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El Paso Legal Blog

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Texas has visitation rights for grandparents

Texas grants very limited visitation rights for grandparents after their adult child's divorce compared to other states. They must overcome the presumption that the best interest of the grandchildren is furthered when the grandparents are denied visits.

The state had a strict standard governing a grandparent's right to even seek visitation. Texas generally requires that grandparents gain visitation from a parent and not the court system. The grandparent must be the parent of a parent who is deceased, incarcerated or was found by a court to be unable to have actual or court-order possession or access to the child.

Tax bill could hit alimony recipients

New tax reform legislation before Congress, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, may end the deduction that federal taxpayers receive for making alimony payments to their former spouses. If enacted, the law could change divorce proceedings, property division and settlement negotiations in Texas and throughout the country.

Taxing spousal support could lower alimony payments because money intended for this support will go to the federal government instead of the former spouse. This could impact divorce agreements and recipient spouses, where the alimony payments are spelled out, after 2017.

Over-the-border custody disputes

International issues involving Texas go beyond disputes between this state and Mexico over trade and immigration. Separated couples sometimes have different residences in Texas and Canada, Mexico and other countries and must deal with custody and parental access matters.

Seeking a custody order is an important first step for resolving these issues. Texas parents may file a petition for a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship. A SAPCR generally governs situations where the parent is in Texas and the child resided in this state for the required six-months. This time is required to establish that Texas is their home state under the Uniform Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.

Staying safe in a construction zone

The daily commute, it is probably so familiar that you navigate it on autopilot. But add construction zones and the hazards increase along with the amount of time added to get to the office.

Texas typically has more than 2,500 active work zones as the state continues work to improve our infrastructure. You can drive defensively through these areas, but it is impossible to control the action sof others. When another driver's distraction while on a phone or speed causes a car accident, you have remedies available.

Divorce dos and don'ts

Making decisions during the turmoil of a divorce is difficult and riddled with risks. A spouse considering the end of a marriage should carefully consider their first steps and avoiding other actions.

Money should be set aside immediately for upcoming expenses. Before any filings, financial documents and legal records should be gathered, copied and stored in a safe place inaccessible from the other spouse. These include bank statements, wills, trusts, tax returns, deeds, insurance policies, car titles and investment statements.

Changes to military pensions impact divorce

Many federal and state laws and policies may have a financial impact on spouses undergoing a military divorce. The New Blended Retirement System, taking effect on Jan. 1, will have major consequences for military retirement and families undergoing a military divorce.

When it takes effect, BRS will provide automatic and matching contributions from thrift savings plans for eligible military personnel. It will provide mid-career continuation incentive bonuses and a reduced military pension for those service members who served at least 20 years.

The pros and cons of mediation

Many couples face complex disputes at the end of a marriage. Divorce mediation may be an avenue for resolving these issues if both spouses are willing to seek amicable conversations to reach a settlement. This process, however, may not work for every couple.

In mediation, spouses attend one or several closed-door sessions with a neutral third-party mediator who is often an attorney. It is important to assure that the mediator is experienced and qualified.

Being in the military doesn't mean you can't co-parent

Your status as a member of the Armed Forces means that a divorce has some added complexities with which most civilians don't have to deal. Even so, you are a parent just like anyone else. However, you may struggle with finding a way to remain in your children's lives and to meet your obligations to your country.

Despite the divorce, your children will always connect you and the other parent. You and the other parent can create a parenting plan that allows each of you as much time with the children as possible. In your case, however, there may need to be added provisions, since you face the possibility of deployment at any time.

Collaborative divorce may resolve differences

Divorce in Texas does not always have to be adversarial or overly-stressful. Through a collaborative divorce, a couple may address complex issues such as property division while reducing the emotional distress often associated with the end of a marriage.

In a collaborative divorce, the spouses work with their attorneys to reach the common goal of positive resolution of disputes and issues. This may avoid trips to the courthouse. It also may eliminate some of the anger and turmoil associated with traditional divorces.

What is common law marriage?

Determining the validity of a marriage in Texas may be one of the first steps in ending a marriage or relationship. A common law marriage, if proven has the same validity of a formal marriage.

A common law marriage requires proof that the couple was not already formally or informally married to anyone at the time the marriage was created. The spouses must have been at least 18-year-old when they were married and had to agree to marriage. The couple had to hold themselves out to others as being married and lived in Texas as a married couple. Same-sex couples can also have a valid common-law marriage if these conditions are met.

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