Category: Divorce

The Importance of a Marital Settlement Agreement

The Importance of a Marital Settlement Agreement

When getting divorced you will want to come up with a marital settlement agreement to protect yourself and your assets. This divorce agreement will be the final judgement in the division of your property, finances, and more. Working with an experienced attorney can help you to understand the importance of a marital settlement agreement as well as ensure you are not leaving out any major details that can comeback to haunt you down the road.

What Goes in a Marital Settlement Agreement?

Depending on where you live or whom you talk to, you may hear different names for the settlement agreements that couples reach in divorces. Along with the most common—marital settlement agreement (MSA)—these other names include:

  • divorce agreement
  • divorce settlement agreement
  • settlement agreement
  • property settlement agreement
  • marriage settlement agreement, and
  • marital divorce agreement.

In the end, all these names mean the same thing: a written document that details how a couple has agreed to handle all of the issues that must be addressed when they get divorced, including:

  • how they will divide their marital property and debts
  • alimony (sometimes called spousal maintenance or spousal support), and
  • child custody, visitation (or parenting time), and child support (if they have minor or dependent children).

An MSA usually also has other provisions (“terms”) that detail how the couple will handle possible future events. For instance, spouses might agree that they will at least try mediation if they have any disputes in the future.

Can You Modify a Settlement Agreement?

Spouses may agree to change (modify) an existing agreement, even when it’s part of the divorce judgment. In fact, most MSAs address this possibility. Just be aware that you might have to get a judge’s court approval of the proposed modification.

If spouses can’t agree on a change that one of them wants, states provide guidelines for modifying settlement agreements, either in their statutes or in law that’s been established through court decisions. Judges will almost never allow a modification unless there’s been a significant change in circumstances since the original agreement. For example:

  • Spouses might be unable to pay child or spousal support because they lost their job through no fault of their own or became disabled.
  • The schedule for parenting time (visitation) might have to be altered due to changes in a spouse’s work schedule, or because a spouse is being transferred to another work location.
  • The important thing to remember is that a court will base its modification decision on the particular facts of each case.

Affordable Family Lawyer in Houston, TX

Our team proudly serves the Greater Houston area. All marriages are different, making each divorce equally unique with its own set of needs that must be addressed. Our team is dedicated to helping you and your family move forward without legal matters complicating your life. Contact our law office to explore your options moving forward, and find out how we can help you resolve any legal problems you are currently facing.

 

Renken Law Firm, PLLC
11500 Northwest Fwy #586
Houston, TX 77092
(713) 956-6767
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What is the Difference Between Divorce and Annulment

What is the Difference Between Divorce and Annulment

Knowing the difference between divorce and annulment can help you when deciding to end your marriage. While most cases will end in divorce, not annulment, there are some specific scenarios where a court will allow for an annulment to remove the marriage from a person’s record entirely as explained by NOLO.

What Is an Annulment?

An annulment is an order that declares a marriage invalid—in other words, it declares that the marriage never happened. There are two types of 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.

Similarities Between Divorce and Annulment

Annulments and divorces are alike because they are both a legal end to marriage. Whether you have obtained an annulment or a divorce, the outcome is similar: You are single again and free to remarry.

Also, a spouse who seeks an annulment has a burden of proof similar to a spouse seeking a fault-based divorce, because the spouse who files must prove the facts demonstrating that the marriage meets the state’s criteria for granting an annulment.

Does an Annulment Affect Child Custody and Support?

An annulment doesn’t affect a child’s right to financial support. Both parents—no matter their marital status—are responsible for supporting their child. A husband is still the presumed father of any child born during a couple’s marriage, regardless of whether the marriage ends in an annulment or divorce. And, even though an annulment essentially erases a marriage, it doesn’t affect the legitimacy of any children born during that marriage.

When a couple who has annulled their marriage need to decide child custody and child support, courts will apply the same laws that apply to all other parents. In most states, that means that the court will apply the state’s child support guidelines when assessing each parent’s financial responsibilities, and will evaluate what’s in the child’s best interests when deciding custody.

Divorce Lawyer Serving Houston, TX

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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5 Ways to Protect Yourself Financially Before Saying 'I Do'

5 Ways to Protect Yourself Financially Before Saying I Do

Oftentimes, couples are so wrapped up in their love story that they do not think to plan for the worst case scenario. While every marriage starts with the intention of lasting forever, financial planning can help you to navigate divorce if it arises and protect yourself so that you are not left without a way to pay your bills or continue on with your financial goals. Listed below are 5 ways to protect yourself financially before saying ‘I do’ at the altar.

Maintain a Separate Account: While most couples will create a shared account that makes it simple to pay bills and share assets from, this does not mean all of your money needs to be put into this account. Having a conversation with your spouse about you both putting a percentage of money into independently owned bank accounts can help you to maintain independence and have finances that belong solely to you. This does not have to be a negative choice and can create security for both parties of the marriage.

Keep Your Own Real Estate: If you owned your home prior to becoming married, there is no need to add your spouse to the deed of the home. If you have them as your beneficiary they will be in line to get the home should something happen to you. If you owned the home prior to the marriage, this home will be considered your property should you get divorced. However, speaking with an attorney may be helpful in order to understand more about property division and non-marital property.

Keep Bank Statements for Retirement Accounts Issued at the Date of Marriage: Unlike other accounts that are commingled, if you have retirement account assets at the date of marriage, and at the time of divorce, you can produce a statement that shows what you had in that account, then the court may let you carve off that amount and divide the rest. The challenge is finding those statements sometimes. Make sure you keep statements that show if the custodian changes.

Get a Valuation of Your Business Around the Date of the Marriage: Also unlike bank accounts that are commingled, the court has the ability to potentially carve off the appreciated value of a non-marital business. So for example, if your business was worth $1 million on the date of your marriage and worth $2 million on the date of your divorce, your spouse would be entitled to one half of the difference or $500,000. (Or you could have just had the spouse sign a prenuptial agreement that waived any and all appreciation — but assuming you didn’t, this is the next best option).

Speak With an Attorney Ahead of Time: It is always a good idea to speak with an attorney before getting married. Even if you do not intend to draft a prenuptial agreement, going over the specifics of your finances and learning more about how assets are divided in divorce can help you to make informed decisions during your marriage. This extends to estate planning, getting a certified financial planner, giving power of attorney to make medical decisions, and more. Do not wait until after you are married to consider these important aspects. Remember that marriage is a legal contract and follow these 5 ways to protect yourself before saying ‘I Do’ to protect your future.

Do I Need a Prenuptial Agreement?

Many individuals wonder if getting a prenuptial agreement is the best way to protect themselves in the case of divorce. Meeting with an attorney can help you to decide if this is a necessary tool for you to use in order to protect yourself financially. If you are coming into your marriage with assets that you worked hard to acquire and build, a prenup can protect their financial future. Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today to learn more about prenups.

Here for You When You Need Us

The family law and divorce attorneys at Renken Law Firm in Houston are here to provide you with personalized attention as you navigate complex family matters such as custody issues, divorce, and other family disputes. We offer a variety of services from family mediation to adoption services, so that our clients can find the resolution they need while avoiding costly court litigation. Our clients employ family law attorneys here at Renken Law Firm to ensure their rights are protected and the best interests of their family are in mind.

Though every family law case is different, understanding the process can help to alleviate some of the stress and anxiety that comes with it. At Renken Law Firm, we have a team of dedicated professionals who are here to guide you through every step of your case, from start to finish. We believe that knowledge is power, and we will work tirelessly to ensure that you have the information and support you need to make the best decisions for yourself and your family. Contact us today to schedule a consultation, so we can discuss your individual situation and answer any questions you may have.

 

Renken Law Firm, PLLC
11500 Northwest Fwy #586
Houston, TX 77092
(713) 956-6767
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Understanding the Basics of Prenuptial Agreements

Understanding the Basics of Prenuptial Agreements

We have all heard of prenups in movies and television shows, many times with a negative connotation attached to the term. So, are prenups all bad? Should you consider drafting before your marriage or agree to signing one before saying, “I do”? This article shares information from NOLO that helps with understanding the basics of prenuptial agreements.

What is a Prenup?

A prenuptial agreement (“prenup” for short) is a written contract created by two people before they are married. A prenup typically lists all of the property each person owns (as well as any debts) and specifies what each person’s property rights will be after the marriage.

In some states, a prenuptial agreement is known as an “antenuptial agreement,” or in more modern terms, a “premarital agreement.” Sometimes the word “contract” is substituted for “agreement,” as in “prenuptial contract.” An agreement made during marriage, rather than before, is known as a “postnuptial,” “postmarital,” or “marital” agreement.

Who Needs a Prenup?

Contrary to popular opinion, prenups are not just for the rich. While prenups are often used to protect the assets of a wealthy fiancé, couples of more modest means are increasingly turning to them for their own purposes. Here are some reasons that some people want a prenup:

Pass separate property to children from prior marriages. A marrying couple with children from prior marriages may use a prenup to spell out what will happen to their property when they die, so that they can pass on separate property to their children and still provide for each other, if necessary. Without a prenup, a surviving spouse might have the right to claim a large portion of the other spouse’s property, leaving much less for the kids.

Clarify financial rights. Couples with or without children, wealthy or not, may simply want to clarify their financial rights and responsibilities during marriage.

Avoid arguments in case of divorce. Or they may want to avoid potential arguments if they ever divorce, by specifying in advance how their property will be divided, and whether or not either spouse will receive alimony. (A few states won’t allow a spouse to give up the right to alimony, however, and, in most others, a waiver of alimony will be scrutinized heavily and won’t be enforced if the spouse who is giving up alimony didn’t have a lawyer.)

Get protection from debts. Prenups can also be used to protect spouses from each other’s debts, and they may address a multitude of other issues as well.

If You Don’t Make a Prenup

If you don’t make a prenuptial agreement, your state’s laws determine who owns the property that you acquire during your marriage, as well as what happens to that property at divorce or death. (Property acquired during your marriage is known as either marital or community property, depending on your state.) State law may even have a say in what happens to some of the property you owned before you were married.

Under the law, marriage is considered to be a contract between the marrying couple, and with that contract comes certain automatic property rights for each spouse. For example, in the absence of a prenup stating otherwise, a spouse usually has the right to:

  • share ownership of property acquired during marriage, with the expectation that the property will be divided between the spouses in the event of a divorce or at death
  • incur debts during marriage that the other spouse may have to pay for, and
  • share in the management and control of any marital or community property, sometimes including the right to sell it or give it away.

If these laws — called marital property, divorce, and probate laws — aren’t to your liking, it’s time to think about a prenup, which in most cases lets you decide for yourselves how your property should be handled. (For more, see Nolo’s article Is a Prenuptial Agreement Right For You?)

Making a Valid Prenup

As prenuptial agreements become more common, the law is becoming friendlier toward them. Traditionally, courts scrutinized prenups with a suspicious eye, because they almost always involved a waiver of legal and financial benefits by a less wealthy spouse and they were thought to encourage breakups.

As divorce and remarriage have become more prevalent, and with more equality between the sexes, courts and legislatures are increasingly willing to uphold premarital agreements. Today, every state permits them, although a prenup that is judged unfair or otherwise fails to meet state requirements will still be set aside.

However, because courts still look carefully at prenups, it is important that you negotiate and write up your agreement in a way that is clear, understandable, and legally sound. If you draft your own agreement, which we recommend, you’ll want to have separate lawyers review it and at least briefly advise you about it — otherwise a court is much more likely to question its validity.

Working With an Attorney for Your Prenup

Working with an attorney can help you with understanding the basics of prenuptial agreements so that together you will be able to draft a prenup that covers all of your important needs. At Renken Law Firm our attorneys are experienced in divorce, meaning, we know exactly what assets you will want to protect and how to help you take inventory of your finances and property so you do not miss a thing when making your prenuptial agreement in Texas. Schedule an appointment with our team today to begin the process of drafting your prenup before marrying your future spouse on your wedding date.

Divorce Attorney in Houston, Texas

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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What Is a Standard Possession Order

What Is a Standard Possession Order?

During divorce lots of terminology is introduced that may not be familiar. You may have spoken with an attorney about custody and wondered, “What is a standard possession order?” This article provides helpful information shared by the state of Texas to help you understand more about possession orders.

Working with an experienced divorce attorney can help you to protect yourself and children throughout the divorce process. Reach out to the team at Renken Law Firm today to schedule a consultation to go over the details of your case.

What is a possession order?

A possession order says when each parent (or sometimes a non-parent) has the right to time with a child.

There are several types of possession orders in Texas:

  • Standard Possession Order
  • Modified Possession Orders
  • Possession Orders for a Child Under Three
  • Supervised Possession Orders

Scroll to the bottom of this page for possession order forms.

What is the Standard Possession Order?

In Texas, the law presumes that the Standard Possession Order is in the best interest of a child age three or older.

The Standard Possession Order says that the parents may have possession of the child whenever they both agree.

The Standard Possession Order says that if the parents don’t agree, the noncustodial parent has the right to possession of the child at the times provided for in Texas Family Code 153.3171 if the parents live within 50 miles of one another (starting with cases filed on or after September 1, 2021).

When the parents live within 100 miles of each other, the noncustodial parent has the right to possession:

  • 1st, 3rd and 5th weekends of every month,
  • Thursday evenings during the school year,
  • alternating holidays, and
  • an extended period of time (30 days) during summer vacation.

When the parents live more than 100 miles apart:

  • the weekend schedule may be the same or reduced to one weekend per month,
  • there is no mid-week visit,
  • holidays are the same, and
  • the noncustodial parent has the child a longer period of time (42 days) during summer vacation and every spring break.

Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the possession order forms.

What is a Modified Possession Order?

You and the other parent (or the judge, if your case is contested) may decide that the Standard Possession Order is unworkable or inappropriate for your family. A modified possession order is anything different from the Standard Possession Order. Talk to a lawyer if you need help writing a modified possession order. A lawyer can help you write a possession order that meets the specific needs of your family.

What is a Possession Order for a child under age three?

The legal presumption that the Standard Possession Order is in a child’s best interest does not apply when a child is younger than three years old.

If your child is under three, you and the other parent may still agree to use the Standard Possession Order. Or you may agree to use a different possession schedule. If you and the other parent cannot agree on a schedule, the judge will make an order based on all relevant factors.

You can find helpful information about possession schedules for children under three, including sample schedules, at Informal (Out-of-Court) Agreements for Children from Birth to 3 Years Old.

Talk to a lawyer if you need help writing a possession order for a child under three.

Tip: Make sure your order also says what will happen after your child turns three.

What is a Supervised Possession Order?

If the judge is concerned about the safety of a child, the judge can order that a parent’s time with a child be supervised. The judge may order that the parent’s time be supervised by a family member, neutral third party or agency. If a private agency is used, the visiting parent may be responsible for paying the agency’s fees.

Although rare, a judge may also order that a parent have no visits. This option is used when visiting with the parent, even with supervision, would be physically or emotionally harmful to the child.

Note: It’s important to talk with a lawyer, if you are concerned about your child’s safety with the other parent.

How do I know if I have a Standard Posession Order?

Look at your order underneath the heading “Possession and Access Order.” If the noncustodial parent is given the 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekends (beginning on Friday and ending on Sunday), a weeknight visit once a week during the school term, a period of extended summer visitation, and shared holidays, then you probably have an SPO.

Possession order is the court’s phrase for parenting time. Sometimes it is also called visitation. Parenting time/possession orders state when the child (ren) will be with each parent or guardian.

  • In most cases, both parents share parental rights and responsibilities (called joint managing conservatorship).
  • Usually, one parent has the right to determine where the child (ren) lives. (This parent is also called the custodial parent.)

Texas has a standard possession order (SPO) for most parents. This is a plan for parenting your child that describes the minimum amount of time your child will spend with each parent. The parenting plan splits time between the noncustodial parent and custodial parent while still allowing the child to have a stable schedule.

  • You and the other parent may decide to work out a different schedule than is in the order. That’s okay, as long as you both agree to the new schedule.
  • If you and the other parent agree on a new schedule, the court will not enforce that schedule – it’s up to you and the other parent to follow through on your agreement.
  • If you and the other parent cannot agree on a new schedule, if one of you decides that the new schedule isn’t working, both of you must follow the court-ordered schedule unless one of you files a motion to modify it with the court that issued the order.
  • If one parent stops following the court order, the other parent can enforce the order in court after attempting to resolve the issue outside of court.

If the parents live within 100 miles of each other, the noncustodial parent has parenting time with the child every 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekend, one weeknight per week during the school year, about half of all holidays, and for an extended time during the summer. View the ‘My Sticker Calendar’ to see an illustration. Check your local school district’s calendar for specifics about vacations and holidays and use the calendar’s stickers to plan with your child.

Divorce Attorney in Houston, Texas

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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What Happens if My Spouse Won't Sign Divorce Papers in Texas

What Happens if My Spouse Won’t Sign Divorce Papers in Texas?

Are you ready to begin the divorce process but have uncertainties about how your spouse will react? Have you wondered what happens if your spouse won’t sign divorce papers in Texas? Our team is here to help you navigate this difficult period and help you reach a divorce agreement that protects you.

Read below to learn more about what happens if your spouse won’t sign divorce papers in Texas:

Do Both Spouses Have to Agree to Divorce?

When you want to end your marriage but your spouse doesn’t, you should still be able to get a divorce. But if you’re worried about your spouse refusing to sign the divorce papers, it may help to understand some basics about the legal process. You can start the process on your own by filing a divorce petition (sometimes called a complaint). Your spouse doesn’t need to sign this form. And unless you want to get an uncontested divorce, your spouse doesn’t need to sign any of the divorce papers.

Just because you may get a divorce without your spouse’s cooperation, that doesn’t mean it will necessarily be a simple process. States have procedures for dealing with spouses who hide out to avoid being served with the divorce petition, or simply won’t respond to the petition. But those procedures usually involve extra work and some risks (more on that below).

Also, the divorce process could be more complicated or simply time consuming in some states if your spouse refuses to agree to one of the “no-fault” reasons (or grounds) for divorce allowed where you live. In Ohio, for instance, when your spouse denies that the two of you are incompatible, you will either have to prove one of the “fault” divorce grounds or be separated for a full year before you can get divorced.

Can You Get a Divorce Without Your Spouse Knowing?

Judges try to prevent one-sided divorce proceedings. This means you can’t go behind your spouse’s back to get a secret divorce. You must give your spouse notice of any divorce paperwork that you’ve filed with the court (as discussed below), so that your spouse at least has a chance to respond.

Can You Get Divorced If You Can’t Find Your Spouse?

When you file the initial divorce petition, you generally must arrange to have the petition and other paperwork delivered to your spouse through what’s known as “service of process.” But if you can’t locate your spouse, you may ask the court for permission to use another method for giving notice that you’ve filed for divorce. You’ll generally need to show that you made several serious attempts to find your spouse and serve the papers.

A judge will decide whether to grant your request and which form of alternative service to allow—usually service by publication (publishing a notice in a newspaper). Learn more about how to get a divorce without your spouse, including alternative service methods.

What Happens If Your Spouse Doesn’t Respond to the Divorce Petition?

Once you serve the divorce petition on your spouse (either through regular service or an alternative method), your spouse has a certain amount of time to respond (usually about 20-30 days). If your spouse doesn’t file an answer in time, you may then request a default divorce. State and local rules on default divorces vary, but the process typically goes like this:

  • After the time for responding has passed without an answer, you’ll file a request to enter a default along with a proposed divorce judgment.
  • The court will set a hearing date and send notice to your spouse (unless there’s no known address where your spouse can be reached).
  • At the hearing, the judge will review the paperwork you’ve filed, might ask you some questions, and will ultimately issue a ruling on your divorce.

The default hearing might be more involved in some states. In Texas, for instance, you must provide evidence at the default hearing to show that what you’ve requested in your divorce petition and proposed judgment—such as the details of the property division—would be fair.

You should be aware of the pros and cons of default divorce. For example, most states give the defaulting spouse a certain amount of time to ask the judge to set aside the default judgment. So you could be in for a big headache if your spouse has a change of heart. If you’re considering this option, it would be wise to speak with an experienced divorce attorney first.

Should I Hire A Divorce Lawyer?

Family law attorneys are legal professionals that have specialized education and experience dealing with a wide range of legal issues that can impact members of a family. Some of the most common issues that are handled by one of these legal professionals include divorce cases, child custody agreements, property division, and more. In addition to representing their clients in court, family lawyers are also qualified to act as mediators to help families sort through disagreements and reach amicable solutions or a deal with an uncooperative spouse.

If you are facing a difficult legal matter, our team can help you. Call our law office today to learn more about the services we offer and to schedule a consultation.

Affordable Family Lawyer in 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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Do I Need To Bring My Taxes to My Divorce Attorney

Do I Need To Bring My Taxes to My Divorce Attorney?

When meeting with your divorce attorney you will want to bring all documents that pertain to your individual or joint finances. So if you are asking, “Do I Need To Bring My Taxes to My Divorce Attorney?” The answer is, absolutely yes. Bring your income tax returns and all other financial information when you meet with your family law attorney. Read the following to learn more about the documents you should bring to your attorney when taking legal action to file for divorce:

Documents Related to Income

  • Your paycheck stubs from all sources of employment over the last year. If you are self-employed, provide income tax returns and any tax forms or business forms related to self-reported income. This should include documentation from any business you or your spouse held an interest in over the past three years.
  • Your spouse’s paycheck stubs for the same period of time. Those check stubs will often show year-to-date earnings and deductions.
  • Documentation regarding business expenses if either you or your spouse is self-employed. These may include check registers, bank statements, canceled checks, payment receipts, financial statements, and profit and loss statements.
  • At a minimum, copies of your joint or individual tax returns, both state and federal, for the past three to five years.
  • If you or your spouse work for cash, copies of check ledgers that will show any expenses paid during the marriage.
  • A copy of any financial statements or statements of net worth prepared by you or your spouse for the purpose of securing bank loans or for any other purpose.
  • Any other information that will establish your net worth, your spouse’s net worth, your joint net worth, your income, and your spouse’s income.

Documents Related to Real Estate

  • Any documents showing the legal description of any real estate owned together or separately. These can be obtained from your mortgage company or bank.
  • Your current mortgage statements on any mortgages you have on real estate property.
  • All documents pertaining to the initial purchase of the real estate.
  • If the real estate has been refinanced, all documents pertaining to the refinance.
  • Tax assessor’s statement(s) pertaining to any and all real estate.

Documents Related to Joint Financial Accounts

  • Savings passbooks and savings certificates of individual or joint accounts held individually or jointly by you and your spouse.
  • Any and all bank statements for the past three years from any account in your name or held jointly with your spouse.
  • Statements from investment accounts you two hold jointly and separately.

Documents Related to Life Insurance

  • Statements regarding life insurance policies on your life, your spouse’s life, or on your children, whether it is an individual policy or a policy through your employer. This includes any documents indicating a cash balance or loans against the policies.

Documents Related to Marital Debts

  • An itemized list of any outstanding, unsecured debts including credit cards, medical bills, and any other loans in your name or your spouse’s name.

Documents Related to Pension Funds

  • A copy of recent statements for pension funds, retirement funds, 401(k) plans, mutual funds, or IRAs.

Do I Need To Bring My Taxes to My Divorce Attorney?

The simple answer is yes, you need to bring your tax documents and all other listed documents to your divorce attorney in order for them to correctly assess your current situation before filing for a divorce. If you do not have access to all of these documents, let your attorney know which ones you are missing. Schedule your divorce consultation with a member of our law firm today to start tor process of dissolving your marriage in Texas.

Affordable Family Lawyer in 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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How Is Divorce Different in Texas

How Is Divorce Different in Texas?

Texas is a fiercely independent state that has no problem doing things differently than the rest of the country. While the divorce process is similar in every state, there are some uncommon and unique aspects to a Texas divorce that are important to know about before filing for divorce. Working with an experienced divorce attorney can help you to navigate the specific laws and regulations that apply to Texas divorce.

Listed below are 3 ways divorce is different in Texas that you need to know about before drafting divorce papers:

Grounds for Divorce in Texas

Texas is a no-grounds for divorce state. This means either party of a marriage is able to file for divorce without needing to give a specific cause and that neither party will be responsible for the marriage not working out. Additionally, Texas also offers six at-fault grounds for divorce including adultery, cruelty, felony conviction, abandonment, living separately, and confinement in a mental hospital.

At-Fault Divorces in Texas

In Texas, the at-fault options for filing for divorce can greatly impact the division of property, alimony owed, and more. In many states, factors such as adultery would have no impact on the way a couple’s marital estate is divided. In Texas, those who are proven to be adulterous may be penalized for this when a court makes its final decision. This can incentivize someone to file an at-fault divorce when they are ready to leave the marriage.

Community Property in Texas

Texas is one of the few states that divides property following community property guidelines. Community property is a term to describe all of the assets and debts that have been collected throughout the marriage. This means, marriages with one income is considered to have been owned equally by both spouses. Many other states follow a different method for determining how to divide property.

These are three of the main ways divorce is different in Texas.

Even when both parties are in agreement about getting a divorce, speaking to an experienced divorce attorney can be beneficial. These professionals are familiar with the laws involving divorce and can help you to consider all important factors that you may be overlooking.

Why Work With Renken Law Firm?

At Renken Law Firm in Houston, our team of experienced divorce attorneys help you to find divorce solutions for your unique situation. We understand each marriage and divorce case is different. This is why we work closely with our clients to ensure their specific needs are being met.

Having an experienced divorce attorney on your side can help you reach a divorce settlement that fits the needs of you and your family. Our divorce attorneys will represent you by being your ally and advocating for you throughout the entire divorce process.

We offer mediation services for those who are interested in working together to create a divorce agreement that serves both parties. This can be a more affordable and private option for divorce that gives the control to the divorcing parties.

At Renken Law Firm we focus our efforts to ensure every client we work with is able to come to a divorce settlement with their spouse that represents their needs. No matter how you file, our team of divorce specialists are here to help you. Call our office today.

 

Affordable Family Lawyer in 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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Don't Ask For A Divorce Until You Do These 10 Things

Don’t Ask For A Divorce Until You Do These 10 Things

January is just around the corner, the month that is notorious for highest divorce fillings throughout the country. While you may feel ready to dive in and start the divorce process, in the long run it is important that you make sure you are in a good position to begin divorce proceedings. Don’t ask for a divorce until you do these 10 things shared by lawyers.com:

Be Certain You Want to Get Divorced

While this may seem obvious, the decision to get divorced is an emotional one, and shouldn’t be made when you’re feeling overly emotional. Make sure you’ve exhausted all hope of reconciliation before you file for divorce. Once you’ve served your spouse with divorce papers, it can be difficult to go back on that decision, even if you’ve changed your mind. The court can grant a divorce even if only one spouse wants to end the marriage. If you’d still like to give marital counseling a try, do so before you file for divorce.

Interview Attorneys

It’s a good idea to interview more than one attorney before you decide to file for divorce. You’ll want to work with an attorney that fits your style, and understands your goals for litigation. Avoid lawyers who offer you solutions before listening to the particular facts of your case. Attorneys come at different price points and experience levels. If your divorce is likely to be messy or deals with specific types of assets, be sure your attorney is qualified to handle your particular case. For more information, see What to Look for in a Divorce Lawyer.

Gather Financial Documents

Divorce cases depend heavily on documentation. Your financial account records, phone records, mortgages, and car notes are all likely relevant to the divorce. To the extent possible, gather all the documents you’ll need for your case before filing for divorce. If you and your spouse have a shared file of paper records in your home, make copies of everything before meeting with your attorney. It’s also smart to obtain records of your shared online accounts. Not all spouses react well to being served with divorce papers, and some will make it difficult to access documents after you’ve filed. Save yourself potential future headaches by getting your hands on the documents ahead of time.

Determine Your Goals for Custody

If you have children, their custody situation is probably at the forefront of your mind when getting a divorce. You should know that, absent extreme circumstances, you and your spouse will end up sharing custody of the children. It’s a good idea to sit down and carefully review your work schedule, your children’s schedule, and your other obligations and come up with your desired schedule for custody. If you can come up with a arrangement that gives both you and your spouse time with the children, you’ll be leaps and bounds ahead of most people who file for divorce.

Make Necessary Purchases or Sales

In most jurisdictions, the judge automatically issues an order at the beginning of your divorce case that prohibits you or your spouse from selling, buying, or otherwise encumbering or disposing of any marital property. Courts do this to prevent either spouse from draining the bank accounts, or dissipating the marital estate out of spite.

If you’ve long been meaning to upgrade your car, or sell a rental property, you’ll be prevented from doing so if you file for divorce first. While it’s not appropriate to drain the bank accounts before filing for divorce (as that can come back to bite you), if you have a legitimate sale or purchase that’s been in the works, it’s best to complete it before filing for divorce.

Figure Out Your Living Situation

Do you want to stay in the same house with your spouse during the divorce? Do you plan to move elsewhere? Do you want your spouse to move out? Decide what your goals are for your living situation, both during and after the divorce. How you behave in the weeks and months leading up to your divorce can affect your chances of winning use of the marital residence during the divorce. For example, moving in with a relative or friend in the weeks leading up to your divorce won’t help your chances of staying in the residence during the divorce. Speak with your attorney about how to best position yourself for the living situation you desire. Click here to find out more about housing issues during divorce.

Talk to an Attorney About Joint Bank Accounts and Credit Cards

Depending on how you and your spouse handle your joint financial accounts and credit cards, your attorney may advise you to close the accounts or leave them the same. You don’t want to be in a situation where your spouse has the ability to run up bills in your name or drain the bank accounts – both circumstances may take the entire divorce to sort out. Your attorney can best advise you about whether you should divide the accounts in half, close them, or leave them the same before filing for divorce.

Don’t Live Like You’re Single

Even if your marriage is for all intents and purposes over, refrain from living the single life prior to filing for divorce. In most jurisdictions, even if you and your spouse are living separately, having a romantic relationship with another person is still considered adultery. Additionally, a judge may consider money you spend on a paramour dissipation of the marital estate, and could require you to reimburse your spouse for those expenditures. In any case, it typically doesn’t help your case to have started another relationship before your divorce has been filed. In some states you can begin a relationship after filing for divorce; speak with your attorney about how the court will view dating before your divorce is complete. See Divorce and Dating for more information.

Prepare a Marital Balance Sheet

You can’t decide your financial goals for your divorce without having an accurate picture of your assets and debts. While it’s not usually necessary to hire an accountant prior to filing for divorce, it’s a good idea to put together a simple balance sheet showing all of your assets and debts. Include real property, cars, retirement accounts, bank accounts and other assets, as well as any mortgages, notes, credit cards, and other debts. This can give you an idea of what you and your spouse will split, and you can start working on your desired division of the marital estate. Determining your total assets can also help you set a budget for how much to spend on your attorney and the divorce litigation.

One often overlooked aspect of divorce is the emotional toll it may take on you and your family. Just as important as hiring an attorney and obtaining relevant documents is surrounding yourself with people who can help you through this difficult time.

Develop a Support Network

One often overlooked aspect of divorce is the emotional toll it may take on you and your family. Just as important as hiring an attorney and obtaining relevant documents is surrounding yourself with people who can help you through this difficult time. If you have the financial means, it can help to speak with a therapist or other mental health professional. At the very least, speak with friends who have been through divorce. Let your family and friends know that you’ll be leaning on them for advice and moral support. Being emotionally stable will better prepare you to make smart decisions as your divorce progresses.

Protect yourself, don’t ask for a divorce until you do these 10 things and contact Renken Law Firm for a divorce consultation.

Affordable Family Lawyer in 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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What Happens in a Consultation With Divorce Attorney

What Happens in a Consultation With Divorce Attorney?

It can be difficult to take the first step when you decide to divorce your spouse. Scheduling the initial divorce consultations with a family law attorney will help you to understand the divorce process, what information you will need to gather, and the fee structure for your divorce lawyer. Bring a list of questions to your initial consult in order to be prepared for the time you have and read below to learn more about what happens in a consultation with divorce attorney:

What Should Happen at the First Meeting?

Once you decide to hire an attorney, you’ll sign an agreement that details the attorney and the client’s expectations. A retainer agreement should layout cost, billing procedures, and details about who will work on your case. For example, lawyers may have a team of associates and paralegals researching or filing documents in your case in large law firms. At the same time, the attorney may only appear in court on your behalf. However, in small law firms, your lawyer may be your only point of contact throughout the entire case. Once you have a contract, you’ll schedule your first meeting with your lawyer. What happens at your first meeting depends on what’s happening in your divorce case.

In some cases, clients hire lawyers after filing for divorce (or receiving divorce papers). In other cases, the spouses have already agreed to a divorce and pledged to use a collaborative divorce process rather than all-out “litigation” (meaning fighting it out in court). Finally, some clients face an emergency—their spouse may be draining bank accounts in anticipation of the divorce, or they may be the victim of domestic violence and need immediate protection from a court. The client’s circumstances control the initial conversation and the steps the attorney will take after the first meeting.

Typically, a client comes in with general questions about an impending or recently-filed divorce. Most lawyers will review the various divorce processes available (collaborative law, divorce mediation, or litigation) and describe the steps for each. From there, you and your lawyer can decide what steps to take next.

The attorney needs to get to know the client as a person and learn as much as possible about the client’s spouse and children (if any). You should expect the attorney to request a detailed client information sheet, which contains all the necessary information an attorney needs without extra phone calls or emails to the client. Because the attorney depends on the accuracy of the information you provide, it’s important to answer the attorney’s questions and questionnaires honestly and completely. An attorney should try to understand the client’s psychological and financial situation to make any necessary referrals to psychotherapists, divorce coaches, estate attorneys, or financial planners for specialized advice.

Many divorce attorneys work closely with other professionals to ensure the client doesn’t have any unanswered divorce-related questions. Remember, an attorney cannot act as a tax advisor or a psychologist, for example, so it’s essential that divorcing spouses hire the right professionals and keep their attorneys informed.

Review relevant divorce-related issues

It’s impossible to predict exactly what will “happen” in a divorce, but it’s best to address all the major issues that may come up, such as

  • custody of any minor children
  • child support
  • alimony—whether either spouse should pay and if so, how much and for how long, and
  • division of property and debts.

At the end of the first meeting, clients generally leave with homework, which includes learning as much as possible about the couple’s finances in terms of assets, liabilities, and ongoing expenses. In many marriages, only one spouse is in charge of the finances. However, before a judge can finalize a divorce, both spouses need to have a complete understanding of the couple’s incomes, assets, and debts. If you can provide the details about your finances at the first meeting with your new lawyer, the meeting will be much more productive.

Is the Meeting Confidential?

Yes. Sometimes, spouses aren’t completely sure that they want a divorce but want to know what they can expect if they go forward. The law protects all attorney-client communications, and a client’s right to privacy is absolute, so divorce clients shouldn’t have to worry about their spouses finding out.

Affordable Family Lawyer in 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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