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Montgomery County Family Law Blog

Divorce, holidays and joint custody -- negotiation is key

Custody matters are often problematic -- before, during and after divorce. Joint custody is often seen as an ideal solution to a tricky matter in any divorce involving children. However, it comes with certain dilemmas and requirements with which the divorced parents will have to deal. Texas divorcees may find that agreeing on holiday schedules when they share custody may be one of the biggest headaches to which they will have to find a solution.

When disagreements arise regarding where the children must be and when, a good place to start searching for a solution to the problem is the formal parenting plan agreed on during the divorce proceedings. The plan should contain the arrangements regarding holidays agreed to between the parties. Should there not be a formal plan, it may be necessary to try and recall what was discussed during the preceding or what the arrangement was during previous holidays.

Numbers from Rudy Giuliani's high net worth divorce

Texas readers may be aware that former NY Mayor Rudy Giuliani is in the middle of a divorce from his wife, Judith Giuliani. In a recent turn of events, Giuliani claims that he has encountered financial challenges over the past year. While it's unclear if he is trying to reduce property division or spousal support in his high net worth divorce, his wife claims these financial troubles are not in line with his spending habits. 

A lawyer for Mrs. Giuliani asserts that Mr. Giuliani has spent more than $900,000 since April. The claim states that more than $286,000 has been spent on a woman with whom he's been having an alleged affair. An additional $165,000 is believed to have gone to travel expenses and more than $12,000 to pay for cigars. 

Divorce: For many couples, prenups are not all about money

Although many people in Texas were previously of the opinion that prenuptial agreements are only for those with significant assets, these contracts have become more widely used. It might be because couples tend to wait longer before tying the knot, and when they do, their careers are established and both spouses enter the marriage with already accumulated assets. While a prenuptial agreement provides protection in the event of a divorce and specifies who gets what, some couples use them to set rules or prevent unacceptable behavior. When both spouses are successful at what they do, ground rules may be necessary to accommodate the egos of both.

When power couples, such as celebrities, draft prenups, it is not always all about money. Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, with combined assets estimated at more than $74 million, set rules for spending more time together in a relationship agreement drafted even before they planned a marriage. The founder and CEO of Facebook must take Priscilla on weekly dates, and they must arrange their schedule in a way that will allow them 100 minutes per week together -- alone and away from their offices.

Your finances will change with divorce: These tips can help

As you ponder the impact of divorce on your life, don't lose sight of the steps you can take to protect your finances during the process and after it reaches its completion. The steps you take up front allow you to avoid additional problems in the future.

Here are five tips to help protect your finances during this difficult time:

  • Get help: Don't assume you know everything, as there are people who can help you plan for the financial impact of divorce. For example, your tax professional can discuss the impact of divorce on your tax situation. This can save you money now and in the future.
  • Make note of your assets and debts: You don't want to go into the divorce process until you make a list of your assets and debts, as these will be a big part of your negotiation. Note: Don't hide anything from the court.
  • Collect financial records: This includes things such as bank statements, retirement account statements, pay stubs, tax returns and insurance policy documents. It's better to have too many records on your side than not enough.
  • Open accounts in your own name: You may have used joint accounts in the past, but this is no longer something you want to do. Open an individual bank account, retirement account and credit card.
  • Create a budget: This process will give you a clear idea of your income and expenses, along with any changes you must make in the future to make ends meet. Your financial situation is likely to change in many ways after divorce, so you need a budget to keep you on track.

Think about insurance coverage during, not after, divorce

Texas spouses who are ending a marriage can quickly become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of choices that need to be made in a relatively short period of time, and under considerable stress. That can lead to important issues falling by the wayside. One of those issues is health insurance, and how those spouses who rely on their partner's employment benefits need to ensure continuing coverage after a divorce takes place. 

Some fortunate spouses can simply sign on to their own employment benefits, which is a simple process. Some can elect COBRA coverage, and keep their existing coverage for as long as three years. Others will need to shop for new coverage on the open market, which can be incredibly confusing. 

Earning potential of parents: What divorce courts look at

Whenever a case involves children, a court has to ensure that the best interest of the child is protected at all times. As such, during a divorce, the court needs to determine the earning potential of each of the parents before deciding on child support. This means the court has to establish what each parent can pay toward the financial support of the children.

While one may assume that the parent who has the larger responsibility in regards to physical custody will be the one that earns the right to receive support, a court will always consider all the facts. A Texas court considers the most current wages earned, but may decide that one of the parents is not earning to their potential and will manipulate the calculations by assigning a higher income to that parent. For example, if one of the parties is of the opinion that the other party is deliberately underemployed in order to receive more child support, the court may decide to impute income to the underemployed person.

Did a financial upturn factor into your decision to divorce?

Not all Texas spouses choose to end their marriage based on a single traumatic experience or many years of turmoil. In quite a few cases, the decision to divorce was made based on financial matters. Notably, many divorce experts believe that a spouse's odds of divorce increase during times of financial stability. Money brings opportunity, including the opportunity to move away from a faltering marriage. 

There are other ways that finances impact a marriage. Shifting gender roles place many couples at odds over what their respective roles should be in the family. More and more, women are becoming less willing to set aside their own careers to tend to family and household management. While that might be perfectly fine for younger couples, it can throw a real wrench in the works for older couples who have chosen a more traditional path for many years. When a wife re-enters the workplace, she suddenly has a level of choice, opportunity and power that she might not have had in the home. 

Temporary divorce orders -- necessary or not?

Marriage is a partnership characterized by many ups and downs. Unfortunately, in many cases, there may be more bad times than good or one bad incident that can destroy everything. The problems that often lead to someone asking for a divorce are more often than not emotionally driven, making it very difficult to think clearly about important matters at hand.

During an emotionally loaded time, Texas couples in the midst of divorce may benefit from acknowledging the need to focus on the various financial and legal decisions to be made. Finalizing the divorce often takes months but can even take years. This is why a temporary divorce order may be needed to keep things as they are until a settlement has been reached.

Your past addiction does not need to affect your future

Addiction is a disease, and it is something that anyone can be a victim of at some point in their lives. Alcohol addiction and substance abuse can have severe consequences in regard to the relationships we have and our ability to care for ourselves and our children. This is why it is often the case that children get taken away from parents when their parents are abusing alcohol or drugs.

However, when parents get clean from their substance abuse, it is possible for them to turn their life around and develop a stronger relationship with their children. Many parents who have lost custody of their children in the past might think that attempting to regain custody would be hopeless. However, it is important to know that it is very possible if you can prove to the child custody courts that it would be in the best interests of the child.

How to prepare for financial needs during a divorce

As Texas spouses prepare to bring their marriage to a close, numerous tasks compete for their attention. Financial matters rank high on that list, and rightfully so. What is often overlooked, however, is the short-term needs that must be addressed between filing for divorce and finalizing that process. Without proper planning, covering living expenses and legal fees during that period of time can be challenging. 

The best place to begin is by thinking about the big picture in terms of both family finances and personal finances. Knowing what to expect in terms of property division and alimony and/or child support can help both spouses better understand what their financial landscapes will look like after a divorce. It's also important to list expected expenses that will occur before the divorce is made final. 

Vernier & Associates, PLLC Vernier & Associates, PLLC

Vernier & Associates, PLLC
2441 High Timbers Drive Suite 110
The Woodlands, TX 77380

Phone: 281-882-3271
Fax: 832-585-0955

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