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Whether you have been married for 20 years, or 20 months, the emotional fallout of divorce can be very similar. You might feel like a failure and your self-esteem could plummet. Alternatively, you could be furious and possess steely-eyed determination to win sole custody of your children. One of the benefits of having an experienced divorce attorney by your side is that he or she can help even out this emotional roller coaster ride.
Together, you set your divorce goals and then work toward those goals. Keep in mind that the court has the final word and will make decisions that are in the best interest of the child, and property decisions that are fair and just for both parties.
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In a previous era, a mother may have been able to count on obtaining sole physical custody of the children from a marriage. This is no longer true. Parents frequently have shared physical custody of their children.
There are two types of child custody. Legal custody is the power to make decisions affecting the child’s upbringing or well-being. Physical custody is the day-to-day care of the child or children. Typical child custody arrangements are:
- Sole physical custody. The children live with one parent and visit the other parent on weekends, and perhaps on a school night. Holidays and vacations are shared.
- Joint physical custody – separate spaces. The children spend half the time with each parent and move from one parent’s home to the other.
- Joint physical custody – shared home. The children stay in one home, and the parents move in and out, one week at a time. This unusual arrangement is also called ‘bird’s nest’ custody.
The parent who does not have physical custody may be ordered to pay the custodial parent child support. Whether it is paid, and the amount that is paid, will depend upon the net income of both parents. For example, if the custodial parent is also the main bread-winner, the non-custodial parent may not be ordered to pay any support.
The child support determinations are made according to a formula which begins at a 20 percent of net income payment to the custodial parent for support of one child.
Occasionally, one parent will seek to move out of state, and take the child to the new state. For example, if one ex-spouse is a Texas state legislator working in Austin, and decides to run (and wins) a seat in the U.S. House or Senate, that parent may want to set up housekeeping in the Washington, D.C., area.
This cannot be done without permission from a court. The parent wishing to take the children will need a child custody modification. Many factors will go into the court’s decision; however, the main deciding factor is always the best interest of the children. If a child is in high school and is interested in a political career, it may be a good move. It the child is young it could be too disruptive, even if the political parent is the primary custodial parent.
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If you are seeking a divorce or responding to a divorce in Austin, you should be aware that in Texas, marital property is considered community property, although the property is not always divided 50/50.
Using round numbers, if a couple has been married 20 years and has assets of $1 million and no debt, each would gain $500,000 if both spouses made equal financial contributions to the estate. However, if one spouse worked and the other was a primary caretaker of the children and home, the estate could be divided 60/40 or 70/30. If the income-earning spouse can be proven at fault in causing the divorce, his or her percentage could fall to 75/25.
This is a hypothetical example; however, you should be aware that property division in Texas is made according to what is “fair and just.”
As in alimony determinations, the division of property can vary depending on the same set of factors.
What Is Alimony?
Alimony, also called spousal support, is a payment from one spouse to the other to help the recipient spouse meet “minimum reasonable needs” after divorce. Austin, Texas, is not an easy state in which to win an alimony determination. Generally, the spouse seeking spousal support must meet the following conditions:
- Been a victim of domestic violence
- Not able to be self-supporting due to disability
- Not able to be self-supporting due to care of a disabled child
- Married for at least 10 years, and not able to earn a self-sufficient income
The spouse requesting the payment must prove that the conditions above exist. Other factors which can be considered are:
- Contribution to homemaking services
- Length of the marriage
- Age of both spouses
- Health of the recipient spouse
- Bad acts by either spouse (adultery, wasting community property or hiding assets)
Sometimes a couple’s assets are rather straightforward. There might be a house, two vehicles, retirement savings and two credit cards. In other instances, a couple can have a much more difficult time untangling their finances. In those instances, it may be necessary to conduct a business valuation or obtain a forensic accountant. Complicated financial situations can include:
- Inheritance planning
- Foreign holdings
- Limited Liability Partnerships (dentists, CPAs or physicians)
- Real estate holdings
- Small business ownership
- Tax planning
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Most of the military installations are further south in Texas; however, Fort Hood is a significant presence in the Austin area. If you are a member of the military, or your spouse is a service member, you may wonder if there are differences between a military divorce and a civilian divorce.
Most of the rules and regulations are exactly the same. For example, one of the spouses must meet the residency requirement of:
- Living with the state for the last six months AND
- Living in the county (Travis County) where the divorce is filed for the last 90 days
For a member of the military, the requirements alter to “stationed” in the state, rather than lived in the state and “stationed in any Texas county” rather than living in the county.
Another issue that is different for members of the military, compared to civilians, is the child custody parenting plan. When one parent could be sent overseas, allowances are made to accommodate a healthy relationship with both parents and contingency plans for extended assignments.
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Why Hire A Divorce Attorney?
There are a number of reasons to hire a divorce attorney, although the primary ones may be to protect your relationship with your children and protect your financial well-being. A skilled divorce lawyer will typically follow your lead. Wherever you place your priorities during the divorce, your attorney will work to support them. Your attorney will offer advice, although the decisions regarding which path to take are always yours.
How To Choose A Divorce Lawyer
When looking for a divorce lawyer, make certain that it is one who has practiced in Austin and Travis County. The attorney you select should focus on divorce law, rather than be a general practitioner who happens to handle divorce. Look for experience and look for someone you can talk to. You want to be treated like a person, not a case file number.