Courts, legislatures and juries are becoming more aware of the necessity of father’s being involved in the lives of their children. Children with positive father involvement have fewer behavior problems, higher levels of sociability, and perform better in school.
Recent research suggests that father involvement during pregnancy affects multiple areas of child and family well- being, from prenatal care initiation and mother and child health outcomes, to the likelihood that the father will provide ongoing financial and emotional support. This body of research is gaining momentum. Local and regional governmental agencies are focusing more and more on parental father involvement in the lives of children.
As a result of the changes taking place in society today, the Courts are now recognizing a father’s ability to care for his children as becoming equal to that of the mother. Starting out on an equal plane, the Court may look to which parent is more stable, has a superior income, has a parenting plan in place for the child and is capable of providing proper child care and spending more quality time with the child.
If a father ignorantly gives up rights to his children based on prejudices of the past in the Court system he can feed a mother’s confidence and sponsor unnecessary ongoing litigation. The number one mistake made by father’s in the court system today is a failure to take the time to learn how the system works. Failing to learn how the family law system works may doom your case. Once you have learned the ins and outs of the family law system you will need to form a plan, set goals and never relent in enforcing your rights as a father.
Five of the biggest mistakes men make in a legal action are: 1) failing to respond to the legal action itself; 2) obtaining incorrect legal advice (from friends and family rather than a legal expert); 3) signing a settlement agreement they are not in agreement with and later deeply regretting it; 4) failing to perform under the actual settlement agreement signed; and 5) getting frustrated and/or acquiescing to unreasonable orders.
Some of the things you may want to consider as you prepare for the custody battle are as follows:
- Who has the financial ability to best care for the child(ren)? Be sure to have income tax verification, W-2 Forms and other financial information available.
- Form a parenting plan (child care, after school care, transportation, pediatrician, etc.).
- Who is more stable and/or can provide the best home for the child(ren)?
- Where has the child(ren) been attending school? Is it possible to keep the child in the same school district?
- Prepare a chronology of events leading up to the divorce including treatment of the child(ren), time spent with the child(ren), activities with the child(ren), the child(ren)’s schedule.
- Consider if a home study should be prepared regarding each home of the child.
- Consider whether a psychological evaluation should be done on the mother?
- Is drug testing necessary? (Be sure to request hair follicle drug testing.)
- Is there an alcohol or other addiction problem in the home?
- Who can provide the best moral upbringing for the children?
- Is there evidence such as pictures, video tapes, etc. that may help your case?
- Avoid unnecessary compromising photos or data on Facebook or other social networking sites.
List any other relevant issues you feel may be important to your case before you meet with an attorney.
The most important thing to remember is that your failure, if based on dated concepts and inapplicable worn out prejudices, will be her victory and your parental failure.
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.
Nacol Law Firm P.C.
Dallas Fathers Rights Attorneys
Call (972) 690-3333
Texas law requires trial courts to divide the estate of the parties in a manner that is just and fair having due regard for the rights of each party and any children of the marriage. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. 7.001. A disproportionate division must have a reasonable basis. Smith v. Smith, 143 S.W.3d 206, 214 (Tex. App. – Waco 2004, no pet.). The trial court has broad discretion in determining the disposition of property in a divorce action. If there is some evidence of a substantive and probative character to support the division, the trial court does not abuse its discretion if it orders an unequal division of marital estate. However, the division should not be a punishment for the spouse at fault. There is a difference between making a just and right division of the property with due regard for the children of the marriage and punishing the errant spouse. In general, the trial courts in Texas have perceived this distinction.
Generally, in a fault-based divorce, the court may consider the conduct of the errant spouse in making a disproportionate distribution of the marital estate. Young v. Young, 609 S.W.2d 758, 761-62 (Tex. 1980). This does not mean that fault must be considered.
The Texas Family Code sections 3.02 and 3.07 provide six circumstances when a divorce decree may be granted in favor of one spouse. These include the traditional fault grounds for divorce of cruelty, adultery, and abandonment. These sections were codified by the Legislature into the Family Code along with section 3.01 which provides for “no-fault” divorce based on insupportability because of discord or conflict of personalities that destroys the legitimate ends of the marriage relationship and prevents any reasonable expectation of reconciliation.
Texas courts have considered the following factors when equitably dividing a community estate:
- fault in breakup of the marriage;
- the benefits that the innocent spouse would have derived had the marriage continued;
- disparity in the spouses’ income and earning capacities;
- each spouse’s business opportunities;
- differences in the spouses’ education;
- physical health and need for future support;
- the relative ages of the parties;
- each spouse’s financial condition and obligations;
- the size of each spouse’s separate estate and any expected inheritance;
- the nature of the spouses’ property;
- the rights of the children of the marriage;
- waste of community assets or constructive fraud against the community;
- gifts by one spouse to the other; and
- tax liabilities.
The court need not divide the community estate equally. Smallwood v. Smallwood, 548 S.W.2d 796, 797 (Tex. Civ. App. – Waco 1977, no writ). The court has a broad discretion in making a just and right division, and absent a clear abuse of discretion, such decision will not be disturbed. Murff v. Murff, S.W.2d 696, 698-99 (Tex. 1981); Boyd v. Boyd, 131 S.W. 3d 605, 610 (Tex. App. – Fort Worth 2005, no pet.)
When there is no evidence or insufficient evidence to support the property division or an award of attorney’s fees, the appellate court must reverse or remand such decision for a new trial. Sadone v. Miller-Sadone, 116 S.W.3d 204, 208 (Tex. App. – El Paso 2003, no pet).
A party who seeks to assert the separate character of property must prove that character by clear and convincing evidence. Clear and convincing evidence is that measure or degree of proof that will produce in the mind of the trier of fact (judge or jury) a firm belief or conviction as to the truth of the allegation.
In a popular decision Phillips v. Phillips, 75 S.W.3d 564 (Tex. App. – Beaumont 2002, no pet.), Chief Justice Walker opined that because legislature has now authorized “no fault” divorce, fault could no longer be considered in dividing community estate. However, In Re Brown, 187 S.W.3d 143, 2006 Tex. App. LEXIS 686 (Tex. App. Waco 2006) states that what is “just and right” in dividing the property should not depend on the ground on which the divorce is granted; the just and right division of property is separate from the dissolution issue. If one spouse’s conduct causes the destruction of the financial benefits of a particular marriage, benefits on which the other spouse relied, a trial court should have discretion to consider that factor in dividing the community estate – regardless of the basis for granting the divorce.
To prove a disproportionate division of assets in a divorce case, counsel must put on clear and convincing evidence. Without such support, there will be no disproportionate division of community estate. The circumstances of each marriage dictate what factors should be considered in the property division upon divorce.
The New Year is always a good time for personal changes and after another stressful Holiday Season with your kids and Ex, you have decided to make some serious changes in your child custody situation to stabilize the entire family. Mom is not helping and the children are seriously acting out. What to do? What to do?
Maybe it is time to look at changing your child custody status with the children or at least modifying the current orders. Many changes have occurred in American Family Behavior and fathers are taking a more active role in their children’s lives. The Pew Research Center has recently published some new research on today’s fathers with some important and surprising changes:
Fewer dads are the family’s sole breadwinner: dual income households are now the dominant arrangement (60%). Both mom and father must now be responsible for child raising and home chores.
Dad and mom roles are converging: fathers have taken on more housework and child care duties and moms have increased time spent at a paid job. There is definitely a more equal distribution of labor between mother and fathers in today’s world.
Fathers feel they spend more or as much time with their children as their fathers did when they were children
With the latest scientific research showing that a father’s involvement is essential to a child’s social, moral, and physical growth during the adolescent period, many state legislatures and family courts are now recognizing a father’s ability to care for his children as equal to the mother. Courts are also looking at the more stable parent, who may have a better income and parenting plan in place for the child and is capable of providing a better home life and more quality time with the child.
Another reason for changing opinions regarding fathers’ rights child custody issues has been the high divorce rates and the affect it has had on the USA population life experiences. Many adults have been raised in a divorced home with Mom as the main custodial parent. Now these adults are divorcing they want a different and better experience for their own children and their lives.
Things you want to consider as you prepare for your child custody battle are:
Who has the financial ability to best care for the child (ren)? Be sure to have income tax verification, W-2 Forms and other financial information available.
Establish a detailed viable parenting plan (child care, after school care, transportation, pediatrician, etc.).
Who is more stable and/or can provide the best home for the child (ren)?
Where has the child (ren) been attending school? Is it possible to keep the child (ren) in the same school district?
Prepare a chronology of events leading up to the divorce including treatment of the child(ren), time spent with the child(ren), activities with the child(ren), the child(ren)’s schedule.
Consider if a home study should be prepared regarding each home of the child (ren).
Consider whether a psychological evaluation should be done on the mother?
Is drug testing necessary? (Be sure to request hair follicle drug testing.)
Is there an alcohol or other addiction problem in the home?
Who can provide the best moral upbringing for the children?
Is there evidence such as pictures, social networking sites, video tapes, texting, etc. that may help your case?
Avoid unnecessary compromising photos, data on social networking sites, or texting!
Just Remember the five biggest mistakes men make in a custody suits are: 1) failing to respond to the legal action itself; 2) obtaining incorrect child custody legal advice (from friends and family rather than a legal expert); 3) signing a quick child custody settlement agreement while passions are high that is later deeply regretted; 4) failing to perform under the actual settlement agreement as signed; and 5) getting frustrated and/or acquiescing to unreasonable demands and orders.
Think smart when contemplating Child Custody Modifications, be prepared and get an experienced legal professional to help you accomplish your goals!
Child support is one of the most heavily litigated issues in all of family law. To increase or decrease payments there are specific requirements that must be met to modify a previous child support order. Per Tex. Fam. Code § 156.401 the requirements necessary to modify a prior child support order are:
- The circumstances of the child or an affected party have materially and substantially changed; or
- Three years have elapsed since the order was entered or last modified, and the amount of child support differs from the statutory guidelines by either 20% or $100.00.
The second requirement is self-explanatory. The three-year limitation to file for another modification is for the benefits of the Courts. If there was no three-year waiting period to refill, then every conservator would constantly attempt to modify child support, thus creating endless litigation for clogging the Courts’ dockets.
The first requirement needs more explanation. A Material and Substantial change in the circumstances of the child or an affected party must be clearly shown at trial. Many Courts are meticulous in making the determination of what a Material and Substantial change is regarding the child and the affected party to insure this requirement is not abused for excessive litigation.
To prove a Substantial and Material change in circumstances, a conservator must show evidence at the final hearing of:
- The financial needs/expenses at the time of the divorce or prior modification for the children and the person affected, and;
- The financial needs/expenses at the time of the request for the modification.
If evidence of financial needs/expenses are not submitted and proved regarding both (1) the prior divorce/modification and (2) the recent modification, then no Substantial and Material change can be adequately proved. Further, if the request for modification of child support is predicated solely on one conservator’s increase in earning capacity, absent other compelling evidence, the change in circumstances is not Substantial and Material. Interest of L.R., 416 S.W.3d 675, (Tex. App.—Houston [14 Dist.] 2013, pet. denied.)
If one conservator decides to file a modification of child support within three years just because the other conservative received a better job, it may be dismissed. At the end of the day a Court has broad discretion on determining what is Substantial and Material and may allow the case to be heard and give an unfavourable ruling, but if that occurs you will have the ability to appeal the judgment and request attorney’s fees. It is important to know in any family law case the Judge has extremely broad discretion and interprets case law in a way that he deems fit using the Best Interest Test.
If you are a conservator that meet these requirements above and wish to increase or decrease the child support obligation, be sure to hire an experienced attorney. Nacol Law Firm will always fight for you and your children’s best interest.
Julian Nacol, Attorney
Nacol Law Firm, PC
Call (972) 690-3333