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
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.
Holiday Violations of Visitation During Covid 19
The holidays are frustrating times for both spouses when undergoing divorce proceedings that involve custody issues with children. If a spouse violates a temporary custody order, he or she may not face consequences at the time but must explain their actions to a district judge in the future.
If a temporary custody order describes in detail the periods of possession during the Christmas holiday, this order will be binding on both spouses. The temporary custody order is binding civilly and NOT criminally. This is an important distinction to make before you decide to call the police. All of family law, with few exceptions such as domestic violence and protective orders, are governed within civil jurisdiction and not criminal jurisdiction. Because temporary custody orders involving children are governed within civil jurisdiction, a police officer has no grounds to enforce the order.
Now if your spouse refuses to release the child into your custody at the prescribed time mandated within the temporary custody order then there are certain things that you should do to ensure it is properly documented for future civil contempt proceedings.
- Call the police!!! Many police departments will not respond because temporary custody orders are not criminally enforceable, but if the police department decides to respond then you may request a police report to be filed, noting that your spouse deliberately violated the temporary custody order. This may be used in Court to persuade the judge to hold your spouse in civil contempt.
- Save any text messages, emails, or recorded phone calls that demonstrate your spouse’s refusal to deliver the children into your custody during Christmas.
- Call your attorney and notify him of your spouse’s refusal to deliver the children into your custody.
- Do not get into a physical confrontation with your spouse!!!
By completing these four simple tasks you will be gathering evidence to hold your spouse in civil contempt of Court. After the Christmas Holiday season is over your lawyer, with your consent, will fill a motion to hold your spouse in contempt of Court for violation of the temporary custody order. If your spouse is found in civil contempt of Court, he or she may be fined, ordered to jail until the fine is paid with certain limitations, and the violation may be a basis to modify the previous temporary custody orders. This will be at the judge’s discretion.
Though you may feel helpless at the time, justice will be done through the district Courts in the form of civil contempt. Judges usually look down on a spouse that blatantly violates a temporary custody order, especially during Christmas. Just relax and have patience if your spouse refuses to deliver the children to you, justice may take time but in the end it will be served.
With the Covid19 virus pandemic, many changes in Texas have happened with visitation issues. On March 13, 2020, the Texas Supreme Court issued an Covid19- Virus Emergency Order: divorced /single parents should go by the originally published school and visitation schedule in their current decree. This includes Holiday Visitation Schedules. The Counties of Dallas, Collin, and Denton also came out with standing orders re; exchanges relating to possession and access to children considered “an essential activity”.
Now is the time to contact the other parent to ensure that your visitation time with your child will be insured without any problems. If not, contact an attorney to make sure that the Holiday Season visitation with your child will happen happily.
Nacol Law Firm P. C.