“Imagine spreading everything you care about on a blanket and then tossing the whole thing up in the air. The process of divorce is about loading that blanket, throwing it up, watching it all spin, and worrying what stuff will break when it lands.”
̶ Amy Poehler
The decision to end a marriage is difficult. During this tough time, your divorce attorney may be the only one in your corner. You need a strong, caring ally: a divorce lawyer who will stand up for you, ensure you are treated fairly, and fight for you in court if that’s what is needed. The skilled family divorce lawyers at Bennett, Weston, LaJone & Turner, P.C. have decades of experience handling divorces for clients from all walks of life. We have the expertise to handle every aspect of your divorce, including child custody and visitation, valuation and division of assets, QDROs, support and maintenance, and any other legal concerns that you may have.
Children in Divorce Disputes
When a family includes children, divorce proceedings can be particularly hard. Many parents inadvertently embroil their children in the conflict with their spouse, sometimes with the best of intentions. Some deliberately use their children as pawns to secure more favorable settlement terms or to emotionally hurt their spouse. A few are able to successfully separate their anger, hostility, and disappointment with their spouse from the relationship between parent and child. Parents who are able to set aside their differences and work together in a constructive manner will usually find that the divorce court is willing to give them more latitude rather than imposing and enforcing rigid custody and visitation provisions.
Parents should very carefully consider the effect that their divorce proceedings are having on their children. Grades may plummet. Disciplinary problems may increase. Behavior may change. Even a child’s health may deteriorate. Broadly speaking, divorce courts try to keep the best interests of the children at the forefront of their decisions. Various courts have formally or informally adopted some variation of a Children’s Bill of Rights in Divorce. Divorcing parents need to remember that they are both important to their children and that they both will have occasions to interact throughout their children’s lives.
Joint conservatorship is presumptively in the best interests of the children in Texas. A parent insisting upon sole conservatorship usually bears a heavy burden to show that the other parent is manifestly unfit or imminently threatens the child’s physical or emotional well-being. Joint conservatorship rarely eliminates the need for child support. A parent with a higher-earning job or occupation will often still be required to make regular periodic payments of child support to the other parent. Provision will also be made for health insurance and medical support of unreimbursed health expenses for the children usually based upon what options are available to each parent.
Joint conservatorship does not always mean equal periods of possession. Often, one parent will have primary physical possession of the children even when both share joint conservatorship. The Family Code contains a standard possession schedule, which can be modified by the parties or by the court to suit the particular needs of the children in a given case. Over the years, family practitioners have developed particular adaptations to address various common situations including Jewish and Muslim religious holidays, parents whose jobs require unusual shifts like pilots or firefighters, parents in the armed forces or reserves, and parents with health or substance abuse problems. In the relatively rare situations where parents share equal possession time, adaptations exist for week on/week off, 2-2-5-5, 2-2-3, and split custody schedules.
Extraordinary cases do rarely occur which require a more adversarial approach. A handful of parents physically or sexually abuse their children. Some parents genuinely suffer from serious mental health problems that pose a danger to their children. Some are guilty of serious criminal wrongdoing. Some deliberately embark on a campaign to alienate their children from the other parent. These cases require the skill and knowledge of an experienced divorce attorney like those at Bennett, Weston, LaJone & Turner, P.C.
Division of Marital Property
When parties divorce, provision must be made for the division of their property and debts. In Texas, all property possessed by the spouses at the time of their divorce is presumed to be community property. That presumption allows the divorce court to award any item of property to either spouse, but does not require the court to divide all such property 50-50 with strict mathematical precision. Instead, the law only requires the court to divide such property is a manner that it deems “just and right.” Various factors can justify a disproportionate division of community assets, including but not limited to fault in the breakup of the marriage. Our divorce attorneys can help you determine whether the facts of your situation justify awarding you, or your spouse, a bigger share of your community property.
Separate property cannot be divided by the divorce court. Such property primarily consists of property owned by one spouse before the marriage, as well as property received during the marriage by gift or by inheritance. The spouse claiming such property as separate property has the burden of proving its separate character by clear and convincing evidence. When such property includes money in a bank account, investments, or retirement funds which have been commingled with community property, it is often necessary to hire a forensic accountant to perform an analysis called tracing to determine what portion at the time of divorce is separate property and what portion is community. It is sometimes necessary to trace tangible property, for example when a previously-owned home has been sold with the proceeds used as a down payment to purchase a new home during the marriage.
The particular facts of a given case can present more complex property division issues. Community funds might be used to enhance the separate property of one spouse (for example, adding a pool during the marriage to a home owned by one spouse prior to the marriage) requiring reimbursement. One spouse may have wasted community assets—often on a paramour—requiring reconstitution of the community estate. The parties may own closely-held businesses, requiring valuation by experts and adjustments for personal goodwill, which is not part of the marital estate. Regardless of the extent, value, and complexity of your marital estate, our divorce attorneys can help.
Particular Issues in Divorce Cases
The divorce attorneys at Bennett, Weston, LaJone & Turner, P.C. are experienced with a wide range of issues that case arise in divorce proceedings, including:
- High-asset property division
- Contested child custody disputes
- Military divorces and division of military retirement benefits
- Tracing of separate property
- Business valuation
- Reimbursement claims
- Retirement accounts
- Prenuptial and post-nuptial agreements
- Unusual property issues
- High-conflict divorces
- Oil, gas, & mineral interests
The above list is merely representative, not exhaustive. Given the experience of our divorce attorneys, it would be surprising if your particular issue is so unique that one or more of our attorneys haven’t previously encountered a substantially similar situation. For all of your divorce needs, contact us to schedule a consultation.