Category Archives: Family Law

Meeting a Family Law Attorney for the First Time? These Tips Can Help.

Perhaps your spouse just filed for divorce and now you need a lawyer on your side. Maybe you’re thinking about initiating divorce proceedings yourself. Or you might even have an emergency, such as a fear that your spouse is expecting a divorce and is moving money around. Whatever your situation, you’re looking for a Texas family law attorney, and you want to be prepared to make your meeting as productive as possible. 

At the Arlington office of The Schneider Law Firm, we help clients get through all types of family law issues, from divorce to adoption to domestic violence. As attorneys, our goals for our first meeting are to make you as comfortable as possible, learn about your situation, inform you of your options, and explain what we can do to help. For things to go as smoothly as possible, it’s a great idea to prepare yourself to provide a few pieces of helpful information.

1. Tell Us About You and Your Story

Having basic biographical information about yourself, your spouse and your children is very helpful. This includes simple things like names, phone numbers, place of work, birth dates, driver’s licenses, Social Security numbers, and similar items. 

It is also very useful to be able to tell us the story of your marriage or non-marital relationship. Think about how long you’ve been together, when you first met, any past relationship problems, the problems you’re having now, your children, good and bad traits you and your spouse have – these are all important. It’s a great idea to write it down, really think of it as a story. Your story helps your lawyer get to know you and your family and ask the right questions.

2. Ready Yourself to Share Personal Details

The relationship you develop with your Texas lawyer is based on honesty, trust and communication. For your attorney to be effective, he or she will need to know potentially uncomfortable and private details about you. Issues like domestic abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, and mental health history may be hard to share, but they are part of your story. Remember, your lawyer isn’t trying to judge you by asking about these things. The goal is to know everything that could be helpful in representing you and protecting your interests.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions

It’s easy to be intimidated when you’re in a lawyer’s office. We’re here to tell you that you shouldn’t be. Attorneys are people, just like you. And when you meet with an attorney, you should feel comfortable asking questions and having a conversation, just like you would with anyone else. Pay attention to how the lawyer answers, and don’t be afraid to ask more questions to clarify things. You and your lawyer are a team, and the relationship is a two-way street. 

4. Make Sure You Understand What Happens Next

At the end of your first meeting, make sure you clearly understand what happens next. If you’ve decided to go ahead and hire the attorney, find out what he or she needs from you in order to start working on your case. Also, be sure to talk about any immediate steps you should take at home: Do you need protection from a violent spouse? Are there concerns about a child’s health or safety? If so, your attorney will be able to provide guidance on how to handle the situation.

We’re Here When You Need Us

Turn to the Arlington office of The Schneider Law Firm when you have any family law need in Texas. Our attorneys are friendly, experienced, and ready to get to know you. We offer a free initial consultation, and you can schedule yours by calling 817.799.7125 or contact us online.

How Health Insurance Works in a Texas Divorce

Many families are insured through an employer-sponsored health care plan provided by one spouse’s employer. When divorce becomes a reality, one spouse faces the prospect of losing health care coverage, an issue that causes a great deal of tension, particularly if children are involved. Questions about this topic are among the most common we receive at our Fort Worth, Arlington, and Keller / Alliance offices, so we wanted to share some basic information here on the blog that you may find helpful.

During the Divorce Process

Upon filing for a divorce in Texas, the judge has the power to issue various temporary orders that spell out the responsibilities of both spouses during the divorce proceedings. Typically, one of these orders will specifically address health care coverage.
In nearly all cases, the court will issue an order preventing one spouse from changing any health care arrangements while the divorce is ongoing. That means, for example, that a spouse cannot simply drop you from coverage in retaliation for your decision to file for divorce. These orders also prevent a spouse from making any changes affecting health care coverage for the children until the divorce is complete.

After the Divorce Is Complete

We’ll address coverage for children first. If the spouse who insured the family is the non-custodial parent after divorce, he or she can still be required to carry the children on his/her insurance, assuming he/she is still insured. A Qualified Medical Support Order (QMSO) can be obtained to enforce this obligation.
Coverage for ex-spouses is more complicated. To start with, good lawyers will often include in the divorce settlement a stipulation that the spouse who provided health coverage during the marriage will continue to do so for a set period of time after divorce. Absent such a stipulation, under Texas law the dependent spouse’s coverage automatically ends when the marriage ends.
COBRA becomes a key factor for the dependent spouse. COBRA allows a dependent spouse to remain on an ex-spouse’s health coverage for up to three years. To obtain this benefit, however, the dependent spouse must enroll in COBRA within 60 days of eligibility. Coverage is forfeited if this deadline is missed.

What if a Spouse Isn’t Eligible for COBRA?

Texas law allows people who aren’t COBRA-eligible or who have exhausted their COBRA benefits to use state-sponsored health care coverage. This is sometimes called “mini-COBRA.” Generally, the following rules apply:
If a dependent spouse isn’t eligible for COBRA, he or she can remain on the ex-spouse’s employer-provided plan for up to nine months
If a dependent spouse has exhausted COBRA coverage, he or she can obtain state-sponsored health coverage for six months after COBRA ends

Payments for Health Coverage

The responsibility for paying for premiums differs for every couple based on their specific situation and what arrangements they reach. Under most QMCSOs, premiums for children are deducted directly from the insured parent’s paycheck. Spouses using COBRA are usually responsible for their own premiums.

Learn More About Health Coverage and Divorce

Find out more about how your family’s health insurance could be affected by divorce by talking to an attorney in the Arlington office of The Schneider Law Firm. We’re ready to answer all your questions. Call 817.799.7125 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

Sources:
https://info.legalzoom.com/health-insurance-laws-during-divorce-texas-26098.html
https://www.divorcemag.com/articles/3-myths-regarding-divorce-and-health-insurance/

5 Big Things to Know About Divorce in Texas

If your marriage has reached its end, whether it lasted a few years or a few decades, chances are you’re unsure about the process and what your life might look like during and after your divorce. It’s completely normal to feel overwhelmed; after all, life is changing.
The divorce attorneys at The Schneider Law Firm in Fort Worth, with decades of experience in family law, wanted to share answers to a few of the most common questions we receive from people when they first come to our office. There are obviously many more questions than these, and perhaps we’ll cover them in a future blog post, but we wanted to provide at least some insight here to help you get grounded.

1. Do We Need Fault Grounds to Get Divorced in Texas?

No, Texas is a no-fault divorce state. That means a spouse can file for divorce by simply claiming there are irreconcilable differences or that the marriage has become “insupportable,” which means there is a conflict of personalities that can’t be reconciled. No-fault divorces are by far the most common. However, judges can take fault into account in cases involving adultery, cruelty or abandonment. Fault can have an effect on property division.

2. Will Our Property Be Divided Equally?

Texas courts are not required to give each spouse an equal share of the marital property. The law says property division must follow a “just and equitable distribution.” That could mean, and often does mean, that one spouse ends up with more property, or property of higher value, than the other.

3. How Long Does a Divorce Take? Is There a “Quickie Divorce”?

It depends on what you think of as “quick.” Texas law has a mandatory minimum waiting period of 60 days before any divorce can be finalized. The 60 days begins on the day the divorce petition is filed. Additionally, if you are new to Texas, or new to a county in Texas, other waiting periods apply. Prior to filing for divorce, one of the spouses must have resided in the county for 90 days. And, one of the spouses must have been a Texas resident for at least six continuous months. Check out our full blog post on this topic.

4. What Happens With My Living Situation Once Divorce Is Filed?

If the parties cannot agree on living arrangements for themselves and their kids, then a temporary orders hearing will be held shortly after the initial divorce filing. These hearings are used to decide:

  • Where each spouse will live
  • An initial child custody arrangement
  • Temporary spousal support or child support
  • Which bills each spouse is responsible for paying
  • Who gets which vehicles
  • And other preliminary practical matters

5. Do We Go to Court Right Away After Filing?

Most cases, in fact, settle out of court. Mediation will be ordered in the vast majority of cases. Texas judges want the couple to work out the issues and only come to court in the last resort, because it is harder on children, and more expensive.

Our Fort Worth Lawyers Are Here to Help

The Schneider Law Firm has handled thousands of Texas divorces and our attorneys are ready to help protect you and your kids. Call our Fort Worth attorneys for a free consultation at817.755.1852 or contact us online today.

Sources:
https://texaslegal.org/texaslegal-blog/5-must-know-facts-about-divorce-in-texas#
https://smartasset.com/retirement/texas-divorce-laws
https://www.dmagazine.com/sponsored/2019/02/10-things-to-know-about-getting-a-divorce-in-texas/

Divorce Rates Are Dropping and Millennials Are the Reason

Back in the early 1980s, statistics said 50 percent, or even slightly more, of all U.S. marriages ended in divorce. That threshold – half of all marriages breaking down – deeply affected people. The number seemed to burrow its way into the American psyche. Even today, in the midst of a 35-year decline in divorce rates, many still believe that a majority of marriages disintegrate even though experts now say just 39 percent of marriages will end in divorce.

The declining divorce rate sounds like good news. Marriages must be getting stronger, right? It turns out that the reality is a little more complicated.

Divorce Statistics Can Be Deceiving

According to a paper published by University of Maryland sociologist Philip Cohen at the end of 2018, the divorce rate between 2008 and 2016 declined by 18 percent. But, Cohen says, the drop isn’t the result of people being happier and staying married longer. The data instead show that younger couples, specifically millennials, are approaching the entire idea of marriage much differently, and their approach is altering the divorce rate.

The study showed millennials are getting married less often. And you can’t get divorced if you never get married. “Fewer people are getting married,” Cohen says, “and those who do are the sort of people who are least likely to get divorced. The married population is getting older and more highly educated. Marriage is more and more an achievement of status, rather than something people do regardless of how they’re doing.”

Sociology professor Andrew Cherlin of Johns Hopkins University points out that the decline in divorce rates is most prominent among college graduates. That’s because college graduates tend to focus on their careers first, taking time to establish a relatively stable financial base for themselves before getting married. 

Cherlin also notes an important byproduct of this financially driven patience. By waiting, people also become older. “If you’re older, you’re more mature … making it less likely that you’ll get into arguments with your spouse” that are so severe as to threaten the marriage itself.

But the choice to postpone or even avoid marriage isn’t just seen among highly educated groups. Many poorer and less educated Americans are choosing to skip marriage as well. Cohabiting is on the rise, as is raising children while living together but opting not to get married. 

Legal Advice for Divorcing or Never-Married Individuals 

Are you facing divorce in Texas? Or perhaps you’re unmarried but you have children and need help with custody arrangements. Whatever your family law need, the lawyers at the Fort Worth office of The Schneider Law Firm are here to help. Call 817.755.1852 or contact us online.

Divorce Rate Sources:

https://time.com/5434949/divorce-rate-children-marriage-benefits/

https://www.houstonchronicle.com/life/article/Millennials-spur-a-drop-in-divorce-rates-13448396.php

https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2018/09/millennials-divorce-baby-boomers/571282/

https://time.com/5405757/millennials-us-divorce-rate-decline/

Talking With Your Kids About Your Divorce

For many couples, the most worrying thing about divorce is how it will affect the kids. Parents worry how to tell them and, worse yet, what the other parent will say about them. The stress and worry can have a huge impact on the entire family. To reduce them, here are some things to keep in mind about talking with your kids.

Each Family Is Different

Each family is different, and each child is different. There is no one best way to tell children about divorce, so it’s best to do what is right for your family. When you have the conversation, keep the message age appropriate. Choose a time when your children are not likely to be overly stressed or tired. And choose a location where you will be comfortable having a talk.

Remember That the Conversation Will Be Memorable

Most adult children of divorced parents can tell you exactly where they were when they heard the news. So, when you choose the time and place for your conversation, consider how your children will remember it.

Gather the Whole Family and Tell Everyone

Telling only some of your children forces those children to keep a secret that they may not be mentally and emotionally prepared to keep. So, sitting everyone down together is best. If you and your spouse are on reasonably good terms, it may be best for you to tell the children together. That way, you can coordinate the message and convey some very important ideas–that their parents still love them very much, and that both parents will continue to work together to be present in their children’s lives.

Answer Questions and Keep Talking

Divorce can be hard to talk about, and it may be painful to answer some of your children’s questions. But it’s best to keep lines of communication open. Answer the questions you can as appropriately, honestly and openly as possible. Encourage your children to come to you with questions. Check in with them regularly to see how they are doing and how the divorce is affecting them as things change.

Be Respectful

It may be tempting to talk badly about your ex–especially if they are not fulfilling their obligations. But saying negative things about the other parent can cause stress and worry for your children. When talking with them about the divorce, it’s best to avoid saying negative things (even if you’re thinking them).

Questions About Divorce? Ask a Lawyer.

If you have questions about how divorce might affect your children and what steps you can take, get started by scheduling a confidential consultation. At the Ft. Worth office of the Schneider Law Firm, P.C., we have answers and insight. Call 1-817-755-1852.

Sources

Psychology Today: Six Tips for Talking to Your Kids About Divorce

Do Half of All Marriages Really End in Divorce?

It’s a common myth, and many of us have grown up believing it–that half of all marriages end in divorce. That statistic may have been true in the 1980s, but it is no longer accurate. For the last few decades, the divorce rate has been falling steadily. Researchers estimate that it is now around 39 percent.

So, does this mean that married couples are now statistically much more likely to find eternal wedded bliss? Not at all. There are many other factors that impact the lowering divorce rate.

The Likelihood of Divorce Isn’t the Same for All Couples

First, calculating the divorce rate in the United States can be misleading because it isn’t the same across all demographics. For example, for people who are in a second or third marriage, the divorce rate is closer to 75 percent or higher. There may be many reasons for this. Maybe their lives are already complicated by ex-spouses and children from previous relationships, which makes the current marriage more complicated. Maybe they already know that divorce is a viable option when times get tough.

Couples Are Getting Married Older and Less Often

The divorce rate also differs depending on the age of the couple. Statistically, Millennial couples have lower divorce rates than Gen X and Baby Boomer couples. This could simply be because fewer Millennials are getting married. United States census data released in 2018 shows that the median age at first marriage is now nearly 30 for men and 28 for women. In 2003, census data showed the ages at first marriage as 27 and 25.

Living together before marriage has become more common, and people are more likely to live together before committing to marriage. But researchers have found that marriage rates are lower for people who live together first.

And–just like with divorce rates–some couples are more likely to live together than others. Couples with lower incomes are more likely to live together than couples with higher incomes. (Researchers believe that this is simply a matter of economics. It’s easier to afford household expenses when you have a partner.) That means that the people getting married in America today are more likely to be wealthier.

Divorce Is Still Common

So yes, the people who are getting married are more likely to stay married than they were in 1980. However, fewer people are getting married. They are getting married later and living together longer before marriage. But divorce is still common and about 39 percent of marriages still end in divorce. If you are considering a divorce, you are not alone. The team at Schneider Law Firm, P.C., is there to support you.For a confidential consultation about divorce, call our Arlington office at 817-755-1852.

Sources:

Time Magazine: The Divorce Rate is Dropping: That May Not Actually Be Good News

Psychology Today

How Common Is Military Divorce?

According to the most recent data released by the Pentagon, about 21,290 of 689,060 married troops divorced during the military’s 2017 fiscal year. That means on average, about 3 or 3.1 percent of enlisted troops divorce. But, divorce rates among female troops are much higher than men. And divorce rates for both male and female Marines are higher than in other branches of the military.
How does this compare with the national average? It’s challenging to tell exactly. The government measures the military divorce rate in a different way than the U.S. national divorce rate. In the military, the divorce rate is calculated by comparing the number of married troops listed in the Pentagon’s personnel system with the number of troops who report divorces over the year. In the United States, the divorce rate is calculated per 1,000 residents and does not factor in six states, including California. Overall, the U.S. divorce rate 3.2 percent–just about the same as the military divorce rate.

Common Issues in a Military Divorce

While the military divorce rate and the U.S. divorce rate for civilians are nearly identical, many other things set military divorces apart:

Filing for Military Divorce

All divorce actions require that the military status of the respondent be documented in compliance with a federal law called the Service members Civil Relief Act (SCRA). The SCRA protects active duty military members from civil lawsuits so that they can properly focus on serving our country. Under the SCRA, divorce proceedings can be paused temporarily (“stayed”) for as long as the military member is on active duty plus 60 days. This does not mean that the divorce cannot proceed in all cases, however. It’s a good idea to talk with a lawyer.

Child Support

Texas courts usually make child support calculations according to state law, but things can become complicated when one parent is deployed overseas. And interim child support payments are a factor while the divorce is proceeding. Each military branch has its own regulations for determining the amount paid in interim child support payments. Typically, the amount is based on a formula that accounts for a service member’s gross pay and Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH).

Child Custody

Child custody determinations are uniquely complicated when one parent is deployed. Courts make an effort to protect the best interests of the child, even when one parent cannot be with the child due to active military service.

Military Pensions

Military retirement benefits are often a source of dispute in military divorces. State and federal laws protect both spouses’ access to military retirement benefits upon divorce. A federal law called the Uniform Services Former Spouses Protection Act (USFSPA) directs states to treat military pensions as property, dividing them according to the state’s laws on property division in a divorce.

Get a Lawyer’s Help With Military Divorce

If you or your spouse are in the military, work with a divorce lawyer who is familiar with military divorces. Start by calling the Arlington office of the Schneider Law Firm, P.C., at 817-799-7125.

Sources:

Military.com: Troop Divorce Rate Remains Unchanged

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