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prenuptial agreementIt is rare that a prenuptial agreement is dismissed as invalid in divorce proceedings. But the recent case in New York where a the wife of a Long Island real estate mogul convinced the judge that the prenup she signed before their marriage was invalid is considered precedent setting in legal circles. Elizabeth Petrakis told the court that she was coerced to sign the agreement, only four days before the wedding, because her husband, Peter Petrakis, threatened to call off the wedding. Petrakis said she felt pressured because her father had already spent $40,000 in wedding costs.

In the agreement, Peter Petrakis would keep everything if they should divorce. Elizabeth Petrakis said her husband told her he would tear up the agreement as soon as they had a child. But two children later, he still did not tear it up. Elizabeth Petrakis has been arguing the validity of the agreement for seven years. Two prior Nassau County courts said that Peter Petrakis "fraudulently induced" Elizabeth to sign the agreement and those decisions were affirmed by a Brooklyn appellate court. So what are some of the grounds where a prenuptial agreement could be overturned?
  1. Fraud is one reason why a judge could throw out an agreement. If one party fails to make full disclosure of all their assets, the court considers that fraud.
  2. If someone can prove they signed an agreement while under duress or with coercion, the agreement may be thrown out. Each state does have different standards of what is considered duress or coercion.
  3. If an agreement was signed when a person lacked mental capability, a judge may order it invalid. For example, if the person was under the influence of drugs when the agreement was signed, they may not have fully comprehended what they were signing.
  4. Improper filing of paperwork or incorrectly drafted can also end up making a prenup invalid.
  5. If you sign a prenup without having your own, impartial legal representation can invalidate an agreement.
  6. What the court would consider asinine provisions – such as not having to pay child support in the event of a divorce – will more than likely have a judge stamp the prenup as invalid.
If you are planning a marriage and are discussing drawing up a prenuptial agreement with your future spouse, it's important to have your own independent council. Contact an Austin family law attorney to represent your best interests in this process.

Posted on in Family Law

reason to divorceMarriage requires upkeep. Romance, intimacy, and communication are three things that can become more difficult as time passes.  Issues and arguments will come up in every marriage. However, in some cases, you and your spouse may decide that divorce is the best option for you.

One cause of divorce is infidelity.  The bonds of love and trust are often irrevocably damaged when cheating occurs. In Texas, if you choose to file a fault based divorce, infidelity can affect things such as property division and alimony during your divorce settlement.

Another possible cause of divorce is physical or emotional abuse.  It can be harder to split from someone who exerts their power with cruelty. No one should excuse this kind of behavior and the abused spouse should seek to safely separate from the abusive spouse. An order of protection or a restraining order can be helpful in this situation.

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Going through a divorce is a hard enough thing to do on its own, throw children into the mix and it can become an extremely stressful situation.  Many people give advice on what to say to your kids when telling them about your divorce, "I will always love you", etc.  However, not many people know what you should not say when breaking the news to your children.

LaraDon't share too many details

Remember that your children are in fact children.  They do not need to be let in on the dramatic details and reasons for your divorce.  In many cases, kids will ask questions about what caused it.  If the questions become too much, you can always tell them that some of the reasons are "adult in nature."  Try to answer their questions without divulging too much information.

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A divorce court appoints Gardians at Litem, or GALs, to represent the best interest of a child during their parents' divorce. If a divorce goes smoothly, the parties, usually through their attorneys, are able to reach a mutually acceptable custody arrangement. However, it is not uncommon for divorces to turn even the most amicable parties into ferocious adversaries with children caught in the middle. RigersIf the divorce is hotly contested and there are children involved, there is a fear that there is an inherent risk that the parties do not have the child's best in mind. For example, in a fight over split custody, one parent may accuse the other of having an unsanitary or dangerous house that is unfit for children. Obviously, this is an allegation and it may or may not be true, but most judges will not disregard a potential source of harm to a child. This often results in divorce judges being faced with competing stories, each told with the emotion and ardor that usually accompanies divorce cases. What is a judge to do? Enter the GAL. The judge will appoint a GAL to act as an advocate for the child and ensure that the ultimate resolution is in the best interest of the child. In the example above, the GAL would probably inspect the residence to substantiate the allegation and report the findings to the judge. Again, the goal is not to prove which parent is telling the truth or lying, but to ensure that the child is in a safe place. The Texas Guardian at Litem statutes, Texas Family Code §107.001 at seq., set forth the powers and duties of a GALs. If a judge orders a GAL to represent a child, it is very important that you have an experienced Texas family law attorney on your side to ensure that your interests are represented adequately.

Image Courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/freedigitalphotos.com

Posted on in Divorce

Divorced parents may wonder whether their adolescent children behave the way they do because they are just at that age or because of the divorce. The truth is that it may be both, according to an article in the Huffington Post.

LeeviThe teen years are a time when many kids start to become independent and establish an identity for themselves. This process won't simply happen overnight. In adolescence, children often begin to challenge their parents over chores and other tasks. But if a parent has built a reasonably good relationship with his or her child in the past, it is more likely that their relationship will continue to be civil.

Divorce often makes home life more difficult. Parents have their own worries to deal with and they may be stressed about being a single parent. The loss of the family unit greatly affects both parents and teens. While it may be relieving that they don't have to see their parents' fights any longer, many teens experience other problems in the aftermath of a divorce.

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The days of living separately before marriage are long gone in the United States, according to a recent Center for Disease Control (CDC) report  that was published on CBS News. The rise in cohabitation before marriage is initiated mostly by women, according to the CDC; "48 percent of women were living with their significant other but not married to them." This is, according to CBS, a "sharp increase from the 43 percent reported in 2002 and the 35 percent that reported the same situation in 1995." A sociologist at John Hopkins University told USA Today that before the recent numbers were released, it was thought that the United States "has long had the shortest cohabiting relationships of any wealthy nation." And now these relationships are lengthening.Cohabitation on the Rise, Can Lead to Divorce IMAGE

The CDC findings were calculated after following the relationships of nearly 12,300 women between the ages of 15 and 44 between 2006 and 2010. "Seventy-four percent of 30-year-olds said that they had cohabited with a partner. Fifty-five percent said they did it by the age of 25," according to CBS News.

While conventional wisdom might dictate that living together before marriage is a good idea to determine if it's possible for a couple to work together in the long run, a 2009 study reported on by NBC News found that "couples who shack up before tying the know are more likely to get divorced." In 2009, nearly 70 percent of couples cohabited before marriage—and this could lead to getting married for the wrong reasons. Feeling as if there's no way out of the bad relationship after cohabiting, the study suggested that people moved into marriage without being sure that the person was "the one." This, of course, can lead to divorce.

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Posted on in Family Law

division of propertyA major aspect of any divorce is the division of marital property. Tensions can run high especially if a decision was made a long time ago that one spouse would be the primary bread winner.  While the paychecks might have just one name, Texas is a community property state, meaning that all assets belong to both spouses equally.  The same is true for debts that the couple has acquired during the course of the marriage.

There are certain factors which may alter the ruling of a divorce court.  Some assets may be considered separate property from the estate that is divided during a divorce.  It is necessary to have strong and conclusive evidence that the assets are protected from division.  This can include property that one spouse has acquired before the wedding.  It can also be a gift or inheritance that was received by only one spouse during the marriage.

Another way that the division of property can be shifted in the favor of one spouse is through the court's decision.  During the distribution of assets, the court can look to the education, age and health of each partner which will give an indication of the earning potential of each separately.  They can also see who has custody of the children, who has more separate property, and who was the cause of the divorce.

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Posted on in Family Law
Charleston Williams, one of the adults who was arrested in relation to the case surrounding the boy's death. Charleston Williams, one of the adults who was arrested in relation to the case surrounding the boy's death.[/caption]

The father and stepmother of a San Antonio five-year-old boy were recently arrested in connection to his death. Recent details stated that the boy had only been in the couple's custody for six months.

Crystal Williams, 27, and Charleston Williams, 25, took Josiah Williams into custody after his biological mother was sent to prison. The couple now faces charges of felony injury to a child and it is unknown whether or not either of them has a lawyer.

Josiah was found unresponsive in his family's home on Thursday, December 27 with two black eyes, bruises, and cuts all over his body, according the arrest warrant affidavit. He also had gashes inside his lips and he showed signs of "prolonged malnutrition," which was proven later when it was found that the five-year-old boy weighed only 38 pounds.

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