finalized soon after the 60-day waiting period is over. However, divorces can take longer if the couple does not agree. In those cases, the divorce timeline depends on the court’s schedule and the complexity of the case.
We have found that once a couple agrees to a divorce, the spouses usually try to complete the process as quickly as possible. They cooperate to come to an agreement on issues that are important to successfully dissolve their marriage.
According to The Houston Bar Association, divorces involving some disagreement usually take several months to resolve, and they can take up to one year if a trial is necessary. Of course, not all couples agree so easily. The New York Post reported on the divorce of a financial executive and his wife, in which the couple spent 21 years fighting over marital assets.

How Can I Speed Things Up?

If your goal is a quick divorce, there are several ways to speed up the divorce process, but the best way is simply through cooperation. Couples who keep their emotions in check and work together as cooperatively as possible usually find that their divorces proceed more quickly. Good attorneys will counsel their clients to make decisions that are in line with the client’s overall goals.
Domestic violence also plays a part in speeding up divorce proceedings. In certain cases involving convictions for family violence and protective orders, the 60-day waiting period may be waived. Tell your lawyer is domestic violence is a factor in your divorce.

Why Does the Divorce Timeline Matter?

Long divorces with lots of conflict and continued court time can have a serious negative impact on a family’s overall happiness. The more time couples spend in divorce court, the more stressful the divorce can be for their children. What’s more, divorces that go on for years and years can use up a family’s financial cushion.
We do not mean that you should avoid fighting to protect your interests in a divorce – just that it’s critical to keep your divorce timeline in mind when setting goals. To get started, call the Arlington/Mansfield divorce office of Schneider Law Firm, P.C., at 817-755-1852.
Sources:
https://3j6g5h1ufrxy3coj463pn7uw-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/family-law-17-18-for-web-022718.pdf
https://nypost.com/2005/03/13/21-years-war-longest-divorce-in-state-history/

Can I Get an Annulment in Texas?

Sometimes, marriage feels like a big mistake. It doesn’t turn out as a person expected, and they wonder if it’s possible to have it undone. In Texas, the law allows for annulment of marriage in some cases. Here’s what you should know.

First, What Is an Annulment?

An annulment is a proceeding to have a marriage declared void – as if it never existed. An annulment is unlike a divorce, which is a proceeding to end a valid marriage. Annulment is like a divorce, however, in that courts will divide property and determine child custody, if necessary.

Grounds for an Annulment in Texas

There are several grounds for an annulment in Texas. The Texas Family Code says that courts can annul a marriage if:

  • It happened without parental consent, and you’re at least 16 but not 18 years old yet. (If you are younger than 16, the law says that you were never able to legally get married in the first place.)
  • You were under the influence of alcohol or drugs when you got married, and you haven’t lived together since the alcohol or drugs wore off.
  • Your partner was permanently impotent at the time of the marriage, you didn’t know, and you have not lived together since you learned about the impotency.
  • Your partner used fraud, duress or force to get you into the marriage. You must not have lived together since you discovered the fraud or the duress or force ended.
  • Your partner didn’t have the mental capacity to consent to the marriage, you should have known about the mental incapacity, and you have not lived together since it was discovered.
  • Your partner was divorced less than 30 days before your marriage, and you didn’t know. You must take legal action within a year of your wedding date, and you must not have voluntarily lived together since you found out.

Lawyers cite fraud as one of the most common reason courts grant annulments, simply because there are so many situations in which fraud can play a role. When one spouse lies about critical facts to trick another into marrying them, Texas courts have granted annulments.
Annulments have been granted in cases involving lies about a partner’s financial situation, a pregnancy that didn’t actually exist, or a child from another partner that wasn’t disclosed. Each situation is different, so it’s important to talk with an attorney about yours.

What’s Not Grounds for an Annulment?

There are some things, however, that are not grounds for an annulment (even though many people think they are):

  • Being married less than one year
  • Lack of parental permission or blessing (if you’re 18 or older)

Choose a Family Law Attorney Who Can Help

Think you might be eligible for a marriage annulment? Turn to a lawyer who can help you navigate the process. Get started by calling the Fort Worth divorce law office of the Schneider Law Firm, P.C., at 817-799-7125. Even if an annulment can’t be granted in your case, you may have other options. A lawyer can guide you through the divorce process or, in some cases, have a marriage voided because it never should have legally occurred.
Sources:
https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/FA/htm/FA.6.htm#6.201
https://3j6g5h1ufrxy3coj463pn7uw-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/family-law-17-18-for-web-022718.pdf

3 Divorce Statistics From the Longest-Running Divorce Study & What We Can Learn From Them

In 1986, researchers at the University of Michigan’s Survey Research Center started an important study of couples in the Detroit metropolitan area. The study—funded by the National Institutes of Health and called the Early Years of Marriage Project (EYM)—became the longest-running longitudinal study of marriage and divorce. Over time, researchers collected information on more than 740 people. So, what has their data revealed about marriage and divorce? And just as importantly, what can we learn from it?

All Couples Experience Some Type of Conflict

EYM researchers found some type of conflict in every single marriage they studied. There were no marriages in which spouses reported getting along perfectly all of the time.
What can we learn from that? Experiencing conflict in a marriage doesn’t necessarily mean that you and your spouse will divorce. The study found conflict in marriages in which couples had been together for more than 20 years. The key is how you resolve conflict in your marriage – how you and your spouse treat each other when you fight and afterward.

Women Are Twice as Likely as Men to Initiate Divorce

Researchers found that marital tension increased over time for both husbands and wives. However, wives reported more tension at the beginning of their marriages, and husbands’ tensions generally increased over time.
In marriages in which a husband reported lower levels of tension over time, but the wife reported increasing tension over time, the likelihood of divorce was greater. Researchers theorized that the husband’s low levels of tension meant that he just wasn’t that invested in the relationship. Overall, researchers found that women were twice as likely as men to file for divorce.
At our Arlington law firm, we represent both men and women in divorce proceedings. Many of our female clients have become increasingly dissatisfied with their marriages over time. While the decision to end a marriage is never an easy one, many lawyers believe that the spouse who files for divorce has an advantage in divorce proceedings. That spouse has had more time to prepare for the changes that come with the divorce process.

When the Wife Has More Education, the Couple Is Less Likely to Divorce

While women are more likely to file for divorce, the EYM project also found a correlation between a wife’s education and the longevity of the marriage. Over time, couples had a better chance of staying together when the wife had gone to school longer. Other data backs this up as well. According to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), women with at least a bachelor’s degree have a 78 percent chance that their marriages will last 20 years. By comparison, women with a high school diploma have only a 41 percent chance.
So, what can we learn? Of course, there are many factors involved, but young couples considering an early marriage may be well advised to follow the classic advice: Stay in school.
Curious to know more about this study or our services? We welcome you to reach out to us today.

Sources:
http://projects.isr.umich.edu/eym/funfacts.html
https://www.apa.org/monitor/2013/04/marriage
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5644348/

How Allegations of Family Violence Can Affect a Texas Divorce

Family violence happens when someone uses abusive or controlling behavior to harm another member of the family. It can be complicated and deeply personal. While violence takes different forms in every family it touches, one thing remains constant: Domestic violence can have a significant impact on the outcome of a divorce. Here are some things to consider.

Family Violence and the Divorce Process

The divorce process is often different for people who face violence in their family relationships. Victims of domestic violence also have legal tools they can use for protection. One option is to petition the court for a protective order (sometimes called a restraining order). When a protective order is in place, it can affect many different things–from where a spouse lives during the divorce process to how often he or she sees the children.
Options for resolution are different, too. For example, mediation is often used as a tool for couples to come to an agreement on the issues in their divorces. However, professionals do not recommend medication for couples when domestic violence is a factor. The reason? Judges and lawyers worry that one spouse will have too much leverage in negotiations, and the outcome won’t be fair.
Domestic violence can also speed up a divorce. The Texas Family Code says that couples must wait at least 60 days after filing a divorce petition for a divorce to be final. But this requirement can be waived in cases involving domestic violence.

Family Violence and Child Custody

Judges consider the “best interests of the child” when making child custody decisions. If one parent has a history of domestic violence, the judge will consider that as part of the best interests’ evaluation. Texas law says that parents who physically or sexually abused their children during the previous two years cannot have custody. Even if the kids were never harmed, domestic violence affects things like the ability of parents to make major parenting decisions together, as well as child custody drop-offs.

Family Violence and Property Division

Texas is a community property state. Generally, couples split the things they acquired during the marriage 50/50. However, there are some exceptions, including family violence. Domestic violence can be a reason for courts to decide on the unequal division of assets.

Fighting False Allegations of Violence

Our firm has handled several cases where on spouse made false allegations of family abuse in order to influence a pending divorce or child custody case. This is a serious injustice, and we won’t let our clients be falsely accused. We believe in fighting allegations aggressively and protecting our clients’ rights.

Choose an Attorney With Family Violence Experience

When you are choosing your divorce lawyer, pick one who has experience in domestic violence and divorce. Your lawyer will be experienced in advocating for your rights during the divorce process so that they are protected. You can get started by calling the Arlington office of the Schneider Law Firm, P.C., at 817-799-7125.

Child Custody: What Texas Family Courts Consider

Child custody is often the most emotionally charged issue in a divorce. “How will this affect the kids?” is the first thing most parents wonder about divorce. And fear of losing time with a child can be devastating.
In Texas, there are several things that family courts consider when making decisions about child custody. Here’s an overview from the lawyers at our Ft. Worth law office.

Conservatorship, Possession and Access

Texas divides child custody into two categories: conservatorship and possession/access:

  • Conservatorship is the right to make important decisions about your child’s life. These include decisions about where your child will go to school, what medical treatment they will receive and what religious practices they will follow.
  • Possession and access are where the child spends his or her time. The court may decide which parent the child will live with most of the time, as well as how often the other parent spends time with the child.

The “Best Interests of the Child”

When deciding child custody matters, Texas courts use a “best interests of the child” standard, which was outlined in a case called Holley v. Adams. The case involved termination of parental rights, but courts have said that they should apply in all child custody cases.
There are many factors listed in Holley, including:

  1. The desires of the child
  2. The physical and emotional needs of the child now and in the future
  3. Any emotional or physical danger to the child
  4. The parental ability of the person seeking custody
  5. Programs available to help the parent and child
  6. Plans for the child by the parent seeking custody
  7. Acts of omission by the parent that might indicate the parent/child relationship is troubled

Each Case Is Different

Each child custody case is different. For example, when judges apply the “best interests of the child” standard to very young children, they often give the child’s preferences less weight than they would if the child was older. Older kids get more of a say in where they would like to live and who they would like to make their decisions.
Conversely, with babies, courts consider how well the parent is prepared to deal with the baby’s basic needs–like eating, sleeping and having diapers changed. These things naturally become less of a concern as the child grows older.

Questions About Your Child Custody Case? Ask a Lawyer.

Because each case is different, it’s important to talk with an attorney about the facts of your case. Don’t just rely on internet research. Instead, schedule a confidential consultation. You can get started by contacting the Ft. Worth office of the Schneider Law Firm, P.C., at 1-817-755-1852.

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