What to Do if you are Served with a Divorce Petition, Citation, or Notice to Appear
A divorce proceeding is a difficult time for all parties involved. It is scary to be “served” with a petition for divorce. Fear, anxiety, and confusion are just some of the emotions that go through one’s mind when reading and absorbing an official Court document stating that a spouse wishes to end the relationship. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you are served.
First, it is not the total end of the world. Do not give into immediate impulses and passions or fall prey to threatening or aggressive messages. Remember anything you say or do, especially in messages, texts or emails, may be used against you at Court. Do not give your spouse free arguments for the divorce.
Second, DO NOT use social media to vent frustration or talk about the divorce. Anything you write to third parties on social media may and will be used against you in Court. It may be hard but for your own benefit do not engage in frustrated tirades regarding your spouse on Facebook.
Third, find an experienced attorney, especially if children are involved. Be smart. It is not always prudent to hire a lawyer based on what appears to be the best financial deal possible when your children and possessions are at stake. The old axiom “you get what you pay for” is true when it comes to legal representation.
Fourth, be wary of Pro Se representation. Pro Se means that you have chosen to represent yourself in the divorce case. This may end very badly for you. Many people believe that if they research enough and familiarize themselves with the Texas Family Law Code they just might be able to receive a good outcome and drive up the attorney cost for the other spouse. Attorneys go to school for many years for a reason. The outcomes for Pro Se clients are not usually good and do not be tricked into taking on an inexperienced attorney to save money.
Fifth, save all hateful and scandalous remarks made by your spouse that have been emailed, texted, posted on social media or any other proof that can be saved against your spouse. Delete Nothing! Allow your spouse to dig his/her own hole. All of both spouse’s comments may be used in Court.
Finally, do not listen to your Spouse about any type of perceived legal outcomes. “I talked to a divorce lawyer and he said you better sign this or I will get everything…”. This is common in family law. Do not fall for the trap, seek experienced representation and let the divorce lawyer deal with your spouse or your spouse’s attorney. Do not be tricked into settling or giving up your children or possessions without competent assistance and advice from legal counsel.
Follow this advice and it will greatly help your probabilities with obtaining a favorable and fair outcome in your divorce case.
Nacol Law Firm P.C.
Dallas Divorce Attorneys
Divorce Checklist – Preparing your Finances for a Texas Divorce
Preparing for a Texas Divorce: Assets
Going through a Divorce is painful no matter the circumstances. Before you get into the Texas Divorce Process, you can reduce expense, stress, and conflict by making sure you are financially prepared. Advanced planning 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. This is a very general checklist. Disregard what is not pertinent to your situation.
- Taxes (at least three years)
- Federal Tax Return
- State Tax Return
- Tax Liens
- All other 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, student 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 (from last 3 years)
- A Listing of the address and location of all Real Property, (includes time-shares, vacation properties, commercial property, and lots):
- 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) for all Primary and Secondary Mortgages
- Evidence of purchase gift or inheritance documents
- Current fair market value.
- Motor Vehicles (including mobile homes, boats, trailers, motorcycles, recreational vehicles; exclude company owned):
- Year, Make, Model of all Motor Vehicles
- 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
- Current statements from last 3 years
- 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
- Names on Account and Account Number
- Social Security Documents
- Pension Documents
- Company loans and documents related to benefits
- At least 3 years statements on all pertinent accounts
- 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
- Documents (Date of start of plan is especially important for divorce settlement)
- 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
- 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 drives
- Antiques, artwork, and collectibles (including works of art, paintings, tapestry, rugs, crystal, furniture, quilts) All major collections always need to be appraised! (Cars, Guns, Jewelry, Coins & Stamps, Action Figures, and 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)
You may decide to divorce or not, but it is very important to have all financial information before you enter into a Texas Divorce! This is a very general Divorce Financial Asset Checklist. Disregard what is not pertinent to your situation.
After reviewing this list, you may also decide to go and review the Family Information Form. This form is basic information about you and your spouse. By the time you are looking at this, you will realize that you may not really know your spouse’s information. You will need to know the correct information before filing for divorce in Texas.
These two informational lists will prepare you with the basic financial information that any divorce attorney will need to get your divorce started.
You can click on these links to download and print our Texas Divorce Financial Checklist and Family Information Form for a Texas Divorce.
Nacol Law Firm P.C.
Dallas Fathers Rights Attorneys
Call (972) 690-3333
What Happens in a Texas Divorce ?
Divorce can be frustrating, confusing, and resentful. Divorce is never a pleasant experience even in the most amicable terms. It is important to know what you are in for when a divorce is filed. An original petition will be filed, and your spouse must be served with a process server.
After service of the original petition, the Petitioner may file for a Temporary Restraining Order (“TRO”) to protect the child and marital estate. Once a TRO is granted by the District Judge, a temporary order hearing will be set within 14 days. This temporary order hearing is extremely important and will determine the direction of the case.
Temporary Order hearings are usually condensed to 20 minutes a side depending on the complexities of the case. Within this 20 minutes, you will have to put on evidence for your entire case regarding custody of the children, management of the marital estate, and any other considerations such as receivership of a business.
After the temporary orders hearing, the case will dive into full throttle litigation. Discovery on both sides is usually conducted including interrogatories, admissions, and production of documentations. The documents that are usually requested consists of bank statements, retirement pensions, social media pages, text messages, and emails. Each case requires specific Discovery requests that are narrowly tailored to the facts presented. Discovery can last months and usually follow with motions to compel and sanctions. In highly contested cases the rigors of discovery and compiling documentation can be brutal.
During the Discovery phase, Depositions may be warranted. Depositions consists of your attorney questioning your spouse and any other witnesses that are relevant to the case for impeachment purposes. Depositions are necessary if the case will go to a jury, because impeachment of your spouse is a necessity to prove your truthfulness.
Mediation is, more often than not, mandatory in Courts, but this is the general rule. Certain Courts in the Dallas, Fort Worth, and Collin county do not require mandatory mediation. Each Court has its own rules of procedure and requirements. If the Mediation fails to produce a settlement between you and your spouse, then the only thing left is trial.
Depending on the complexities of the case and assets, a trial can last half a day or be a three-day trial. Most trials are before the District Judge. Certain facts may give rise to a jury trial but a jury trial is more costly and can take up more time. After the trial is complete the parties will have to wait for a ruling. This can take days to months depending on the case and jurisdiction.
When the final ruling is given to all parties, the Judge will charge one party to create a final order that will be submitted to the Court. This can give rise to more litigation depending on the interpretation of the Judge’s rulings by both parties. Finally, when both parties agree to a final order or the Judge determines which version of the final order is proper, then the case will be over.
Divorce can be a painful process that lasts 6 months to three years depending on the circumstances and the nature of the parties involved. If you are about to file for a Divorce in the DFW metroplex call Nacol Law Firm so that you have an experienced family law attorney to represent your interests throughout the process.
Dallas Fathers Rights Divorce Attorney
Nacol Law Firm PC
How To Avoid Major Financial Pitfalls in a Divorce
You are getting divorced! After the emotional decision is made you must address financial situations impacting the family breakup.
What are the major financial pitfalls of a divorce? Are you prepared to stay on top of all financial problems and decisions in this divorce to strive for a financial win-win situation?
Where’s the liquid cash? Divorce generally never goes as fast as you would like nor do you receive as much as you think you should! If divorce is imminent start saving up money now! You will need to pay divorce expenses and have support for your new household. There will be many unanticipated costs that may drain you financially.
- If you don’t have a credit card in your name get one now. If you share credit with your spouse, close out as many credit cards as possible if he/she can charge on your credit. Even if you don’t use the cards, the account balance will still be owed and both spouses may be legally responsible for the debt.
Not Prepared for this Divorce? Divorce is a serious change of life event. Get Prepared Now! Timing is all important! When is the best time for you to get divorce? Make sure your financial situation is good before you take the divorce leap. Need new tires, buy them. Kids need dental work, see the dentist. Just remember: after the separation, your expenses will be paid by court order and not always be to your liking.
Where are the important divorce financial records? Don’t leave without all your documents that identify what you and your spouse accumulated during your marriage and which can establish the fair market value! Even if you were not in charge of finances while you were married, you must secure copies of all records. You are entitled to your share of financial property and any additional income you find may increase the earnings that calculate child support or spousal maintenance support. What are you looking for? At least three years of tax returns, mortgage paper on your home, wills, trusts, bank, credit card, and financial statements, car registrations and titles, insurance policies, and deeds to real estate. If you have separate property from inheritance or gifts from your family, make sure you have all records of these transactions. Our blog, Texas Financial Checklist http://dld.bz/dqcej is a detailed list of items and records needed to have before filing for divorce. A very good item to use for your preparation!
Have you overlooked any Divorce Assets? If a business is involved a forensic accountant may be hired to look of any signs of additional income or overstated expenses.
- Hobbies and side businesses that use expensive equipment or generate income needs to carefully be looked out. Are you entitled to compensation for expenses you paid to get your spouse through school?
- All assets, big or small can add up. These assets can always be used for trade on something you can use.
- Your spouse may try to hide assets. By keeping all documents and paystubs to make sure there are not any irregularities, things usually work out fine. Stay honest and reveal your assets.
Do Not Ignore Tax Consequences! Divorce may or may not create taxable events but you must report it on your tax return. Should you sell the house now to claim the capital gain exclusion? Who should be paying the mortgage until it sells? Should you take your spousal maintenance monthly or in a lump sum? What about retirement funds? An accountant can help to determine the best path for you on these questions.
Passive Observer of your Divorce? NO! Get control of this process, focus on practical things and work with your future Ex to get this divorce over! You can do this! There is a reason for this divorce and you are the master/mistress of your destiny. Your children need you now to be a responsible parent and wise decision making will save you time and legal fees. Listen to your attorney but you make the decisions!
Is Divorce your survival plan? Now that you have decided to divorce you must break it to your children. People engaged in a Divorce should be in survival mode. The person who will be your future “EX” is looking out for themselves and you need to look out for yourself and your children. YOU must insist within reason on getting what you need and deserve! Emotions and money do not mix! You must be able to take care of yourself and your family financially so look at all property division decisions very carefully and make good decisions to bring the divorce to a successful conclusion.
Prepare for the worst! When entering into a divorce, prepare yourself for the worst! If you are prepared for anything, than your fears will not cause you to panic and you will keep control of your situation. Outside of death, divorce is considered one of the worst emotional situations that a human being will ever experience!
How will you support yourself and the kids after divorce? Hopefully this is not a problem, but now would be a good time to get some career counseling at a community college, university or local job center. Having a fulfilling career is lucrative and helps your self-esteem!
Get Good Advice! Decisions you make now will affect the rest of your life. Find a good, knowledgeable attorney to help you though the rough spots. If you are emotionally a wreck, find a good therapist. If you feel there are hidden assets, hire a forensic accountant. Now is the time to get the best advice you can afford! You will have to live with your financial decisions for a long time.
Is a Divorce in Your Future? The Time to Prepare your Financials is NOW!
Are you to the point of no return in your marriage? Nothing left of feelings, just apathy or indifference. Do you feel you must leave this place now or die trying? What about your financial security after the divorce? Divorce is an emotional roller-coaster. How will you take care of your debt, bills, and your children’s needs?
Time to grab your laptop or pad of paper and start thinking smart about “the first day of the rest of your life. If your “I need a divorce” decision is now made, start work on learning your current family financial situation and what needs to be done to secure your financial security for Post-Divorce life!
Here is a list of some of your most important Financial Information that you need to address before the Start of the Divorce
- What are the Community and Separate Property Laws in Texas?
Under the Texas Family Code, a spouses separate property consists of 1) the property owned or claimed by the spouse before marriage; 2) the property acquired by the spouse during marriage by gift, devise, or descent, and 3) the recovery for personal injuries sustained by the spouse during marriage, except any recovery for loss of earning capacity during marriage.
The terms “owned and claimed” as used in the Texas Family Code mean that where the right to the property accrued before marriage, the property would be separate. Inception of title occurs when a party first has a right of claim to the property by virtue of which title is finally vested. The existence or nonexistence of the marriage at the time of incipiency of the right of which title finally vests determines whether property is community or separate. Inception of title occurs when a party first has a right of claim to the property.
Everything you and your spouse have earned in your marriage except for personal gifts or property from devise or descent will now, absent fault, be divided equally in the divorce. This could make a big difference in your post-divorce financial life! Gather all financial statements: income tax returns, insurance policies, bank statements, Investment Accounts summaries, Retirement Account balances, Bills, anything in your marriage that can show who owns separate assets or what constitutes the community property in this marriage.
2. DEBT: Deal With it NOW!
Are you and your spouse in a bad financial situation? Do you both have to work to pay the bills or just barely make ends meet? Now you want to get a divorce and HOW IS THAT GOING TO WORK? How can you be Post Divorce Happily EVER AFTER when you may not even be able to afford a down payment on an apartment?
ORDER A COPY OF YOUR CREDIT REPORT now to see where the damage may exist. You will be able to see what credit cards, loans, and other debt you all have created. If you and your spouse have be leading “separate lives” for a while, you may be surprised when there is more debt incurred for entertainment you never knew about.
Review this CREDIT REPORT carefully. Find out whether you are a joint owner or just an authorized user. Except for your home, usually the DEBT will be in existing credit card accounts, personal loans, and car loans. If possible, try to get as much debt as possible paid off before finalizing the divorce. Remember that joint debts remain both spouses’ legal obligation to the lenders, even when the divorce settlement states that only one spouse is responsible for the debt. If the responsible ex-spouse defaults on the payments, it will show up on both ex-spouse’s credit history.
Some good advice? Get your own credit card in your name only. If you keep other credit cards take your spouse’s name off the credit card Now! Get your name off any credit card that your spouse uses NOW! Divorce causes financial upheaval to a family’s budget so protect yourself, so you don’t have to pay or be legally responsible for your soon to be EX’s Bills!
3. Bank Accounts
Most married couples have at least one joint bank account. Many will have joint checking and savings accounts. You need to get a record of every family bank account in existence. Make sure you have copies of all monthly bank statement for 3 years.
Review these carefully and see if there has been a constant drainage of money from the accounts.
Now open a new account in your name. It is critical to establish your own financial identity when you divorce.
If your spouse does business with the bank in a business capacity or you have car/personal loans with the bank, you need to open a personal account with another bank of your choosing.
4. What About Our Home?
One of the hardest assets to deal with in a divorce. This is where the couple lived as a family, with or without children. If there are children involved, their little lives have centered around their schools, churches, sports teams and friends. It is heartbreaking to the entire family, but this decision is usually the final family break.
If the decision is for one spouse to take over the homestead and debt, the ideal situation is for such spouse to refinance the home in only their name. The single spouse will be responsible for the debt on the house and full title on the house. Otherwise if the spouse can’t afford to refinance the house, both spouses will have to work out a co-owner agreement and continue to have both names on the title and share the large financial burden. In such event, frequently, sale of the home is the best option.
This is one of the most serious real estate problems we encounter in a post-divorce situation. Times get tough and the ex- spouse, who took over the house debt, cannot afford to pay the mortgage and the property falls into foreclosure, affecting both ex- spouses’ credit. Sometimes it is better, if one spouse cannot refinance the house loan, to sell the house and divide the proceeds.
Other “To Do” Items to Address Before the Start of the Divorce
- Make sure your assets are protected. Check that your car, health, and homeowner’s insurance is up to date and enough for your and your children’s needs. Also start the process of changing beneficiaries on all life insurance policies/annuities and retirement accounts (IRA / 401k at work) you own from your ex-spouse to your heirs or other designees.
- Change all passwords on your online accounts and all banking and credit card accounts. Time for some personal privacy!
- Time to start thinking about your digital assets that you as a couple developed and shared? This is a community state and how will this affect this type of asset?
- Think about reviewing your will and other estate planning documents. We suggest that when the divorce is final, you need to have a new will in place that will be only your heirs minus your Ex.
- Very important! Establish your own credit in your single name
This list will give you a start on the financial items that you must be addressed immediately in an upcoming divorce. Be prepared before the divorce and know where you stand financially. This will hopefully give you time to talk with financial and legal experts so you can make wise decisions on addressing the financial aspects of the divorce for you and your other family members.
The Nacol Law Firm P.C.