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Fort Worth Family Law Blog

Planning for a divorce

Married couples in Texas may be interested to know that about 2 million divorces occur every year in the U.S. While married people may be reluctant to plan for a divorce, understanding the separation process and what may happen can help lower stress if the unthinkable does occur. Planning is a particularly important part of getting through the divorce process successfully.

Divorcing couples should expect to go through three different phases. There is filing the required paperwork, discovery and disposition. In cases in which couples want to avoid going to court, there are many options, including collaborative divorce and mediation.

Common reasons couples end a marriage

Couples going down the aisle in Texas are less likely to part ways these days since the overall divorce rate is on the decline. Still, there are times when marriages come to a premature end. In order to develop a better understanding of the common reasons couples split, researchers interviewed divorced individuals who initially participated in prevention and relationship enhancement program (PREP) courses to learn why their marriages failed.

Even though all respondents had participated in PREP courses, some of them cited little or no premarital education as one of the reasons why they decided to start the divorce process. Religious differences and a lack of family support were among some of the other lower-ranking divorce reasons given. Health problems also played a role in some divorces since illness often requires one partner to step up and assume a larger role in a marriage. Nearly a quarter of survey participants cited emotional and/or physical abuse as the major reason for their splits.

Why establishing paternity is key to receiving custody

Though you and you partner never married, you raised a child together. Your relationship proves to head for separation, and you worry you will lose all rights to see your child.

In Texas and across the United States, many fathers do not initially establish paternity for multiple reasons. Perhaps they believed that because their relationship with their child's mother was strong, there was no point in establishing paternity. Maybe you were very young when you became a father, and putting your name on the birth certificate was terrifying and confusing. In any circumstance, to share custody of your child after a separation, you must establish paternity.

Studies show a wife's illness could raise divorce risk

If the wife in a marriage develops cancer or another serious health issue, such as heart disease, the risk of divorce increases; however, there is no increase in divorce risk if the husband has these conditions. A number of studies have found this to be the case, including one published in 2015 in "The Journal of Health and Social Behavior." One study found that if a woman has a stroke or develops heart disease, it raises her divorce risk even more than cancer.

Experts theorize that one reason this happens is because women tend to provide more care for men. When they become too ill to continue providing this care, the marriage is more likely to end. Women also tend to have more of a support system of friends and family members than men do, providing a safety net in the case of divorce.

How to talk to your child about their custody preference

When you and your spouse first announce your decision to divorce, you probably won’t be able to answer all of your child’s questions about their future.

In most cases, parents will need to sit down with their child later on to discuss the child custody arrangement. Here are a few important aspects to consider covering when the time comes.

Studies assess relationships with mixed attractiveness

People in Texas have likely seen how social standards of attractiveness and beauty have a significant impact on people's lives, including the romantic or sexual sphere. Many people are attracted to those considered the most beautiful according to societal values, but most individuals eventually develop relationships with people considered equally attractive.

Various researchers have delved into the question of how differing attractiveness levels may affect a relationship. According to one study, women who said they were much more attractive than their male partners were more likely to feel uncommitted in the relationship and flirt with others. However, this kind of self-reported study in which people assess their own attractiveness may not measure physical attractiveness as clearly as it does contempt or dislike in the relationship, especially since both factors are likely to lead to divorce. Other research found that less attractive partners were more likely to develop problematic jealous or controlling behaviors.

Pitfalls to avoid when dividing the home in a divorce

Couples in Texas who are getting a divorce and who own a home will need to divide it, but they should beware of some common pitfalls in doing so. For example, some people will fight to keep the house without realistically considering whether they can afford it. This was the case for one woman who spent six months negotiating to keep the home before realizing a better solution was to sell it and split the proceeds.

According to one attorney, while it is possible that a couple might amicably agree to sell the house as soon as they are able, this more often happens at the order of a judge. Another option is agreeing to sell the house in a year or two. If the couple are parents, they might want to combine this with a nesting arrangement if they can afford it and the divorce is relatively amicable. Nesting allows the children to stay in the home while the parents take turns living there.

Financially divorce-proofing a marriage

Texas residents who are facing a divorce as a result of financial strife might wonder what went wrong. Because of financial trouble and disagreements over how to handle money, many marriages end prematurely. According to a 2017 study from Experian, 59 percent of divorced couples cited financial problems as playing a role in their divorce. A fifth said financial problems played a major role while just over a quarter specifically named their spouse's credit scores as a source of financial distress.

Some experts say that the dating phase is when people should be discussing their financial values. Being aligned on the financial front from the start can make a big difference when it comes to avoiding marital strife. It's also wise to seek advice on finances by meeting with a therapist or certified financial planner. A third party could be particularly helpful because there will be no emotions attached to his or her advice.

How to split the 401(k) when a marriage ends

When going through a divorce in Texas, it is important to properly divide retirement accounts. To split a 401(k) or similar account, a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) will need to be drafted. The order will then be approved by a judge and reviewed by a plan administrator before the money can be transferred out of the account. Usually, only contributions and appreciation that occurs after the marriage begins is split in a divorce.

It is important to have the QDRO because it will not trigger a taxable event in the eyes of the IRS. The money can be transferred directly to an IRA, and the person receiving the cash would not have to pay any taxes or penalties.

Seeking the marital home in a divorce requires thought

One of the more common issues for divorcing couples in Texas is determining which party receives the marital home. Though retaining the home can often be financially advantageous, there are a number of factors to consider.

The first step is to determine if the party can afford the home after divorce. In many cases, the income of both married spouses is used to make a mortgage payment. After the divorce, only one income will be used. Besides the mortgage payment, taxes and homeowner insurance must be considered as well as the monthly utility costs.

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    Genevieve Barr

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    Harry Trey Harris III

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