Two current family law trends

Communities throughout the world are going through changes. Just one year ago, we were out and about socializing, going to work, meeting friends at restaurants and carting kids around to extracurricular activities. Today, we are doing our best to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19. We are meeting our work counterparts in online meetings, ordering food to eat at home instead of enjoying the ambiance of a restaurant and we are encouraging kids to play in the yard with siblings or neighbors instead of in large tournaments with friends from other communities.

These changes have also impacted the workings of family law matters. Three examples include:

Trend #1: Increased divorce rates.

Although data is not currently available for divorce rates in the United States, it is likely these rates will increase. China, who began dealing with the coronavirus pandemic before the U.S., has data showing increased divorce rates due to the coronavirus. The stress that comes with stay at home and quarantine orders along with financial pressure from loss of employment or cut hours can magnify preexisting problems, potentially increasing the likelihood of divorce.

Trend #2: Custody and visitation issues.

These orders have also impacted child custody arrangements. Is it violating a stay at home or quarantine order to take kids to see their other parent? These are not easy questions to navigate. Parents can help to better ensure they get their time with children by keeping track of any changes. Keep records of missed dates. You can likely request make up time in the future.

Go to Source
Author: On behalf of Katie L. Lewis, P.C. Family Law

Yes, parents can kidnap their own children

Most people think of kidnapping as a third party taking a child from the child’s parents. There are cases, though, where one of the actual parents can still face kidnapping charges.

For instance, this can happen when someone tries to leave the country even though they share custody of their child with an ex. This is known as international parental kidnapping, and it is sometimes referred to as abduction. It violates the rights of both the child and the other parent.

This may happen after a contested divorce case. Perhaps both parents want sole custody. The court decides that the child should live with Parent A all of the time, but they do give Parent B visitation rights. The reasoning is that Parent A does not have a safe living space for the child, but the court wants to keep them both involved in the child’s life.

Unhappy with that decision, Parent B abducts the child during one of these visitation meetings. It can also happen if they have joint custody. Either way, Parent B drives across the border and into Mexico — or boards a plane for Europe — where they have extended family. They hope to get around the court’s ruling by moving the child far enough away from the other biological parent so that they no longer have to share custody rights.

A case like this can get incredibly complicated and may be dangerous for the child. Parents often do not feel like what they’re doing is illegal since it is their child, but it is. Everyone involved in a contentious case of this type needs to know what legal options they have.

Go to Source
Author: On behalf of Katie L. Lewis of Katie L. Lewis, P.C. Family Law

When a divorce-linked team approach might be warranted

Do you need more than one tried-and-tested professional working on your Texas divorce case?

Here’s the answer we suspect many readers of our blog posts at the family law firm of Katie L. Lewis might have guessed is forthcoming: maybe.

Many divorce matters understandably feature a close link between high-net-worth property division and resulting complexity. And the more complicated a dissolution is, the greater the likelihood that a team approach to securing optimal results might prevail.

We stress that bottom line on our website. We note therein that, “Often in complex divorce cases, it is necessary to consult with experts such as business valuators, financial advisers, accountants or appraisers.”

That type of integrated approach is common and quick to provide added value to a divorce client who is involved in high-asset negotiations focused upon property distribution. It is underscored in a recent Forbes article using a sports analogy that likens a proven property division attorney to a “quarterback” guiding a team of professional assistants.

Those extra players can help across a broad spectrum.

Marital assets must be accurately valued, for instance, and specialized appraisers routinely do that involving property ranging from art and collectibles to antiques and jewelry. Family businesses that must be accounted for in a marital split give rise to many complicated issues that are best addressed via professional input. Financial experts can follow money trails, trace assets and provide key data on income streams and a party’s reasonable post-divorce expectations.

Questions or concerning regarding a high-asset marital dissolution can be directed to an attorney with a deep well of experience in complex and contested divorces.

Go to Source
Author: On behalf of Katie L. Lewis, P.C. Family Law

When should you tell your kids about divorce?

You and your spouse may have known for a while that you were headed for divorce. However, that does not mean that your kids are expecting news about your decision, so when is the right time to tell them?

If you and your spouse have recently decided to divorce, it may be best to avoid rushing into a conversation about it with your kids. On the other hand, kids are very perceptive, and they may know something has changed, even if they are not expecting divorce.

It can be best to tell children sooner rather than later. You probably wouldn’t want them to hear it from someone else. However, this conversation may be one your children remember for a long time, so there are several important factors to consider when choosing the right time.

Make sure it is actually happening

Avoid telling your kids about your divorce if there is a chance it might not happen. This type of news can be very distressing for kids and it may spare their emotions if you and your spouse are able to work things out.

Have an expectation for the future

If the divorce is definitely going to happen, try to get an idea of some of the changes that may take place. For example, which parent will move out, when they will move out, where the children will live and when the children will see each parent.

There can be a lot of uncertainty for everyone during a divorce, but kids thrive on routines. It can help them prepare for the changes ahead if they have some idea about what they should expect.

Pick a normal day

Once you have a general idea of what changes may be coming, it is time to pick the right day and time. It is best to tell kids before any divorce-related changes occur. Don’t wait until after a parent moves out.

It may also be good to avoid certian days and times of day when emotions may run high. This includes birthdays and holidays. It also includes times right before a child usually takes a nap or goes to bed.

Gather everyone together

Choose a day when you and your spouse can both participate, when all your kids can be told at once and when no one is rushed. Then, go ahead and call a family meeting.

When you and your spouse break the news, agree on one, simple, honest message that avoids blaming anyone. Share with your kids what changes may come with divorce, and reassure them that both parents love them and that the divorce is not their fault.

Your kids may have a variety of questions at once or may need to have several brief conversations about it over the next several days. It is normal for siblings to have very different reactions from each other.

There may never be the perfect time to tell someone bad news. However, some times are worse than others. By trying to avoid some of the less ideal times, you can give your kids the best opportunity possible to cope with the news.

Go to Source
Author: On behalf of Katie L. Lewis, P.C. Family Law

The specific laws that apply to Texas divorces

If you are considering filing for divorce, you should place special attention on the state in which you intend to file. In most cases, you will file for divorce in the state that you are living in, but you may have other options if you recently relocated to a new state.

If you intend to file for divorce in Texas, you should, therefore, make sure that you fully understand the laws that will apply to you. The following are some of the most relevant.

Grounds for divorce in Texas

In Texas, you do not need to allege that your spouse was at fault for the breakdown of the marriage. Instead, you can file for a “no-fault” divorce by stating that the marriage has become insupportable because of a conflict of personalities. You should also be able to show that there is no reasonable expectation that this conflict will be resolved.

To file for divorce in this state, you will need to have been residing here for at least 6 months prior to your request.

Property division in Texas divorces

Marital property is subject to division at divorce and Texas is a community property state — but that doesn’t necessarily mean an even split when spouse’s divorce. If you and your divorcing spouse cannot agree on how to divide your marital property, the court will arrange it in a way that they consider just and fair.

If you are unhappy in your marriage but you are not sure how divorce will affect you financially, you should take the time to understand how the law will apply to your situation.

Go to Source
Author: On behalf of Katie L. Lewis of Katie L. Lewis, P.C. Family Law

Is paternity automatically established at birth in Texas?

You’re the biological father of a newborn Texas baby. There’s no question that you are the legal father, right?

Hang on. There just might be.

The bottom line concerning Texas paternity law is that it is anything but simple and direct. In fact, we note at the established Dallas family law firm of Katie L. Lewis that it is “detailed and confusing.”

What that sometimes mean is this: Males and females alike who think that paternity is a cut-and-dried matter can easily find that relevant law doesn’t align with their expectations.

Back to that above question regarding fatherhood. We duly stress on our website that “the legal definition of fatherhood is dependent upon biology, timing, marital status and a variety of other factors.”

Does that clear things up?

We didn’t think so. In fact, it is likely the case that either a male or female having questions or concerns regarding paternity will reasonably want to consult with proven paternity legal counsel. Following are a few key paternity-linked points to note.

First, being a biological father does not equate by itself to legal fatherhood in Texas. If you are a dad who is married to a woman when she gives birth, you are automatically deemed a legal parent. If you are unmarried, though, paternity must be established.

That is done through voluntary acknowledgment or involuntarily pursuant to a court order. Either a mother or father (as well a child or state authorities) can file a formal “Petition to Adjudicate Parentage.”

Establishing paternity can have material and wide-ranging consequences for all affected parties. An experienced family law attorney can provide further information and, when necessary, diligent legal representation.

Go to Source
Author: On behalf of Katie L. Lewis, P.C. Family Law

How does life insurance figure into divorce planning?


That’s one quick and conclusive answer to today’s above-posed blog headline query. Although life insurance might be of little or no importance at all in some divorces, it can comprise top-tier subject matter in others.

How do you know if life insurance is a divorce concern?                                          

Most divorcing Texas spouses have a lot on their minds. We note at the established Dallas family law firm of Katie L. Lewis that one central concern harbored by many impending exes is whether they are ready for divorce.

That’s a fair self-posed question, and one that presupposes some sound pre-divorce planning.

We certainly recommend that exercise, especially concerning money matters. We note how important it often is for a divorcing party “to gather your comprehensive financial information together, and to make yourself aware of your financial situation.”

Taking that step – especially with close input from a practiced divorce attorney – can help a divorcing individual gain deep insight and help to guide the divorce process in a positive way. Financial planning can promote understanding surrounding investments, taxes, debts, existing assets (including their location and value) and future needs.

Life insurance might well configure prominently into the mix. A recent Forbes article on the topic underscores generally that “life insurance can help protect the assets you’ve worked to build.” Moreover, continuing coverage can provide great peace of mind and invaluable assistance applicable to assumed debt in the event an ex-spouse with payment duties passes away.

Perhaps the value of life insurance can be no better illustrated than via a scenario where a non-custodial parent with child support obligations dies. An existing policy with that person as owner and listing the children and other parent as beneficiaries can ensure continued financial protections.

Many and diverse questions can logically arise concerning the role of life insurance in divorce. Forbes advises any person seeking relevant information to consult with an experienced attorney.

Go to Source
Author: On behalf of Katie L. Lewis, P.C. Family Law

Do grandparents have a right to child custody?

Grandparents who are interested in playing an active role in their grandchildren’s rights may wonder what happens in the event of a divorce. Do they still have a right to see their grandchildren? The answer will depend on a number of factors, including the state. Family law is a creature of state law, so which state the divorce is taking place in matters. This post will focus specifically on the issue of grandparent rights in Texas.

Like most things regarding child custody, the issue often comes down to the best interest of the child. If the grandparents can establish that time with them is in their grandchildren’s best interest, they are more likely to find success. Courts in Texas have the power to step in and grant visitation rights if the parents of the child or children are divorced.

Grandparents can also maximize time spent with their grandchildren by thinking outside the box. In some cases, you may be able to increase the time spent with the children by offering to help the parents in the raising of the children. This could include transporting the children to extracurricular activities or spending time with the children while the parent goes on a vacation or out with friends. Or plan a vacation with the grandchildren and the grandchild’s parents. The trip can result in memories that the grandchildren will cherish.

Navigating the roles that are available during and after a divorce may seem overwhelming. Grandparents have options. An attorney experienced in grandparents rights during divorce in Texas can review your situation and discuss these options to help provide peace of mind.

Go to Source
Author: On behalf of Katie L. Lewis, P.C. Family Law

Dividing digital assets during a divorce

Not that long ago, dividing assets after a divorce meant going through tangible objects and deciding who would get to have which items. When there was an argument about who could keep something, it was a matter of determining whether it belonged to the individual or the couple.

While many assets are still tangible items around the home, more assets are digital. These items may seem insignificant, but digital collections accumulated over the course of a marriage can add up quickly.

Here’s what you should know about dividing up your digital assets during a divorce.

Digital assets can add to the confusion

One of the advantages of digital assets is that there is a record of when you purchased it and how you paid for it. Depending on how you and your spouse managed your finances, this could make asset division simpler or more complex.

If you maintained separate accounts and did not buy digital items for each other, the process of dividing your digital belongings will be simple. On the other hand, if you had joint accounts or regularly made digital purchases for each other, it can be challenging to determine what items belong to which person.

Community property

Since Texas is a community property state, digital assets that you purchased jointly during the marriage belong to both of you. When it is time to part ways, you will have to decide on an even distribution.

Keep in mind that if your digital assets are kept in one commingled account, they could be considered community property. If you cannot show that items in the shared account belong to one of you or the other, all the items in the account could be common property.

As you look through your digital assets, it is essential to try to trace who purchased it and whether it was part of a comingled collection of assets.

Go to Source
Author: On behalf of Katie L. Lewis, P.C. Family Law

People may delay divorce to preserve their lifestyle

When some people finally start talking about divorce, it comes as a relief. They realize that it’s something that they have wanted for a long time, but they were just delaying taking that step.

Why do they do it? The reasons are different for everyone, of course, but many people do it so that they don’t upset their lifestyle. It’s not just about the relationship. It’s about everything that goes along with it.

For instance, one woman found out her husband had been seeing someone else, but she convinced herself to stay in her marriage for another six years. She later admitted that she wished she had just been stronger and asked for a divorce at the time. The reasons she didn’t included:

  • They had three children together
  • They owned a home
  • They had once been in love
  • Her husband wasn’t abusive in any way

Essentially, she was just trying to preserve the life that they had previously had together. She enjoyed that stability. She wanted her kids to stay in a two-parent family with a “happy” marital home and a “normal” life. She even noted that she didn’t worry about not being married personally, but she was just trying to keep that lifestyle together. For many people, it just feels like that is what they are supposed to do and they don’t want to upset the balance.

It can be hard to break this mindset, but you don’t want to stay in a marriage too long and regret it later. If it is time to get divorced, make sure you know what steps to take. An attorney can help you understand more about the process and where to get started.


Go to Source
Author: On behalf of Katie L. Lewis of Katie L. Lewis, P.C. Family Law