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.
So you have now decided to divorce. You know it will be painful & scary, but you believe the time is right to have a single life. Financial vulnerability and risks are inevitable.
Every year, approximately three million men and women head down the emotional and financial path of divorce. Following a divorce the cost is usually 25-50% more to maintain your pre-divorce lifestyle. A single household becomes twice as expensive as each spouse losses the benefit of the other spouses income. Economic discrimination due to gender gaps place additional financial burdens on women. A woman’s standard of living may drop 27% while a man’s standard of living may increase 10%!
Now start with the financial basics in surviving your divorce! What are the basics?
A secure place to live
Create little or no debt
Protect retirement assets or income
Use of liquid money or assets
The most important of these basics is Liquid money! You will need money to find a place to live and hire an attorney. You will also need money to pay your expenses during your divorce. Liquidity will definitely come in handy and enhance your position in the proceedings.
What about Debts? If possible pay off your debts now. The uses of savings or assets you can liquidate are the cleanest methods. Many divorced people find themselves responsible for their EX’s portion of debt since the exiting spouse refuses to pay. Legally, you may be responsible if your ex-spouse does not pay. Try to start your new life free of debt and with a new sense of self confidence!
What about Cash Issues and Retirement Assets in a Divorce? If you and your spouse have retirement savings, each of you will probably be entitled to a one-half share or a portion based on a fixed ration of the number of years married and number of years of investing. This money could be kept for retirement or used to repay other current expenses or debts. Make sure you examine prospective tax treatment to avoid the 10% penalty on early withdrawal by the IRS.
Some tax questions to know about:
Are spousal maintenance payments tax deductible?
Who will be able to claim Head of Household status?
Who gets the tax exemption for the kids?
Is child support non-deductible?
Which Attorney fees are tax deductible?
Always remember to “Look at the big picture”. Keep your focus on finances and parenting. If you need help from smart professions, as your attorney, accountant, or mental-health professional, get it now! They will help you and your family with focus, objectivity and a long-term vision that is very difficult for you during this tumultuous time in your life. Now you need to be able to articulate you needs and goals for the future.
Do not forget! This time too shall pass and you may be, with planning, better than ever in the future!
The Texas Family Code defines Family Violence as an act by a member of the family or household against another member that is intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or a threat on a family member in danger of imminent physical harm. This abuse is defined as physical injury that results in substantial harm or genuine threat of sexual, intercourse or conduct; or encouraging the child to engage in sexual conduct.
What does “family” include? Individuals related by blood or affinity, marriage or former marriage, biological parents of the same child, foster children, and members or former members of the same household (including roommates).
What about child abuse?
Some very interesting statistics:
A report of child abuse is made every ten seconds
More than four children die every day as a result of child abuse
70% of children that die from abuse are under age of 4
Child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level within all ethnic and cultural lines and all religions and all levels of education!
Approximately 30% of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children
Statistics re: childhelp.org
In Texas (2008 Crime in Texas.com), victims are primarily female (75%) and the offenders are primarily male (77%). The primarily weapon involved in family violence is physical force with the use of hands, feet or fists (78%).
How can you know if child abuse exists in a household?
Look for these most common child abuse indicators in children:
Injuries that are unexplained
Major and sudden changes in a child’s behavior
Return to earlier behavior: such as bed wetting, thumb sucking, and fear of dark or strangers or more serious language or memory problems
Serious fear of going home
Changes in eating or sleeping habits
Changes in school performance or attendance
Lack of personal care or hygiene
New risk taking behaviors
Inappropriate sexual behavior
If you are a family member, friend, teacher, or child-care giver of a child who has started displaying very different behaviors or showing injuries, it is imperative that you contact someone who can either help this child or prevent any more family violence from occurring in this child’s family. This child and family need help now!
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!