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TX divorce lawyerThere are a number of issues that couples must address before a court will finalize their divorce, one of which is how their marital property, or the assets that were acquired during the marriage, should be divided. Under Texas law, divorcing couples must divide their marital assets in a fair and equitable way, an endeavor that is only possible if the parties have a thorough understanding of the current monetary value of the assets in question, which can vary significantly depending on the date that is chosen for valuation.

Determining an asset’s valuation date can be a difficult and often contentious process, so if you and your spouse have decided to file for divorce and own unique or valuable marital assets, it is important to contact an experienced high asset divorce lawyer who can ensure that those assets are properly appraised and divided fairly upon the finalization of your divorce.

Establishing Value

The valuation of marital assets can be established in a number of different ways, including by:

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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.

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.

Keeping your marriage healthy in order to avoid filing for divorce may depend on both parties in the couple completing some simple psychological exercises. As we head into the New Year, many couples will be making resolutions to work on themselves and their marriages; keeping these few simple thoughts in mind may help save your marriage.

healthy marriage According to the American Psychological Association (APA), nearly 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce. Couples who spend some time focusing on the following five psychological tasks set forth by the APA, however, stand a better chance of beating the odds. In order to help make a marriage work, couples should:

  • Establish a new identity as a couple that is separate, though not estranged from, the families they grew up in;
  • Establish boundaries that protect their individuality while still working on building a sense of intimacy and togetherness;
  • Establish a healthy and pleasurable sexual relationship, and then nourish and protect it against intrusions from family and stress
  • Continue to protect your intimacy and closeness as a couple even after the birth of children, while learning to deal with the stresses that parenthood brings;
  • Practice good communication as a way to establish the marriage as a safe haven from the stress and pressure of the world, where both parties are able to express their differences and frustrations.

Unfortunately, there are times when no amount of work, communication, or counseling can save a marriage. If you find yourself in a situation where you are considering filing for divorce, it is important that you have a qualified attorney on your side. Contact one of the experienced family law attorneys at Powers and Kerr, PLLC today. We can help ensure that your divorce proceeds smoothly and that you receive the custody, support and property that you are entitled to by law.

A recent study, conducted by the Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions (RIA), has linked the differences in a spouse's alcohol consumption habits to divorce. Kenneth Leonard, Ph.D., RIA director and lead author of the study stated,"Our results indicate that it is the difference between the couple's drinking habits, rather than the drinking itself, that leads to marital dissatisfaction, separation and divorce."

alcohol consumption and marriage Researchers followed 634 couples over the first nine years of their marriage and found that close to 50 percent of couples "where only one partner drank more heavily" would end up divorcing, while the divorce rates for other couples was only 30 percent. The study also found that the divorce rate remained the same for couples where both partners consumed large amounts of alcohol, showing that they were just as likely to stay together as couples who were not heavy drinkers or drinkers at all. "This research provides solid evidence to bolster the commonplace notion that heavy drinking by one partner can lead to divorce. Although some people might think that's a likely outcome, there was surprisingly little data to back up that claim until now," stated Leonard.

The study defined a heavy drinker as one who drank "six or more drinks at one time or drinking to intoxication." And while moderate alcohol consumption may not be harmful or lead to alcoholism, MedlinePlus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, reports that "about 18 million adult Americans are alcoholics or have alcohol problems." Alcoholism is a disease with four main features, including craving, loss of control, physical dependence and tolerance.

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Illinois Divorce AttorneyThe first holidays following a divorce can be a very difficult time for everyone. Families are forced to deal with visitation schedules, vacation, gift-giving and other issues that they have never had to deal with before. If this is your first holiday season following a divorce, there are several things you should consider doing to make your holidays flow more smoothly.

Create a Holiday Schedule

If you did not create a holiday schedule in your divorce settlement or custody agreement, make one ahead of time. Discuss plans with your ex-spouse calmly and reasonably, and be willing to give a bit. Remember, it should be about making your children happy, and try to resolve things as easily as possible.

Once you've worked out the holiday visitation schedule with your co-parent, create an easily readable version and post it for your children to see. This will help them be prepared for anything out of the ordinary.

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Posted on in Divorce

DivorceWhile it's a common fact that divorce rates have been on the rise since the 1950s, it's been several decades, according to the Huffington Post, since Americans have done much to curb the consequences of divorce on families. It was for the reason, reports the Huffington Post, that in 2001 interested parties "launched the Coalition for Divorce Reform (CDR), a non-partisan coalition of divorce reform leaders, marriage educators, domestic violence experts, scholars and concerned citizens." The goal of the coalition is to increase awareness about the consequences of divorce, and to put an end to a nearly-four-decade-long silence about frequent divorce.

By and large, the divorce rate has decreased since 2000, according to the Center for Disease Control, when it was 4.0 for every 1,000 people. In 2011, the most recent year for which data is available, that number had dropped to 3.6—yet this was an increase from 2008 and 2009 when the divorce rate per 1,000 people was slightly lower at 3.5. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics by the 1990s, the percentage of family households "maintained by divorced, separated, or never-married married had risen from about 70 percent in 1950 to 93 percent."

These statistics are why legislators in North Carolina and Georgia, according to the Huffington Post, are working with the CDR and are taking "bold and courageous steps toward reducing unnecessary divorce and promoting healthy marriages." North Carolina introduced the Healthy Marriage Act in March 2013, which reverses a law that mandates couples must live apart before divorcing. This law "encourages reconciliation and alleviates some of the financial burdens some couples face by being required to live apart." This act also changes the one-year waiting period to two, and requires couples that are parents to take courses on the impact of divorce on children, in addition to courses on conflict resolution and improving communication. The new bill does not change the waiting period for victims of domestic violence.

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Posted on in Child Custody
Pet Custody in Divorce IMAGEAccording to San Antonio Magazine, the "late author Nora Ephron once compared having a baby to throwing a hand grenade into a marriage." This could be one reason that more and more married couples are opting to not have children, and those that do are less likely to have more than two. According to the U.S. Census Bureau Statistical Abstract, in 1980 there were 28,528,000 families in America without their own children. By 2010, this number had risen dramatically to 43,615,000. Similarly, the average number of people per American family dropped from 3.29 in 1980 to 3.16 in 2010. Arguably, this makes divorce easier—couples without children who choose to split have far less issues to decide upon, namely child custody and child support. Yet couples without children aren't necessarily going it alone. For many childless couples, pets have become "replacement" children. And deciding pet custody issues can often be as complicated as child custody.

According to a publication released by the Michigan State University College of Law, "pets are considered to be personal property, capable of human ownership and control." This means that the laws regarding pet custody during divorce are meant to benefit the humans in the relationship, not necessarily the pet—unlike the laws regarding child custody. And yet because pets are beginning, in many cases, to be regarded as highly as children in some relationships, some courts are beginning to change the perception that pets should be regarded as property. These courts are, according to the MSU publication, "willing to treat pets more like children." This has, so far, been seen most often when considering custody of dogs. Courts have also, according to MSU, "awarded shared custody, visitation, and alimony payments to the owners."

If you or someone you know is considering divorce and have pet custody issues to decide upon, don't go through it alone. The most important first step is to contact a dedicated Texas family law attorney today. Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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