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Keep Calm and Parent On: 9 Essential Co-Parenting Tips During High Conflict Divorces

Posted on Nov 20, 2017 in Coparenting, Dallas Divorce, Divorce, Marriage, Parenting

Keep Calm and Parent On: 9 Essential Co-Parenting Tips During High Conflict Divorces

By Alissa Castro

During a high-conflict divorce, interacting with a future ex-spouse can be emotionally draining. However, when children are involved, minimizing contact – by phone, email or in person – typically isn’t an option. Parents need to communicate regularly about exchanges, soccer games, school projects, piano lessons, etc. – not to mention which parent will have possession of the children and when.

So how can couples successfully co-parent during the emotional rollercoaster of divorce – especially when one of the parents would rather escalate conflict than get along? At Connatser Family Law, we recommend the following nine tips.

Tip No. 1: Never forget – kids come first.

Divorce is stressful regardless of the circumstances, and it can be especially troubling for children. Before you say or do something, consider how those actions will affect the kids. Because children often have different perspectives than parents on topics during divorce, it can also be helpful to schedule time for children to meet with a family therapist or member of the clergy to discuss any concerns.

Find more helpful resources to help kids cope in this past post.

Tip No. 2: Don’t bad mouth the other parent.

One of the first pieces of advice we give parents: Don’t speak poorly of the other parent in front of the children and ask friends and family members to do the same. Be the bigger parent. Keep in mind that half of your child’s DNA comes from the other parent. If you disparage your spouse, the child may believe you think less of him or her, too.

Tip No. 3: Follow the Golden Rule.

Treat people the way you want to be treated and opt for the kill-them-with-kindness strategy. As Michelle Obama famously said, “When they go low, you go high.” We get it, taking the high road isn’t easy. However, you’re better off going into court with clean hands, without threats or nasty emails showing up in evidence, which is likely to position you unfavorably in the eyes of the judge.

Tip No. 4: Try to give the other parent the benefit of the doubt.

He or she will probably make mistakes, but so will you. For example, if the other parent is always five minutes late picking up the kids, ask yourself, is that a battle worth fighting? If the parent is consistently late on certain days and that tardiness is creating a problem for the child, maybe he or she has a good reason for being late.

Instead of attacking the other parent, bring the issue up directly with him or her. Explain how you are seeing a pattern on certain days or times and ask if adjusting your schedules could help. The goal here is to work together to co-parent like you’re still married. Collaborative problem solving and a willingness to work together – without attacking each other – is what your children need to see.

Tip No. 5: Resist escalating conflict.

In the midst of a high-conflict divorce, tensions are running high, and it can be tempting to send an angry text or email to the other party. By doing so, you’re just adding fuel to the fire, which isn’t healthy for anyone involved. Avoid responding immediately and take time to draft a thoughtful response before hitting send.

Any correspondence sent to your spouse can be submitted as evidence and you want to avoid damaging your case.

Tip No. 6: Utilize professionals to settle disagreements.

Whether your disagreements are few or the other parent refuses to co-parent with you in any way, a parent facilitator or coordinator can be a great resource. They can help parents work through communication issues and shift the focus to solutions that are in the best interest of the child.

Another strategy is to include tiebreakers in the custody agreement. With tiebreakers, “referees” are assigned to various scenarios, so parents can avoid going back to court. For example, the parents could agree to assign the child’s pediatrician to be a referee and make the call regarding whether or not their child has a procedure.

Tip No. 7: Face the facts – co-parenting is a long-term commitment.

Once the divorce is finalized, you’ll still need to co-parent for years to come. Even after the children graduate from high school and college, there will be holidays, birthdays, weddings, grandchildren and other milestones of which both parents will likely play a role. These occasions are much easier for the kids when parents remain cordial. Taking steps to solidify the co-parenting relationship during the divorce will pay off in the long run.

Check out six helpful tips for co-parenting during the holidays here.

Tip No. 8: Contact your divorce attorney about big issues or when you’re unsure of next steps.

While we encourage clients to try to work through minor issues with the other parent when possible, there are always cases where communication breaks down or where one party has grossly violated court orders. Reach out to your divorce attorney for advice.

For example, if the other parent has fallen far behind in paying child support, refuses to return the child or has threatened to hurt you or your child, that’s when your family law attorney can help you seek court intervention.

Tip No. 9: Call the police if you fear for your and/or your kids’ safety.

If your dispute with the other parent has escalated to a point where you are fearful of him or her, co-parenting peacefully and trying to resolve issues on your own could be dangerous. Should your spouse threaten to physically harm you or a member of your family, call 911. Then reach out to your attorney for help securing a restraining order or protective order, depending on the circumstances.

For additional tips on keeping yourself and your kids safe, check out these helpful posts:

Photo Source: Adobe Stock

Alissa Castro is an enthusiastic, young attorney with experience in a wide variety of legal venues. She has donated her services to several charitable causes including the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program, Mississippi Volunteer Lawyer Project and Catholic Charities. To learn more about divorce and child custody options in Dallas and Collin Counties, please call 214-306-8441 to speak confidentially with a knowledgeable and considerate member of the Connatser Family Law team.

8 Key Considerations for Wealthy Couples During a Gray Divorce

Posted on Oct 31, 2017 in Connatser Family Law, Dallas Divorce, Divorce, Divorce and Business, Marriage, Texas Family Law

8 Key Considerations for Wealthy Couples During a Gray Divorce

By Douglas A. Harrison

With four decades of experience practicing family law in Texas, Connatser Family Law attorney Doug Harrison has helped hundreds of affluent clients navigate the complexities of divorce involving sizeable estates, family business concerns, trusts, retirement accounts, insurance and more. We asked Doug to shed some light on the unique challenges older, wealthy couples face during a gray divorce.

According to data analyzed by Pew Research, since 1990, the divorce rate has roughly doubled for adults ages 50 and above and tripled for those ages 65 and older. Clearly, gray divorce is on the rise, but why is this happening?

Two big contributing factors are that the baby boomer population is getting older, and they are living longer. Boomers are retiring in droves and their kids have left the nest, which means boomer couples are suddenly spending a lot more time alone together. Consequently, some couples realize all of that togetherness isn’t as great as they hoped. The disdain for extended one-on-one time – by either party or both – is exacerbated when one of the partners transitions from eight to ten hours a day in the office to 24/7 at home.

Following retirement, some couples also realize they have very different interests. Perhaps the wife is a real go-getter who loves to socialize and participate in cultural and civic endeavors, while the husband prefers to stay home and tinker around the house or play golf.

In addition, many gray divorces we see today are second or third marriages, which have a significantly higher failure rate.

While gray divorce can be complicated regardless of how much wealth is involved – learn about gray divorce and social security benefits here – affluent couples often face unique challenges, especially when divorcing later in life.

No. 1: Tax issues.

Most successful people in business try to take maximum advantage of the tax code. Consequently, couples getting divorced, when significant money, business concerns, and a long-term marriage are involved, have probably dealt with some tax issues along the way.

It also isn’t unusual for a couple to think everything is fine from a tax perspective, and then receive a notification from the IRS that they are being audited for a return from a few years back. As a result, the parties may find out there are significant taxes owed that need to be dealt with during the divorce and beyond. Caution is encouraged with respect to these types of issues.

No. 2: Estate plan changes.

Many affluent couples establish elaborate estate plans, trust agreements, and family limited partnerships to ensure family members are provided for over the long term and taxes are minimized. When a couple contemplates a gray divorce, confusion and disagreements can arise pertaining to how these components will serve family members post-divorce.

For example, when the couple created their estate plan, their goals were likely based on providing for the parties as a couple – not as individuals. Concurrently, wealthy couples often set up and contribute assets to family limited partnerships, under which both spouses, and possibly their children, own a percentage interest in that partnership. This ownership structure can result in a lower valuation of an individual’s interest in the partnership for estate tax purposes because of lack of control of the entity. This same issue would likely arise in a valuation for divorce purposes as well.

Should the couple decide to divorce, the parties often have different interests and goals. Essentially, they are now paddling the boat in different directions, as self-preservation kicks in! How the family limited partnership is valued and dispersed requires careful consideration during divorce.

Evaluating and analyzing trusts established during a marriage can also be complicated and, in some cases, frustrating. For example, many couples create irrevocable trusts that can’t be changed once put in place. However, those trusts could trigger long-lasting tax issues. While husbands and wives can leave any assets to each other without paying the estate tax, assets left to children, grandchildren and other people can trigger taxes in the future.

These are just a few of the many estate planning issues that can arise during a gray divorce. If you have similar concerns, make sure to hire a divorce attorney experienced in handling cases comparable to yours, who can recognize issues of this type and can engage appropriate tax and probate attorneys to resolve issues and problems.

No. 3: The future and value of family-owned businesses.

If a couple owns a business as part of their community estate – which happens frequently – the parties often view that business much like another child in the relationship and “custody” can become an issue.

If the parties agree to keep the business and share profits, the former spouses may disagree on what role the parties will play, how the business will be run, how financial information is disclosed to the spouse who is not in charge, what compensation will be paid to each respective spouse, as well as what direction is best for the business in the long term.

Selling the business is another option, but there can be wide disparities between appraisals of the business’ value, over which the parties may disagree. In addition, while many husbands and wives own equal parts of a family business, rarely do they participate equally in the running of that business. How should the differing levels of contribution affect the outcome of the divorce settlement as it pertains to the family business? Is there any personal goodwill attributable to the spouse who has been active in the business? Is there a date for the ultimate sale or is it open-ended?

We’ll take a deeper dive into valuing and dividing family businesses in an upcoming article. (You can also learn more about business prenups in this past post.)

No. 4: Selling the family home.

Even with wealthy couples, the family home may be a significant asset of the community estate. Couples who have a significant gain on their residence may want to consider selling the home prior to getting divorced, because they can shelter more gain on the house, as opposed to awarding the home to only one of the parties who will then sell.

If the house sells while the parties are still married, they can take advantage of a one-time $500,000 exclusion for capital gains. Conversely, if one of the parties is awarded the house in the divorce, and he or she decides to sell it afterward, that party is limited to one $250,000 exclusion of capital gains as an individual.

No. 5: Retirement and pension benefits.

When you look at the myriad of retirement plans and benefit packages made available to executives over the last 30 to 40 years – from stock options to top hat plans to phantom stock plans to restricted stock awards – those all have to be dealt with and carefully sorted out so both parties receive value and the tax implications are equitably considered in the allocation of such assets.

The vesting of certain interests is another factor to consider. Even if the party’s plan benefits aren’t fully vested, that doesn’t mean that value or a portion of such benefits can’t be allocated to the non-working spouse.

Pension plans also come up frequently in gray divorces. Some pension plans may already be in pay status with benefits currently being paid to the designated beneficiaries, and elections may have already been made that may or may not be modifiable with a change of circumstance. During the settlement process, the parties will need to consider how benefits will be paid and if there are survivor benefits that can or cannot be modified, and if not, how to compensate the non-employee spouse.

No. 6: Life and health insurance coverage.

Life insurance policies are often included in estate plans, which can lead to awkward situations. In many cases, wealthy clients purchase a “second to die” life insurance policy that insures both parties but only pays on the death of the last party. The premiums on a policy of this type are normally lower than individual policies. Frequently, these policies are used to fund trusts. This raises the issue of who will pay the premiums following the divorce. If one party says he or she wants to keep life insurance on the other’s life, that could raise suspicions (crazy or not), while others may simply view it as improper or unacceptable.

On the other hand, depending on a person’s age and station in life, he or she may not be able to purchase insurance anymore. Consequently, the party may need to hang on to that policy or find out if there is a way to place the policy into a trust where there are mutual benefits for everybody.

With health costs skyrocketing, the loss of health insurance is also a key consideration during many gray divorces. Some people can take advantage of Cobra insurance up to 36 months, which can provide the protection they need as they adjust to other insurance benefits available to them, such as Medicare. If you’re concerned about health insurance coverage, you may want to ask for compensation for coverage in the divorce settlement. Also, be aware that there are “savvy” insurance consultants who can offer sage advice.

No. 7: Social security benefits.

The timing of the entry of the Decree of Divorce can make a difference in whether a spouse can or will receive a portion of the other spouse’s social security benefits. The parties must have been married for 10 years before divorce for the non-employee spouse to receive benefits from the employee spouse’s work. A strategic approach is to carefully select the date of divorce to maximize the social security benefits for the non-employee spouse.

No. 8: Alimony.

If one party is continuing to earn a large income, contractual alimony is an excellent tool to help support the other spouse, giving a tax deduction for the working spouse and taxable income for the non-working spouse. Sometimes, this approach can actually “finance” the settlement.

Consider a collaborative gray divorce

Since 2001, the state of Texas has allowed couples to settle their marital differences across the table from one another through collaborative divorce. During the collaborative process, the divorcing parties can avoid the spotlight and contentious environment often associated with litigated divorce.

Collaborative law, while not for everybody, can be a good choice for couples with significant estates, who love and care about their families and would like to end their marriage with a sense of dignity. Collaborative law is an excellent process choice for clients who recognize and realize that they will have future encounters, business transactions and social/family relations in the future.

On the other hand, some older wealthy couples choose to stay married but live separate lives, often in separate residences. In such instances, ask your family law attorney whether a postmarital agreement makes sense for your circumstances and future financial relationships.

Are you contemplating an affluent gray divorce? Seek out expert advice

The business, property and personal complexities involved in affluent gray divorces are many. To ensure you end up with a settlement that best fits your and your family’s needs, contact a divorce attorney who has extensive experience representing wealthy clients near you.

Douglas A. Harrison is a veteran family lawyer known throughout Texas for his expert handling of complex business and property settlements in divorce. To learn more about options for gray divorce in Dallas and Collin Counties, please call 214-306-8441 to speak confidentially with a knowledgeable and compassionate member of the Connatser Family Law team.

DISCLOSURE: The preceding is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as tax, financial or legal advice. Contact tax, financial and legal professionals for advice pertaining to your individual circumstances.

 

Photo Source: Adobe Stock

Lend a Hand: 5 Big and Small Ways to Help Victims of Domestic Violence Now

Posted on Oct 3, 2017 in Coparenting, Dallas Divorce, Divorce, Divorce and Privacy, Domestic Violence, Marriage, Texas Family Law

Lend a Hand: 5 Big and Small Ways to Help Victims of Domestic Violence Now

During the time it takes you to read this story, 30 women will be assaulted during acts of domestic violence. On behalf of those moms, aunts, sisters, daughters, cousins, friends and neighbors – and their children – Connatser Family Law asked Jan Langbein, CEO at Genesis Women’s Shelter & Support in Dallas, what we all can do to make a difference.

When we spoke to Langbein, the shootings of a domestic violence victim and her eight friends (one who survived) in Plano, Texas were fresh in her mind.

“Our community is still reeling from the mass homicide in Plano during a football watching party. The woman did exactly what we tell victims of domestic violence to do – which is get out of an abusive relationship and surround yourself with friends. She had no idea how much danger she was in, and her friends certainly didn’t either,” Langbein says.

Ready to “get out?” Here’s information on how to leave an abusive relationship and protect your kids.

In order to make a difference, Langbein says, “We all have a responsibility to know the signs of domestic violence long before a tragedy like the one in Plano ever happens.”

Common signs, actions or traits of someone who is likely to be an abuser:

  • Hyper-vigilant, such as needing to know where his partner is every moment of the day.
  • Extremely jealous.
  • Transfers blame for problems he contributed to.
  • Aggressive with wait staff or other service professionals.
  • Does or says things that make your hair stand up on end.

Common signs, actions or traits of a victim of abuse:

  • Unexplained bruises.
  • Days missed from work that seem excessive or unexplainable.
  • Change in patterns or behavior, such as not going out as much.
  • Limiting or halting communications with family and friends.

People need to be more proactive about stepping up when something seems off or intuition tells them a woman or child may be in peril. Langbein recently experienced this situation at the DFW Airport.

As she explains, “I was waiting at the gate for my flight to board, and a man was really going off on his wife and yelling at her. My gut told me she was at serious risk for getting hurt. When she got up to go to the bathroom, I followed her in and gave her my business card – I didn’t do it in front of him.”

Langbein strongly believes it’s our responsibility as human beings to say something if we see something, even when it feels uncomfortable.

“We need to step up long before a woman starts thinking about leaving her abuser or entering a shelter. This requires a change in mindset, where we acknowledge that everyone needs to play a part in ending domestic violence. We also need to do so 365 days a year, not just the 31 days during Domestic Violence Awareness Month,” Langbein says.

Five ways you can help – before, during and after a victim of domestic violence seeks help

 

No. 1: Change your mindset and take responsibility.

According to Langbein, “Domestic violence happens everywhere. After the Plano shooting, I heard people say, ‘I can’t believe it happened in Plano.’ That’s where the problem resides. You can’t be surprised if it happens down the street because it happens everywhere. It’s not an economic thing, and it’s not an education thing. It’s about power and control.” When you see something, say something.

 

No. 2: Know what resources are available in your community.

Don’t feel like you have to “fix things” for that person. Even if you can’t provide financial support or a place to stay, you can point that person to resources and organizations that can help “fix things” for the victim. Here are a few to consider:

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline (NDVH) at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), or TTY 1-800-787-3224 and website at thehotline.org.
  • Teens can contact the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline at 1-866-331-9474 or TTY 1-866-331-8453 or visit loveisrespect.org.
  • Genesis Women’s Shelter & Support website http://www.genesisshelter.org/ and phone (214) 946-HELP (4357) (for Dallas area residents).

No. 3: Let the victim know that shelters offer more than a safe haven.

“Many shelters are a one-stop shop. We’re here to walk alongside the victim during the process. In addition to shelter, we can connect women and their children with counseling and legal support and provide clothing, toiletries, emergency funds, medical assistance and just about anything these families need to start over,” Langbein explains.

Learn more about legal protections available to domestic violence victims in Texas here.

 

No. 4: Donate time, money and items women need.

The same items people donated to the victims of hurricanes Harvey and Irma are all things shelters need 365 days a year: Bottled water, clothing, furniture, housewares, diapers, baby wipes, socks, underwear and feminine hygiene products.

According to Langbein, “It will take years to recover from the tragedy in Houston, it was a shock. Unfortunately, most people aren’t shocked when that other flood comes. Whether you call him Harvey, Steve, Bob or Roberto, it’s the same thing for victims of domestic violence. They lose everything when they walk away.”

Langbein also encourages people to volunteer their time to answer phones at a shelter or help support a fundraising event. “Those who are financially able can get a team together for our charity golf tournament or sponsor a table at one of our luncheons. If you don’t have financial means, clean out your closets or roll up your sleeves and volunteer,” she says.

 

No. 5: Encourage victims to create a safety plan right away.

Genesis provides helpful information on the safety planning page on its website. In the meantime, here are a few recommendations you can share with a friend or family member who is at risk:

  • Open a checking or savings account and a post office box in your own name.
  • Leave money, a set of keys, copies of important documents, extra clothes and medicines in a safe place or with someone you trust.
  • Identify a safe place where you and your children can go or someone who can lend you money.
  • Have a packed bag ready at a friend or relative’s house.
  • Identify one or more neighbors who will call the police if a disturbance is coming from your home.
  • Devise a code word or sign (such as turning on a particular light) to use with your children, family, friends, and neighbors when you need them to call 911 for help.

Family violence is a crisis we can all play a role in eradicating. Challenge yourself and your friends to do something – big or small – today. Something as simple as sharing this article on social media could save a life.

 

Click any of the social sharing buttons below to encourage others to help.

Photo Source: Adobe Stock

Want to Keep Costs in Check During a Divorce? Avoid These 8 Mistakes

Posted on Sep 19, 2017 in Dallas Divorce, Divorce, Divorce and Business, Marriage, Uncategorized

Want to Keep Costs in Check During a Divorce? Avoid These 8 Mistakes

By Aubrey Connatser

Getting divorced can be a costly undertaking, especially if your case ends up going to trial. Unfortunately, some people end up spending more in attorney’s fees than necessary. The good news? If you are planning to divorce, you can rein in costs simply by avoiding the following mistakes.

Mistake No. 1: Picking the wrong divorce lawyer

It’s extremely important to have a good rapport with the person who will be navigating the divorce process with you. Parties who don’t see eye to eye with their divorce attorneys, typically end up with less consistency in strategy and more time spent in meetings.

For example, say you are someone who hopes to settle your divorce as amicably as possible. If you hire an attorney who prefers to handle contentious divorces, you will spend a lot of time and money trying to reach a consensus regarding what to do and why.

Not sure how to find the right attorney for your circumstances? Aubrey provides six essential tips for hiring a divorce attorney here.

Remember, divorce lawyers bill by the hour. When you have confidence in your lawyer, you probably won’t question him or her as much (not that you shouldn’t question your attorney). In addition, you will probably be more inclined to trust his or her judgment and spend less time agreeing on a strategy.

Mistake No. 2: Using your divorce attorney as a therapist

Initially, it can be a good thing to explain to your lawyer what led up to your divorce emotionally, because that helps inform him or her as to where you are from a mental health perspective. However, extensively relying on an attorney for emotional support can get expensive. Therapists tend to charge much less than lawyers – depending on who you hire.

Mistake No. 3: Not understanding your divorce lawyer’s fee contract

Different lawyers charge different fees, so be sure to review how time is billed before signing a contract. Inquire about the lawyer’s hourly rate and how you will be billed for time other people in the firm spend working on your case, such as paralegals and law clerks.

You should also ask what sort of retainer is required. Technically, retainers are refundable, so find out what the law firm’s policy is regarding timing of refunds. In addition, find out how the firm bills incremental time entries – by the tenth of an hour, quarter of an hour, etc.

Being prepared can help smooth the divorce process. Check out the 18 helpful tools in our divorce toolkit here.

Mistake No. 4: Communicating inefficiently with your attorney

If you want to keep costs in check, communicate efficiently with your divorce attorney. For example, instead of sending 10 emails throughout the day, send one email with 10 questions at the end of the day. Every time you contact your lawyer, you will be billed for that time – so refrain from hitting “send” whenever possible.

You may even consider scheduling a weekly meeting with the attorney and set aside any questions that need to be addressed for that time. That doesn’t mean you can’t communicate more frequently when necessary, but in the long run, weekly meetings can increase efficiency and reduce billable hours significantly.

Mistake No. 5: Not reviewing paperwork for accuracy

Carefully review any pleadings to ensure everything is accurate from a fact standpoint before they are filed on your behalf. This step can help reduce hourly fees related to correcting mistakes and inaccuracies later.

Mistake No. 6: Keeping things from your attorney

You should never lie to your doctor, and you should never lie to your divorce lawyer either. Lawyers can’t help you if they don’t know the truth, and you’ll only end up hurting yourself – and increasing the cost of your divorce – if you are not forthcoming.

Filing for divorce in Dallas or Collin County? Here are 12 things you need to know about divorce in Texas.

Mistake No. 7: Not communicating with your spouse

To the extent that it is possible, if you and your spouse can keep an open line of communication and agree upon some issues together, less time and money will be spent relying on lawyers to handle things for you.

Even if you can’t agree on the big issues – which your lawyer should be tackling anyway – there may be little things the two of you can sort out without getting attorneys involved.

In addition, delaying settling with your spouse due to anger and resentment can get expensive, too. Try to put your feelings aside, so your divorce doesn’t drag on, otherwise your attorney’s fees will continue to escalate.

Mistake No. 8: Not filing first

While it doesn’t make much difference if you don’t go to trial, filing for divorce first is usually advantageous if you DO go to trial. Preparing for a case is a lot more time consuming for lawyers when they have to present second at trial. If you file first, then your attorney will present first when your case goes to court.

Since founding Connatser Family Law in 2013, Aubrey Connatser and her team have firmly established the next in a line of great Texas divorce and family law firms. To learn more about divorce and child custody in Dallas and Collin Counties, please call 214-306-8441 to speak confidentially with a knowledgeable and compassionate member of the Connatser Family Law team.

 

Photo Source: Adobe Stock

Top 5 Questions About Same-Sex Marriage, Divorce and Child Custody in Texas – Post SCOTUS Marriage Ban Repeal

Posted on Aug 31, 2017 in Dallas Divorce, Divorce, Marriage, Texas Family Law

Top 5 Questions About Same-Sex Marriage, Divorce and Child Custody in Texas – Post SCOTUS Marriage Ban Repeal

By Abby Gregory

More than two years have passed since the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) overruled the state of Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage. Dallas divorce attorney Abby Gregory weighs in on how the SCOTUS ruling has – and has not – changed family law concerns for same-sex couples in Texas.

As attorneys at a Dallas-based family law firm, people often ask us how the SCOTUS ruling has affected same-sex couples in the Texas family law courts. Five of the most common questions regarding same-sex marriage, divorce and child custody follow, along with insight from the Connatser Family Law team.

No. 1: How is same-sex divorce different from a divorce between a heterosexual couple?

Most aspects of a same-sex divorce are pretty straightforward and similar to a traditional divorce. However, since gay marriage has only been legal in Texas for two years, we have had to deal with more cases where a common law marriage was involved and the couple does not have a marriage license.

In order to prove a common law marriage in Texas couples have to meet three requirements:

  • They agree to be married.
  • They live together in the state of Texas.
  • They hold themselves out to be husband and wife, husband and husband, or wife and wife. Technically, the statute only addresses “husband and wife,” so there is some loose interpretation there that will need to be addressed by the courts.

Once a common law marriage has been established, the divorce comes down to the dividing of any assets, property, financial accounts, benefits and debts – just as you would in a heterosexual divorce.

No. 2: How has the legalization of same-sex marriage had an impact on your clients?

The most obvious answer is that we are now able to facilitate same-sex divorces for our Texas clients. When gay marriage was illegal in Texas, we were unable to help same-sex couples get divorced here, because the state didn’t consider those couples to be legally married.

No. 3: What issues do you foresee arising for same-sex couples who want to divorce now that they can legally do so?

In the short term, the biggest issue for many gay divorces in Texas will likely be coming to an agreement regarding the common law marriage date. For couples with sizeable assets, determining the date of marriage is critical, because that is when division of assets pertaining to community property starts.

If the couples were legally married in another state that previously recognized same-sex marriage, that would eliminate this concern.

As the years go by this issue will lessen, because same-sex couples that marry following the SCOTUS ruling can be issued a dated Texas marriage license – whereas prior to the ruling they could not.

No. 4: Does the SCOTUS ruling change how child custody issues in Texas are handled?

Just because you’re married doesn’t mean that you are the legal parent of a child in your household. That’s why it is so important for a party who is not the biological parent to go through legal proceedings to ensure he or she has parental rights by legally adopting the child.

Without a formal adoption, the non-biological party will have no legal grounds pertaining to parental rights, should the couple decide to divorce.

If the child is the non-biological child of both parties, they will want to make sure to go through a second adoption (after one party legally adopts the child) to ensure both parents have legal rights to the child.

Prior to Obergerfell, this was the only way to guarantee that both parents in a same-sex relationship had equal parental rights to a child, as only a married couple could adopt a child together (simultaneously in the same proceeding). It will be interesting to see how adoption proceedings change, now that same-sex couples are legally recognized as married.

To learn how the Connatser Family Law team helped a wonderful mom navigate her same-sex custody dispute, read Inez’ story here.

No. 5: On June 30, 2017, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the 2015 SCOTUS ruling doesn’t guarantee spousal benefits for gay couples. How do you see this interpretation of the ruling – and others – playing out?

Essentially, what the Texas Supreme Court said is that the reach and ramifications regarding the rights of married gay couples remain to be determined. Individual employers, the state of Texas, even different counties and cities could push back regarding rights related to marriage.

Many individual rulings that don’t extend the same rights to married gay couples as they do to married heterosexual couples will probably end up back in the hands of SCOTUS.

Abby Gregory is a compassionate Dallas divorce attorney with a substantial record in litigation, collaboration and Texas family law. A graduate of Fordham University College of Law, Abby committed herself to community service during her tenure at Fordham and received the Archibald R. Murray Public Service Award, summa cum laude, based on her extensive pro bono and community work for Lawyers for Children, the Innocence Project and others. To learn more about divorce and child custody in Dallas and Collin Counties, please call 214-306-8441 to speak confidentially with a member of the Connatser Family Law team.

 

Photo Source: Adobe Stock

As Gray Divorces Increase, Social Security Benefits Become More Important

Posted on Aug 30, 2017 in Dallas Divorce, Divorce, Divorce and Business, Texas Family Law

As Gray Divorces Increase, Social Security Benefits Become More Important

Aubrey Connatser and Guy Rodgers, Texas Lawyer

Dramatic increases in the number of older people getting divorced these days have brought to light social security rules that provide additional benefits to divorced people who qualify.

These “gray” or Baby Boomer divorces are more common than ever before. A study from the National Center for Family and Marriage found that the U.S. divorce rate for couples age 50 and older doubled between 1990 and 2010, and was even higher for those over 65.

The main concern of most people who divorce late in life is whether they will have enough money to live comfortably the rest of their lives. Divorce can drain the coffers of people in their 60s and 70s who may not have a way to rebuild their finances afterward. These older people need a pathway to security, and social security can be an important part of finding that pathway.

Social security benefits are based on how long a person has worked, how much money is earned and when the person starts taking benefits. Social security retirement benefits can start at age 62. Full retirement age of people born between 1943 and 1954 is 66 years of age, while benefits max out at age 70.

People who may not have worked for wages (such as housewives), worked for low wages or in jobs where social security taxes were not taken out through payroll deduction, may not qualify to receive much of a benefit. Eligibility for certain benefits can also depend on marital status. For divorced, divorcing and married people alike, the key is knowing the most advanced strategies and aggressively pursuing benefits.

Claimants must file to determine their benefits, even if they question their eligibility. The Social Security Administration will not come after people waving money.

Those who might not otherwise qualify for benefits may be eligible for divorced spousal benefits. A divorced spouse can collect social security retirement benefits based on the work record of an ex- husband or wife under strict conditions. For purposes of this explanation, the spouse filing on the benefits of an ex will be called the filing spouse. The spouse who earned the benefits being filed on will be called the earning spouse.

The rules for collecting divorced spousal benefits are as follows:

Both the filing spouse and the earning spouse must be at least 62 years of age.

The couple must have been married for at least 10 years and divorced for two years.

The filing spouse must be unmarried at the time of filing. The marital status of the earning spouse is not a factor.

The filing spouse cannot be eligible for a higher benefit based on his or her own work record.

For the filing spouse to collect, the earning spouse must be entitled to receive benefits but doesn’t have to be receiving them at the time of filing.

No one has to ask an ex’s permission to file and there doesn’t have to be any contact between the exes during this process. Even if the earning spouse is remarried, this filing won’t affect the right to divorcee benefits, nor will it affect his or her retirement benefits or that of a current spouse. Only if the filing spouse remarries will he or she become ineligible for these benefits.

Syndicated columnist Tom Margenau recently told the story of a divorced couple, both age 66, who filed on each other’s benefits. For four years, each of them received 50 percent of their ex’s full social security benefit, and it was perfectly legal. This kept their own benefits intact until age 70, when they switched to their own full benefit plus the 32 percent bonus that goes with delaying retirement benefits until 70. This strategy is applicable only to people born before 1954.

Note that if a person qualifies for more than one set of benefits, in most cases he or she will collect on only the larger one.

A variation on the divorced spousal benefit is the divorced survivor benefit. If an earning spouse dies, after being married for at least 10 years and divorced for at least two years, the filing spouse can collect up to 100 percent of the amount the deceased was to receive. These benefits are available to divorced spouses as early as 60 years of age, or 50 if the survivor is disabled.

With the increase in divorce among older people, and with people living longer, these benefits have become more important for supplementing the money available to people coming out of a divorce.

Social Security is an important part of retirement income, but it isn’t intended to provide for everything. It should be just one piece of a person’s overall retirement strategy. Family law attorneys should explain these benefits to their divorcing clients or team up with a qualified planner with more experience interpreting the arcane rules of social security.

Aubrey Connatser is a Board Certified Dallas family lawyer who can be reached at aubrey@connatserfamilylaw.com. Guy Rodgers is a Mansfield financial adviser and Board Certified family lawyer at guy@grpws.com. For more information on social security benefits, visit www.ssa.gov.

Copyright 2017. ALM Media Properties, LLC. All rights reserved.

The Good, Bad and Ugly Sides of Nesting During Divorce

Posted on Aug 9, 2017 in Connatser Family Law, Coparenting, Dallas Divorce, Divorce

The Good, Bad and Ugly Sides of Nesting During Divorce

By Christine Powers Leatherberry

Divorce can be very stressful for children, especially early on as they adjust to the reality of their parents’ breakup. To ease the blow, some parents consider nesting, where the children remain in the marital residence after the divorce is filed, and the parents rotate in and out on a set schedule.

The good side of nesting? It helps maintain normalcy for the children

Nesting really helps smooth the transition to a post-divorce family by maintaining normalcy and the status quo for children. Their home environment doesn’t change, they get to sleep in the same bed and take a bath in the same bathtub. Plus, all of their toys are within reach.

One such Connaster Family Law client, Frank Jones,* experienced the ups and downs of nesting firsthand.

“The big pro to nesting in our case was my son was able to stay in his own room, and we could go play ball in the backyard like we always had. He didn’t have to pack a backpack and shuffle back and forth between two households. Essentially, he could continue on with his life in the same place he had always called home,” Frank says.

Not sure how to tell your children you’re getting divorced? Get some excellent insight here: Break the News with Care: How to Tell Kids You’re Getting Divorced

Also good: Nesting can simplify finances and help parents save money

Along with easing the blow for children, nesting does offer other benefits. It gives the parties more time to decide who will live in the marital residence long-term, if either party wants to.

In addition, if the parties live with parents or another family member when it isn’t their turn to live in the marital residence, they may be able to save money. Nesting can simplify finances, too, because the parties likely will continue to pay the same bills – mortgage, utilities, etc. – as they did in the past.

So, nesting can work well for some families during the early stages of divorce, but it isn’t a workable solution for most people in the long-term. Frank and his ex-wife nested for nearly a year and a half, and by the end, they were both ready to move on.

The bad and ugly side of nesting? Painful memories, house cleaning disputes, life in limbo and privacy concerns

Most family law clients who have agreed to a nesting arrangement do so for the sake of their children, but they find it can be personally challenging and stressful over the long-term.

Memories

… From the outset, living in the marital residence was never comfortable for Frank, because his ex had an affair in the home.

As he explains, “During my time in the house, I wanted to create normalcy for my son and do what I had to do to get custody. Unfortunately, many painful memories lingered there due to the affair. I wanted to distance myself, but every time I walked through the door I kept reliving those memories.”

Life in limbo

… Many parents also feel unsettled because their possessions move between two places and they never know in what state they will find the house when it’s their turn to move back in.

According to Frank, “If you leave anything behind at the house, you may not have access to it until you return. I eventually moved all of my personal items to my parents’ home and packed a backpack with essentials when it was my time to stay at the house. With nesting, if almost feels like you’re in limbo and traveling all the time, but you have to plan and reinvent yourself.”

Housekeeping nightmares

… Cleanliness is one of the biggest issues our clients argue about with the other parent. We often see emails about the house being filthy, high chairs not being cleaned, toys are not put away, dirty laundry that hasn’t been washed. Divorce is stressful, tensions are high and some people deliberately try to sabotage and annoy the other party.

Keeping the refrigerator stocked was another challenge for Frank. “I finally realized that it was best to pick up my son and head straight to the grocery store so we knew what we’d be having for dinner,” Frank says.

Private information compromised

… We always caution clients to take steps to ensure the other party won’t have access to any confidential or privileged information from attorneys or any consultants working on their case. The best thing to do is remove any shared computers from the home and set up separate email and cloud accounts.

For more insight on keeping private communications secure, check out this recent post: How to Avoid the Pitfalls of Technology During Divorce and Child Custody Disputes

Somebody’s watching you

… Moving in and out of a shared home can also put parties at risk for being spied upon. Recording devices and video cameras could be installed in the home. We’ve even had clients who found GPS tracking devices mounted on shared vehicles.

Is nesting right for you? Short and sweet is usually best

Clients often ask us what the optimum period of time is for a nesting arrangement. The answer? The shortest period of time possible. Nesting really can work well from the time the divorce is filed until the temporary orders hearing is held – if there is one – and even up to a month or two.

It’s when couples get to that three-month mark and beyond when nesting can become a nightmare for parents. The best option is for the parties to start living separate lives as soon as they are financially able to do so.

The sooner the parents start acting like they are divorced, the sooner the kids will become accustomed to the idea. (Check out this recent post for information on smoothing the transition for children: 5 Valuable Resources to Help Kids Cope When Parents Split.)

While Frank doesn’t regret the early days of nesting, he knew his son would need to face the reality of the divorce eventually.

As he explains, “At some point the child’s life will change, there is no soft landing. When the house was sold, my son ended up bouncing between my parents’ house and my ex’s house. It was a strange transition for him, and kids do take the brunt of it. But now there’s a new normal, and he’s adjusted well.”

Christine Powers Leatherberry is a compassionate family lawyer who is equally comfortable in the courtroom as she is counseling her clients one-on-one. She is a past chair of the Dallas Junior Board of the Big Brothers Big Sisters and was a Big Sister to the same Little for 11 years. To learn more about divorce and child custody in Dallas and Collin Counties, please call 214-306-8441 to speak confidentially with a knowledgeable and considerate member of the Connatser Family Law team.

* Client’s name and minor details have been changed.

Photo Source: Adobe Stock

From Hollywood to Highland Park – 12 Reasons Married Couples DON’T Get Divorced

Posted on Jul 27, 2017 in Connatser Family Law, Dallas Divorce, Texas Family Law

From Hollywood to Highland Park – 12 Reasons Married Couples DON’T Get Divorced

By Aubrey Connatser

It seems like Hollywood divorces make headlines everyday. On the flip side, some celebrity couples do make a go of it – many for decades. Just look at Tinseltown marriage veterans Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, Jerry and Jessica Seinfeld, Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, and Sting and Trudie Styler.

So why are these Hollywood marriages still going strong? Many of the couples took time to get to know each other before marrying, and they probably work hard to maintain healthy relationships both as couples and parents.

The same holds true for couples that live happily ever after away from the spotlight. It doesn’t matter if you’re a celebrity couple living in Hollywood or a traditional couple raising a family in Highland Park. While there are always exceptions, couples typically have enduring marriages for several common reasons, whether they are famous or not.

No. 1: They wait to get married until they are older.

As divorce attorneys, we regularly see clients who were high school or college sweethearts who didn’t really date anyone else. After a couple of years they start to wonder if the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, or their priorities have changed. Couples who date other people before settling on a mate are more likely to understand that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

No. 2: They don’t marry due to a pregnancy.

If the main reason a couple decides to marry is because the woman is pregnant, divorce may be looming around the corner. Starting a marriage as new parents can be difficult, especially if the couple hasn’t spent time getting to know each other, or they don’t really love each other.

No. 3: They don’t let in-laws interfere with their relationship.

It’s important for couples to tell parents to stay out of their business, or suggest the parents go to in-law premarital counseling where they will learn to mind their own business. The sooner a couple’s in-laws know their place, the less likely their marriage will suffer.

No. 4: They are upfront about their desired spousal roles.

I always say, hold true to the deal you strike. For example, if a wife tells her spouse she wants to work outside the home versus stay home with the kids (or vice versa), then changes positions after getting married, that might be too big of a hurdle for the husband to overcome. Couples need to be honest up front.

No. 5: They don’t abuse alcohol or drugs.

Substance abuse tears families apart. If either spouse (or both) is battling substance abuse, they need to address addiction problems head on. Abusing alcohol or drugs is one of the most common reasons people divorce.

No. 6: They seek help for mental health issues.

As with No. 5, if either spouse is struggling with mental health issues, the couple’s marriage will face challenges. Seeking guidance from a mental health professional can help a spouse cope psychological issues before they spiral out of control.

No. 7: They don’t cheat.

It’s no secret, cheating is one of the biggest reasons people get divorced. Adultery is typically a sign of a much deeper problem. Couples that want to stay married, need to address the issues in the marriage before straying.

No. 8: They don’t marry the mistress.

Unfaithful spouses who plan to marry the person with whom they had an affair – need to be wary. Think about it. If the mistress slept with a married person in the past, why wouldn’t she do it again?

No. 9: They talk about financial issues openly.

When a couple’s finances aren’t transparent, their relationship usually isn’t either. Financial surprises can erode trust and breed resentment. Future spouses should take time to understand each person’s financial goals and expectations while negotiating a premarital agreement.

No. 10: They schedule regular date nights.

It’s important to keep romance alive in a marriage, especially after children enter the picture. Couples should try to commit to date night at least once a week to focus on one another and also agree to avoid topics pertaining to the kids.” Which leads us to …

No. 11: They don’t get lost in the kids.

Couples who exclusively trade their identity as “husband and wife” for “mom and dad” often struggle once they become empty nesters. Instead, couples should focus on the fact that it will be just the two of them after children leave the nest. Plus, setting a good example both as a couple AND as parents can help establish a solid bedrock for children.

No. 12: They work hard to maintain intimacy.

Does your living situation feel more like a roommate arrangement than a marriage? Couples that skip too many date nights, start sleeping in different rooms and allow intimacy to fade away, put their marriages jeopardy. While most relationships are cyclical in the intimacy department, we often see people file for divorce when one of the partners craves more intimacy than the other.

Honesty, open communication and ‘working at it’ are key

Whether you’re a celebrity or not, being married isn’t easy – it takes work. If you want to avoid a divorce, start your marriage on the right foot; communicate openly about your goals and faults; and seek professional help at the first sign of trouble. And if issues in your marriage are too big to overcome, reach out to an experienced divorce attorney for advice.

Since founding Connatser Family Law in 2013, Aubrey Connatser and her team have firmly established the next in a line of great Texas divorce and family law firms. To learn more about divorce and child custody in Dallas and Collin Counties, please call 214-306-8441 to speak confidentially with a knowledgeable and compassionate member of the Connatser Family Law team.

 

Photo Source: Adobe Stock

Wealthy, Divorced and in Love? Live Happily Ever After with a Cohabitation Agreement

Posted on Jul 25, 2017 in Cohabitation, Dallas Divorce, Divorce

Wealthy, Divorced and in Love? Live Happily Ever After with a Cohabitation Agreement

By Douglas A. Harrison

Over the past 37 years, Connatser Family Law attorney Doug Harrison has helped hundreds of clients negotiate premarital, post-marital and cohabitation agreements. In the following post, Doug explains how cohabitation agreements help couples worry less by living life with financial transparency and financial certainty.

Many couples move in together when they want to take their relationships to the next level – but that doesn’t always mean marriage is on their minds. This is often true for people with sizeable assets who have experienced a painful divorce or were widowed after a lengthy marriage.

Cohabitating without a marriage license doesn’t diminish the love two people feel for one another. However, financial questions and concerns can put undue stress on a relationship – something that could be avoided by having a frank and honest conversation about financial expectations and the signing of a cohabitation agreement.

Cohabitation agreements allow couples to spell out financial and other arrangements in black and white. That way the couple can focus on developing their relationship and enjoying life without uncertainty. Such was the case for a client I helped recently.

Couples can protect a legacy and provide for a significant other with cohabitation agreements

I negotiated a cohabitation agreement for a man who had lost his wife of more than 30 years. He was very lonely and eventually met a lovely woman. After dating for several months, the two discussed moving in together. He resisted.

The client had a good deal of money, so entering into a new relationship worried him, primarily because he wanted to preserve most of his estate for his children and grandchildren. His new “partner” was nervous, too. She had gone through a terrible divorce and hoped to enter a relationship where she could feel secure without trap doors.

After a series of negotiations, the goals of both parties were met. The agreement ensured his estate was preserved and that there would be reasonable transition provisions for her in the event the two parted ways or he died. Both parties were relieved when the agreement was signed, and they were excited to move on with their lives without financial worries, suspicion or disagreement.

Cohabitation agreements also enable couples to avoid disputes related to common law marriage

For many couples, one of the most important reasons to get a cohabitation agreement is to clearly set forth that the parties do not intend to form a common law or informal marriage under Texas law.

In Texas, there are three requirements that need to be met in order for the court to rule that a common law or informal marriage exists. Proof must be presented in court that both parties agreed to be married, they did so while living in the state of Texas, and they both held out to the public they were husband and wife while living in the state of Texas. The evidence also has to show that the parties intended to have a present and permanent marital relationship, and neither party can be under the age of 18.

Today, people wait longer to marry than they used to, which can result in an unintended problem. As time goes on, many couples end up with disputed facts.

For example, one party may say, “I thought since we lived together for so long and shared finances, we were in a common law marriage.” Conversely, the other party might say, “That wasn’t my intent. Sure, we did have a joint bank account with both of our names on it, and I did introduce you to my friends as my spouse on occasion, but I never intended for us to be married.”

There is no “common law divorce” in Texas, although there can be a presumption against a common law marriage if no action to prove the marriage has been filed within two years of the separation of the partners.

Without a cohabitation agreement, couples risk creating an informal or common law marriage. In Texas, this essentially means the couple could be legally married and community property becomes involved. If the couple decides to end the relationship, they would need to get a divorce and divide community property.

Cohabitation agreements allow couples to state in writing: “We are not getting married, and if we ever intend to get married, we will do so in a formal ceremony with a marriage license. Until that happens, we are not married, we are not creating community property, and neither one of us is relying on promises that ‘I’ll take care of you,’ or ‘I will be provided for,’ should we decide to part ways.”

Put it in writing to eliminate uncertainty and enjoy life

If you want to protect a legacy, provide for a significant other’s future and avoid the hassle of untangling yourself from a common law marriage, contact a reputable family law attorney near you. He or she can explain the advantages and limitations of cohabitation agreements and help you negotiate an agreement that will bring you and your partner peace of mind.

Douglas A. Harrison is a veteran family lawyer known throughout Texas for his expert handling of complex business and property claims in divorce. To learn more about premarital, post-marital and cohabitation agreements in Dallas and Collin Counties, please call 214-306-8441 to speak confidentially with a knowledgeable and compassionate member of the Connatser Family Law team.

Photo Source: Adobe Stock

They Help Others Navigate Divorce, So Why Are These Divorce Attorneys So Happily Married?

Posted on Jun 30, 2017 in Connatser Family Law, Marriage, Parenting

They Help Others Navigate Divorce, So Why Are These Divorce Attorneys So Happily Married?

Dallas divorce attorney Alissa Castro has plenty to celebrate. June marks her third anniversary working with Connatser Family Law, and she recently became engaged to her fiancé Jimmy. So why is this young divorce attorney so excited to get married?

For one thing, Alissa looks forward to people no longer asking: “After seeing so many people get divorced, are you ever going to get married?” She also has a positive outlook about marriage, because her happily married parents and colleagues have served as terrific role models.

According to Alissa, “I am lucky enough to have parents who remain happily married after being together for over 40 years. Plus, it’s hard to be jaded about marriage when you work with five happily married divorce attorneys.”

You get out of marriage what you put into it

While she is consistently surrounded by the reality of divorce, Alissa is also inspired and encouraged by the successful marriages and behaviors modeled by her colleagues.

“The attorneys that I work with lead by example – both in the workplace and within their relationships. They regularly show me they didn’t achieve the levels of success at work or in their marriages by luck – it all takes hard work,” Alissa says.

She also appreciates the honesty, guidance and support her workplace family provides on a daily basis – much like they do with their clients.

As Alissa explains, “The attorneys here have helped me set realistic expectations regarding difficulties related to balancing a legal career, marriage and (someday for me) children. They remind me each day that there will be bumps in the road, but you have to lean on your spouse (and your workplace family) during tough times.”

Advice from the trenches: Five tips for a happy marriage

We asked Alissa’s happily married colleagues to share insight on how they manage to keep their marriages going strong, while juggling busy careers and family life. The attorneys at Connatser Family Law shared the following tips:

Tip No. 1: Don’t bring work home.

Connatser Family Law founder Aubrey Connatser’s husband is also an attorney, and the couple agrees that it’s important to avoid talking about work after hours. As she explains, “Our cases can be really emotional and intense. So it’s best to leave that at the office.”

Tip No. 2: Schedule lunch dates.

Connatser Family Law attorney and mom of two Abby Gregory is fortunate to work in the same office building as her husband. “Since our offices are in close proximity, we enjoy one-on-one time at lunch and taking walks together nearby,” Abby says.

Aubrey and her husband also schedule regular lunches together, because, “With young kids running around at night, it’s too hard to talk.”

Connatser Family Law divorce attorney Christine Powers Leatherberry agrees. “It’s a lot to juggle with a baby, a toddler and both my husband and me being attorneys. In order to avoid feeling like ships passing in the night, we’ve started doing monthly lunches to regroup, enjoy each other’s company and not have to hire a babysitter.”

Tip No. 3: Plan date nights and weekend staycations.

According to Aubrey, “It’s nice to have the house alone to your spouse and yourself once in awhile. My husband and I send the kids to my mother MIMI’s house when we need a break.”

Christine agrees and says, “We also try to do date night a couple times a month, which we hope to bump up to every week once we are past ‘the baby stage.’ The key is taking time to connect and not getting so consumed by children (or work) that you lose your connection or forget why you fell in love in the first place.”

Tip No. 4: Keep the lines of communication open.

“It’s important to communicate with each other, use shared calendaring and cover for each other when you have to go into work early or stay late. Communication is the key … and grace,” says Christine.

Tip No. 5: Find a spouse with a great sense of humor.

Christine found this quality in her husband Jon Leatherberry. When asked what it was like to be married to a divorce lawyer, Jon replied: “I love being married to a divorce attorney. Some of the things she has to deal with on a daily basis makes her appreciate that my flaws are pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things.”

Marriage and family come first

For Alissa, learning from successful family law attorneys who have “been there” and learned through trial and error has been invaluable.

As she explains, “My colleagues are humble enough to admit they are not perfect, do not have all the answers and are able ask for help when they need it. Each of the attorneys at the firm are at different stages of life, career and marriage, but it is clear to me that they value their marriages and make their family a priority.”

Photo Source: Adobe Stock

Alissa Castro is an enthusiastic, young attorney with experience in a wide variety of legal venues. She has donated her services to several charitable causes including the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program, Mississippi Volunteer Lawyer Project and Catholic Charities. To learn more about divorce and child custody options in Dallas and Collin Counties, please call 214-306-8441 to speak confidentially with a knowledgeable and considerate member of the Connatser Family Law team.