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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 Divorce

Unemployment Effect on Divorce RateThere are many factors that contribute to divorce, and more and more studies are being released as of late that point to non-traditional reasons for marital dissolution. One such study, as reported by the Huffington Post, examines martial satisfaction and employment status. "The examination found that when men are not employed, it heightens the possibility of either the man or woman leaving the marriage." The study did not report similar findings if it was the wife that was unemployed or laid off instead of the husband. With effects of the Great Recession still rippling through American society, this study would indicate that many marriages have come to an end because of unemployment or job loss.

The unemployment rate, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is dramatically higher today than it was a decade ago. In January 2003, for example, the unemployment rate was 5.8, a typical number for months that year. In 2013, on the other hand, the unemployment rate was 7.9. This was down from the height of the Great Recession, when the January 2010 unemployment rate clocked in at 9.8, nearly a ten-year high (the unemployment rate was the highest its been this decade in March and April of 2010, at 9.9 percent). According to the Census Bureau, however, the divorce rate actually declined from 1990 to 2009; from 4.7 per 1,000 people to 3.4. This was the most recent year for which this data was available.

Whether or not this data matches the study, researchers at the Ohio State University, led by Liana Sayer, found conclusively that employment status DID affect divorce rates. It may not, however, be directly dependent on employment status, but the effects of unemployment. "If marital dissatisfaction is great," reports the Huffington Post, "the loss of a job is just another reason to end the relationship." There are also emotional or societal effects of unemployment and divorce, such as "heightened negative emotions [and] broken societal expectations."

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Posted on in Divorce

divorce-mens-healthDivorce is rarely described as easy.  Despite the frequency of divorce, the impact of divorce is often significant.  And it seems to be particularly difficult for men.  An article in the Journal Of Men's Health, a peer-reviewed publication that addresses the disparity in life expectancy between men and women, discusses how divorce affects men's psychological, biological, social, and spiritual health.

Psychological Health

From a psychological and behavioral standpoint, unmarried men are more prone to depression, anxiety and substance abuse.  Men who divorce have lower levels of happiness and self-acceptance.  In fact, the article states that divorced or separated men are ten times more likely to undergo psychiatric care than married men.

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Little-Known Divorce Clause Causes Heartache in TexasA case earlier this year in Texas highlights a little-known immigration clause when it comes to divorce, according to Fox News. When Evangelina Zapata married Steve Summers, he signed an affidavit "vowing to support her so that she would not become a ‘public charge,'" Fox reports. Zapata was born in Mexico, and Summers needed to sign the affidavit as part of Zapata's quest for citizenship. The affidavit is formally known as Form I-864, published by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. According to NOLO, the affidavit is "a legally enforceable contract, meaning that either the government or the sponsored immigrant can take the sponsor to court if the sponsor fails to provide adequate support." NOLO states that the sponsor is responsible until the immigrant becomes a U.S. citizen, or has "earned 40 work quarters credited toward Social Security [about 10 years of work], dies, or permanently leaves the United States."

The little-known clause of the matter is that the sponsor, according to Fox, is still on the hook for the person he or she sponsored—even if the marriage dissolves. Divorce is not a reason for the sponsor to not fulfill his obligations. According to NOLO, "yes, a divorced immigrant spouse could decide to sit on a couch all day and sue the former spouse for support." NOLO suggests having a separate contract that states the immigrant spouse would not do this, but admits that the courts may not uphold a contract agreement such as this.

This, of course, is exactly what's happening in the Summers case. The couple divorced four years ago, according to Fox, and the affidavit "is being held up by Zapata in her push to get Summers to pay her alimony. She has sued Summers in federal court for breaking the contract to support her at 125 percent of the poverty level." The problem, as one attorney told Fox, is that people sign these documents, they get filed, and people forget. And then they're on the hook for something they hadn't even considered after divorce.

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Posted on in Family Law

Divorce in Texas- The BasicsKeeping kids sane during a divorce—especially one that's particularly nasty—can be one of the greatest challenges for divorcing couples. There's no shortage of psychological writings and evidence that points to the fact that divorce can be bad for children, though recent reports state that if the marriage was particularly difficult it may actually be better for kids that their parents divorce.

An article reported by Scientific American earlier this year stated that "researchers have found that only a relatively small percentage of children experienced serious problems in the wake of divorce or, later, as adults." Scientific American cites a Pennsylvania State University study that followed children of divorce "into later childhood, adolescence or the teenage years, assessing their academic achievement, emotional and behavior problems, delinquency, self-concept and social relationships." The study found that children of divorced parents had similar results to those from intact families, "suggesting that the vast majority of children endure divorce well."

That's good news for parents who are considering divorce—but there's still the question as to how to break the news to the kids and just how much information the kids should know. According to the Huffington Post, keeping the details of your split private—not allowing the children the details of your broken marriage—is likely much better for the kids and their future relationship with each parent. Knowing that their parents can't be together, and are no longer in love, is enough, clinical psychologist Edward D. Farber told the Huffington Post. "Your child has absolutely no need to know the reasons Mom and Dad don't love each other," he said.

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The cost of divorce doesn't always just refer to the price tag for an attorney's services. Especially for marriages in which one spouse was the primary earner, the process of sorting out the financials is difficult and sometimes complicated. Oftentimes women get stuck with a financial burden that's too much to bear. Knowing what to do before a divorce is essential for either spouse, but it's especially important that the non-primary earner take steps before a divorce to maintain financial solvency after the split. According to WIFE.org, "divorce is the largest single financial transaction of most people's lives." Important first steps include canceling all joint accounts and opening private accounts that your spouse doesn't have access to. In the same vein, before you separate (especially if the divorce is your idea, it's not necessarily slated to be amicable, and you're not the primary earner) WIFE.org suggests to "use joint funds to repair your automobile and home, buy clothes for yourself and your children, and other family expenses." Starting off the split with joint expenses paid will save arguments down the line as to who should be responsible for paying them.  Maintaining Financial Solvency Through Divorce IMAGE

Having said that, if you didn't prepare financially for divorce before the process was in full swing, it doesn't mean it's too late. According to CNN Money Magazine, the three most important "fixes" to financial insolvency after divorce are to "follow the money, reschedule retirement, and keep renting." To follow the money is to carefully (obsessively, even) track what you're spending and how you're spending it. Adjusting to a single income after becoming accustomed to two isn't necessarily an easy process. You can do "a thorough analysis of cash flow using a program like Quicken," according to CNN.

Retirement plans will likely have to be flexible upon divorce—that may mean working another five years, or planning to put away more into a 401k or other retirement plan each year. Another life plan that may have to be reconsidered is home ownership. For many divorced or divorcing couples it's smarter to keep renting and put the money you may have used on a down payment away for emergencies.

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Posted on in Divorce

There are several reasons to get divorced. There are money issues, varying degrees of interest in starting a family, arguments about lifestyles and social events, and differences regarding where to live and what expectations are of a spouse. And yet there's one disagreement in which it's more difficult to find compromise than the rest—regarding each other's sexual preferences. According to Psychology Today, if "two people in a monogamous relationship are not in agreement on sexual matters—when to have it, where to have it, or how to have it—there is rarely a satisfactory compromise," unlike other arguments that can often be resolved with a little give and take on both sides. Mismatched Sex Lives Lead to Divorce IMAGE

Isadora Alman, writing for Psychology Today, says that at least to her, the obvious solution would seem to be to advise the members of the disagreeing couple to seek sexual satisfaction elsewhere, rather than trying to change something so deeply engrained. However, simple as this solution may seem on paper, "sadly, this is not a solution that works for many, if any," she says. While "a preference for a certain amount of sex at certain times and in particular ways can be modified by an act of will—sometimes," according to Alman, sometimes people in disparate relationships such as this need to seek what they crave elsewhere—even if they decide to remain monogamous. A need to be touched, for example, can be soothed by children, an affectionate pet, or massages. "One's partner does not have to satisfy all the person's emotional needs nor does sex have to carry the total burden of their expression," according to Alman.

And yet there may be some recourse for couples with mismatched sexual libidos and lifestyles, according to Alternet.org. One thing to try is to rethink the "circumstances in which you have sex," according to Alternet. "Look at the times and the circumstances when you've been having sex… and then look at the times and circumstances when you want to have sex. Then try to tailor your sex life around the times and situations when you're feeling frisky."

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The worst of a divorce may make you sick—and leave you uninsured to pay for it, according to US News and World Report. According to a study released by the University of Michigan and reported in US News and World Report, "about 115,000 women lose their private health insurance after a divorce." Researchers came to the conclusion after analyzing data from 1996 to 2007, on women aged 26 to 64. There are approximately 1 million divorces in the United States each year, and a majority of women receive health insurance coverage through their husband's employer. Lead author of the study Bridget Lavelle said in a news release that this alone makes the impact on women "quite substantial" in the event of a divorce. Women Likely to Lose Insurance After Divorce IMAGE The study specifically pointed to the fact that about 65,000 women lose all health insurance coverage in the months following divorce. Other women are subsequently able to qualify for low-income insurance plans such as Medicaid. The figure points to the fact that six months after divorce "nearly one-quarter of women who were insured as dependents on their husband's employer-based coverage are uninsured." Women with their own employer-based insurance are less likely to lose coverage (11 percent instead of 17 percent), but are not immune. New financial hardships that occur because of the divorce may make it difficult for women to afford whatever share they were paying of their employer-based plan. Divorced women aren't the only people who lack health insurance plans, of course: according to the University of Michigan National Poverty Center, as of 2011 "nearly 50 million American lacked health insurance coverage, leaving many individuals with limited access to medical care and vulnerable to acquiring medical debt." Figuring out financial details of your divorce, and how to keep important assets like insurance after divorce, are questions best explored with the expertise of a qualified attorney. If you or someone you know is considering divorce, contact a dedicated Texas divorce attorney today.

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