I divorced my husband two year ago, and we have shared custody of our two kids. I want to move to Tennessee. Can I take the kids with me?

The short answer is “No.”  If you and your husband share joint custody of the children, you cannot just pick up your kids and leave, even if you are the custodial parent. If your ex-husband does not want you to leave the state, it is advised that you seek legal counsel with a Houston child custody lawyer as your case is not a simple one.

In most cases, initial custody orders prohibit the primary parent from moving outside of a specific area (usually the child’s current county of residence plus any contiguous counties). Therefore, when parents want to move out of state with their children, they need to get a court order allowing them to do so; they can’t just pick up and leave.

Even if you have an older order (or agreement) that doesn’t restrict your child’s residence to a particular area, you still need to give your ex-husband notice if you intend to move with the children. If your ex-husband wants to stop you from moving, he may file an application for a temporary restraining order which prevents you from moving until a court can hold a relocation hearing.

At the hearing, you’ll have to show compelling reasons for the proposed move, which may include a job relocation (if you can’t find comparable work locally), or a relocation to be closer to family, who will help support and care for the child. If the court suspects that you’re moving to interfere with the child’s relationship with your ex-husband, you will not be allowed to go.

Courts in Texas typically award divorcing parents “joint managing conservatorship” (referred to as “joint legal custody” in some states) over their child. This means the parents will share the right to make important decisions about their child’s life, including where the child will live.  In cases involving domestic violence or abuse the court may award physical and legal custody to one parent alone (sole conservator.

Note:  If your child does move to a state other than where their custody case was decided, it is possible that the state with jurisdiction over your child custody case may also change. For example, if the children move away, yet maintain a strong connection to the original home state of the custody case, (by frequently visiting their non-custodial parent in that state), that state retains jurisdiction.  If both parents move to states other than the original home state of the custody case, the new state of residence of the children becomes the one with jurisdiction over the case.

Once again, child custody questions in Texas can be complex and far reaching. You need the expertise of the team at LaFour Law to navigate these waters.  Reach them today at www.lafourlaw.com or 713.223.7700 to schedule a private consultation.

My husband cheated on me, and I’ve filed for divorce in Houston. But, he won’t grant the divorce. What can I do?

Note:  Before beginning, if your husband has filed an answer or a general denial, or has come to any court proceeding in your case and will not agree to sign the Final Decree, your case is contested. It is very difficult to represent yourself in a contested case. If your case is contested, you should seek the advice and assistance of an experienced Houston divorce attorney.

If your spouse does not want the divorce, you are still able to pursue the divorce on your own provided he decides to completely ignore the petition for divorce.  Default judgments almost always favor the petitioner.  To get a default judgment, you must file a sworn statement telling about your husband’s military status.  This is called “the Service Member’s Affidavit”.  In this affidavit you will state the facts showing the court either:

1. Your husband does not serve in the military, or

2. Your husband does serve in the military, or

3. You cannot determine whether or not you husband serves in the military.

The court can grant a default judgment if your husband does not serve in the military. If the he does serve in the military, the court must appoint an attorney to represent him. If the court cannot determine whether or not your husband serves in the military, that court may require you to file a bond. The bond is money which would be used by your husband, if it is later determined that he was serving in the military and suffered a loss because of the default judgment.

As a service member, your husband may ask the court to cancel a default judgment that was announced while he was in the military or one that was announced within 60 days of his discharge from the military. Your husband, as a service member, would have 90 days from the time of his discharge from military service to ask the court to cancel the default judgment entered during those time periods.

When asking the court to grant a default judgment, you must also file a Certificate of Last Known Address. This is a signed statement that tells the clerk your husband’s last known address. The clerk will send your husband a notice that the default judgment was entered.

You will also need to prepare the Order for the judge to sign (in a divorce, this is called the Decree of Divorce). In some cases, when service was accomplished by posting or publication, you also need to prepare a Statement of the Evidence for the judge to sign.

If a default judgment is awarded, and a record of testimony is not made, your husband may be granted a new trial, if he requests a new trial within 30 days from the day the judgment or order is signed. Always make sure a court reporter will be on hand when you file.

Look, if your husband cheated, you’re hurting enough. Let the trusted divorce team at LaFour Law come alongside you and provide compassionate advocacy during this difficult, but necessary fight.

What is forensic accounting and how can it impact high net worth divorces in Texas?

Merriam Webster defines the term “forensic” as “relating to or dealing with the application of scientific knowledge to legal problems”. A Forensic Accountant is often retained to analyze, interpret, summarize and present complex financial and business related issues. Forensic Accountants can be engaged in public practice or employed by insurance companies, banks, police forces, government agencies and other organizations. Forensic accountants integrate investigative, auditing, and accounting skills. A forensic accountant is used to review data in a critical manner in order to identify patterns of suspicious behavior. An experienced forensic accountant does not solely rely on statistical probabilities but instead turns to experience in similar situations, instinct, and practiced problem solving.

Do you have a significant amount of property and assets at stake in your divorce in Texas?  If so, then you may have more to lose during the divorce.  Clients with a high net worth have more at stake when dividing up property and determining asset splits.  Are you worried about the outcome of the case and your finances?  If so, you should aggressively seek out legal protection in the form of a expert attorney with solid experience advocating for clients in high net worth divorce proceedings.  That ensures that you can obtain a favorable outcome in your case.  One of the priorities in any divorce is to untangle finances.  But be cautious because these types of decisions can affect you all the way to retirement.  Consulting a high net worth divorce attorney who can bring in a knowledgeable forensic accountant to work on your complex case is a huge advantage as you begin your legal battles. There are some tips you can follow to make sure you are prepared in any scenario of a divorce: have access to your own funds, make copies of important documents, understand the basics of property division.

It is highly encouraged for high net worth divorce parties to aggressively seek out and invest in an experienced high net worth attorney who can bring to bear a formidable forensic accountant.  Don’t let your former spouse gain any more time to hide information from you. The sooner you hire your expert divorce attorney, the more money, time, and and sanity you’ll save in the long run. During divorce proceedings, you want a forensic accountant familiar with legal concepts and procedures who will work hand-in-hand with your lawyer.  This forensic accountant will be an experienced hand in assisting with legal proceedings, including testifying in court as an expert witness and preparing visual aids to support trial evidence.

If you or anyone you know is going through a high net worth divorce in or around Houston, Texas, you need to retain the counsel of Houston’s premier divorce attorney, Lacy LaFour. Visit www.lafourlaw.com or call 713-223-7700 to schedule your initial consultation, today!

Determining Community property and Shared property

When assessing the split of property during a divorce, it is important to understand the difference between “community” and “separate” property.

Community Property/Assets

From the beginning of marriage, all money earned is owed by both parties till the separation date. All property acquired using community money is owned equally by husband and wife. Whomever makes the purchase during this time frame does not matter. When looking at debts, all debt accrued during marriage is also split between both parties as community debts. Community debts may include unpaid balances on credit cards, home mortgages and car loan balances. It goes without saying that it is recommended to cancel all bank accounts, credit cards and joint accounts after divorce.

Separate Property/Assets

Separate property is considered anything owned prior to marriage, inherited or received as a gift during marriage, or anything earned after the date of separation. When one party gives up any property to the other party in writing, the property is then classified as separate property. There are instances where separate property can become tied-in with community property.  Either party may have to show evidence that documents payment paid via “separate” money instead of “community” money. Any debt incurred prior to marriage is considered separate debt, meaning it stays only with the original party who accrued it. Examples of separate debt include student loans, job training loans, or even adult education course debts. If one person covers the down payment on a car, and then pays off the car with community money after marriage, the original down payment will be paid back because it is considered separate property.

Dividing the Property

In some states, the parties’ community property has to be divided “equally.” That does not mean that each item of community property has to be divided equally, but the distribution has to be nearly equal division of the total value of the community property. Many community property states, allow the court to make an “equitable” division of community property that is “fair” to both spouses. In these states, the courts will consider various factors when making the division, such as each spouse’s current income and future earning potential. Some states will consider a spouse’s fault in causing the divorce or fraud in dealing with the parties’ property or assets during the marriage lifespan. Sometimes the “community” property tag is automatically put on most assets in the divorce, and each party must provide documented evidence of its “separate” value.

The Bottom Line

If you’re going through a divorce in Houston, Texas, and you have a spider web of properties and assets at stake, you need an experienced Houston Divorce Lawyer from LaFour Law to work directly with you and provide the legal representation that’s necessary to ensure an outcome in line with your best interests. Please call LaFour Law today at 713.223.7700 or reach us at www.lafourlaw.com.

 

Cohabitation in Texas

While the Texas legislature has not enacted any provision in the family code for a cohabitation agreement, the feeling in the legal community is that agreements are valid and can be upheld to the court.  In general, courts like parties to make clear agreements and spell out their rights.  Cohabitation agreements are important in Texas because of the concept of common law marriage.  Texas law states that if a man and woman agree to be married and, after the agreement, they live in Texas as husband and wife and represent themselves as common law married, they are in fact common law married.  A common law marriage is valid in Texas as a ceremonial marriage that has been performed by a minister.

Problems commonly arise when a man and woman live together and other people think they are husband and wife.  They occasionally check into a hotel as husband and wife or join a gym due to commonly extended retail discounts.  Perception becomes reality, so to speak. Issues arise when the relationship frays and it becomes necessary to enter into divorce proceedings. One of the two parties might believe that what they thought was their property is actually classified under Texas law as community property.

This is why you need a cohabitation agreement. A cohabitation agreement is a marital contract that is entered into by two people who are in a long term relationship and live together.  This agreement specifies how income, property and debt will be divided if the relationship should end.  Additionally, a cohabitation agreement can specify what/if any form of spousal support is expected to be paid and the amount of support and the duration of support payments in the event of a separation or divorce.  Another common feature of cohabitation involves life insurance policies to protect the person who is financially dependent on the other.

Generally speaking, under Texas law, unmarried cohabitants do not get to enjoy the same rights as married couples, particularly with the respect to property acquired during the relationship.  Marital property laws do not apply to unmarried couples, even those are in long term relationships.  The characterization of property acquired by unmarried cohabitants is less clear than married couples whose property is governed by marriage laws.  Some of the property acquired by unmarried couples can be owned jointly, but it may difficult to divide such property when the relationship comes to an end.  There is no financial obligation attached to a couple who cohabits absent a clear written agreement.  If the relationship ends, and there is no cohabitation agreement in place, the aftermath as both parties engage in a veritable free-for-all can be worse than the reasons for the breakup in the first place!

If you’re cohabiting in Texas, you need to consider the ramifications of your relationship, especially in the event of a breakup. It’s time to consult with a premier Houston divorce and family lawyer, Lacy Lafour and her team at LaFour Law.  To reach them today, visit www.lafourlaw.com or call 713.223.7700.

My 10-year old son tells me every time he comes to visit that he wants to live with me, not his mom. I’m not his primary caretaker, but think I should be especially since he tells me he wants to live with me. What can I do to get primary custody here in Texas?

Texas family courts have recognized several situations that would qualify as a material and substantial change in the circumstances of a child or parent affected by a custody or visitation order. Examples include a parent’s remarriage, a medical condition that adversely affects a parent’s ability to function and work on a regular basis, a parent’s criminal acts and convictions, or a parent’s changes in residence that make visitation a hardship for the other parent.

When analyzing what we know about custody, we have to first break it down into two concepts, “conservatorship” and “possession”. “Conservatorship” is defined as the time a parent has decision-making rights a parent has on behalf the child. For example, selecting a school to attend, decisions made on medical, and other major decisions. “Possession” refers to the time when parents have physical possession of the children.

Children over the age of 12 can use the “Child Preference” option to select which parent they want to live with. Usually an interview in the judge’s private quarters will be held with the child. Even when older children ask to switch parental custody, the courts have to determine that it is in the best interest of the child.

If a custodial parent has voluntarily given up care and custody to another person for a least six months, the courts may modify the original custody order. This situation is only invalid if a custodial parent has to relinquish the care of a child during a period of military deployment, mobilization or duty.

When a parent files a motion to modify a child custody order within one year after the original order was made, he or she must also submit an affidavit to the court. The affidavit must include at least one of the following allegations, including support for the parent’s contention:

  • the child’s current environment may endanger the child’s physical health or significantly impair the child’s emotional development
  • the custodial parent is seeking the modification, and the modification would be in the child’s best interests
  • the custodial parent has voluntarily relinquished the custody and care of the child, and the modification would be in the child’s best interests.

Outside of the other parent fully agreeing with your request to modify a child custody or visitation order, you should seek help from an experienced Texas family lawyer. Given the high stakes, you need counsel from Houston, Texas’ premier divorce and family lawyer, Lacy Lafour. Contact her today and ensure the best possible outcome for you and your child.

A Prenup in Texas

Weddings are supposed to celebrate the love of two happy people.  However in legal terms, marriage in Texas (and every other state) is a contract that involves financial rights and obligations.   A prenuptial agreement in Texas helps a couple define their rights and protects both of the parties in cases of divorce or death.  It can also be used for the following:

  • Determining the responsibility for premarital debt
  • Defining the ownership of the home
  • Distribution and estate planning after a death
  • Deciding which items are separate property and community property
  • The resolution of financial disputes
  • Spousal obligations
  • Children support

There are 7 reasons you might want to consider a prenuptial agreement in Texas:

1)       You have children from a previous marriage:  A prenuptial agreement in the state of Texas ensures that your assets are protected for the children in case of a death or divorce.  Many prenuptial agreements in Texas make clear that the agreement won’t be valid after a certain number of years.  If you are supporting children from a previous marriage, you might cancel the agreement in Texas after your children are grown.

2)      You own a business: If you own a business and your marriage comes to an end, it could be possible that your spouse ends up owning a portion or all of your business with a prenuptial agreement.

3)      You have significant debt: If you have a large debt load, a prenuptial agreement can protect your spouse and property.  If your partner has a lot of debt, an agreement protects you from being responsible for the rest of the debt if the marriage comes to an end.

4)      You have property that you would like to remain in your family:  Having a prenuptial agreement will ensure you that your family heirlooms or valuables will remain in your family after a divorce or death.

5)      You have inherited wealth or you make more than your partner:  A prenuptial can be used to limit the amount you will pay in support if the marriage ends.  It ensures that your spouse is marrying you for love and not for money.

6)      You earn a lot less than your partner:  Just as this agreement can be used to protect a spouse, it can be used to ensure spousal support of the person with less income.

7)      You plan to quit your job to raise the children: Quitting your job to raise children affects both future, current and potential income and earnings.  A prenuptial agreement ensures that your financial cost of raising children is shared equitably by both parents and the parent who decides not to work is supported if the marriage ends.

In a perfect world, prenuptial agreements wouldn’t be necessary. But here in Houston, Texas, and the real world for that matter, they can sometimes be an absolute necessity before a couple ties the knot. If you live in the Houston area, and you’re contemplating marriage to a high-income earner or you yourself are a wealthy individual, you need legal counsel that can construct a prenuptial agreement that protects you and your assets in case the marriage fails. You need Lacy LaFour and her team of divorce attorneys at LaFour Law Firm PCReach them today and gain trusted, expert counsel from veteran attorneys who’ve represented hundreds of high net worth clients across Houston.

Repercussions of Hiding Assets during Divorce

When dealing with a high net worth divorce, the process can be arduous and very complicated. It is important however to not become anxious and make a mistake that could jeopardize your validity. The most important thing you will have in the courtroom is your credibility. To put it plainly, the more honest and upfront you are, the faster this process can come to completion. Many people and even less than reputable attorneys will advise you to hide your assets. A popular option is to transfer money to third parties, friends, business partners, and family members. If your attorney recommends this course of action, they should be fired immediately. Lying in the court of law could not only hurt your case, but have you sacrificing much more than what was worth hiding in the first place.

Early in the divorce process, you will need to fill out a financial affidavit amongst other financial documents mandated by the law. Proper inventory and accurate information is critical despite the time consuming nature of the matter. Make sure all the recorded information is current and accurately recorded. Omitting information in these documents could position you to end up holding onto liabilities that wouldn’t have originally been there. You could also end up giving up more assets or paying more in alimony that would have otherwise been the case.

The best course of action, when preparing for a split, is to be transparent with your finances. Although you may end up “losing” more than anticipated, there shouldn’t be any extra problems reverberating from ill-conceived dishonesty. During litigation there is a process called “discovery” where each party searches for any assets the other is in possession of. Both sides are obligated to turn over financial information to the other side. During discovery, you are under oath, and lying in a court of law is highly discouraged. If you are discovered hiding assets, this can be considered perjury. Committing perjury is a punishable crime. You could also face sanctions on top of perjury charges. Think about it from this angle, you might give a little more than you preferred during distribution, but at least you walk away with a clean record.

All in all, hiring a good divorce attorney will give you access to a credible source specializing in these types of matters. If you’re in Houston, Texas, you need an attorney with expertise in high-net worth divorces, an attorney who will protect your interests and seek the fairest divorce settlement possible. That attorney is Lacy LaFour and her team at LaFour Law. Reach them at http://lafourlaw.com/contact or 713.223.7700, today.

Determining Community property and Shared property

When assessing the split of property during a divorce, it is important to understand the difference between “community” and “separate” property.

Community Property/Assets

From the beginning of marriage, all money earned is owed by both parties till the separation date. All property acquired using community money is owned equally by husband and wife. Whomever makes the purchase during this time frame does not matter. When looking at debts, all debt accrued during marriage is also split between both parties as community debts. Community debts may include unpaid balances on credit cards, home mortgages and car loan balances. It goes without saying that it is recommended to cancel all bank accounts, credit cards and joint accounts after divorce.

Separate Property/Assets

Separate property is considered anything owned prior to marriage, inherited or received as a gift during marriage, or anything earned after the date of separation. When one party gives up any property to the other party in writing, the property is then classified as separate property. There are instances where separate property can become tied-in with community property.  Either party may have to show evidence that documents payment paid via “separate” money instead of “community” money. Any debt incurred prior to marriage is considered separate debt, meaning it stays only with the original party who accrued it. Examples of separate debt include student loans, job training loans, or even adult education course debts. If one person covers the down payment on a car, and then pays off the car with community money after marriage, the original down payment will be paid back because it is considered separate property.

Dividing the Property

In some states, the parties’ community property has to be divided “equally.” That does not mean that each item of community property has to be divided equally, but the distribution has to be nearly equal division of the total value of the community property. Many community property states, allow the court to make an “equitable” division of community property that is “fair” to both spouses. In these states, the courts will consider various factors when making the division, such as each spouse’s current income and future earning potential. Some states will consider a spouse’s fault in causing the divorce or fraud in dealing with the parties’ property or assets during the marriage lifespan. Sometimes the “community” property tag is automatically put on most assets in the divorce, and each party must provide documented evidence of its “separate” value.

The Bottom Line

If you’re going through a divorce in Houston, Texas, and you have a spider web of properties and assets at stake, you need an experienced Houston Divorce Lawyer from LaFour Law to work directly with you and provide the legal representation that’s necessary to ensure an outcome in line with your best interests. Please call LaFour Law today at 713.223.7700 or reach us at www.lafourlaw.com.

 

Disparity Between Child Support and Custody Enforcement

Judges and other officials use different methods to shame parents who owe child support. There’s the “man ordered not to procreate,” edict.  Or, “the man who is forced to tell any woman he meets that he owes child support,” order.  Or finally, “the dad that is forced to display signs proclaiming himself a “deadbeat.”  By the way, the term “deadbeat dad” can may be offensive to some, but it’s attractive to news papers and media outlets looking for an eye-catching law-and-order legal story. And, it’s probably a strong deterrent to future child support delinquency.

All that said, less attention is paid to primary custodians that defy the court’s orders respecting the noncustodial parent’s access to and participation in their children’s life. The disparity between custodial interference and the enforcement of failing to pay child support is detrimental for fathers, in particular, who represent 87.1 percent of child support payers and 82.6 of noncustodial parents, according the U.S. Census.

One person might argue that the incongruity is evidence that the responsibility of daily rearing of a child is held in a higher regard than the emotional connection a parent – in this case, a father – has with a child.  What happens to a father who is not able to maintain his payments even after only a few months of failing to pay?   Enforcement can be swift and forceful, with the custodial parent (usually the ex-wife) hiring a private counselor, or  using a local child support enforcement office.  On some occasions the individual owed child support won’t have to ask for any assistance, especially if the offender has met some type of threshold for noncompliance, such as failure to pay for a few consecutive months.

Depending on the jurisdiction, several of the penalties might be carried out “extra-judicially” without needing any judicial intervention.  The offending individual might receive notice that their driver’s license is going to be suspended, their vehicle is going to be repossessed, their passport is going to be confiscated, or their federal tax return will be intercepted. Although it is very rare, jail time is still a very real possibility for many fathers.

Consider the situation where the ex ignores the court ordered scheduled gatherings and keeps the children from the other parent. The father goes to pick up the kids but the ex-wife won’t let them leave the residence.  The dad is supposed to have Father’s Day with the children, but the ex-wife took them to see their grandfather.  As the noncustodial parent, your initial reaction would likely be to pick up the phone and call the police.  In Texas, however, law enforcement does not typically help enforce visitation.  Rather than ask for assistance from a local authority or wait for a Texas state agency to step in, know that visitation is treated as a civil matter.  An individual must choose a family law attorney or navigate the Texas legal system on their own.  When your family is choosing a lawyer, fighting for child support or custody enforcement in Houston, Texas, choose the LaFour Law Firm.  Visit www.lafourlaw.com to schedule a consultation today or reach them via phone at 713.223.7700.