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How does collaborative divorce work?

The collaborative divorce process seeks to take the antagonistic and combative side of divorce out of the equation. When couples enter into the collaborative law process, they use mediation and peaceful negotiations to settle their disagreements, thereby saving money, time and emotional heartache. Unlike other types of divorce mediation proceedings, though, collaborative law is a special methodology in which the lawyer must be trained and certified before he or she can carry out the process on behalf of one’s clients.

Collaborative law divorces follow a step-by-step plan for finalizing settlements and completing the divorce. Before engaging in the process, both spouses must agree to carry out their divorce via collaborative law proceedings. Furthermore, each must obtain his or her own collaborative law attorney for the negotiations. An attorney who tends to be aggressive and combative is not the kind you want if you plan for your proceedings to be successful.

Before the collaborative meetings begin, each party will meet with his or her legal representative separately. During this meeting, spouses will inform their attorneys of what they want, while keeping in mind that compromises could be required. However, it is important at this stage for spouses to tell their attorneys what their limits are.

Next, a four-way meeting between each spouse and his or her respective attorney will take place on multiple occasions. Party neutral professionals, like child psychology experts, accountants and other experts will likely come to some of these meetings to help bring their informed opinions to the proceedings so the parties can reach peaceful accord. A licensed neutral mediator may also play an important role in “keeping the peace.” Finally, the collaborative law process will be considered successful if both parties can reach an out of court settlement.

Remember: a trained collaborative law attorney is necessary to finalize divorce proceedings peacefully and cost effectively via the collaborative law process. In addition, a diplomatic attitude and a willingness to reach agreement and accord will be required by both parties on either side of the divorce.

Source: FindLaw, “How Collaborative Divorce Works: FAQs,” accessed Jan. 19, 2016


Prenuptial agreements and why you might want one

Every since the advent of the prenuptial agreement, the document has been plagued with a serious stigma of negativity. Indeed, while a lot of people can understand why a wealthy person might want to have a prenuptial agreement in place before entering into holy matrimony (as insurance against a spouse who might simply be marrying him or her to capture the family jewels), there also exists the idea that prenuptials somehow degrade the very institution of marriage itself.

Spouses who are about to get married, however, should consider how many of their friends and family members — who entered marriage with every intention of ‘until death do us part’ — eventually dissolved their marriages through divorce proceedings. Indeed, none of us ever intend to ever get a divorce when we say ‘I do,’ but it tends to happen to the best of couples.

This tendency that the best of couples have of getting divorced should ultimately inspire the best of couples to consider creating a prenuptial agreement. Even low-income couples can benefit from such a document, which is really more of a ‘divorce game plan’ than anything else.

Couples who have a prenuptial agreement in place can enter into and finalize their divorces faster, less-stressfully and far more cheaply than couples who do not have such a legal plan of action already in place. In this light, a prenuptial agreement can and should be seen as a way for two people who dearly love one another to provide a legal framework by which to protect each other from the potential hatred, aggression and difficult emotions that can uncontrollably surface during the divorce process.

At Higdon, Hardy & Zuflacht, we take pride in helping couples develop prenuptial agreements that are founded on their mutual love and respect for one another. If you are about to get married, we are available to discuss different formats for prenuptial agreements that could suit your needs.


The importance of grandchild-grandparent relationships

What sort of relationship a grandparent and their grandchild have can have significant implications for both of them. And these implications can continue well into the grandchild’s adulthood.

For example, what a relationship between a grandparent and grandchild was like when the grandchild was a kid can impact how emotionally close the grandparent and grandchild are when the grandchild is an adult. Research indicates that when a grandparent and an adult grandchild are emotionally close, it may have mental health benefits for both of them.

A study published last year analyzed data that was collected over 19 years that regarded 356 adult grandchildren and 374 grandparents. From the data, the study found that close emotional ties between adult grandchildren and grandparents were associated with lowered depressive symptoms for both grandchildren and grandparents.

Given how important a good relationship between a grandchild and a grandparent can be throughout the grandchild’s life, disruptions of a child’s relationship with their grandparents could have long-lasting effects. One thing that can sometimes lead to such a disruption is a divorce of the child’s parents.

When, following a divorce of a juvenile grandchild’s parents, a grandparent is not being allowed to see their grandchild, the grandparent may wonder if they have any legal recourse. Texas law leans towards leaving the decision of whether to let a child have time with their grandparents with the child’s parents. However, there are certain situations in which a grandparent may be able to get court-ordered access to their grandchild. Lawyers can advise Texas grandparents facing grandchild access issues on their options.

Source: The Boston Globe, “Study: Close grandparent-grandchild relationships have healthy benefits,” Ami Albernaz, Dec. 14, 2015


Vacation properties and divorce

Who gets what isn’t the only thing that can be a significant issue when it comes to marital property in a divorce. Another significant issue that can arise is whether to keep a given piece of property or sell it and divide the proceeds.

One class of asset this issue can often come up in connection to is real estate. One type of real estate married individuals sometimes have is a vacation property, such as a beach house or cabin.

When it comes to sell-or-keep decisions regarding vacation properties in a divorce, it can be important to carefully weigh the potential benefits of keeping the property with the potential costs and downsides of doing so.

There are a variety of reasons why a person who is going through a divorce in which a vacation property is part of the marital estate may want to have the property kept rather than sold. One is a desire for their adult kids to be able to use the vacation property in the future.

Keeping rather than selling a vacation property in a divorce, however, can lead to the person who gets the property in the divorce facing a variety of added costs down the line: such as maintenance/repair costs and taxes for the property. Also, when a vacation property is kept after a divorce in order to try to benefit one’s adult kids, there is a possibility the property could be a source of fights among the kids in the future.

Whether keeping or selling a vacation property would be the right call in a divorce depends on a divorcing couple’s goals and a wide range of other factors, such as the specifics of the property and the specifics of the couple’s family. Divorce attorneys can help individuals with determining what approaches regarding vacation properties in a divorce would best align with their goals.

Source: U.S. News & World Report, “How to Handle Investments When You Divorce,” Lou Carlozo, Nov. 16, 2015


Deduction issues in child-support-related income calculations

Accurate calculations of income, both of your own income and your ex-spouse’s, can be very important in many aspects of a divorce. This includes child support matters. Here in Texas, the income levels of the two parents are among the main things that the state’s child support guidelines consider in child support calculations.

Sometimes, income calculation for child support purposes is a relatively straightforward matter. Other times, such calculations can get rather complex.

One thing that sometimes raises complexities in income calculations related to child support matters are issues regarding deductions. There are certain things that state law allows a person to deduct from their income when it comes to what their income level is for child support calculation purposes.

Sometimes, confusion or disputes arise in relation to deduction issues. For example, a parent may be unclear as to what deductions are available or whether a particular deduction would apply to their situation or may suspect that a deduction their ex-spouse is asking for is one their ex-spouse doesn’t actually qualify for.

How deduction issues end up being resolved in a child support matter can greatly affect the income calculation in a child support case, which in turn could affect what child support arrangement ends up being set.

Deduction issues are among the child support issues parents may want to get advice from an experienced divorce attorney on. Such attorneys can provide parents with information on deduction law, help them understand what deductions they may qualify for and help them navigate disputes that arise regarding deductions.

Our firm can provide divorcing parents with assistance with income calculation issues in child support matters, including complex deduction issues.


Children, developmental disabilities and divorce

What impact does the number of kids a married couple has have on divorce likelihood? A recent study yielded some intriguing results regarding this issue. The results indicate that the answer to this question may depend on whether or not a married couple has any children with developmental disabilities.

The study looked at data from a longitudinal study and compared the divorce likelihood of various different married parents.

The study found that, for married parents who had no children with developmental disabilities, divorce likelihood tended to go up the more children they had.

However, this trend was not present for married parents who had at least one child who had a developmental disability. For these parents, no change in divorce likelihood occurred the more children they had.

Why might having a child with a developmental disability change what effects the number of children a couple has has on the couple’s likelihood of getting divorced? One possibility is that there might be unique family dynamics within a family that has multiple kids with at least one of the kids having a developmental disability (such as the non-disabled kids helping with the care and support of the child with the disability) that could help reduce marital stress.

As this study underscores, things can be different for a family in a range of different ways when one of its members has a developmental disability.

Having a child who has a developmental disability can also pose some special issues for parents who decide to divorce. For one, some special concerns can arise regarding the issue of child custody when a child has a developmental disability. Attorneys can help parents with navigating special child custody issues, such as custody issues related to children with developmental disabilities.


Timing can be impactful when making a divorce-related home sale

One asset that can be a very challenging one in a divorce property division is the family home. One reason for this is that, as an asset, a home raises a variety of unique financial, liquidity and even emotional issues.

There are many different ways a family home could be dealt with in a division of property. One way is to sell off the home and for the proceeds from the sale to be divided between the two divorcing individuals, with the specifics of the division of the proceeds being governed by either an agreement by the parties or a court decision.

One of the challenges that can arise when using this method for dealing with a home in a divorce property division is getting a good price for the home when selling it.

One thing that can impact what sort of price a home fetches is when the home is put on the market. There are certain times of the year that can be a better time to put a home up for sale than others.

What is the best time of the year to put a home on the market? In a recent Fox Business article, a realtor pointed to March and April as being among the best months, generally, to put a home up for sale. Of course, this is just a general trend. Different regions could experience different trends regarding what times of the year are the best for trying to sell a home.

The important point to note is that timing can be important when selling a home as part of a divorce property division.

Timing is one of many factors that can have an impact on how selling a home in a divorce would go. Other things include economic factors related to the area the home is in.

Factors that could affect the ability to sell a home for a good price are among the many things it can be important for a divorcing individual to keep in mind when trying to decide what approach to take when in negotiations over what to do with a family home in a divorce. When in such negotiations, it can be very helpful to have the guidance of a skilled divorce attorney.

Source:  Fox Business, “How to Sell Your House During a Divorce,” Serena Elavia, Oct. 21, 2015


Potential warning signs of spousal financial fraud

Pretty much every married couple hopes their marriage will be free of dishonestly. Unfortunately though, there are a variety of different areas within a marriage dishonesty sometimes creeps into. One such area is finances. Financial dishonesty within a marriage can range from the relatively small, such as lying about a low-dollar-value purchase, to the very large, such as spousal financial fraud involving the dissipation or concealment of significant assets.

Spousal financial fraud can cause considerable harm, particularly if a couple is divorcing. Such fraud, if it goes undetected, could result in the spouse the fraud is committed against getting less than their fair share in the property division in a divorce. Thus, when divorcing, it can be very important to detect spousal financial fraud when it is present. Consequently, warning signs of spousal financial fraud are something married and divorcing individuals may want to keep a close eye out for.

There are a variety of different potential warning signs of such fraud, including:

  • Sudden and unexpected behavior, habit or pattern changes in a spouse.
  • A spouse concealing financial transactions, such as purchases, loans or monetary gifts.
  • Odd financial activity, such as unusual bank account activity, by a spouse.
  • A spouse being on the computer more than usual.
  • A spouse being especially secretive in their computer usage.
  • Sudden changes in the confidentiality level within a couple.

If a divorcing individual has spotted such warning signs or has seen other things that lead them to suspect that their estranged spouse has committed spousal financial fraud, they should discuss their concerns with a divorce attorney. Such attorneys can help divorcing individuals who believe they have been the victim of such fraud with constructing a team to help uncover whether their estranged spouse engaged in fraudulent financial conduct. Such fraud can sometimes be very difficult to detect, so having the right team with the right expertise can be vital when looking into whether such fraud has occurred.

Source: The Huffington Post, “Financial Fraud and Divorce,” Peggy L. Tracy, Oct. 2, 2015


How amicable are Texas divorces?

There are many options other than litigation for handing important issues in a divorce. One such option is pursuing a collaborative divorce.

Collaborative divorce is an alternative dispute resolution method that involves divorcing individuals engaging in cooperative negotiations to try to reach agreements on the key matters in their divorce. The process typically involves the parties signing a contract prior to the negotiations which outlines how the parties are to act during the collaborative negotiation process.

Many different things can play a role in whether collaborative divorce would work in a given divorce. Family law attorneys can provide divorcing individuals with detailed explanations of the collaborative divorce process and advice on whether collaborative divorce may be a good option for their divorce given their particular circumstances.

There are many upsides collaborative divorce can have. In some instances, the collaborative divorce process can help with keeping a divorce amicable.

An amicable divorce is something that many divorcing individuals want. How common are amicable divorces in Texas? A recent study indicates that Texas divorces are, generally speaking, more amicable than the divorces in a good deal of the rest of the country.

In the study, the states and Washington D.C. were ranked on divorce amicability. In determining how amicable divorces generally are in a state, the study used information divorcing couples had provided online.

In the study, Texas made the top ten for states where divorces are the most amicable. Specifically, the study ranked Texas 10th in the country for amicable divorces.

Do you think that Texas divorces tend to be fairly amicable as compared to other places in the country? If so, what do you think is responsible for this? What do you think are some of the best ways of keeping divorces from turning contentious?

Source: KFOR, “Study shows where the happiest divorces happen,” Dallas Franklin, Sept. 21, 2015


Thinking of the future in military child custody matters

In a military divorce, what sort of child custody terms end up being established in the divorce can not only affect the parents and the kids in the short term, but in the long term as well. Thus, when in negotiations over such terms, it is important to not only think about the present, but also the future.

On this note, one thing it can be important to keep in mind when it comes to child custody matters is what sorts of custody issues could be particularly likely to come up in the future. Different types of families can have different types of likely future custody issues. By factoring likely future custody issues into a child custody agreement, divorcing parents could be helping reduce the chances of costly and contentious disputes coming up down the line in relation to these issues. This can be beneficial both for the kids and the parents.

For military families, a class of custody issues that can commonly come up down the road are issues connected to the fact that members of the military often end up getting reassigned and having to relocate to a new location, such as parental relocation issues. Thus, potential future relocation issues are among the special issues it can be important to factor in when working on coming up with a child custody agreement in a military divorce.

Our firm understands the special issues, both those relating to the present and those relating to the future, that can arise in relation to military child custody. Whether a divorcing parent is a military member or is splitting from a member of the military, we can work closely with them in child custody negotiations and proceedings to help them with pinning down what the major present and future child custody issues are for them and with trying to reach a child custody agreement that addresses these issues in an effective and appropriate matter. For more information on our family law services regarding military child custody, see our page that covers this aspect of military divorce.

Higdon, Hardy & Zuflacht, L.L.P. 12000 Huebner Rd #200 San Antonio, TX 78230 Telephone: (210) 349-9933 Fax: (210) 349-9988
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