My ex-husband and I divorced in 2011. Since then, he’s been paying child support. Six months ago, he was promoted and received a large salary increase. Can I force him to pay more in child support now?

The simple answer is yes.

However, according to the office of the Attorney General for the state of Texas, Ken Paxton, the amount of child support your ex-husband was ordered to pay can only be changed if you obtain a new court order.  Informal agreements between custodial and noncustodial parents do not change the court-ordered child support amount.

Child support orders can be modified through a court hearing or through the Child Support Review Process (CSRP).  The CSRP is typically faster than scheduling a court hearing and it works best only when both parents can agree on the order, which is rarely.  Legal counsel offered by a Houston child custody law firm such as LaFour Law could best help you make this determination.

If you would like to have your order modified through CSRP, apply online to the Office of the Texas Attorney General, or contact the regional child support office for the county where you live.  If you do not want to apply online, you may complete a request to have a paper copy of the application form mailed to you.  This application establishes the Texas Attorney General’s authority over your case.  You will have to provide certain information, including previous child support orders, your contact information and your Social Security number.

It is important to note that the court cannot change support obligations retroactively to a past date.  It can only change future support obligations.  If you need a change, you must file your petition immediately and make sure it is served on the other person.  Even though it has been six months or more since your husband’s income increased, you will not be entitled to retroactive payments based on that increased income.  Thus, it is important that you seek out a Houston child custody lawyer today.

The process to modify a current court order affecting child support begins with a petition to the court asking for modification.  You will probably need the assistance of a lawyer to file a proper petition.  There are several requirements that must be met by the petition and you will need to make sure the petition is properly served to your husband.

After the petition is filed and served, the court can enter temporary orders if properly requested.  If your husband agrees to the modification, the process can be completed rather quickly.  However, if he wants to contest the modification, then the court will have to schedule the case for trial.  Contact one of our Houston child custody attorneys at LaFour Law today and obtain the legal counsel you need to ensure that you and your children are represented to the best degree possible.

I’m a successful business owner in Houston filing for divorce because my wife was unfaithful. I want to protect my business from her—how can I do this?

You most likely will benefit with the assistance of legal counsel from a Houston divorce law firm such as LaFour law—particularly since you have a business to protect.  An experienced Houston divorce attorney can assist you through the highly emotional and stressful experience of a divorce.

Texas allows people to file either a fault or a no-fault divorce.  If you file a fault divorce claiming that your wife is responsible for ruining the marriage, you will most likely have to prove that in a court of law.  These types of divorces are almost always much more expensive than a no-fault divorce.

Filing a fault divorce may affect the spousal support you may be required to pay. However, the fact that your wife was unfaithful to you is likely to have very little bearing on the outcome of your case as it applies to the distribution of assets.

Texas is a community property state.  Texas law defines community property as all of the property that either spouse acquired during the marriage except separate property. Separate property is anything one spouse owned prior to the marriage, property inherited by only one spouse, and recoveries for personal injuries sustained by only one spouse, except for the portion of the award intended to compensate for lost earnings during the marriage.

Thus, in your case, many of the key legal issues surrounding your case center on the following circumstances:

1) Did you own your business prior to the marriage?  This, in and of itself does not necessarily qualify your business as separate property.  For example, if during your marriage your wife contributed to the growth of this business in just about any way—directly or indirectly—she is likely to be entitled to some of its assets.

2) How is your business structured?  If your business is structured as a limited liability company, and if the assets such as real estate and bank accounts are titled in the LLC, they could be shielded from consideration as personal assets in a divorce proceeding—particularly if the LLC was created prior to the marriage.  If your business is set up as a c or s corporation and is registered with the state and has a separate tax ID number and particularly if it was created prior to the marriage is another consideration.  Your business could be set up as a trust—a separate legal entity from you.  Trusts have their own federal tax number.

3) Is a prenuptial agreement in place?  It may be that you executed a premarital agreement with your wife prior to your marriage.  If this is the case, depending upon the wording of the agreement, your business may be protected.

Call an experienced Houston divorce lawyer today from LaFour Law.  We will do all we can to see that you obtain a fair and just settlement

In Texas, if parents have “shared custody” of the children after a divorce, would either parent pay child support?

In most cases, the answer is yes.  It could be that either parent would be required to pay child support.  Whether or not a parent has to pay child support depends on what the court determines to be in the best interests of the child, not on the type of custody granted by the court.

Furthermore, courts do not define shared or joint custody to mean that each parent has the child fifty percent of the time.  The non-custodial parent who has less physical possession of the children is generally required to pay financial child support to the primary custodial parent for the benefit of the children.

The legislature by statute has adopted Child Support Guidelines based on percentages of income according to number of children.  For example, if the net monthly income of the parent is less than $8,550, these guidelines require 20% of net resources for one child, 25% of net resources for two children, 30% for three children, etc. in increments of 5% for each additional child.  Experienced Houston child custody attorneys, such as those at LaFour Law, can assist you in making a child support amount determination based on your particular case that the court will be likely to support.

“Shared custody” in Texas falls under the designation of “Joint Managing Conservatorship” and it refers more to the rights and duties of the parents as opposed to physical possession of the children.

These rights that may be shared in a joint managing conservatorship include the right to

  • Designate the primary residence for the child
  • Consent to medical, dental and surgical treatment involving invasive procedures and psychiatric and psychological treatment
  • Receive and give receipt for periodic payments for the support of the child and to hold or disburse these funds for the benefit of the child
  • Represent the child in legal action and make other decisions of substantial legal significance concerning the child
  • Consent to marriage and to enlistment in the armed forces of the USA
  • Make decisions concerning the child’s education
  • Right to the services and earnings of the child
  • Act as an agent of the child in relations to the child’s estate if the child’s action is required by a state, the USA or a foreign government (except in cases where a guardian of the child’s estate or a guardian ad litem has been appointed for a child)

Schedule an appointment today with LaFour Law, a Houston child custody law firm, today to discuss questions you may have regarding child support payments that you may be required to pay.

I wish to file for divorce in Houston from my husband. What is the process for doing so and how long will it take?

Few divorces, even those that do not involve children under the age of 18, are ever simple. It is wise to consult an attorney prior to beginning any divorce proceedings. Most likely you will need the legal counsel offered by a Houston divorce law firm such as LaFour Law.  A Houston divorce attorney, such as one from LaFour Law, knows the steps to take to ensure that you have an accurate accounting of family finances and that you will obtain the settlement you deserve.

In Texas, a divorce cannot be final for at least 60 days after the Original Petition for Divorce has been filed.  If you and your husband are not in agreement, it typically takes from six months to one year to obtain a final decree of divorce.

Residency Requirements must be met:  One of the spouses must meet residency requirements of having lived in Texas at least six months prior to filing and one of the spouses must have lived in the county where the divorce is being filed for at least 90 days.

PROCESS FOR OBTAINING A DIVORCE IN TEXAS

Keep in mind there are many variances possible in this process; however the steps do proceed in the following order.

Step One: You must file an Original Petition for Divorce with the court and then have the papers served on your husband.  Note:  At the time you file, you can also issue a Temporary Restraining Order requiring that no assets disappear before being divided by the court and requiring that the spouses act civilly toward each other.  The court must schedule a hearing within 14 days if you file this restraining order.

Step Two: If no restraining order is filed, your husband will have 20 days plus the next following Monday to file an Answer.  This document acknowledges your husband’s receipt of the petition for divorce and states his agreement or disagreement with the petition.

Step Three: Usually what follows here is discovery—a process by which your lawyer and your husband’s lawyer exchange information and documents.

Step Four:  You and your husband discuss settlement either directly or with the help of attorneys or mediators.  Then an Agreed Decree of Divorce is prepared which contains all the terms of the agreement.  You and your husband sign it and eventually the judge also will.

Note:  If you and your husband are not able to agree on all the issues in the case, a trial date will be set.  If mediation fails, your case goes to trial.  At the end of the trial your attorney will prepare a Final Decree of Divorce to present to the judge for signature.  This document is binding on both you and your husband going forward.

Call LaFour Law today and obtain an experienced Houston divorce lawyer.  Let us help you make sure that you get the settlement you deserve

I’m divorcing my wife in Houston b/c she cheated on me. We have 6 kids and I have my own business. We have a prenup in place – how does the prenup process work now that we’re actually going to use it?

First of all, in regard to your children, the amount of child support you might be required to pay is not determined in a prenuptial agreement.  The Court will follow state guidelines in making determinations for the amount of child support.

The Texas Family Code and court opinions clearly provide that prenuptial agreements and post-marital partition agreements will be enforced so long as they are not unconscionable (grossly and obviously unfair to one of the parties), were executed voluntarily, and each spouse provided complete disclosure of his or her assets or signed a waiver of disclosure or had adequate knowledge of the other spouse’s property and debts.  If you don’t have a Houston divorce attorney, it’s time to call LaFour Law today.  We can review your prenuptial agreement, the circumstances surrounding it, and then advise you accordingly.

LaFour Law has extensive experience in handling matters unique to the high net worth client and high net worth estate, including complex property division related to a divorce and ethical asset protection via premarital agreements and post marital agreements.

Prenuptial agreements cannot contain passages that violate a criminal law or even public policy.  Thus, if the Court determines that your agreement contains such passages, it may be determined invalid.  An otherwise valid agreement might be set aside if provisions make a spouse eligible for welfare. A court may require spousal support to the extent necessary to take that spouse off welfare.

Texas defines adultery as voluntary sexual intercourse with a person besides your husband or wife. If you are filing for divorce based on adultery, you should be prepared to show the Court proof of the affair.   In the event that you hired a private investigator to gather evidence of this, you should seek legal counsel immediately if you haven’t already.  Depending upon the methods used by the Private Investigator, the evidence found may or may not be admissible in Court.

Furthermore, a finding of adultery has no legal significance. Although in some cases, adultery can be justification to award more of the community estate to the victimized spouse.  A divorce judge in Texas has a lot of discretion in the distribution of a couple’s community property.  Most view adultery as just another sign of a troubled marriage, but other judges may look more dimly on adultery.  Although the marital estate is usually a 50-50 award, in some cases the distribution has been 70% to one spouse and 30% to the other.

Call LaFour Law today at 713-223-7700 to set up a consultation to discuss how we can work together.  An experienced Houston divorce lawyer can assist you in your Houston high net worth divorce in hanging onto the assets that are rightfully yours.

What does the term “conservatorship” mean when you’re figuring out child custody issues during divorce in Texas?

The Texas Family Code does not use the term “custody” in describing a parent’s legal relationship with a child.  Instead, Texas law describes a parent’s legal relationship with a child as a “conservatorship.” The term “conservatorship” focuses the responsibilities, rights, benefits, and burdens of the parent-child relationship.  The parent’s responsibility is to “conserve and protect” a child, not merely to own a child as one would own a car or other inanimate object.

There are no such legal terms as “full custody,” “sole custody,” “joint custody,” “primary custody,” or any other type of “custody” over children under Texas law.

There are two types of conservatorships in Texas:  1) Possessory and 2) Managing.

Possessory conservators only have access to the child under a defined schedule, as well as the right to inherit and bequeath assets through the child.

Managing conservators have all the same rights normally associated with a parent.  Under managing conservatorships, the parent has the right to manage the affairs of the child as long as that child is a minor.  These decisions include financial welfare, schooling, medical care, religious upbringing, psychological and psychiatric care, employment, legal rights and representation, consent to marriage, and consent to Armed Forces enlistment.

Note:  There are two types of managing conservatorships—Sole and Joint.

Texas law presumes that both parents should be appointed joint managing conservators and there are limited grounds for rebutting that presumption

When the conservatorship is defined as Sole, one person holds all managing conservatorship rights and responsibilities.  In the cases where Joint managing conservatorship is granted, two (or more) persons share the rights and responsibilities of the managing conservatorship.

Most disputes involving children do not end with the designation of “joint managing conservatorship”.  In the state of Texas, one parent is granted the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the children.

Texas law provides for the ability to restrict the Exclusive Right to Designate the Primary Residence to a specific geographical area.  However, the law does not automatically presume a geographical restriction.  A parent who wants a geographic restriction must justify why the court should impose a geographic restriction and this restriction must also be shown to be in the child’s best interest.

Geographic restrictions are often imposed with divorce decrees.  Although as time passes, and thus the circumstances for the family, either parent may apply to the court to alter the restrictions.  Again, the criteria for the court’s decision are always according to what is determined to be in the best interests of the children.

Call LaFour Law today at 713-223-7700.   We will walk with you through this painful process and provide you with guidance, compassionate leadership and protection.

My husband and I are going to get a divorce. He’s a very successful businessman who has made a tremendous amount of money. He has lots of accounts, including several that I believe are hidden from me. What can a forensic account do to help me find these accounts?

Forensic accountants usually work together with your attorney to make sure you are not being cheated out of your fair share of the money.  A forensic accountant would look into the financial practices of your husband to see how much money he makes and spends and see if it adds up to the share about which you know.

There are some patterns in particular that forensic accountants might look for when investigating your husband’s financials.

  • Inter-family dealings

  • Unreported large cash transactions

  • Sudden decrease in your husband’s income level

  • Unreasonable owner salary levels

Forensic accountants normally work with your attorney as a team.  It is advisable to consult a Houston divorce attorney from a law firms such as LaFour Law before hiring a forensic accountant.

A competent forensic accountant will assist your lawyer with Examination for Discovery including the formulation of questions to be asked regarding the financial evidence.  In addition, the forensic accountant often attends the Examination for Discovery to review the testimony, assist with understanding the financial issues and to formulate additional questions to be asked.

These professionals can also provide assistance with settlement discussions and negotiations.   Their attendance at trial to hear the testimony of the opposing expert can provide invaluable assistance for your lawyer with cross-examination.

During divorce proceedings, for high net worth divorce cases such as yours, you want a forensic accountant who is familiar with legal concepts and procedures and will work hand-in-hand with your lawyer.  This forensic accountant will be an experienced hand at assisting with legal proceedings, including testifying in court as an expert witness and preparing visual aids to support trial evidence.

A Houston divorce lawyer from LaFour can assist you in attaining what is rightfully yours.  After reviewing your case, we will determine if the services of a forensic accountant would be beneficial for your case.

We have extensive experience in handling matters unique to the high net worth client and high net worth estate, including complex property division related to a divorce and ethical asset protection via premarital agreements and post marital agreements.

You need a strong legal advocate working for you. LaFour Law will skillfully and aggressively fight for you. We will work together at the onset of your case to determine your goals and then implement a plan of action designed to get you through the process as expeditiously as possible while not sacrificing the strong case leadership and personalized attention that are the hallmarks of LaFour Law.

Call LaFour Law today at 713-223-7700 to set up a consultation to discuss how we can work together.

My husband has stopped sending child support. He moved from Houston to Florida four years ago after we divorced. I can’t reach him in Florida despite repeated calls. What are my options?

My husband has stopped sending child support. He moved from Houston to Florida four years ago after we divorced.  I can’t reach him in Florida despite repeated calls. What are my options?

Anyone who has not made child support payments as ordered must pay back child support. The repayment of this debt might include fees and interest charges, in addition to the back child support. For the most part, states handle back child support, although the federal government can become involved if the obligor is at least two years behind in payments. Parents who owe back child support must pay the debt in full, even if the child is beyond the age of majority.

Established in 1999, the Child Support Lien Network (CSLN) houses a database of 3.7 million delinquent child support obligors owing over $80 billion in past-due support updated on a monthly basis by participating states. The database is used to intercept insurance settlements to pay delinquent child support obligations owed to children and families.

Both Florida and Texas belong to the Child Support Lien Network and enforce child support orders from other states. Your ex-husband faces all kinds of penalties that may be imposed by state or federal governments:

  • Suspension of Licenses

  • Denial of Passport

  • Wage Garnishment

  • Seizure of Tax Refund

  • Property Seizure

  • Jail Time

  • Cross-Border Enforcement  (More than 100 countries have reciprocal child support arrangements for cross-border enforcement.)

Don’t try to handle this yourself.  Go through the proper legal channels.  A Houston divorce attorney can guide you in attaining the funds that are owed to you.

You don’t necessarily have to go to court.  A child support lien can arise without any court actions as long as the notice is proper legal paperwork that is filed to establish why your lien is valid and complies with state law.  Your Houston divorce lawyer can simply file the notice with the clerk of court in the county where you live, the county where your husband owns personal or real property, or the county where the child support has jurisdiction.

Note:  Only non-exempt properties such as valuable collections, second homes and second cars, and other luxury items can be subjected to a child support lien.  A lien against this type of property secures your debt because your husband can’t sell or dispose of the property without paying the money owed to you.  Since you hold an interest (the amount of back-support owed by your husband) on the property, you can foreclose on your interest in the property.

Even though you can under the law, if want to collect delinquent child support payment with a lien against property, you should seek legal counsel.   Call LaFour Law today at 713-223-7700 to set up a consultation to discuss how we can work together.

My ex-husband is a successful business man. We divorced three years ago and he moved to New York immediately. Four months ago, he stopped making alimony payments. What can I do here in Houston to help this?

You definitely need to seek legal counsel from a trusted Houston divorce law firm.  Texas courts most often limit alimony payment to three years.  It would be a good starting point to review your divorce decree to see what time limits there may be on alimony payments (“spousal maintenance”) that your husband is required to make to you.

In the state of Texas, time limits of spousal maintenance are set out in the Family Code, unless the parties agree to a different time frame. The Family Code in the state of Texas says the support order is not effective after three (3) years, with the date the divorce decree was signed as the starting time. Of course, it is possible that wording in your own particular divorce degree may supersede this.

The courts of Texas generally limit the spousal support to the shortest possible time for the spouse to begin employment which will provide for his/her “minimal reasonable needs”. Only a disability can continue the time frame indefinitely, and once the disability has been removed, then a motion to modify will likely occur from the ex-spouse.

Texas law has limited the amount of spousal maintenance: the support cannot exceed $2,500.00 per month or 20% of the ex-spouse’s average monthly gross income. The amount set will be only enough to provide the spouse with their minimal reasonable needs. However, parties can agree to a larger sum.  Again, the details regarding your entitlements to alimony can be found in your divorce degree.

Your ability to collect depends entirely upon the wording of your divorce degree.  If your ex-husband, for example, has agreed to pay spousal maintenance (alimony) for 10 or 20 years and it is stated thusly in your divorce degree, then you may be entitled to recovery of these funds.  Otherwise, it is highly unlikely.

As mentioned previously, it would be prudent to seek the advice of a Houston divorce lawyer – a competent, experienced lawyer can quickly review your divorce degree and provide you with the answers and options you seek.  Furthermore, you will most likely need the services of a lawyer to recover your alimony payments if it is found these payments are rightfully due you.  Before beginning, it is good to know that extracting alimony payments from your ex-husband may be difficult as states usually offer a lot of assistance in collecting child support, and significantly less help collecting past-due alimony.  Reach Lacy Lafour and her team at LaFour Law today and let us help you fight for what’s yours.

- I’m contemplating divorce from my wife, and I have sizable retirement accounts and investments. How can I protect these from her during the divorce proceedings here in Texas?

Texas is a community property state. Community property is defined as property that either spouse acquired during marriage. According to state law, all property is presumed to be community property unless and until the party claiming otherwise can prove by a preponderance of the evidence that it is separate property. You will definitely need an experienced Houston divorce lawyer, one with particular and specific expertise in advocating on behalf of high net worth and asset laden clients to guide you through the process of this divorce.

Point blank – it is highly unlikely that you will not be required by Texas law to share your retirement accounts with your spouse if the two of you have been married for at least 10 years. To the extent that a married person accumulates an interest in a pension, retirement, profit sharing, or other employee benefit plan during the marriage, it is community property and subject to division upon divorce. If a court awards a portion of one spouse’s retirement benefits to the other spouse, the attorneys will prepare a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) to be sent to the employer, who will be ordered to distribute benefits to each spouse in accordance with the court’s order.

In the case of a 401(k), the employer usually disburses the funds in 30 to 90 days. In the case of benefits to be paid upon retirement, such as a pension plan, the employer will be given a calculation of a percentage to be applied when payments begin, and the employer will be ordered to send the appropriate amounts to the other spouse in accordance with the court’s order.

Like other community property assets, retirement and pension accounts do not have to be divided exactly equally between the spouses. If each spouse has a separate retirement account or pension for his or her own job, for example, the court might simply award each spouse his or her own account, particularly if the amounts in each are relatively similar or the award of other community property makes up the difference.

In terms of protecting your financial assets, many lawyers advise freezing or closing joint bank and credit card accounts to prevent you from being responsible for buying sprees by your soon-to-be former spouse. Car insurance policies and the like should also be changed to reflect your new solo status.

With your attorney’s help, ask for a full disclosure of all joint and individually owned financial assets so you can know where your money is and where it goes. Make copies for safekeeping of loans and credit card accounts.  Also make copies of documents such as home equity lines, past tax returns,  and business debts. Identify all non-marital assets that are considered to belong to only one spouse, such as property brought to the marriage, inheritances and gifts given specifically to one person.

If you enlist the counsel of Lacy LaFour and her team at LaFour Law, you can be assured of rock-solid advocacy on your behalf throughout this entire, complex divorce process.  Reach us today at 713.223.7700 for a private consultation.