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Texas Divorce Code, grounds for divorce, Texas divorce lawyer, Austin divorce lawyerAlthough Texas does allow for no-fault divorces, the Texas Family Code also allows for fault ground divorces. One of those grounds is adultery. In TFC  6.003, adultery in a divorce proceeding is defined as "voluntary sexual intercourse of a married person with one not the husband or wife of the offender". It's important to note even after the parties have separated and divorce has been filed, any acts would still legally be considered adultery.

Accusations of adultery are not enough to bring to court. You must provide solid evidence of the adultery. Text messages, emails, receipts, photos and any other evidence should be gathered and presented to the court. Adultery is also grounds for a judge to award a disproportionate award of the marital estate. TFC 7.001  states, "In a decree of divorce or annulment, the court shall order a division of the estate of the parties in a manner that the court deems just and right, having due regard for the rights of each party and any children of the marriage." In a recent case that occurred in The Woodlands, an appeals court awarded the wife 81 percent of the marital estate after she proved that her husband had committed adultery. The couple decided to separate in March and the wife moved out of the marital home. The wife had hoped to reconcile and suggested counseling, which the husband refused. In June, she suspected he was having an affair, but really had no evidence at this point. The wife filed for divorce in August. In September, after finding another woman's underthings in the master bedroom of the marital home, the woman hired an investigator to gather proof of the husband's infidelity. Although the wife had already moved out and filed for divorce before she was able to obtain evidence that her husband was cheating, the court ruled that the husband was at fault for the breakup of the marriage.  The marital estate was worth $1.6 million. The wife received over $1.3 million and the husband received a little over $300,000. If you have discovered your spouse has been cheating and you are considering a divorce, contact an experience Austin family law attorney to make sure you receive the divorce settlement that you deserve.

divorce settlement, debt, jail, Austin divorce lawyer, Austin divorce attorneyOn April 25, 2013, Cherilyn Kinney, of Hunt County Texas was granted a divorce from her husband Robert Kinney. The final decree was May 22, 2013. As part of the divorce settlement, Cherilyn was to pay Robert $40,000. This amount was referred to as a debt in the settlement paperwork. The divorce judge gave her six months to pay the funds to Robert. The final due date was on November 22, 2013.

On November 23, 2013, because Cherilyn had failed to make the payment, Robert filed a contempt of court charge against her. A hearing was held on February 7, 2014, and the judge found Cherilyn in contempt. He ordered her held at the Hunt County jail until the entire $40,000 payment was made.

Her attorneys immediately filed a writ of habeas corpus with the Appeals Court in Dallas. Habeas corpus means a person is required to be brought before a judge or court who can decide if the person is being detained or held unlawfully or without just cause.

 The Appeals Court threw out the lower court's contempt order. In making its ruling, the court cited three Texas laws:

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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.

child custody battle, Austin family lawyer, child abuse, Austin Texas, divorce attorneyA Fulton County, Georgia judge has ordered the mother involved in a bitter custody dispute to pay $195,000 in legal fees to her ex-husband's attorney. According to an article in the Daily Report, the judge issued the ruling after announcing that the child-abuse accusations that the mother alleged against the father were not credible and has determined that the father will retain primary custody of the child.

The parents were divorced in 2009, when a child psychologist filed a suspicion of child abuse report based on the child talking about "secret stuff" at the father's house. The father was arrested and charged with child molestation in Georgia. The father also maintained a home in Colorado and was arrested and charged there too, after the mother filed a complaint in that state. The Fulton County district attorney's office conducted a two-year investigation, but dismissed the charges in 2011. Colorado authorities also dismissed their charges. A year later, in 2012, after only seeing his daughter once in three years, the father filed a motion for custody petition. In 2013, based upon recommendations from a therapist chosen by the mother, a custody evaluator and the child's guardian ad litem, reunification therapy between the child and her father was begun. A month later, in May 2013, the mother stopped the therapy and fired her attorney. In June, the judge granted temporary custody of the child to the father. This decision ignited protests at the courthouse. A final hearing was held in October, with the protesters returning to picket outside the courthouse during the six day trial. During the trial, the mother's attorney claimed there were over 20 images of child pornography found on the father's computer. However, in his decision, the judge pointed out the mother's computer expert witness testified there was only one image he thought was child pornography, but also admitted during testimony that he could not say what the ages of the people in the image were. The judge also signaled out the mother's child therapist expert witness, writing that she "inappropriately gave opinions about the child without ever having interacted with the child." Regarding ordering the mother to pay the father's attorney fees, the judge wrote, "While this Court notes that efforts to level the playing field are generally viewed favorably in the context of domestic cases, there never should have been a playing field to begin with in this case." If you are involved in a child custody dispute, contact an experienced Austin family law attorney today to ensure that you and your children's rights are protected in the courtroom.

domestic violence, financial stress, recession, abuse, violence, Austin, divorce, lawyer, attorneyFinancial stress and economic downturns may have serious consequences for victims of domestic and family violence. As tensions rise due to financial pressure, victims may be subject to more severe forms of violence, or an increased frequency of violence.

In one 2012 study, researchers found that eight out of 10 domestic violence shelters in the United States reported an increase in women seeking help following the economic downturn in 2008. Unfortunately, although demand for help was up, funding for services and prevention efforts were down overall nationwide. This lead to many abuse victims staying with their abuser for longer periods of time. In fact, 74 percent of victims who participated in the study reported that they stayed with their abuser longer due to economic concerns. Though the weak economy cannot be blamed for creating abusers, the study did find that it lead to an increase in the frequency and severity of abuse. According to shelters, 70 percent of women listed financial issues as a factor in their abuse, while 45 percent named job loss as a contributing factor. Unfortunately, these same factors led to the reduction of services by many shelters across the country. Nearly half of all participating shelters reported they had to cut services, with 40 percent of those cuts occurring to services such as transitional housing, individualized support, or advocacy efforts due to financial constraints. Additionally, many shelters were forced to cut child care, which can make it more difficult for abuse victims to find jobs. Domestic violence is a serious issue. While it can be incredibly stressful and frightening, there are services and help available to you if you are a victim of domestic violence. A qualified attorney can help you with legal concerns, including getting an order of protection if necessary. If you are a victim of domestic violence, contact an Austin family law attorney today.

prenuptial agreement IMAGEPrior to getting married, it is important to discuss things such as potential children, jobs, and where you both will live. One subject that might be harder to talk about is about money. That is especially the case if one spouse comes into the relationship with a better financial position such as higher wages, property or a possible inheritance. That spouse may want to protect their assets in the future by drafting a prenuptial agreement.

There are certain things that a properly written prenup can achieve. It is generally used to specify how assets shall be divided on the chance that the marriage ends in divorce. It can also dictate how certain separate or marital assets can be characterized, managed and controlled. This is essential if either spouse owns a family business or home prior to becoming married. Also if either spouse has a large amount of debt, it can protect the other from being financially responsible. A prenup may also dictate if a spouse is eligible to receive alimony or direct how much support can be awarded.

There are other aspects of a divorce which cannot be changed by a prenuptial agreement. Child support, custody and visitation cannot be negatively impacted by any prenuptial agreement. It is also incapable of including any action that is against state or federal law.

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texas-child-supportThe State of Texas had a record-breaking year with child support collection, topping out at $3.6 billion for fiscal year 2013 which ended on August 31. The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) of Texas reports that those benefits aided 900,000 Texas families. In 2012, the average amount of collections per Texas child support employee was $1.28 million.

More than $27 billion in child support payments has been collected since December 2002, when current Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott took office. According to the Texas OAG, their Child Support Division is number one in the country for child support collections, tripling the national average of 37 percent. Texas collections have exponentially increased over time.

"This success not only helps children all across the state, but it also ensures that parents – not the taxpayers – financially support their children," said Attorney General Abbott.

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