In Texas, Prenuptial Agreements are becoming a very important tool for prospective spouses in the event of future marital problems. With the rise in divorce rates and more boomer/senior remarriages, many people with assets are turning to a marital contract to sidestep a potentially difficult and very expense divorce.
A prenuptial agreement allows prospective spouses to, legally in advance, specifically define rights and obligations to each other and further allows spouses to decide their future marital property rights with relativity minimal judicial actions. A prenuptial agreement, in Texas, can cover any matter except:
Violate public policy or a statute imposing criminal penalties
Adversely affect a child’s right to support
Defraud a creditor
Texas Family Code 4.003(a)(8), (b),4.106(a).
Among the permissible provisions that parties can list in a prenuptial agreement are the following:
Rights and obligations of any interest, present or future, legal or equitable, vested or contingent, in real or personal property.
Right to manage, control and dispose, by agreement, property upon separation of the married parties, dissolution of the marriage, death of either party, or other agreed event.
Modify or eliminate spousal support.
Specific matters related to prospective spouses, including personal rights and obligations that are not in violation of state laws.
Choice of a state or country law that will govern the prenuptial agreement.
Creation of a Will or Trust.
Disposing of the Estate upon the death of one of the spouses. Also ownership rights and disposition of benefits from a life insurance policy upon the death.
Waive one party’s right to occupy the family homestead after the other party dies.
To file for a divorce in Texas, you must be a Texas Resident for 6 months, and you must have lived within the county you plan to file in for at least 90 days immediately prior to filing of your divorce petition. Time spent by a Texas resident outside of Texas, while in the military, satisfies the residency requirement in Texas for a divorce.
Texas does not recognize legal separations.
It is possible to get a divorce even though the other party does not want the divorce to take place. Texas is a “no fault divorce state.” “No fault” means that one spouse does not have to prove the other spouse has done anything wrong in order to obtain a divorce. You cannot be held to a marriage because your spouse does not want to sign or refuses to participate in the divorce process. The court will enter divorce orders even if the other party refuses to sign them.
Texas requires a minimum 60 day waiting period before any divorce can be finalized. The 60 day period begins to run from the time the Original Petition for Divorce is actually filed with the court. In other words, the shortest time it will take to finalize a divorced in Texas is 61 days. On occasion, in domestic violence cases, there is an exception to the 60 day rule. If the parties are in agreement, a divorce proceeding can be finalized immediately following the sixty-day waiting period. On average, however, the time period is more likely to run 90 to 120 days in an uncontested divorce due to the crowding of court dockets and the time necessary for counsel to draft necessary legal documents and obtain the agreement of both parties regarding the wording of the final documents. If the parties are not in agreement, the time necessary to finalize the divorce will depend on the conduct of both parties and their attorneys, the court’s schedule, the matters in controversy and the complexity of the contested issues. From start to finish, the divorce process may go through a number of phases which might include temporary orders, exchange of financial information, psychological evaluations (in child custody cases), alternative dispute resolution, trial, and appeal. A divorce in which the parties are deeply in opposition to an agreement on some or all of the core issues may take anywhere from several months to several years to complete.
As to the division of marital assets, Texas is a community property state. For more information on community and separate property, see our blog, Divorce: What is separate property and what is community property.
It is important to remember that, although the statutory waiting period to finalize a divorced is 60 days, it is more likely than not that your divorce will “not” be finalized on the 61st day following the filing of your petition for divorce.
The number of stay-at-home dads is increasing again in the United States! Pew Research Center has just published a new report, “Growing Number of Dads at home with the kids”, and it is impressive! The world is changing and Dads are definitely more hands on quality time with their children.
The major commanding improvements are the number of fathers who stay home with their children under 18. This figure has just about doubled since 1989, and now 16% or 2 million fathers are full time stay-at-home caregivers to their children. This percentage has grown from 10% in 1989.
What are some of the reasons for the strong growth of stay-at-home dads?
35% are home because of illness or disability
23% cannot find a job
21% stay to care for family and home
Even with this increase in stay-at-home dads, 16% of fathers with children still live apart from their kids.
52% of stay-at-home fathers are white, 20% are Hispanic and 16% are black. In addition, and almost equal share of working fathers (48%) and mothers (52%) say they would prefer to be home raising their children, but must work for family income.
Preparing for a Texas Divorce: Assets
Going through a Divorce is painful no matter what the circumstances. Before you get into the Texas Divorce Process, reduce expense, stress and conflict by making sure you are financially prepared. Planning ahead helps you in making sound decisions, start preparing for post-divorce life, and avoid many post-divorce pitfalls. Below is a list of items you need to gather before counseling with an attorney. Financial Documents are a must to show what your true assets and liabilities are in the marriage.
- Tax Returns (at least three years) or Tax Liens and all IRS related documents
- Wills and Trusts with all attachments reflecting corpus and trust holdings
- Listing of all liabilities (including mortgages, credit card debt, personal loans, automobile loans, etc.):
- Name of entity, address and telephone number
- Account number
- Amount owed
- Monthly payment
- Property securing payment (if any)
- Most current statements and account status of lenders
- A Listing of all Real Property, address and location, including (includes time-shares and vacation properties):
- Deeds of Trust
- Notes including equity loans and second liens
- Legal Descriptions
- Mortgage Companies and Loan Servicers (Name, Address, Telephone Number, Account Number, Balance of Note, Monthly Payments)
- Current fair market value
- Motor Vehicles (including mobile homes, boats, trailers, motorcycles, recreational vehicles; exclude company owned):
- Name on title
- VIN Number
- Fair Market Value
- Name of creditor (if any), address and telephone
- Persons listed on debt
- Account number
- Balance of any loan and monthly payment
- Net Equity in vehicle
- Cash and accounts with financial institutions (checking, savings, commercial bank accounts, credit union funds, IRA’s, CD’s, 401K’s, pension plans and any other form of retirement accounts):
- Name of institution, address and telephone number
- Amount in institution on date of marriage
- Amount in institution currently
- Account Number
- Names on Account
- Company loans and documents related to benefits
- A listing of separate property (property owned prior to marriage, family heir looms, property gifted, inherited property):
- Records that trace your separate property. These assets will remain yours if properly documented
- Retirement Benefits:
- Exact name of plan
- Address of plan administrator
- Starting date of contributions
- Amount currently in account
- Balance of any loan against plan
- Publicly traded stock, bonds and other securities (include securities not in a brokerage, mutual fund, or retirement account):
- Number of shares
- Type of securities
- Certificate numbers
- In possession of
- Name of exchange which listed
- Pledged as collateral?
- Date acquired
- Tax basis
- Current market value
- If stock (date option granted, number of shares and value per share)
- Stock options plans and related documents
- Insurance and Annuities Policies and Inventory:
- Name of insurance company
- Policy Number
- Type of insurance (whole/term/universal)
- Amount of monthly premiums
- Date of Issue
- Face amount
- Cash surrender value
- Current surrender value
- Designated beneficiary
- Other policies and amendments
- Closely held business interests:
- Name of business
- Type of business
- % of ownership
- Number of shares owned if applicable
- Value of shares
- Balance of accounts receivables
- Cash flow reports
- Balance of liabilities
- List of company assets
- Possible hobbies or side businesses that generate income
- Mineral Interests (include any property in which you own the mineral estate, separate and apart from the surface estate, such as oil and gas leases; also include royalty interests, work interests, and producing and non-producing oil and gas wells:
- Name of mineral interest
- Type of interest
- County of location
- Legal description
- Name of producer/operator
- Current market value
- needs leases or production documents related to the asset
- Money owed by spouse (including any expected federal or state income tax refund but not including receivables connected with any business)
- Household furniture, furnishings and Fixtures
- purchase documents
- Electronics and computers including software and hard drive
- Antiques, artwork and collectibles (including works of art, paintings, tapestry, rugs, crystal, coin or stamp collections) Other large collections need to be appraised! (Guns, quilts, action figures, books)
- Miscellaneous sporting goods and firearms
- Jewelry including appraisals
- Animals and livestock
- Farming equipment
- Club Memberships
- Safe deposit box items
- Burial plots including documents of ownership
- Items in any storage facility
- Travel Awards Benefits (including frequent flyer miles)
In September 1, 2011, Texas House Bill 901 ( Texas HB 901 ) revised the spousal maintenance law in the Texas Family Code effective for divorce cases filed on or after September 1, 2011. The bill revised the conditions that establish eligibility for spousal maintenance, commonly referred to as alimony, and changes the factors required to be considered by a court in determining the nature, amount, duration, and manner of periodic payments for a spouse who is eligible to receive maintenance.
Eligibility for spousal maintenance still requires that the spouse seeking maintenance lacks sufficient property to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs.
The law provides potentially increased relief to spouses who have been out of the work force, are disabled, are victims of family violence or are the primary custodians of a disabled child.
Some of the major items in the Texas Spousal Support Law are:
1. The maximum amount of spousal support that courts may award increased from $2,500 to $5,000.00 per month, although it is still limited to 20 percent of the payer’s average gross monthly income.
2. The duration of spousal support in Texas is a maximum of 5, 7 or 10 years, generally depending on the length of the marriage.
3. The law clarifies if a person has primary care for a disabled child, the custodial parent may be prevented because of the child’s disability from earning sufficient income to meet the custodial parent’s minimum reasonable needs.
4. The law also clarifies a person may not be held in contempt for failing to pay spousal support which is in an agreed order and extends beyond the period of time provided under the law.
In order to receive “maintenance,” (which is the statutory term for spousal support), the spouse seeking support must lack sufficient property to provide for the spouse’s “minimum reasonable needs”, AND one of the following:
(1) The recipient must be unable to earn sufficient income to provide for his or her minimum reasonable needs because of an incapacitating mental or physical disability;
(2) The marriage lasted for 10 years or longer and the recipient lacks the ability to earn sufficient income to provide for his or her minimum reasonable needs;
(3) The recipient is the custodian of a child of the marriage of any age who requires substantial care and personal supervision because of a physical or mental disability that prevents the spouse from earning sufficient income to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs; OR
(4) The person ordered to pay support was convicted of or received deferred jurisdiction for an act of family violence during the pendency of the suit or within two years of the date the suit is filed.
The court can order maintenance to continue for:
(1) 5 years if the parties were married less than 10 years and the maintenance is awarded due to family violence;
(2) 5 years if the parties were married more than 10 years, but less than 20 years.
(3) 7 years if the parties were married more than 20 years, but less than 30 years;
(4) 10 years if the parties were married for more than 30 years.
In cases where the maintenance is awarded due to the mental or physical disability of the spouse or a child of the marriage, the court may order that the maintenance continue as long as the disability continues.
However, in all circumstances, the law provides that the Court shall order maintenance for the shortest reasonable period that allows the recipient to earn sufficient income to meet his or her reasonable needs.
What about Termination?
a. The obligation to pay future maintenance terminates on the death of either party or on the remarriage of the oblige.
b. After a hearing, the court shall order the termination of the maintenance obligation if the court finds that the obligee cohabits with another person with whom the obligee has a dating or romantic relationship in a permanent place of abode on a continuing basis.
c. Termination of the maintenance obligation does not terminate the obligation to pay any maintenance that accrued before the date of termination, whether as a result of death or remarriage
If you are contemplating dissolving your marriage and have questions concerning your financial future, seek competent legal counsel to help you determine whether you could be eligible for spousal support the provisions of the law.