A divorce can be grueling is transformed by law, probate, and insurance decisions made prior to divorce. It is important to know exactly what will happen to your will and life insurance if this misfortune happens to befall your family. The family unit is important and if it is fractured the question of what happens to “my will”, “my life insurance”, or “my trust” is a relevant and important one that needs to be answered.
If you are divorced from your spouse then your previous will may be in many aspects considered revoked automatically. Under the Texas Estate Code § 123.001 after a valid divorce, all provisions in a will, including all fiduciary appointments, shall be read as if the former spouse and each relative of the former spouse who is not a relative of the testator failed to survive the testator, unless the will expressly provides otherwise. The translation of this states: if you receive a valid divorce then your will is in many respects revoked and your spouse and stepchildren will receive nothing from the previous will. The one exception is if the will explicitly states that in case of divorce the previous spouse or children will still inherit. This revocation applies to fiduciary appointments as well. For instance if you have a trust and your spouse is the trustee, then she will be revoked from the trust in its entirety.
If you divorce your spouse, then your spouse’s beneficiary status pertaining to your life insurance will be automatically revoked. Texas Family Code § 9.301 states an automatic revocation upon divorce and lists three exceptions:
- If the divorce decree names the former spouse as a beneficiary
- The individual adds the divorced spouse as a beneficiary to the policy after the divorce
- The former spouse receives the life insurance as a “guardian” of the children
These are the exceptions for life insurance. If you decide to divorce your spouse unless further action is taken, the spouse will not benefit from your death regarding the life insurance.
Finally, the inheritance of a divorced spouse in reference to a trust depends on whether the trust is revocable or irrevocable. If you have set up a Revocable Trust then after the divorce your prior spouse will automatically lose his/her beneficiary status within the trust. On the other hand, if you set up an Irrevocable Trust then regardless of a divorce the prior spouse will still inherit and be considered a valid beneficiary. A divorce will have no effect on an Irrevocable Trust. If you decide to create an irrevocable trust, be sure to understand that your spouse will inherit the assets in the trust even after a divorce.
In a Texas divorce, the law protects you from unchecked gifts to your prior spouse and stepchildren with regard to your will, life-insurance, and revocable trusts. The prior spouse will not take from these unless one of the few exceptions apply. Divorces are riddled with complexities and it is prudent to seek advice from an experienced Texas divorce attorney during these proceedings to ensure that the divorced spouse is removed completely from your will and does not reserve an argument to acquire your assets post-divorce .
Two New Family Case laws have been passed by the Texas legislature and signed by Governor Abbott, effective 9/1/2019:
HB553 Relating to notice summer weekend possession of a child under a standard possession order in a suit affecting the parent-child relationship.
SECTION 1. Section 153.312, Family Code, is amended by adding subsection (c) to read as follows:
(c) Notwithstanding Section 153.316, after receiving notice from the managing conservator under Subsection (b)(3) of this section designating the summer weekend during which the managing conservator is to have possession of the child, the possessory conservator, not later than the 15th day before Friday that begins that designated weekend, must give the managing conservator written notice of the location at which the managing conservator is to pick up and return the child.
SECTION 2. Section 153.312 (c), Family Code, as added by this Act, applies only to a court order providing for possession of or access to a child rendered on or after the effective date of this Act. A court order rendered before the effective date on this Act is governed by the law in effect on the date the order was rendered, and the former law is continued in effect for that purpose.
SECTION 3. This Act takes effect September 1, 2019
HB House Bill 558: Relating to the court ordered support for a child with disability:
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:
SECTION 1. Section 154.302, Family Code, is amended by adding Subsection (c) to read as follows:
(c) notwithstanding Subsection (b), a court that orders support under this section for an adult child with a disability may designate a special needs trust and provide that the support may be paid directly to the trust for the benefit of the adult child. The court shall order that support payable to a special needs trust under this subsection be paid directly to the trust and may not order that the support be paid to the state disbursement unit. This subsection does not apply in a Title IV-D case.
SECTION 2. The change in law made by this Act constitutes a material and substantial change of circumstance under Section 156.401, Family Code, sufficient to warrant modification of a court order or a portion of a decree that provides support for a child rendered before the effective date of this Act.
Section 3. This Act takes effect on September 1, 2019
More new Texas Legislature Family Laws to come!
Modern High Asset marriages commonly involve Pre-Nuptial agreements to preserve and protect each spouses‘ property. If one spouse takes advantage of the other and the Pre-Nuptial is unconscionable, it may be attacked as invalid as a matter of law. There are a few considerations you should make sure of before determining if a Pre-Nuptial is valid:
- Did you sign the Pre-Nuptial voluntarily?
- Were you given fair disclosure of the property or obligations of the other spouse?
- Did you waive the right of disclosure in writing?
- Did you have adequate knowledge of the property or financial obligations of the other spouse?
If you answered “NO” to either (1) or all of (2)-(4) then you may be in a position to contest the Pre-Nuptial agreement. It is difficult to show that a Pre-Nuptial agreement is unconscionable. The Courts have made it clear that “unfairness” which is short of unconscionability does not make a Pre-Nuptial unenforceable. Determining whether a Pre-Nuptial agreement is valid or not is in large measure a question for the judge and not for the jury. This means that a judge will make the determination if your spouse has forced you to sign a Pre-Nuptial in an unconscionable way.
For high asset divorces, Pre-Nuptial agreements are more common. If you are a spouse that was pushed into signing a Pre-Nuptial without fair disclosure or without adequate knowledge of the property or obligations enforced in the agreement you may have a claim. Depending on the circumstances, invalidating a Pre-Nuptial agreement may be time consuming and costly, so an experienced attorney must be consulted.
Assess your situation at the time you signed your Pre-Nuptial. Did your spouse muscle you into signing the Pre-Nuptial, thus possibly invalidating the Pre-Nuptial? Once you have answered these questions find an experienced attorney that is familiar with contesting or setting aside unconscionable or unenforceable Pre-Nuptial Agreements.
Julian Nacol, Attorney
Nacol Law Firm P.C.
Parental Alienation Syndrome is the systematic denigration by one parent with the intent of alienating the child against the rejected parent. In most cases, the purpose of the alienation is to gain custody of the child and exclude involvement by the rejected parent. In other cases the alienator wants the rejected parent out of the way to start a new life, or the aligned parent wants more of the marital money and assets than he/she is entitled to and uses the child as a pawn. The aligned parent hates the rejected parent and the children become false weapons. These are just a few reasons Parental Alienation occurs in domestic disputes.
Parental Alienation Syndrome is common because it is an effective though devious device for gaining custody of a child. Through systematic alienation, one parent may slowly brainwash a child against the other parent. The parent involved in such alienation behavior then may gain the misplaced loyalty of the child.
In a recent survey, one in five parents stated that their primary objective during the divorce was to make the experience as unpleasant as possible for the former spouse; despite the effects such attitudes and behavior have on the children.
Parental Alienation Syndrome is a form of emotional child abuse. Parents in hostile separations may suffer depression, anger and anxiety or aggression. The expression of these feelings results in withdrawing of love and communication which may extend to the children through the alienating parent. When the mother is the alienator, it is a mechanism employed to stop the father from having contact with his children; and can be described as the mother holding the children “hostages.” The children usually are afraid of the mother, frequently identify with the aggressor, and obey her as a means of survival. The child may also be instilled with false memories of the father, coached and/or brainwashed.
Studies show that Parental Alienation is experienced equally by both sexes. Adolescents (ages 9-15) are usually more affect than younger children. Children most affected tend to be those subjected to parents’ highly conflicted divorces or custody battles. A study by Fidler and Bala (2010) show increasing incidences and increased judicial findings of parent alienation in the US. 11-15% of all divorces involving children include parental alienation issues.
If the parental alienation has been successful and has influenced the child against the target parent, the observer will see symptoms of parental alienation syndrome. Many children appear healthy until asked about the target parent.
Warning signs of a Parental Alienation Syndrome Child:
- The child is a “parrot” of the aligned parent with the same delusional, irrational beliefs and consistently sides with this parent. Denys suggestions that their hatred for rejected parent is based on views and behavior of aligned parent.
- Idealization of aligned parent and wants to constantly be in the aligned parent presence.
- The child develops serious hatred for the rejected parent and rejects a relationship with the rejected parent without any legitimate justification. The child sees nothing “good” about the rejected parent and only wants to destroy the relationship.
- The child refuses to visit or spend time with the rejected parent, frequently faking fear.
- The child’s reasons for not wanting a relationship with the rejected parent are primarily based on what the aligned parent tells the child. Accusation against rejected parent too adult-like for the child’s age.
- The child feels no guilt about his/her behavior toward the rejected parent and will not forgive past indiscretions.
- The child’s hatred extends to the rejected parent’s extended family, friends, partner, or Idealization of aligned parent aligned parent without any guilt or remorse.
- Ignores/rejects the rejected parent in the presence of the aligned parent.
- Children who live in alienated family situations are usually unable to form healthy relationship with either parent. Some of the areas of concern for children impacted by parental alienation are:
- Emotion Distress, Anxiety, Depression, and Self Hate
- Poor reality testing and unreasonable cognitive operations
- Low self-esteem or inflated self-esteem, Pseudo-maturity
- Aggression and conduct disorder
- Disregard for social norms and authority, adjustment difficulties
- Lack of remorse or guilt
Parental Alienation Syndrome is recognized by the courts but is very difficult to define and in most cases requires bringing in County Social Services, Child Protective Services, and/or other professionals. Anyone claiming Parental Alienation Syndrome should look for family therapy as a constructive way forward. Other forms of abuse are physical, sexual, and neglect which are much easier to identify.
Children having some of these symptoms need help. Please contact an attorney and discuss your options on how to help this child. Formulate a plan to move forward. Do not give up your parental rights! Your child desperately needs and is entitled to your help!
A temporary restraining order, commonly known as a “TRO” is used in family law to place injunctions without a full hearing on one or both parties. These injunctions prohibit specific actions that could endanger or prove damaging to the property in a divorce or the children of a divorce. You should have an idea on what the process entails.
A TRO is governed by Texas Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 680 and Texas Family Code § 150.001. If your spouse wishes to file a TRO that immediately excludes you from possession of or access to your children, a notice of this hearing must be given to you prior to the court date. The only exception to this is an Ex-Parte meeting with the judge, which means that only your spouse or her attorney will be present at the preliminary hearing. The judge may order a TRO Ex-Parte only if the TRO clearly demonstrates from specific facts shown by affidavit or by a verified complaint that immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage will result to the applicant or children before notice can be served and an actual hearing.
If you are on the receiving end of TRO and it prohibits you from access to your children, there are some things to keep in mind.
First: a TRO has a time limit, which is 14 days. After 14 days the TRO may be extended by a judge only once for an additional 14 days. Thus at most this TRO may only last 28 days’ absent agreement to an additional extension. A Judge does have the discretion to extend the TRO more than once if it is uncontested (you do nothing or do not appear).
Second: A TRO is NOT a Protective Order. This means that the police cannot kick you out of your house or forcibly arrest you for violating a TRO, absent any related criminal conduct. There are consequences for violating the TRO but not criminal consequence. You may be found in contempt of court by the Judge who ordered the TRO and forced to pay fines or be held to more severe sanctions. Violations will not be good for your case if you intentionally violate.
Third: A TRO must have a signed and notarized Affidavit or a verified pleading attached to the motion. If the opposing counsel did not follow these procedures the order may upon motion to dissolve be found void due to violation of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure.
Fourth: You cannot practically appeal a TRO because it may only last for at most 28 days, if contested. Once you are served with the Ex-Parte TRO, you may request a motion to modify or dissolve the TRO after giving your spouse 48-hour notice and seek attorney fees if the filing was false or frivolous.
TRO’s are civil injunctions that are usually given without notice only if immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage will happen. The proof rules are more relaxed in Family Law Cases. Specific TRO procedures can differ in all counties and in different courts so make sure the check online the rules of each specific jurisdiction.
TRO’s only last 14 days and cannot be enforced by police officers, absent related criminal activity. Do not be distressed if you are served a TRO one day while you are battling your spouse for child custody or property. Take a deep breath call your attorney and set a hearing to modify, vacate or dissolve the TRO.
Many counties have standing orders that issue and are effective as to both parties upon the filing of a Family Law Proceeding. Read such mandatory orders before you file your case.