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
For Richer or Poorer, Hire Expert Help to Protect Your Interests in Your Texas Divorce
For better or worse,
For richer or poorer,
Until . . . a divorce is filed.
When there are several zeros at the end of your bank balance, as in $500,000.00; $5,000,000.00 or more, the financial aspects of divorce can be high risk.
Texas divorce laws are the same regarding the division of property whether the money and assets in a marital estate are a lot or a little; however, the courts will inevitably encounter and address more complex issues regarding the property division in a divorce case with substantial financial and business assets.
Texas is a community property state. What does that mean, as a practical matter, when divorce occurs?
1. The law presumes that all property owned by either spouse is community property, meaning that both spouses own an undivided one-half interest.
2. The court cannot divest a spouse of his or her separate property in divorce.
In a very simple explanation: Texas community property is everything earned or acquired during the marriage other than inheritances or gifts. Your paycheck is community property, your rental income is community property, the cars you purchase are community property, retirement funds accumulated during marriage are community property.
At the time of the divorce, the court will make a just and right division of the community property. “Just and right” does not mean 50/50. Often the courts will split the community property equally, but many factors may affect this division including:
1. The spouses’ earning abilities and education.
2. The spouses’ actual earnings.
3. Who has care and primary custody of the children.
4. The value of separate property owned by the spouses. If the wife inherited $3,000,000.00, should the husband be awarded more of the community property?
5. Fault in the break up of the marriage, especially if a cheating spouse spent substantial assets dating or cavorting with others.
6. The debts of the spouses.
7. Tax consequences.
The bigger the marital pocketbook, the bigger the risk to assets in play.
Texas Child Support and High Asset Divorces:
The court also has discretion in setting child support when the parents are wealthy. The Texas Family Code provides guidelines and the guidelines are presumably in the best interest of the child.
The law caps the Texas child support amount guidelines to a percentage of the first $9,200.00 of the paying parent’s earnings. However, the cap is not made of steel. The law is a guideline.
The court has the discretion to order child support in excess of the guidelines based on the children’s best interest which includes an examination of the proven needs of the children. In the case of children growing up in a high-income household, do not expect the court to necessarily limit its consideration to basic food and shelter. The court may consider many factors in setting child support, including the children’s current living standards, such as private education, nannies, medical issues, emotional issues, sports and other extracurricular activities and, in the rare case, a body guard.
When setting child support within a wealthy family undergoing divorce, the court has discretion, based on the evidence, to set order child support above the presumptive amount in the guidelines. The court’s determination is subjective and is reversed by higher courts only if the trial court “abused its discretion,” a high threshold indeed.
With so much at stake, you should hire an experienced family law attorney who can present your case clearly, and persuasively.
Thinking of a Texas Divorce? Prepare A Divorce Financial Checklist For Your Next Move
Preparing for a Texas Divorce: Assets
Going through a Divorce is painful no matter what the circumstances are. 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 your marriage.
We have included many assets that you may or may not have. This is only a financial checklist of multiple assets for your review so you will not miss an important asset that needs to be reported.
1. Tax Returns (at least three years) or Tax Liens and all IRS related documents
2. Wills and Trusts with all attachments reflecting corpus and trust holdings
3. Listing of all liabilities (including mortgages, credit card debt, personal loans, automobile loans, etc.):
—Name of entity, address and telephone number
—Property securing payment (if any)
—Most current statements and account status of lenders
4. 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
—Mortgage Companies and Loan Servicers (Name, Address, Telephone Number, Account —Number, Balance of Note, Monthly Payments)
—Current fair market value
5. Motor Vehicles (including mobile homes, boats, trailers, motorcycles, recreational vehicles; exclude company owned):
—Name on title
—Fair Market Value
—Name of creditor (if any), address and telephone
—Persons listed on debt
—Balance of any loan and monthly payment
—Net Equity in vehicle
6. 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
—Company loans and documents related to benefits
7. A listing of separate property (property owned prior to marriage, family heirlooms, property gifted, inherited property):
—Records that trace your separate property. These assets will remain yours if properly documented
8. Retirement & Pension Benefits:
—Exact name of plan
—Address of plan administrator
—Starting date of contributions
—Amount currently in account
—Balance of any loan against plan
9. Publicly traded stock, bonds and other securities (including securities not in a brokerage, mutual fund, or retirement account):
—Number of shares
—Type of securities
—In possession of
—Name of exchange which listed
—Pledged as collateral?
—Current market value
—If stock (date option granted, number of shares and value per share)
—Stock options plans and related documents
10. Insurance and Annuities Policies and Inventory:
—Name of insurance company
—Type of insurance (whole/term/universal)
—Amount of monthly premiums
—Date of Issue
—Cash surrender value
—Current surrender value
—Other policies and amendments
11. 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
12. 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, working interests, and producing and non-producing oil and gas wells:
—Name of mineral interest
—Type of interest
—County of location
—Name of producer/operator
—Current market value
—needs leases or production documents related to the asset
13. Money owed by spouse (including any expected federal or state income tax refund but not including receivables connected with any business)
14. Household furniture, furnishings and Fixtures
—purchase receipts and documents
15. Electronics and computers including software and hard drive
16. 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)
17. Miscellaneous sporting goods and firearms
18. Jewelry including appraisals
19. Animals and livestock
20. Farming equipment
21. Club Memberships
22. Safe deposit box items
23. Burial plots including documents of ownership
24. Items in any storage facility
25. Travel Awards Benefits (including frequent flyer miles)
Divorce’s Emotional Stages: Are You There Yet?
In 2014, The United States at 53%, had the 10th highest divorce rate in the world! According to the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology: 50% of first marriages, 67% of second marriages and 74% of third marriages end in Divorce in the United States.
Marriages do not break up overnight. There is not one incident or one party that ends a marriage. Your emotional break up usually extends over several years with the marriage parties continually at different stages in the emotional process.
Just remember,” no marriage is totally bad nor totally good!” Do not go fault finding! Both partners stay in a marriage for a longer period of time because there are good things about it. Now the couple is divorcing because the “bad” things make the marriage not work anymore.
A new divorce survey by Slater and Gordon Law Firm (survey of 1000 divorced people) recently came out with some very interesting results:
- The average person will spend about 2 years thinking about a divorce before they file.
- During this time the average person spends 18 months really trying to fix their marriage and working to save it.
- 76% try to fix their marriage problems before deciding on a divorce
- 53% discuss divorce with someone besides their spouse before filing
- 36% spoke with an attorney before deciding on a divorce
What are the emotional stages a couple will experience leading up to a divorce?
1. Disillusionment of one / two marriage partners ( not verbalized to other partner)
- Continued, ongoing feelings of discontent, pent up resentments and breach of trust
- Emotional feelings of anxiety, anger, denial, depression ,fear, grief, guilt ,and love
- Real problem but unacknowledged
- Developing greater distance, lack of mutuality, and increase in arguments
- Consideration of pros and cons of possible divorce and/or separation
2. Verbalized Dissatisfaction ( no legal action yet)
- Feelings of anguish, doubt, emotional, grief, guilt, relief, and tension after expression of discontent is now in the open!
- Marriage counseling and giving “one last try” for the marriage
3. Decision to Divorce ( no legal action yet)
- Feelings of anger, anxiety of the future, guilt, resentment, and sadness
- Other partner now in emotional stage one and both parties feeling victimized by each other.
- Realizes this decision is usually not reversible
Divorce Decision Action (the legal process begins)
- Feelings of anger, blame, shame, fear, and guilt
- Emotional and physical separation
- Going public with decision to family and friends
- Dealing with the “Children Problem”. No way around this one.
- Hiring an attorney and start the divorce process
4. Acceptance of Divorce / Single Life ( during the legal process or after)
- Many life adjustments: emotional, mental, and physical
- Realization that the marriage was not fulfilling or happy
- Dealing with your children and helping them to understand they are loved and did not cause the end of the marriage
- Work on developing the “new single you”, new identity and a plan for the future!
This emotional roller-coaster may take years to complete, but keep focused and you will get through it. Surround yourself with competent legal professionals who will help you through this life changing event.
Just remember this: the divorce emotional stages are a normal occurrence when going through a divorce. Outside of a death, divorce is one of the most life changing events in an individual’s life. This list is very basic and you will probably add many other emotions on to the list You are not alone. It is a grieving process and you will recover.
Love and Marriage ….and Divorce!
With the U.S. marriage rate at an all-time low, 51% of adults were married in 2011 (US Census Bureau), only 29% of all divorced adults say they would marry again with women definitely in the negative on remarriage. Americans are also not in a hurry to marry. The median age of first marriages is a record high of 29 for men and 27 for women (US Census Bureau).
So what about the 48% of adults currently married? A new divorce report by the Slater and Gordon Law Firm in England who surveyed 1000 divorcees has reflected some very interesting findings:
The average person spends about 2 years thinking about getting a divorce before they file.
During this time the average person spent 18 months really trying to fix their marriage and working to try to save the marriage.
53% discussed divorce with someone besides their partner before filing.
36% spoke to an attorney before deciding to file a divorce
76% tried to fix their marriage problems before deciding on a divorce
53% said their split was amicable and 45% said they are still friends
31% have no contact with their previous spouse at all!
How would you fit into this survey?
The Nacol Law Firm PC has expressed 8 of the top causes of Divorce!
Lack of communication: A successful relationship constantly keeps in touch! When there is a loss of open ended communication on all issues affecting the marriage, families may fall apart quickly. Share your feelings, tell your partner what is happening, and listen to your partner.
Money and Finances: If there are constant money problems or major disagreements on financial issues, you may have a serious martial problem. A team effort at all times bodes for a better marriage.
Alcohol and Drug Addiction: Addiction is one of the most damaging and challenging problems spouses will ever face in a marriage. Because additive behavior touches everyone in a family most marriages are severely damaged years before a decision is reached to end the marriage.
Domestic Violence/ Intimate Partner Violence: Family Violence is the willful intimidation, physical and/or sexual assault & battery or serious mental and verbal abuse perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. The frequency and severity of domestic violence varies dramatically and may include physical or sexual violence, threats, and emotional abuse. The violence is often accompanied by irrational and controlling behavior and is intended to result in total dominance and control over the other spouse /intimate partner or other family members.
Trust and Infidelity Issues: Do you truly trust your spouse? Are their jealousy issues that occur with one spouse when other people are involved in your lives? A successful marriage is very difficult absent trust. If you do not trust your spouse the marriage is vulnerable!
Spouse cannot understand or fulfill your needs and desires: this includes personal and sexual needs and common courtesies to each other. We all have different needs and desires. If you or your partner won’t acknowledge each other’s needs and try to accommodate, the marriage is vulnerable!
Inability to resolve conflict: Often couples have very serious trust issues with each other and cannot get past the needs of one vs the needs of the family. Smart couples will seek out a 3rd party “referee” to help resolve these differences before the marriage is irretrievable.
Children: Enough said! The married couple must decide on a united front in child rearing and discipline. The child cannot be in charge or subject to multiple contradictory directives!
Deciding to divorce is a very sad and financially devastating family decision. If you and your spouse are still at the point to possibly change things for the better, explore all other opportunities! There was a reason for the initial attraction and your family will love you for it. Otherwise, consult a qualified legal professional who can help guide you through this trying period.