Category: Divorce

Award Winning Same Sex Divorce Attorney

Award Winning Same Sex Divorce Attorney

The results are in: OutSmart Magazine Votes Renken Law Firm One of the Best in Houston when it comes to Family Attorneys in the recently concluded 2022 Gayest & Greatest Readers’ Choice Awards!

Award winning same sex divorce attorney, Dawn Renken works with queer couples and individuals to help them tackle a wide range of family law matters. This includes LGBTQ divorce, child custody, child support, spousal support, property division, adoption, and more. If you are looking for a family law attorney that is an ally to the queer community, look no farther than Attorney Renken.

Reasons to Hire a Family Law Attorney

Most family lawyers represent clients in divorce proceedings and other matters related to divorce. But family law is a relatively broad practice area, including such issues as foster care and reproductive rights. Since family law matters hit so close to home, having a trusted legal professional by your side can help you ensure your loved ones are properly represented and protected during any legal process.

The most common reasons to hire a family law attorney include:

  • Divorce: Each partner hires their own attorney, who will help devise a settlement plan in order to avoid a trial. Divorce attorneys typically are skilled at dividing marital property, calculating spousal support, and proposing a plan for child custody, visitation, and support (if applicable).
  • Child Custody / Child Support: Court orders and settlement agreements involving both custody and support usually are included in the larger divorce case, but may be revisited as conditions change. For instance, child support may be altered after the non-custodial parent’s financial situation changes.
  • Paternity: In most cases, paternity cases are filed by the mother in an effort to secure child support payments from an absent father. But sometimes biological fathers file for paternity in order to have a relationship with their child. Paternity typically is determined through DNA testing.
  • Adoption / Foster Care: Adoption is a complex process that differs according to the type of adoption, where the child is from, variances in state laws, and other factors. Therefore, it’s important to consult with a family law attorney. Foster parents sometimes adopt their foster children, but the foster process does not necessarily require legal representation.

How Is Custody Different in Same-Sex Divorce Cases?

Texas is a conservative state that is not always quick to offer those going through LGBT divorce and separations the same rights as traditional couples. A legally binding married does not automatically mean the courts will recognize a non-biological parent as the presumptive parent of any children born throughout the marriage.

A non-biological parent must legally adopt any children in the marriage in order to be recognized as their parent and given any parental rights after a divorce. If you are interested in learning more about how we can help you navigate your divorce case and tackle child custody issues, contact our team by filling out our case evaluation form today.

At Renken Law Firm in Houston, our legal team provides counsel to people of all gender identities. When it comes to divorce cases, we have experience working with both opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples to help them reach solutions that fit their specific needs.

For same-sex couples, it can be difficult to find attorneys with experience handling the aspects of their divorce case that may be different from opposite-sex divorce cases, such as child custody issues. If you are looking to work with the best same-sex couple custody attorney in Houston, contact Renken Law Firm today.

Award Winning Same Sex Divorce Attorney Serving Houston, TX

Our team proudly serves the Greater Houston area, including but not limited to Brazos County, Cypress, Fort Bend County, Galveston, Houston Heights, Houston, Humble, Katy, Kingwood, Memorial Houston, Montgomery County, Montrose, Richmond, Rosenberg, Spring, The Woodlands. All marriages are different, making each divorce equally unique with its own set of needs that must be addressed. Contact our law office to explore your options moving forward, and find out how we can help you.

 

Renken Law Firm, PLLC
11500 Northwest Fwy #586
Houston, TX 77092
(713) 956-6767
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OutSmart Magazine Votes Renken Law Firm One of the Best in Houston

The results are in: OutSmart Magazine Votes Renken Law Firm One of the Best in Houston when it comes to Family Attorneys in the recently concluded 2022 Gayest & Greatest Readers’ Choice Awards!

Who Is OutSmart?

Established in 1994, OutSmart is an award-winning monthly publication that has delivered local and national news to Houston’s LGBTQ audience for over 25 years. Published in print and online, we reach 200,000+ readers each month and have a loyal fan base spanning from Houston to Los Angeles. The magazine even has an international following in Canada, Mexico, The United Kingdom, Australia, and various other locations across the globe.

OutSmart has proudly received recognition on both local and national levels. The magazine was voted “Nation’s Best Local Magazine” by the Vice Versa Gay Press Awards and has been named “Best Local Publication in Houston” by the Houston Press for four consecutive years (2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009).

Attorney Dawn Renken has been an ally to the LQTBQ+ community throughout her entire career. She knows how to navigate same-sex divorce and family legal matters. Listed below is some insight into the division of assets in same sex divorce cases:

The Duration of the Relationship Judgment

In many same-sex divorce cases, the judge will need to consider all factors available and determine his or her own judgment on how long the marriage truly is when the two spouses are together in all ways that make a marriage before the federal change in 2015. With the legal way open for same-sex couples to receive a marriage license throughout the country, there are additional problems that arise when the two spouses want to get a divorce. The duration of the marriage will affect what assets and debts are part of the relationship and at what point they are no longer separate items.

The Assets and Debts

When the judge is able to consider all the information and make a determination on how long the marriage truly is in the eyes of the law, he or she can include or exclude certain assets or debts as an individual or outside community or marital property. This may have a negative or positive effect on one or both spouses. By needing surgery, the two parties may need to split the debt. However, when an asset exists in an investment, both spouses could benefit from the increase in funding to the household. These issues generally carry over to the divorce case.

Disclosure of Assets in the Divorce Case

As with opposite-sex divorce cases, there is the need to disclose all assets accrued during the marriage. By knowing all items that exist in the relationship, the judge can make an appropriate decision on what should divide in which ways. This includes what debts require division and what property should go to which person. The disclosure often will run into various issues such as a lack of clarity of what items do exist until the judge determines the true duration of the marriage for these purposes. After the spouses know the timeframe, it is possible to review all assets that exist as marital property.

Individual Property

Even with the duration of the marriage is a significant factor that takes time, the two spouses may need to consider assets that are separate from marital property. Individual assets and property may still exist in the marriage without the need to mingle the items. These may appear through businesses, physical items such as houses or cars and investments that do not provide the marriage with any profits for the duration of the relationship. Some individual property becomes marital property over time and when the income or investment profits enter into the marriage. Sometimes, it takes a lawyer or other professional to fully separate these assets.

Proceeding through the Case

When the same-sex couple cannot continue with the legal marriage, it is important to know how best to end the situation for both parties in the most beneficial way. Often, this is not the standard court case. An alternate divorce resolution or ADR is important such as mediation. Even in alternate methods, the couple can proceed with the division of both assets and debts. Each party can disclose what exists in the marriage and what is marital property. Then, with open dialogue and peaceful processes, they both can divide what each will need and then compromise on what each spouse wants.

The division of assets usually accompanies the division of property, and the couple can decide on what items will separate or remain intact during an ADR or through a standard case where an agreement is possible before proceeding through the court case. This can provide better clarity in the division and help to seek a resolution to the conflict or what should divide in which way. The judge may change some things, but with an agreement already in place, most of the provisions may remain as specified.

Queer Friendly Family Lawyer Serving Houston, TX

Our team proudly serves the Greater Houston area, including but not limited to Brazos County, Cypress, Fort Bend County, Galveston, Houston Heights, Houston, Humble, Katy, Kingwood, Memorial Houston, Montgomery County, Montrose, Richmond, Rosenberg, Spring, The Woodlands. All marriages are different, making each divorce equally unique with its own set of needs that must be addressed. Contact our law office to explore your options moving forward, and find out how we can help you.

 

Renken Law Firm, PLLC
11500 Northwest Fwy #586
Houston, TX 77092
(713) 956-6767
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Houston Divorce Attorney With a Track Record of Success

Houston Divorce Attorney With a Track Record of Success

The divorce process is never a simple legal issue, however, having a Houston divorce attorney with a track record of success on your side can help make the process much smoother. At Renken Law Firm we provide legal advice and representation in divorce cases that cover the most difficult topics such as custody issues, spousal support, property division, temporary orders, and more.

If you are in need of a Texas family law attorney throughout the Houston, Texas area our team is here for you. We work with you through every step of the legal process to ensure you are making rational choices that promote your best interest.

Family Law Issues An Attorney Can Help With

Explaining Grounds for Divorce

Every state has established certain grounds for divorce that give one of the spouses the right to petition the court for the dissolution of the marital relationship. Some grounds for divorce are fault-based, such as adultery, cruel treatment, abuse or incarceration.

All states recognize no-fault grounds for divorce. However, some states require that the spouses live separately for a certain period of time before their courts are permitted to dissolve the marital relationship.

A divorce lawyer can explain whether there are any benefits to asking the court to dissolve the marriage based on fault grounds. For example, this may be relevant in determining whether spousal support will be available or how much support will be awarded.

In some cases, there has been a defect in the marriage. A legal requirement may have been ignored, the proper paperwork may not have been filed or a proper ceremony may not have been performed to make the marriage legal. A lawyer can discuss whether voiding or annulling the marriage is preferable to getting a divorce.

Providing Objective Advice

While divorce is an emotional process, a divorce lawyer can help make it less so. He or she can talk to you about factors that will affect your future, such as support and custody issues so that you are less focused on the demise of your marriage.

Additionally, a divorce lawyer can serve as the go-between for you and your spouse. You can avoid personal contact to help make the process easier to get through.

Accounting for Marital Assets

In order to properly distribute the marital estate, a divorce lawyer ensures that his or her client discloses all such assets. In many marriages, one spouse may have handled the money and the other spouse may not be aware of the couple’s debts and assets. A divorce lawyer can help collect records and locate assets and liabilities so that the divorce settlement properly addresses these possessions.

Explain Property Division

A divorce lawyer can explain how property is treated upon the dissolution of the marriage. Each spouse may have separate property that they brought into the marriage. Other spouses may have accumulated assets separately per a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement.

A divorce lawyer can explain whether the state is a community property state or equitable distribution state. This characteristic can make a dramatic difference on the distribution of the marital estate.

Devising a Debt Repayment Plan

Many times, handling the family debt is more tumultuous than splitting assets. Both partners may be legally responsible for joint debt. However, there are many cases in which only one spouse is held financially responsible for the debt. A lawyer can help determine how a spouse can protect himself or herself from debt that should be attributed to the other spouse.

Determining Spousal Support and Other Benefits

A divorce lawyer can help assess whether a spouse may be entitled to spousal support or may be required to pay it. Spousal support may be ordered when spouses have very different incomes or when one spouse sacrificed his or her career to advance the other spouse’s.

Additionally, a spouse may be entitled to a portion of the business interest that the other spouse runs.

Helping with Custody Plans

A divorce lawyer can assist clients with developing a parenting plan that works for the parents and addresses the child’s needs.

Preparation with Divorce Papers

In order to get divorced, formal papers must be submitted to the proper court for approval. A divorce lawyer can assist clients with preparing these papers or responding to the other spouse’s petition for divorce.

Negotiating a Settlement

A family law lawyer can help a client negotiate a divorce settlement regarding the marital estate. If this process does not involve litigation, it is typically cheaper and faster than it is when battling it out in court.

Representing in Court

A divorce lawyer can help you litigate your case if you need to. This process may be necessary to resolve disputes regarding child custody, spousal support or divorce.

Reach out to Renken Law Firm today to schedule a consultation with a Houston divorce attorney with a track record of success.

Affordable Family Lawyer Serving Houston, TX

Our team proudly serves the Greater Houston area, including but not limited to Brazos County, Cypress, Fort Bend County, Galveston, Houston Heights, Houston, Humble, Katy, Kingwood, Memorial Houston, Montgomery County, Montrose, Richmond, Rosenberg, Spring, The Woodlands. All marriages are different, making each divorce equally unique with its own set of needs that must be addressed. Contact our law office to explore your options moving forward, and find out how we can help you.

 

Renken Law Firm, PLLC
11500 Northwest Fwy #586
Houston, TX 77092
(713) 956-6767
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Which Divorce Method Is Most Private

Which Divorce Method Is Most Private?

Are you curious which divorce method is most private? Are you looking for a way to keep your family issues behind closed doors, instead of available for anyone to access? Learn more about how to keep your divorce private below:

Traditional Divorce is Public Record

A divorce record is an official document of a divorce proceeding that includes certificates, decrees, and a comprehensive record. These documents are created when two people who are married decide to end the legal tenets surrounding that marriage.

This includes marriage reversal, marriage annulment, and marriage dissolution. Because divorce is often a decision filled with negative feelings, and because marriage allows the couple to take advantage of public benefits, legal decisions are often needed to finalize the ending of a marriage. Because these documents are created by government bodies, divorce records are considered public documents, and are therefore open to the general public.

Even so, divorce records can be some of the most difficult to locate, and law surrounding divorces often make such documents only open to the people and legal professionals involved in the divorce. Nonetheless, there are methods to more reliably locate and gather these records, in addition to third party solutions that operate in the private sector.

Divorce records are considered court records. They may therefore be searched on third party public record websites. Divorce records can offer personal information on minors, finances, and sensitive criminal information like domestic abuse. Because of this, divorce record, certificate, and decree availability is usually much lower than other types of public records because of the personal nature of divorces. Simply put, divorce records are significantly harder to obtain and search for than other types of public records.

What is Private Mediation?

With private mediation, you and your spouse volunteer to pursue an amicable resolution of your marital issues. Often, you’d take this route before starting the divorce, in order to save money and minimize the angst that court proceedings tend to create.

The goal of private mediation is to settle all your issues, with an eye toward incorporating your resolution into a written divorce settlement agreement—also referred to as a marital settlement agreement—which becomes part of your divorce judgment. And, because you’ve resolved all your issues, the court considers the divorce “uncontested,” meaning it will go through very quickly, sometimes within a few weeks of filing the divorce petition (complaint).

Be aware that with private mediation, you’ll have to pay the mediator. But normally, you and your spouse will split the fee between you. (It can be half each or whatever ratio you agree on, often tied to your respective incomes.)

A lawyer can represent you during private mediation, but mediators frequently prefer that the lawyers not be present at the mediation sessions. This makes for a less adversarial environment.

Which Divorce Method is the Most Private?

In divorce mediation, the only people aware of the specifics in your divorce agreement are the divorcing parties, the mediator, and the judge who signs off on the agreement. This allows for complete privacy in your case. Nothing that is shared in mediation will be able to be used as evidence against you moving forward. This allows for couples to work through the most serious of conflicts without fear of unwanted exposure.

If you are pursuing a divorce mediation in the Houston area, the team at Renken Law Firm is here for you. We work with you to find divorce solutions that fit your needs and allow you to move forward with your life. Call our office today to schedule a consultation and learn more about your divorce options.

Attorney Dawn Renken is a practicing family law attorney in Texas, that specializes in divorce cases in Houston, TX. Attorney Renken received her mediation license through ADR Services International Inc. in 2014. Since this time, she has worked with a wide range of divorcing couples looking for alternatives to traditional courtroom divorces. Mediation offers the opportunity to divorce without public court appearances or back and forth litigation. Mediation is a private method of divorce that allows both parties to work together to reach an amicable solution as a neutral third-party mediator works to ensure both parties are fairly represented in the final agreement.

Affordable Family Lawyer Serving Houston, TX

Our team proudly serves the Greater Houston area, including but not limited to Brazos County, Cypress, Fort Bend County, Galveston, Houston Heights, Houston, Humble, Katy, Kingwood, Memorial Houston, Montgomery County, Montrose, Richmond, Rosenberg, Spring, The Woodlands. All marriages are different, making each divorce equally unique with its own set of needs that must be addressed. Contact our law office to explore your options moving forward, and find out how we can help you.

 

Renken Law Firm, PLLC
11500 Northwest Fwy #586
Houston, TX 77092
(713) 956-6767
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Divorce Mediation For Same Sex Couples

Divorce Mediation For Same Sex Couples

Divorce Mediation in Texas

“Family mediation” means the mediation of disputes in actions for divorce, annulment, establishment of paternity, child custody or visitation, or child or spousal support.

Mediation programs can be very beneficial to people who are divorcing as well as to those who have long been divorced but who find themselves in a dispute in their post-divorce relationship. Not only can it save money but it promotes positive dispute resolution rather than adversarial procedures. That being so, it is well worth investigating by any couple facing divorce, a child custody fight, a visitation dispute or other interpersonal conflict.

Mediation is a process that may help you resolve your case so you can have an uncontested divorce. Mediation is particularly useful in situations involving children, since it is in the interests of the children that their parents “get along” even if they will no longer live together as husband and wife. In the State of Texas, all cases that involve contested custody or visitation matters are referred to mandatory mediation, provided the parties are represented by an attorney and there is no allegation of domestic abuse.

Mediation attempts to change disputes from “win-lose” to “win-win.” Mediation is a non-adversarial process of helping people come to agreement on issues like parenting arrangements, support of children and spouses and division of real and personal property. Mediation occurs when a neutral third-party, who has training in dispute resolution, assists you and your spouse and helps you resolve the issues that are causing conflict and to make cooperative, informed decisions.

How does mediation work?

As one mediator described the process, “Mediation is neither therapy, nor the law””it’s an educational process.” Usually, the couple attends an orientation session in which the mediator thoroughly explains the process of mediation such as what the couple should focus on, how they should speak to each other (keep raised voices down), and so on. The session may last for two hours.

After the initial session, the couple attends three to eight one-and-a-half- to two-hour sessions in which the mediator will guide them to make their own decisions on how they wish to end their marriage. They analyze their budgets and needs, divide marital property, review their children’s needs, and reorganize their family and life-style to fit its new structure. Mediators place special emphasis on providing an acceptable form of continuity where children are concerned and may even include children in the sessions if warranted.

The process allows the parties to analyze their situations and to understand each other’s needs as well as those of the children. It may alleviate the anger and bitterness that the couples initially may feel toward each other. It also makes the couple realize that although they may not be husband and wife, they are still parents. It encourages their cooperation with each other in determining their relationship with their children.

Once the couple decides on what they wish to do, the mediator draws up a memorandum of understanding that specifies what issues have been resolved. This statement is then given to the couple’s respective attorneys, who will draw up a formal separation agreement based on the statement. Please note that many mediators are not lawyers and, therefore, may not consider all that should be necessary for a good separation agreement.

Affordable Family Lawyer Serving Houston, TX

Our team proudly serves the Greater Houston area, including but not limited to Brazos County, Cypress, Fort Bend County, Galveston, Houston Heights, Houston, Humble, Katy, Kingwood, Memorial Houston, Montgomery County, Montrose, Richmond, Rosenberg, Spring, The Woodlands. All marriages are different, making each divorce equally unique with its own set of needs that must be addressed. Contact our law office to explore your options moving forward, and find out how we can help you.

 

Renken Law Firm, PLLC
11500 Northwest Fwy #586
Houston, TX 77092
(713) 956-6767
https://therenkenlawfirm.com
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Divorce Case Consultation in Houston

Divorce Case Consultation in Houston

Are you interested in filing for a divorce in Houston, Texas? The Renken Law Firm can help you with family law matters including divorce, child support, property division, spousal support, and more. Our Texas divorce experts

What Should I Bring To An Initial Consultation?

A Factual Outline of Your Marriage and Reason for Divorce

The first thing you should make sure you have when you consult with a divorce lawyer is an outline of the facts you want to share with them. You may feel like you know the story of your marriage well enough, but it can be easy for important information or details you wanted to share to slip your mind when you have so much to consider and work through during a consultation. It’s better to have it written down to reduce the chance that you forget to say something you wanted to include.

Include information on:

  • How your relationship began
  • When the topic of divorce first came up
  • Whose idea it was for a divorce and why
  • What steps, if any, have been taken for reconciliation
  • What kind of assets you have
  • Who takes care of your children
  • How many pets you have
  • Any safety concerns you may have

The more facts a divorce attorney has when you first meet with them, the more accurately they can begin to set your expectations for the proceedings. So, while you don’t need to write a memoir for your attorney to read, it’s important to be open and willing to share information that allows them to understand you and the nature of your marriage.

Financial Documents

  • Pay stubs
  • Tax returns
  • Bank statements
  • Credit card bills
  • Household bills and mortgage payments
  • Insurance plans
  • Retirement accounts
  • Stock options
  • Receipts for major purchases

 

Copies of Important Legal Documents

You may have records or other legal documents that can impact your case in a divorce, so it’s crucial to share this information during a divorce consultation. Things like:

  • Your marriage license
  • Prenuptial agreements
  • Children’s birth certificates
  • Wills and living wills
  • Power of attorney forms
  • Any other legal records that relate to your or your spouse, such as police reports or relevant contracts

These documents will help your divorce attorney know where the opportunities and obstacles are in helping you achieve what you want out of your divorce proceedings.

Affordable Family Lawyer Serving Houston, TX

Our team proudly serves the Greater Houston area, including but not limited to Brazos County, Cypress, Fort Bend County, Galveston, Houston Heights, Houston, Humble, Katy, Kingwood, Memorial Houston, Montgomery County, Montrose, Richmond, Rosenberg, Spring, The Woodlands. All marriages are different, making each divorce equally unique with its own set of needs that must be addressed. Contact our law office to explore your options moving forward, and find out how we can help you.

 

Renken Law Firm, PLLC
11500 Northwest Fwy #586
Houston, TX 77092
(713) 956-6767
https://therenkenlawfirm.com
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Can I Seek Spousal Support Before Divorce is Finalized?

Can I Seek Spousal Support Before Divorce is Finalized?

It is possible to be awarded spousal support before a divorce is finalized. Spousal support before a divorce is finalized is typically referred to as pendente lite support. This means the case is pending. This type of support may be broken down in multiple ways, including a portion as being spousal support and a separate portion being child support, in cases with minor children. If you are seeking financial support and need legal advice, our family law attorneys are here to help you. Reach out to us today to learn more about your options for temporary spousal support.

Will the court order spousal support in my case?

Spousal maintenance is decided on a case-by-case basis. There are basically four ways in which a spouse can get an award of spousal maintenance:

  1. The spouse from whom spousal maintenance is sought has been convicted or received deferred adjudication for a family violence offense against the other spouse or the other spouse’s child within two years of the filing of the divorce or while the divorce is pending. The duration of the marriage is irrelevant.
  2. The marriage has lasted for at least 10 years and the spouse seeking spousal maintenance lacks sufficient property or income to provide for her reasonable needs AND is either a) disabled or b) primary caretaker of a disabled child, or c) lacks earning ability to provide for his or her minimum reasonable needs.
  3. The parties can agree that spousal maintenance be payable for a certain time period.
  4. If a spouse is a sponsored immigrant, he or she could enforce the Affidavit of Support executed by the other spouse and request that the Court order the sponsor to provide the immigrant spouse 125 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines until the immigrant spouse becomes a U.S. citizen or until he or she has earned 40 credits of work history.

How does the Court decide if a spouse lacks earning ability to provide for his or her minimum reasonable needs?

The Court will consider all the relevant factors, such as:

  • Financial resources available to each party once their property is divided by the court,
  • The education and employment skills of the spouses,
  • The time necessary to obtain sufficient education or training to enable the spouse to earn sufficient income, and
  • The availability and feasibility of such training.

The Court will also look at factors such as the duration of the marriage, the spouse’s health and age, and how the spouses treated each other. The Court will make a decision on spousal maintenance based on the above factors and anything else that might be important.

The spouse seeking spousal maintenance will also have to demonstrate that he or she has diligently searched for employment, training, and educational opportunities. The due diligence requirement does not apply in cases where the Affidavit of Support is being enforced.

How long will spousal maintenance be paid?

  1. If a spouse is awarded spousal maintenance because the other spouse has been convicted or received deferred adjudication for a family violence offense within two years of the filing of the divorce or while the divorce was pending, OR the marriage lasted for at least 10 years but less than 20 years, the spousal maintenance award may not remain in effect for more than five years.
  2. If the marriage lasted for at least 20 years but less than 30 years, the spousal maintenance award may not remain in effect for more than seven years.
  3. If the marriage has lasted for 30 years or more, the spousal maintenance award may not remain in effect for more than 10 years.

However, the Court may order that spousal maintenance remain in effect for as long as the spouse is unable to earn sufficient income to provide for his or her minimum reasonable needs because of a disability or because he or she is a caretaker of a disabled child.

How does the court determine how much maintenance is paid?

There is no formula to tell you how much spousal maintenance you will be awarded.

Generally, the court may not require that the spouse who is ordered to pay spousal maintenance pay more than the lesser of $5,000 or 20% of his or her gross monthly income.

Affordable Family Lawyer Serving Houston, TX

Our team proudly serves the Greater Houston area, including but not limited to Brazos County, Cypress, Fort Bend County, Galveston, Houston Heights, Houston, Humble, Katy, Kingwood, Memorial Houston, Montgomery County, Montrose, Richmond, Rosenberg, Spring, The Woodlands. All marriages are different, making each divorce equally unique with its own set of needs that must be addressed. Contact our law office to explore your options moving forward, and find out how we can help you.

 

Renken Law Firm, PLLC
11500 Northwest Fwy #586
Houston, TX 77092
(713) 956-6767
https://therenkenlawfirm.com
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What Is The Difference Between Annulment and Divorce

What Is The Difference Between Annulment and Divorce?

If you are looking to dissolve your marriage, you may wonder what your options are besides divorce. In some cases, an annulment is an option. So, what is an annulment? An annulment is a legal declaration that invalidates a marriage. This means, it declares that the marriage never happened. There are two different categories for annulments: civil and religious.

Civil Annulment

A civil annulment terminates your marriage and is granted by a judge. When a judge grants a request for an annulment, it’s as if the marriage never happened.

Either spouse may seek an annulment by filing a petition (legal request) with the court that states the grounds (reasons) for an annulment. Although each state has its own annulment requirements, the most common grounds for annulment are:

  • Underage marriage. Either spouse can seek an annulment if one or both spouses were under the legal age of consent (generally 18) at the time of the marriage. In certain states, like Texas, when a person who is 16 or older but under 18 marries without a parent’s consent, the marriage could be void. However, once the underage spouse turns 18, both spouses waive their annulment claim if they continue to live together.
  • Bigamy. You can’t be legally married to two people at the same time. If your spouse was married to someone else when you held your nuptials, you will qualify for an annulment on bigamy grounds.
  • Mental Incompetence. If you or your spouse was too impaired by alcohol or drugs at the time of your marriage to provide consent, you can seek an annulment. Likewise, a spouse who does not have the mental capacity to understand the marriage ceremony or provide consent, cannot be legally married.
  • Failure to Consummate Marriage. A court may grant an annulment if one spouse is physically unable to have sexual intercourse and didn’t tell the other spouse before marriage.
  • Fraud or Misrepresentation. Fraud is a basis for an annulment. A spouse who hides or misrepresents an essential fact of the marriage, such as having children or significant financial debts, has committed fraud. However, spouses waive their right to claim marriage fraud if the innocent spouse found out about the fraud but didn’t immediately separate from the guilty spouse.

Some annulment laws have time limits on when you can file. Most of these time limits don’t depend on how long you’ve been married. Rather, the deadlines to file depend on the grounds for the annulment. For example, in Colorado, if you want to annul your marriage on fraud grounds, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been married. Instead, what matters is when you found out about the fraud: You must file for annulment within six months of discovering the fraud. But if you want to annul your marriage for reasons of bigamy, you can do so at any time before your death (and your estate might even be able to annul your marriage after your death).

Because each state’s laws are different, you’ll want to check your state laws to see if any time limits apply to your situation. Even if you’ve missed a deadline to annul your marriage, you can still get a divorce.

Religious Annulment

A religious annulment is issued by a church or a religious tribunal, rather than a court. Religious annulments do not terminate a legal marriage. Specifically, the issuance of a religious annulment by a church doesn’t guarantee that a judge will grant a civil annulment in your case. Likewise, a church might not recognize a civil annulment obtained in a court of law.

What Are the Differences Between Annulment and Divorce?

Divorce is a legal dissolution of marriage. Unlike an annulment, a divorce does not invalidate your marriage, it just ends it. Each state has its own rules governing divorce. All states allow some form of no-fault divorce, meaning either spouse can file for a divorce without having to prove who caused the marriage’s breakdown. Some states allow spouses to file fault-based divorces on grounds like adultery, cruelty, or desertion.

Property Division: In a divorce, because the court recognizes your marriage as legal, a judge will need to divide marital property and debts. A judge will not divide property in an annulment because you were not legally married—so there is no marital property or marital debt to divide.

Spousal Support (Alimony): Because an annulment erases or invalidates a marriage, it also erases a spouse’s right to seek spousal support (alimony). When you file for an annulment, you waive your right to seek alimony or spousal support. If you feel like spousal support is necessary in your case, you should seek a divorce rather than an annulment.

To be able to file for an annulment in Texas, either one of the spouses must live in Texas or the spouses must have originally been married in Texas. Working with an experienced family law attorney can help you to determine if you qualify for an annulment and navigate to process of divorce.

Affordable Family Lawyer Serving Houston, TX

Our team proudly serves the Greater Houston area, including but not limited to Brazos County, Cypress, Fort Bend County, Galveston, Houston Heights, Houston, Humble, Katy, Kingwood, Memorial Houston, Montgomery County, Montrose, Richmond, Rosenberg, Spring, The Woodlands. All marriages are different, making each divorce equally unique with its own set of needs that must be addressed. Contact our law office to explore your options moving forward, and find out how we can help you.

 

Renken Law Firm, PLLC
11500 Northwest Fwy #586
Houston, TX 77092
(713) 956-6767
https://therenkenlawfirm.com
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File For A Divorce in Houston

File For A Divorce in Houston

Are you interested in filing for divorce in Harris County, Texas? The divorce process varies from state to state, making it important to do your research or reach out to an experienced divorce attorney in Houston, Texas.

Residency Requirements for Divorce in Texas

As long as you follow the state’s marriage license rules, you can get married in any state—even if you don’t live there. The requirements for ending a marriage, though, are not as relaxed. Instead, you must meet a state’s residency requirements before you can file for divorce in its courts.

To get a divorce in Texas, at least one spouse must have:

  • lived in Texas for the six months prior to filing and
  • been a resident of the county where the suit is filed for the 90-day period before filing.

The purpose of state residency requirements is to prevent one spouse from moving to another state (or county) to “shop” for a court or judge that will view the case more favorably for that spouse. Residency requirements also prevent one spouse from filing in a location far from the other just to make it more difficult (and expensive) for the other spouse to respond and participate.

What Are the Grounds for Divorce in Texas?

Texas allows both “no-fault” and “fault-based” divorces. A no-fault divorce is one in which the court doesn’t require either spouse to prove that the other’s bad acts were the cause of the divorce. In a fault-based divorce, one or both of the spouses must show that the other’s actions caused the marriage to fail.

No-Fault Grounds for Divorce in Texas

No-fault divorces reach resolution faster than fault-based divorces because the spouses don’t have to argue about or prove who was responsible for the divorce. Also, with a no-fault divorce, you do not have to have your spouse’s consent to end the marriage. The no-fault grounds for divorce in Texas are:

Insupportability of the marriage. The marriage can’t last because of conflict or discord between the spouses, and there’s no reasonable expectation that the spouses can reconcile.

Living apart. The spouses have lived apart without cohabitation for at least three years.

Fault-Based Grounds for Divorce in Texas

In a fault-based divorce, one or both spouses will have to present evidence to the judge that proves the spouse committed acts that meet one of Texas’ fault-based grounds for divorce. Fault-based divorces are often more contentious, more expensive, and last longer than no-fault divorces. The fault-based grounds for divorce in Texas are:

  • Cruelty.
  • Adultery.
  • Felony conviction.
  • Abandonment.
  • Confinement to a mental hospital for at least three years.

How Do I Get a Divorce in Texas?

Generally, there are two types of divorce—uncontested and contested. An uncontested divorce is one where the spouses agree on all divorce-related matters, such as division of property, child custody, and spousal support. A contested divorce, on the other hand, is one where the spouses can’t agree and must ask a court to decide the issues in their divorce.

Uncontested divorces are generally faster and less expensive than contested divorces because there’s no fighting in court—all the judge must do is review and approve the spouses’ marital settlement agreement and issue a divorce decree.

How to Get an Uncontested Divorce in Texas

An uncontested divorce in Texas is called an “agreed divorce.” The forms and procedures you’ll use for an agreed divorce depend on your situation. Click on the link that best describes your situation to obtain information and forms about how to file your divorce.

  • Agreed divorce with children—no court orders for custody and support
  • Agreed divorce with children—a final custody and support order is already in place
  • Agreed divorce without children or real property
  • Agreed divorce without children but with real property

In an agreed divorce, the responding spouse will usually sign the Final Decree of Divorce that the petitioning spouse filed with the petition.

If you file a petition for divorce and your spouse doesn’t respond, Texas allows you to get a default divorce. This means that the judge will decide the issues in the divorce without input from your spouse.

How to Get a Contested Divorce in Texas

When a spouse files for divorce in Texas, the court will know that it is contested when the responding spouse (the “respondent”) files an answer but refuses to sign the Final Decree of Divorce that the filing spouse (the “petitioner”) filed with the petition. Many respondents in contested divorces also file a Counter-Petition for Divorce when they answer the petition. A counter-petition lets the court know what the respondent is asking for in the divorce.

Although you can represent yourself in your divorce, many people involved in a contested divorce choose to hire a lawyer to help them navigate the court system and present their case to the court.

It can take up to a year (or more, depending on the circumstances) to finalize a contested divorce.

Affordable Family Lawyer Serving Houston, TX

Our team proudly serves the Greater Houston area, including but not limited to Brazos County, Cypress, Fort Bend County, Galveston, Houston Heights, Houston, Humble, Katy, Kingwood, Memorial Houston, Montgomery County, Montrose, Richmond, Rosenberg, Spring, The Woodlands. All marriages are different, making each divorce equally unique with its own set of needs that must be addressed. Contact our law office to explore your options moving forward, and find out how we can help you.

 

Renken Law Firm, PLLC
11500 Northwest Fwy #586
Houston, TX 77092
(713) 956-6767
https://therenkenlawfirm.com
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Alimony Attorney in Houston

Alimony Attorney in Houston

Houston divorce lawyers can help provide you with legal advice surrounding your separation and divorce. Our legal team has years of experience assisting in everything from custody, child support, property division, and alimony. If you are a divorcing spouse seeking alimony, contact Renken Law Firm in Harris County.

What Is Alimony?

Alimony is basically defined as one spouse’s payment to the other—under a court order or the couple’s agreement—after divorce or while a divorce case is proceeding. States use different terms for alimony, such as spousal support and maintenance, but they usually mean essentially the same thing. And state laws on alimony determine how it works and how judges decide when to award spousal support, how much, and for how long (more on all that below).

When you’re thinking about alimony, it might help to know a couple of things it is not:

  • Alimony isn’t a way of equalizing a divorced couple’s financial situation. Instead, it’s typically meant to help make sure that both spouses are able to meet their financial needs.
  • Spousal support isn’t just for ex-wives. The vast majority of states have changed their divorce laws to be gender-neutral, and some women now find themselves being ordered to pay alimony to their former husbands, at least for a time.

There are basically three different kinds of alimony (although some states use other terms, and a few states have additional variations):

  • temporary alimony that lasts only until the divorce is final
  • rehabilitative support that’s meant to help the recipients make the transition to supporting themselves, and
  • permanent support.

While many states use the term “permanent” spousal support for any alimony that’s ordered as part of the final divorce judgment, those payments very rarely last for the rest of the recipient’s life. True permanent alimony is usually reserved for situations like lengthy marriages where one spouse stayed out of the job market for many years and—because of age or other circumstances—isn’t likely ever to gain financial independence.

Even rehabilitative alimony typically only goes to former spouses who missed out on educational or career advancement because they devoted a significant amount of time to raising children and taking care of the home. For example, judges will seldom award alimony in cases where the marriage lasted just a year or two. In fact, some state laws allow alimony awards only when the couple has been married for a certain amount of time.

How Courts Decide Alimony

State laws set out the rules for judges to consider when they’re deciding whether to award alimony in any case, as well as the amount and duration of the payments. Typically, these rules are different for temporary support during the divorce and for post-divorce alimony.

Considerations When Awarding Post-Divorce Alimony

When judges are deciding whether to order alimony payments after divorce, they generally must start out by deciding whether one spouse needs support and whether the other spouse has the ability to pay that support. Most states spell out a number of factors judges should consider when making that decision, such as:

  • the couple’s standard of living during the marriage, and the extent to which each of them could maintain a similar lifestyle after divorce
  • each spouse’s income, assets, and debts
  • how much each spouse will get when their property is divided
  • whether one spouse has a lower earning capacity because that spouse was unemployed for periods of time while taking care of the family
  • the length of the marriage
  • each spouse’s age and health
  • contributions either spouse made to the other’s training, education, or career advancement, and
  • any other factors the judge thinks are fair.

Also, many states allow (or even require) judges to consider a history of domestic violence or other misconduct on the part of one or both spouses when they’re deciding whether to order alimony. But one factor that’s generally not under consideration: which spouse filed for divorce. You may request spousal support when you file for divorce. And if your spouse was the one who started the divorce process, you may ask for alimony (usually by filing a “counter” complaint or petition).

Remember, not all of these considerations apply in every state. For instance:

  • In Texas, the law allows spousal maintenance awards only in limited situations and starts out by assuming that it’s not appropriate outside of those circumstances. Even in marriages that lasted 10 years or more, Texans requesting maintenance must show they’ve seriously tried to earn enough or develop the necessary job skills to provide for their “minimum reasonable needs.”

If you’re asking for support, the court will look closely at your current income or—if you aren’t currently working or aren’t earning enough to live on—your ability to earn. If you’ve been out of the workforce or underemployed for a long time, the judge is more likely to award support for as long as it will take you to become independent. However, you might have to prove you’re doing what you can to get to that point, such as taking classes or other training. Sometimes, a judge will order that an expert called a “vocational evaluator” study your abilities and qualifications, compare them with potential employers, and estimate how much income you could earn.

Of course, unless you’re really rich, you probably know that it’s nearly impossible to maintain separate households at the same standard of living that a couple enjoyed while married and living together. That’s especially true now that more and more divorced parents share custody of their children and have to keep bedrooms for the kids in both of their homes.

So both former spouses will probably have to make adjustments after divorce. That means that if you’re the one who’s being ordered to pay support, the judge might decide that you could be earning more than you’re making now. For instance, if you’re only working part-time, you might be required to look for a full-time job.

Affordable Family Lawyer Serving Houston, TX

Our team proudly serves the Greater Houston area, including but not limited to Brazos County, Cypress, Fort Bend County, Galveston, Houston Heights, Houston, Humble, Katy, Kingwood, Memorial Houston, Montgomery County, Montrose, Richmond, Rosenberg, Spring, The Woodlands. All marriages are different, making each divorce equally unique with its own set of needs that must be addressed. Contact our law office to explore your options moving forward, and find out how we can help you.

 

Renken Law Firm, PLLC
11500 Northwest Fwy #586
Houston, TX 77092
(713) 956-6767
https://therenkenlawfirm.com
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