JLJ Family Law » Posts for tag 'Texas'

Money Questions to Ask Before Marriage

Money can be a major source of contention in marriage, and it is certainly a hot button item at the time when couples decide to divorce.

Too often people fail to realize that a marriage is the beginning of business relationship as well as an emotional one.  Upon marriage, the couple begins to create a community estate (absent a premarital agreement), and also becomes liable for debts created during the marriage.  A spouse can also become indirectly responsible for premarital tax liabilities of the other spouse, because the IRS has the authority to attach tax refunds and levy against accounts and real estate that is community property.

A little pre-divorce financial planning can save a lot of conflict down the road, and as difficult as the conversations may get, they are well worth it to protect your financial future.

Before you say “I Do”:

  1. Exchange credit reports
  2. Discuss how bill-paying responsibilities will be handled
  3. Exchange recent tax returns
  4. Discuss expectations about how bank accounts will be maintained
  5. Discuss expectations for saving money
  6. If one or both of you have children from prior marriages, discuss expectations for handling their expenses.
  7. If there is an expectation of monetary gifts from parents, or receipt of inheritance, discuss how those will be handled (under Texas law they are the separate property of the recipient; however, many times the other spouse considers it “their” money also.
  8. Consider beneficiary designations on life insurance, retirement accounts, and bank accounts.
  9. Review your estate planning.
  10. Determine if a premarital property agreement is appropriate.
  11. Consider meeting with a financial planner to assist you with putting together a financial plan for your future – sometimes the conversation is easier with a neutral professional to guide it.

Our firm can assist clients to protect themselves financially as they enter into a marriage.  Jody Lynn Johnson, P.C.; www.jljfamilylaw.com; 469-429-0093.

Same Sex Relationships

Although Texas does not currently permit same sex couples to marry, and the issue of whether same sex couples legally married in other states may obtain a divorce in Texas is currently be litigated, it is possible to enter into contractual agreements regarding many issues that same sex couples face when they are beginning or ending a relationship

Protecting and Defining Financial Interests and Property Rights

When entering into a relationship, it is important to define financial and property issues such as: how bills will be paid, how property will be owned (and divided upon separation), financial support for a partner. It is possible to draft cohabitation agreements that address the issues that are important to couples in order to achieve their goals.

Same Sex Parenting

Whether a partner has children from a prior relationship, or the couple has adopted a child or conceived through artificial insemination, it is important to ensure parental authority for non-biological parents and to protect the child’s continuing relationship with parents. In such situations, it is recommended that parenting agreements be memorialized in writing.

Ending a Relationship

Many same sex couples assume they have no process to assist them with ending a relationship. However, there are two viable process options available: mediation and collaborative law. Both processes have the advantage of being confidential, and give the couple a forum for reaching contractual agreements regarding the division of property, child support; partner support, child custody, and other issues that are specific to the needs of each particular family. For more information on collaborative law, visit www.jljfamilylaw.com.

What is Collaborative Divorce?

By Jody L Johnson
As Seen in Divorce Magazine

How would you like to resolve your family-law dispute in a manner focused on the needs of the clients and not on pointing the finger and tearing down each other? How would you like to take control over the outcome of your case, rather than surrender control to lawyers, judges, or strangers on a jury? If this sounds appealing to you, then consider resolving your case collaboratively.

Collaborative law came to Texas in 1999, and it is increasingly becoming the process of choice for clients with family-law disputes. Collaborative law is client-centered. The entire focus is on the goals and needs of the client. The process is designed to provide the clients with a forum in which to find a best possible outcome for all parties and their children. A traditional litigation model is not client-centered. It is driven by the attorney and judge, as well as the rules of procedure and evidence. The primary focus is on getting ready for trial (even through 95% of cases settle), and ending the lawsuit, but not on the quality of the end product.

The process also provides a safe and confidential forum for the resolution of disputes, whereas the litigation model is public and the parties are subjected to cross examination, depositions, and court-imposed rulings. Parties who agree to handle their dispute collaboratively agree that they will not go to court to resolve disputes. They also agree to schedule four-way settlement conferences that involve the collaborative lawyers and each party. The meetings are private and organized — agendas are mutually prepared to list topics to be discussed and resolved. The rules of evidence do not apply; therefore, the parties are free to discuss whatever is important to them, regardless of whether a judge would consider it. Likewise, the parties have the ability to create tailor-made settlements for their particular family. Many times, the parties reach agreements that a court would never consider or have the authority to impose. And most importantly, nothing happens that the client does not agree to.

A frequent concern raised by clients is that their spouse may not be forth coming in providing information. Parties who contract to handle their case collaboratively also commit to full disclosure of information. Your collaborative lawyer is still there to make sure that all important information is disclosed. Additionally, many clients have a misconception that a litigation model will insure that they receive full disclosure. In fact, a litigation model is an ideal process for parties who want to play “hide the ball”, because there are many ways to abuse the court rules or use loopholes to avoid disclosure.

In order to effectively work, collaborative law requires each party and attorney to agree that if the parties cannot settle their dispute collaboratively, then the collaborative attorneys must withdraw and the parties must hire litigation counsel. This may sound scary to clients at first; however, this is what makes this innovative process work. Everyone has a stake in continuing to “think outside the box” in order to problem-solve, rather than run to the courthouse. Otherwise, the collaborative lawyers are out of a job. Your collaborative lawyer is still present to assist you in gathering and assessing information, analyzing your options, and negotiating a solution. Additionally, experts are still used as necessary (e.g., psychologists, financial advisors, and appraisers).       Collaborative lawyers have additional training in communication and negotiation skills to assist you, and they are committed to problem solving for their clients.

The skills that parties learn throughout the collaborative process allow them to end their divorce or other family law dispute in a dignified manner, and assist parents in working together beyond the end of their lawsuit.

For more information, visit www.divorcemag.com.
For more information on collaborative divorce and family law solutions, visit www.jljfamilylaw.com

Alimony in Texas

By Jody L. Johnson

Clients frequently ask about their obligation to pay or ability to receive alimony. Texas Courts have limited authority to order alimony after a divorce is granted. However, while your case is pending, the Court has unlimited authority to award temporary spousal support. The Court will consider the needs of the requesting spouse and the ability of the other spouse to pay. The Court will additionally consider the health and age of the parties, ability to work, responsibility for children, availability of funds, and the length of the marriage. As a general rule, temporary spousal support will be ordered for a limited period of time and in an amount necessary to cover the basic necessities of life. To receive alimony after divorce (referred to as “spousal maintenance”), generally you must have been married for a period exceeding 10 years, and in certain situations, you may be qualified to receive up to $2,500 per month for a maximum of three years. It is also necessary that you show that you have been diligent in seeking suitable employment or developing skills necessary to become self-supporting. There are some exceptions, such as in the event you have an incapacitating physical or mental disability or you are the custodian of a child of the marriage who requires substantial care because of a physical or mental disability that impacts your ability to work.

For more information on family law solutions, visit www.aj-familylaw.com