Category Archives: Family Law

Does Texas Recognize Same-Sex Marriage?

Same-sex marriage has been legal in Texas since the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on a case called Obergefell v. Hodges. In this case, a group of same-sex couples sued their state agencies. They claimed that the state’s refusal to recognize same-sex marriage violated their rights under the Constitution.

Constitutional Right to Marry?

The 14th Amendment of the Constitution says that states shall not deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law. The gay and lesbian couples argued that they were deprived of the protections on marriages and families that opposite-sex couples were entitled to. 

The 14th Amendment also says that states shall not deny any person the equal protection of the laws. The couples argued that, by denying them the right to get married, the states were denying them equal protection.

Texas’s Current Legal View on Same-Sex Marriage

While same-sex marriage is legal in Texas, new case law has made an impact. 

In 2017, the Texas Supreme Court threw out a lower court ruling that said spouses of same-sex public employees were entitled to government-subsidized marriage benefits. The case effectively said that while same-sex couples may get married in Texas, they are not always entitled to the same benefits as opposite-sex couples. Still, while things are complicated, same-sex spouses may be entitled to health insurance benefits, inheritance and property rights, tax benefits and other benefits after they are married.

Considering GLBT Marriage in Texas

If you are considering marrying your same-sex partner in Texas, you can get a marriage license in any county clerk’s office anywhere in the state. There is a 72-hour waiting period before you can be married, so it’s important to plan ahead. You’ll need to bring an ID and pay a small fee.

You should also know that, after getting married, the same legal obligations will apply to you as they would to an opposite-sex couple. For example, you may be held responsible for debts incurred by your spouse. Nobody likes to think of divorce when planning a marriage, but it’s also helpful to know that Texas divorce laws apply to same-sex marriages the same way they apply to opposite-sex marriages.

Need Legal Help With a Same-Sex Marriage? Ask a Lawyer.

If you have questions about same-sex marriage, get started by scheduling a confidential consultation. At the Ft. Worth office of the Schneider Law Firm, P.C., our attorneys have answers and insight. Call 817-755-1852 to talk with us about your rights and marriage.

Sources:

https://www.oyez.org/cases/2014/14-556 https://www.texastribune.org/2017/06/30/texas-supreme-court-ruling-houston-same-sex-marriage-benefits/

Can I Date While Getting a Divorce?

Relationships are complicated. Sometimes, an interest in a potential new partner becomes the impetus for a divorce. Other times, a divorce takes so long that life continues for months or even years. Spouses become eager to make a connection with someone and to feel desirable again. No matter what the reason, many people find themselves wondering whether it’s okay to start dating before the divorce is finalized.

Of course, each situation is different and it’s impossible for an attorney to give legal advice without meeting the client and knowing their individual situation. 

Is Dating During Divorce OK?

Generally, most divorce lawyers tell their clients to avoid dating while the divorce is pending. Here are several reasons why.

Dating Causes Tensions 

When your soon-to-be ex learns that you are dating someone new, they are less likely to treat you favorably during the divorce process. You may experience increased challenges when it comes to child custody and property division – even if your ex originally claims to be supportive.

Dating Can Cause a Divorce to Take Longer and Drive Up Costs

When your spouse is less likely to cooperate with you, they are more likely to make legal challenges that can increase the cost of your divorce and the time it takes to finalize.

Dating Can Reflect Negatively on You 

When the divorce is pending, you are still technically married. In any divorce disagreement where your ex calls your moral character into question, dating may be used against you. While courts aren’t known to be especially harsh on dating, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

It’s Best to Give Yourself Time 

A marriage that didn’t go well and a divorce that caused tensions can take a physical, mental and emotional toll. Giving yourself time can help you heal and learn who you are as a single person before becoming part of a couple again. You may find that you feel stronger and bring more to your next relationship when you’ve had time to rebuild on your own.

What to Do Instead of Dating

While your divorce is pending, you should avoid dating. But that doesn’t mean you have to avoid having a social life. Experts recommend staying active with a group of friends instead of just one person. Be clear about your situation and set expectations upfront. If you are feeling lonely, it might be a good idea to find a divorce support group. Many local churches offer them, for instance.

Contact Us for a Consultation About Your Divorce

So, it’s probably best to avoid dating. However, every situation is different. The team at Schneider Law Firm, P.C., is there to support you in your situation.For a confidential consultation about your divorce, call our Arlington office at 817-755-1852 .

Should I Sign a Prenup?

“Should I sign a prenup?” It’s a question that we sometimes hear from clients on the verge of getting married. In some cases, prenups can bring peace of mind. But, they can also be a great source of stress. Here’s what you need to know.

Should I Sign a Prenup? | Schneider Law Firm, P.C.
817-799-7125 – The best way to get a real answer about whether to sign a prenup is to talk directly with your own lawyer in a confidential consultation.

What Is a Prenup?

Prenups—also called prenuptial agreements or premarital agreements—are written contracts created and signed by two people before they are married. In the prenup, the couple agrees to terms that will become effective when they are married.

In a prenup, couples can agree on many things. They can agree to their rights to any property belonging to either or both of them, no matter how or when it was acquired or where it’s located. They can also agree to the right to buy, sell, use or otherwise transfer property. And they can agree to what happens to their property if they divorce or if one spouse passes away. Spousal support, estate planning, life insurance and the law governing the agreement can all be agreed to.

Are Prenups Enforceable in Texas Courts?

Prenups are generally enforceable in Texas courts as long as they meet some basic criteria:

  • They are in writing.
  • They are signed by both parties.
  • Both spouses must have disclosed all assets and liabilities before signing the document – so everyone involved has the full information they’d need to make the right decision.
  • Both spouses waived the right to future disclosure.

Texas courts have found prenups unenforceable in some situations, like when they were used to defraud creditors, avoid liability for child support or were used in a criminal way. Prenups have also been found unenforceable when one spouse coerced the other to sign or failed to disclose all of their assets.

Only Your Attorney Can Tell You for Sure Whether to Sign

A blog post can’t tell you whether or not you should sign a prenup; that’s an attorney’s job. The best way to get a real answer in your situation is to talk directly with your own lawyer in a confidential consultation. Don’t just depend on what you hear from a lawyer representing your potential spouse. Your own lawyer can review the document, get the facts of your relationship and discuss your options.

If you do have legal questions about a prenuptial agreement, it’s important to ask before your sign. A signed prenuptial agreement is generally enforceable in Texas courts—even if you later come to regret signing it. If you need advice, 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.4.htm

Spousal Maintenance in Texas Divorces

Divorcing spouses often worry how they will make ends meet. They know the income that once supported one household must now be divided to support two, and they’re unsure what impact that will have on their finances. 

At the Schneider Law Firm, P.C., we usually talk with our divorce clients in detail about their financial situations to make sure their interests are protected. Part of that conversation is talking about spousal maintenance (which our clients often refer to as “alimony” or “spousal support”).

Texas Courts May Order Spousal Maintenance in Some Cases

In our state, Texas Family Code Section 8.051 says that Texas courts may order spousal maintenance for the spouse seeking maintenance if that spouse will lack sufficient property to provide for their minimum reasonable needs when the marriage ends. The spouse seeking maintenance must meet additional criteria, including:

  • Having an incapacitating mental or physical disability: Medical records are often required to prove the existence of the disability if it’s disputed.
  • Having been married for 10 or more years and now lacking the ability to earn sufficient income: This often applies to housewives who have spent more than a decade at home taking care of the children and running the household.
  • Being the custodian of a child of the marriage who requires significant care because of mental or physical disability: The child can be any age, from just born to a grown adult. Like with an adult’s disability, medical records are often required to prove the disability if it’s disputed.

In some cases, courts can order a spouse to pay spousal maintenance when that spouse has been convicted of a crime that constitutes domestic violence against their spouse or children. Several different crimes constitute domestic violence, including sexual assault.

Spousal Maintenance in Texas Divorces | Schneider Law Firm, P.C.
817-799-7125 – Divorcing spouses often worry about how they will make ends meet. Here’s what you need to know about Texas spousal maintenance law.

“Minimum Reasonable Needs:” What Does That Mean?

The law says that a person is eligible for spousal maintenance when they lack property to provide for their “minimum reasonable needs.” But, what does that mean? There is no set amount. Instead, minimum reasonable needs are determined on a case-by-case basis. What may be reasonable for one person is different for another. In many cases, attorneys can guide their clients through putting together a reasonable budget based on their history and their predicted needs after a divorce.

How Is the Spousal Maintenance Amount Determined?

The amount of spousal maintenance that someone pays or receives is determined on a case-by-case basis. While you might be tempted to compare yourself to a couple you know or read about in the news, it’s best to talk with a lawyer directly about your own situation.

If courts order spousal maintenance after divorce, you should know that there is a cap on the monthly payment. A spouse will pay no more than the lesser of $5,000 or 20% of their average monthly gross income. This is different from child support, which courts calculate based on net income.

There are tax implications, too. Spousal support is paid from post-tax money. So, the spouse who receives it does not have to pay tax on it. This can have huge tax implications.

Talk With an Attorney About Spousal Maintenance

Because spousal maintenance is determined on a case-by-case basis, it’s best to talk with a lawyer about your own situation. Start by calling the Arlington office of the Schneider Law Firm, P.C., at 817-799-7125. Consultations with our attorneys are confidential.

Sources: 

https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/FA/htm/FA.8.htm https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/FA/htm/FA.71.htm#71.004

Time Apart: How to Navigate Separation in Texas

Sometimes, spouses are not completely ready to experience the finality of divorce. Yet, they feel their marriage is on the rocks and they need some time apart to decompress and consider how to move forward. If this sounds like you, know that there is an alternative to divorce in Texas: informal separation.

Texas Does Not Offer Legal Separation

In most states, couples have the option to enter into legal separation. Through legal separation, both spouses live apart but remain married, following a court order. The finances are still divided and if there are children, child support and custody arrangements are made. 

In Texas, no laws exist that govern legal separation. For couples ready to end their marriage, divorce is often viewed as the only legal option to pursue. Yet, this isn’t the case. 

The Alternative to Legal Separation: Informal Separation

In an informal separation, you and your spouse live apart. While an attorney isn’t necessarily required, one can help you create an agreement between you and your spouse to serve as a contract during your time apart.

These agreements can help you divide assets and set boundaries without a divorce. For example, spouses can enter into a partition and exchange agreement which allows a spouse to transfer community property—marital property—to the other spouse. An agreement can also cover estate planning, alimony and more.

Why Should You Try an Informal Separation?

If you feel time apart would benefit your marriage, separation is a great option. It allows you to consider and evaluate whether divorce is the best option for your family. Plus, you’ll have the opportunity to have constructive conversations with your spouse to resolve any open conflicts. It’s possible that a separation can be just what you need to avoid an impending divorce.

Time Apart: How to Navigate Separation in Texas | iStock-1057547460
817-799-7125– Although there are no laws governing legal separation in Texas, there are still alternatives to divorce through informal separation. To learn more, visit us today.

Divorce Isn’t the Only Option in Texas

You have the option to participate in an informal separation with legal protection in Texas with the help of an experienced attorney. We can help you choose a path that’s right for you and your family. To learn more about informal separation or for help deciding which step to take next, call our Arlington, TX, lawyers at 817-799-7125.

Sources: State of Texas Family Code

Considerations for Special Needs Children in Divorce

Approximately 40-50% of marriages within the United States end in divorce. Some of these divorces involve special needs children and children dealing with disabilities of all forms: physical, learning, emotional and behavioral. The divorce process can become extremely complex if there are children with special needs involved.

Planning for Medical Care & Long-Term Expense

Special needs children must have access to medical care in many forms. For example, the child will need access to advanced medical care but may need behavioral healthcare as well. Although child support and insurance may cover a bulk of these expenses, they won’t cover it all.

For some children with severe disabilities, long-term care may be required, even after they turn 18. Some of these expenses may include long-term or permanent medical care, as well as skilled care housing facilities.

Each spouse must work together and consider these expenses as they negotiate asset division during divorce. For example, assets received by the child may hinder their ability to qualify for government benefits. Plus, other financial safeguards such as trusts may be required to fully protect the child in the future.

Visitation & Custody Considerations

Depending on the severity of the child’s disability, traditional visitation and custody arrangements may not be what’s best. For example, switching back and forth every other week may wreak havoc on a child’s wellbeing. All children need structure, especially during life-changing situations such as divorce.

Parents must also determine who’s responsible for transporting the child to and from medical appointments, school and other activities. This may also directly affect a visitation and custody arrangement, especially if the child’s transportation needs are complex.

Considerations for Special Needs Children in Divorce
817-799-7125 – As a parent of a child with special needs, your divorce will be complex. To learn more about what to consider during the process, visit us today.

The Bottom Line: You Must Plan Ahead

If you and your spouse are considering a divorce involving a special needs child, you must be willing to compromise and work together to plan ahead. We recommend working with a professional attorney who can help you understand the legal implications of your divorce and to create a plan that will best protect your child.

Don’t Try to Handle the Complexity Alone

You and your child deserve to feel protected as you journey through the divorce process. An attorney can help. To learn more about your options, reach out to our Arlington, TX, law firm today by calling 817-799-7125.

Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce: Understanding the Differences

In law, there are generally two types of divorces: contested and uncontested. If you’re considering a divorce, you must understand the differences between the two, so you can move forward in the best way for you and your family.

Defining Uncontested & Contested Divorce

In every divorce, couples face many critical decisions involving:

  • Property settlement and division of assets and debts
  • Spousal support
  • Child custody and visitation
  • Child support

If both you and your spouse are able to agree on these decisions, your divorce can follow the uncontested divorce path. If you’re unable to agree, however, your divorce is considered contested and will follow the more traditional divorce path we’re prone to seeing displayed on TV. 

Understanding the Differences
817-755-1852 – There are two types of divorce including contested and uncontested. Although they both result in a dissolution of marriage, they have unique differences. To learn more, visit us today.

The Differences Between Contested & Uncontested Divorce

Typically, uncontested divorces resolve faster than contested divorces because they do not require a trial. Also, without a trial, uncontested divorces tend to be less expensive than contested divorces. 

Another difference lies in cases that do not settle. In uncontested divorces, both spouses are able to negotiate and reach a compromise that works best. In contrast, contested divorces sometimes result in a judge making the final decisions due to lack of agreement.

Contested divorces normally arise due to disagreements with property division, child custody and alimony. Fault may also be a driving force behind a contested divorce, resulting in spouses unwilling to negotiate. Although uncontested divorces deal with the same concerns, they’re often not as emotionally charged. Instead, both spouses may agree that it’s time to settle in the simplest way possible.

Even Contested Divorces Can Reach a Resolution Through Mediation

Some divorces start as contested due to the inability for both parties to reach an agreement alone. Professional mediation attorneys can help each spouse negotiate in a healthy way, often resulting in contested divorces becoming uncontested without court.

Mediation involves you, your spouse and a neutral third-party. During the process, you’ll work together to resolve any disputes, reach an agreement and move your divorce forward.

Are You Considering a Divorce? Call an Attorney.

If you’re considering a divorce in Texas, you don’t have to do it alone. Whether contested or uncontested, a lawyer can help you understand your options. Reach out to a professional divorce attorney who can help. Give our Fort Worth, TX, law office a call at 1-817-755-1852 today.

Changing Lives, Changing Circumstances: Life After Divorce

Let’s assume a typical family unit: husband, wife, two kids, and a dog. The family lives in a nice, middle-class neighborhood in Arlington and Mansfield, Texas, with a home, two cars, and a few 401(k) retirement accounts from various career roles over the years. 

Unfortunately, the marriage is in trouble and is heading toward divorce

The divorce goes relatively smoothly. There are issues and disagreements to resolve, but the divorce is amicable. The parties agree to do what’s best for the children—to keep a sense of family continuity after the divorce, even though the family will no longer live under one roof. And they agree on issues like spousal support, which for two years the ex-husband pays on time and in full when due.       

But then a mishap: the ex-husband is hurt on the job and can no longer afford to pay the same amount of spousal support, at least temporarily. What happens next? 

Everything Changes but Change Itself 

To quote or paraphrase the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus, everything changes but change itself. In other words, we can depend on at least that in life. The circumstances that held during the divorce, at the time the decree was entered and the divorce finalized, may not continue to hold in the months and years afterward. 

People get remarried. They have children. They go back to school. They find new jobs, out of town or even out of state. They get sick or injured, experience financial difficulty, and can no longer comply with the terms of the divorce decree, as described in our hypothetical scenario above.

What are your options when life happens?         

Post-Divorce Modifications

Court orders are enforceable against the respective parties. Judges expect the parties to abide by the terms set forth in those orders, from how much you pay in spousal support to the specific, day-to-day responsibilities related to parenting, as outlined in custody and visitation agreements. That said, the law recognizes Heraclitus’s remarks about change and allows for post-divorce modifications in some circumstances.

Here are a few additional (and common) examples:

  • As the children get older and more independent, their wants and needs will change.
  • When an ex-spouse remarries, his or her financial needs may change.
  • If an ex-spouse suffers a long-term disability and loss of income, his or her ability to pay spousal support will change.       

No Court Order Is Permanent  

Based in Arlington, the attorneys of Schneider Law Firm, P.C., help our clients adjust to life after divorce in changing circumstances. For a confidential consultation, call 1-817-799-7125 today.

The Immeasurable Value of a Temporary Order in a Family Law Crisis

Panic. Stuck. Frozen. These words might spring to mind if you’re facing a family-related crisis. Perhaps your spouse announced that he is leaving. Or you yourself want to leave—need to leave in cases of domestic abuse—but you’re afraid to take action because you simply don’t know what to do.

You can’t take action because your spouse controls the household finances (a common scenario), and you have a legitimate need for access to cash for basic necessities like food, housing and transportation, whether or not you stay in your home. And that need is heightened when you have children under your care.

Fortunately, the temporary order helps people facing these circumstances get “unstuck.” Temporary orders can help to reduce panic. Read on for more detail on how this important legal tool works.                

Common Reasons for Pursuing a Temporary Order

In divorce and family law, there is a range of circumstances that might require a temporary order, including the need for spousal support (a.k.a. alimony), child custody and visitation, and rights to property like cars and the home. (There are other circumstances, but for purposes of this blog post, we will focus on these.) 

Note that all of these rights—financial support, child custody, access to the car and home—concern day-to-day practical reality: How will you cover household expenses? Who will care for the children? Will you have a car to get where you need to go? 

If you are separating, and especially if your relationship is acrimonious, these questions need to be answered. That’s the purpose of a temporary order, which puts a framework of behavior into place that all parties must follow while the divorce or family law matter proceeds.   

Spousal Support 

In many cases, one spouse essentially controls the household finances—and could decide to retaliate or increase control over the relationship by restricting access to cash. With a temporary order, the judge can impose specific guidelines for behavior: For example, an order that your spouse must not close or freeze bank accounts.

Child Custody and Visitation 

Allegations of physical or emotional abuse heighten the stakes. Even if there are no allegations of this kind, the temporary order puts into place specific guidelines for parenting. Who will pick the children up from school? Who will take them to the dentist? Who will care for them? In many cases, both parties can continue doing what they have always done, but the temporary order helps both parents get (and stay) on the same page.     

Property Rights to the Car and Home 

This is perhaps one of the most important aspects of temporary orders: You need a car. You need shelter. Some of our clients worry about whether they will have access to a car and to the home in a divorce or other family law matter, especially if they have children under their care. The temporary order can make this need explicit as the case proceeds.       

Learn More About Temporary Orders in Texas

Based in Ft. Worth, the attorneys of Schneider Law Firm, P.C., are available to walk clients through the process of securing temporary orders in a range of divorce and family law scenarios. Speak with us today. Call 1-817-755-1852.

Evaluating Divorce Issues Through the Lens of a Business Decision

We’ve all heard of marriage as a partnership. Similar in kind to small business partnerships, the spouses share responsibility (to one degree or another) over household chores, finances, children, and so on. The spouses also share the benefits that come from their partnership, such as the shared home, family vacations, a degree of financial security, emotional support, etc.

But what happens when the marriage draws to an end? 

To be sure, marriage is not a business; it’s a personal relationship. And divorce is the termination of that relationship (subject to future and ongoing commitments involving children and spousal support). It is definitely not as impersonal as many business decisions can be. But there are benefits to evaluating divorce through the lens of a business decision. 

These benefits include greater objectivity in decision-making, reduced stress and anxiety for all parties, including children, and (in general) reduced legal expense. We examine each of these in turn below.  

Objectivity: Keeping a Level Head

Divorce is not the end of the world. This realization may help you come to terms with the initial shock of divorce (if it comes as a surprise) or with feelings of frustration, doubt and failure that arise from a troubled marriage. If divorce is not the end of the world, it is not necessary to fight with your spouse over matters that can be resolved rather easily (the old motorcycle in the garage, for example). This saves time and energy for the truly important decisions involving valuable property, household finances, spousal support, child custody, and parenting plans, to name a few.

Reduced Stress and Anxiety

Divorce is a significant stressor—and that’s so in some divorce cases more than others. You cannot eliminate stress and anxiety entirely, but you can manage it. In some cases, our client simply cannot “get along” with his or her spouse, and emotions run high. There may be no way to avoid this. But even in those cases, taking one or two steps back when making a decision may lead to a better result and reduce overall stress.  

Reduced Legal Fees

There is no way to guarantee the ultimate cost of any legal proceeding. In general, uncontested divorce cases cost less, simply because there are no issues to resolve. The parties both agree on property division, spousal support, child custody and visitation. On the other hand, contested divorce cases often involve significant disagreement on these issues—and this is where business-minded decision-making comes into play. Objective decision-making often leads to optimal results in terms of your finances and relationships post-divorce—and reduced legal fees because your lawyer spends less time to resolve issues.        

Let Us Help You Make Optimal Decisions 

From our law offices in Arlington, Texas, the divorce and family law attorneys of Schneider Law Firm, P.C., help our clients make sound decisions that protect their finances and their future. We serve families in the Arlington, and Mansfield, Texas areas. Call 817-799-7125 for a confidential consultation.