The Ultimate Divorce Toolkit: 18 Helpful Tools to Survive and Thrive After a Split

Since founding Connatser Family Law in 2014, prominent Dallas divorce attorney Aubrey Connatser and her associates, family law attorneys Abby Gregory, Christine Powers Leatherberry and Alissa Castro have shared insight and advice on the firm’s blog and in television, radio and newspaper interviews. After years of experience representing clients in the Texas family court, we understand that going through a divorce can be overwhelming. So we created a comprehensive Divorce Toolkit with 10 categories and 18 helpful tools to help ease stress and streamline the divorce process. Use this handy Divorce Toolkit to learn: How to hire a divorce attorney. If you are contemplating divorce or are ready to file for divorce, seek out an experienced divorce attorney who is a good fit for YOU and your circumstances. Check out this handy infographic Essential 9-Step Guide to Hiring a Divorce Attorney to learn more. How to get a handle on divorce basics. Wondering what common questions people ask about divorce? What questions they don’t ask but should? Our post, The Top 12 Things You Need to Know About Divorce in Texas, covers most of the bases. (If you don’t live in Texas, consult an attorney in the state where you reside.) How much alimony you can expect to receive or pay. Alimony isn’t a given in a Texas divorce. In fact, the courts typically expect both parties to eventually support themselves following divorce. We cover 11 things you need to know about alimony in Texas in this past post. (Again, contact an attorney in your state if you don’t reside in Texas.) Tips on how to avoid tax and financial woes during divorce. We asked our colleague Todd Amacher, J.D., MBA, CPA, CFP,® CDFA (TM), to share tax and financial insight in this helpful post, Divorce and Taxes: 5 Essential Tips for Avoiding Future Financial Woes. How to manage emotional duress during divorce. We know, going through a divorce can be trying. This is true for the divorcing parties and their children as well. We’ve covered mental health issues on several occasions and encourage you to check out these insightful posts: Emotions Run Sky High During Divorce: 5 Ways to Stay Grounded 7 Sanity Saving Tips for Working Moms (and Dads) 5 Valuable Resources to Help Kids Cope When Parents Split The best ways to co-parent in a peaceful and supportive fashion. At Connatser Family Law, we always say, “Kids come first.” We encourage parents to put their differences aside and focus on the best interests of their children. Co-parenting is another topic we cover regularly in our blog. A few helpful posts include: 10 Essential Tips for Successful Co-Parenting Following Divorce 12 Back-to-School Tips for Newly Divorced Parents Recently Divorced? 6 Tips to Make the Season Bright for Your Kids During the Holidays Steps to take to survive contentious custody battles. Unfortunately, divorcing couples don’t always play nice during divorce and custody battles. In the following two posts, we interviewed two clients who survived and thrived contentious custody disputes. Read their inspiring stories for insight: 5 Crucial Steps Dads Should Take to Get Custody in Texas You Don’t Need to Be Rosie O’Donnell to End Up in a Nasty Same-Sex Custody Fight How you can maintain privacy during high-profile divorce and child custody disputes. If you’re getting divorced in Texas, you’ll be happy to learn that Texas family courts value privacy, especially when children are involved. It’s often easier to seal divorce records here than in other states. Learn how a divorce attorney can help you keep divorce records private in this post we wrote about Blake Shelton...

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The Essential 9-Step Guide to Hiring a Divorce Attorney [Infographic]

At Connatser Family Law, we always experience a significant spike in phone calls after big holidays such as Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s and Valentine’s Day. If a post-holiday divorce is your only option, it’s important to do your research before hiring a divorce lawyer. An under-qualified divorce attorney could miss critical issues and handle aspects of your case incorrectly. In addition, he or she might be unable to give you the advice you need to maximize your bargaining power during the divorce process. Before you hire a family law attorney, check out our handy nine-step guide in the infographic below. You can also read an extended version of the guide here....

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12 Back-to-School Tips for Newly Divorced Parents

When the wounds are fresh, it can be difficult to get along with an ex-spouse following divorce. But setting differences aside and putting children first are essential for the long-term health and happiness of your kids. With the new school year upon us, we asked Dallas Divorce Attorney Christine Powers Leatherberry to share advice to help newly divorced parents kick off co-parenting and the school year on the right foot. No. 1: Commit to open communication and inclusion from day one. Communication is the key to successful co-parenting (and is an underlying theme throughout this post). If you receive information regarding your child and their needs and activities, be sure to share it with your ex-spouse. Agree to keep each other in the loop. No. 2: Set up a shared family calendar and update it diligently. This is the key to following through on tip No. 1. As Christine explains, “There are a number of shared family calendars available online and some families even use Google calendars to share information about activities. “Our firm typically recommends Our Family Wizard, because it offers a variety of helpful tools. Plus, many Texas Family Court judges require divorcing couples to communicate through Our Family Wizard and use the shared calendar.” Within your shared calendar, you can keep track of: Extracurricular practices and events. Doctor appointments. Homework and project deadlines. School photo days. Family vacations and more. No. 3: Have a conversation about back-to-school supplies. “In Texas, back-to-school supplies are supposed to be paid for with child support. However, the cost for supplies, school uniforms, sports gear, etc., can often exceed that amount. If you want to start out on the right foot with your ex-spouse, offer to help pay for certain items. This can help set the tone for a more amicable co-parenting relationship. “However, I do recommend paying for those designated items directly, such as taking your child school shopping at Target or paying the school directly for uniforms,” Christine says. No. 4: Drop off your children together on the first day of school. Though this may be a difficult for the newly divorced, it’s just one day that will be tough for you, but an important day that will speak volumes to your child. Says Christine, “This stand of unity shows the child that regardless of his or her parents’ differences, you’re all in it together.” No. 5: Get on the same page regarding homework, deadlines and obligations. Christine recommends that parents agree at the outset to share homework duties as equally as possible. “As a Dallas divorce attorney, I frequently run into scenarios where one parent takes on the bulk of the homework follow up while the other disregards it. This is especially problematic when large school projects are involved. “You don’t want to pick up your child on a Sunday night at 7 p.m. and find out they have a huge diorama or book report due in the morning. This is not a fair way to co-parent and it puts unnecessary pressure on the child. Agree to keep each other informed and share homework deadlines and progress reports regularly.” No. 6: Make sure the child’s backpack stays with the child. Speaking of homework, to help your child stay on track and complete homework assignments on time, his or her assignment folder and necessary books and materials need to accompany him or her from home to home. “You can even use the backpack as a talking point. Take a few moments during the exchange to communicate how far along the child is with completing his or her assignments. For...

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Guys’ Guide to Divorce in Texas

In late 2014, cable network Bravo launched a new, scripted television series called “Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce.” The comedy follows the travails of Abby, a self-help book author who turns to her girlfriends for support after splitting from her husband. Each of the series’ episodes focuses on a different rule such as, Rule No. 21, Leave Childishness to Children and Rule No. 8, Timing Is Everything. Last year we even published a post, Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce in Texas, as a nod to the series. Recently though, we got to thinking, what about the guys? After all, Connatser Family Law represents both men and women during divorce and child custody disputes. While many of “The Rules” are the same for both men and women, Dallas Divorce Attorney Christine Powers Leatherberry says her advice to men can cover different topics. This is especially true when the husband has been the main provider for the family. So what “Rules” does Christine recommend to male clients during a divorce? Rule No. 1: Get on Top of Your Finances “The first thing we advise any client is to track down all financial records, so they know what is at stake,” says Christine. Key financial records to locate and assess include: Bank accounts; 401ks, IRAs (individual retirement accounts), pensions and other retirement accounts; Investment accounts; Trust accounts; Stock portfolios; Wills; Safe deposit box; Insurance policies (auto, home, health, life, etc.); W2s and other tax documents; and Logins and passwords for financial accounts. Rule No. 2: Preplan Your Divorce with a Reputable Texas Divorce Lawyer According to Christine, “You should consult an attorney as soon as possible for divorce pre-planning. We have many clients come to us several months or even years before they file for divorce, because they want to be prepared. There is no substitute for preparedness. A reputable divorce attorney can give you guidance regarding what to expect during the process, what information you will need to gather and what you should or should not do in the days leading up to filing for divorce. He or she will also work with you to clarify your goals for the divorce and plan the best strategy for securing the outcome you hope to achieve.” Rule No. 3: Set the Tone for the Divorce from the Get Go As Christine explains, “When telling your wife you want to divorce, it’s important to set the tone early. Let her know that it is your goal for the divorce be an amicable and fair process. Emotions run sky high during divorce, so the more you can assure her that you will do your best to be fair, the better your odds will be for avoiding a contentious divorce.” Rule No. 4: Promise Complete Transparency (and mean it!) If your spouse finds out you’re holding back information pertaining to the divorce, your finances, the children, infidelity, etc., any trust remaining between the two of you will be lost. “You should be as open and honest as possible, in part, because the truth helps everyone heal. This transparency can help reduce tension and smooth the divorce process. It’s important to consult an attorney about what and how to share information with your spouse before and during the divorce proceeding. Otherwise, you could jeopardize your legal strategy and goals,” says Christine. Rule No. 5: Don’t Destroy Evidence of Bad Behavior While those Facebook photos of you at your buddy’s bachelor party may look incriminating, destroying the photos isn’t only a bad idea – it’s illegal. Such destruction of evidence is referred to as spoliation and can cause you more...

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Josh Duggar’s Unsavory Past Serves as Cautionary Tale for Parents

Dallas Divorce Attorney Offers 5 Tips for Protecting Children from Sexual Abuse Whether you love them or hate them, the subjects of the now defunct TLC show “19 Kids and Counting” keep making headlines. Last May, son Josh Duggar (not to mention his family) faced public outrage when a family secret came to light – Josh allegedly molested four of his sisters and a babysitter while he was a teenager. According to Dallas Family Law Attorney Aubrey Connatser, parents need take a proactive approach to protect children from sexual predators who are both known and unknown to them. “Unfortunately, stories of child molestation by a family member or known acquaintance – as is alleged in the Josh Duggar case – are not uncommon. The fact that pornography is one click away on most electronic devices, doesn’t help matters,” Aubrey says. As the Duggar family fought unsuccessfully to save their TLC franchise, more unsavory allegations about Josh surfaced: Cheating accusations due to the Ashley Madison affairs website hack, treatment for pornography addiction and now a civil lawsuit alleging battery has been filed by an adult film star. While the Duggar revelation was shocking to the family’s legion of fans, Aubrey finds many parents underestimate the growing risks children face today. You Child’s Smartphone Offers Easy Access to Pornography “A colleague of mine who works closely with Child Protective Services recently equated the iPhone to what she calls a ‘Porn Pod.’ Technology (smartphones, tablets, computers, etc.) provides children with a direct avenue and easy access to pornography – and we all know how tech-savvy kids are today. That’s where kids get these ideas and why they are learning more about sex at an earlier age. There also aren’t enough parental controls on these devices to block all access. It’s just a sad reality, but you have to protect your kids from that kind of influence as best you can with the tools available to you (see tips later in this post),” Aubrey says. Your child might also be exposed to a friend’s smartphone or tablet – and explicit materials – during a play date or at school. Technology is everywhere, and other kids’ parents might not take measures to block pornography from their children’s electronic devices. For that reason, Aubrey says it’s important to keep an open dialogue with your child and tell them to inform you if a friend shows them something disturbing or unusual, because it’s not OK. Innocent Sleepovers and Weekend Getaways Put Children at Risk Mention the words slumber party or weekend trip, and most kids will say – sign me up! The problem is many parents don’t know or bother to ask who will have access to their child while they’re away from home and their watchful eyes. As Aubrey explains, “Parents need to ask questions. You should never let your child stay at a friend’s house (or lake home, condo in Hawaii or lodge in Aspen, etc.) if the friend has older brothers who will be there. That’s when incidents of molestation frequently happen. Unfortunately, we see these instances often, and the long-term psychological damage can be devastating.” It may also be difficult to control who has access to your child following a divorce, especially if you share custody. “We see sexual abuse in biological families, step families and when other people get access to a child due to a parent’s new relationship (i.e., girlfriend’s adolescent son, boyfriend’s cousin, etc.). Ask your child who they have been introduced to as these new relationships or marriages evolve,” Aubrey says. 5 Tips for Protecting Kids from Sexual...

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Top 10 Things Parents Need to Know About Child Custody Modifications in Texas

When couples divorce in Texas, the first priority of the Family Court is to establish a custody arrangement that addresses the best interests of the children. Kids come first. However, according to Dallas Divorce Attorney Abby Gregory, child custody modifications aren’t uncommon when family circumstances change. “While you can’t modify a divorce decree in Texas (unless you appeal the ruling or enter a motion for a new trial in a set period of time), you can modify the custody aspect or parenting plan of the agreement under the Texas Family Code.” Do you believe the parenting plan or child support outlined in your divorce decree doesn’t meet your child’s needs? Consider these 10 tidbits about Texas child custody modifications first: 1.You typically have to wait one year to seek a custody modification. As Abby explains, “Parents generally must wait one year from the prior order or mediated settlement agreement to modify their custody arrangement absent extraordinary circumstances. There needs to be a material and substantial change in circumstances regarding the children or parent conservator that requires a modification of conservatorship or possession and access.” 2.That “material and substantial change” must occur after the date of the last order or mediated settlement agreement. “What parents have to realize is once the decree has been signed, there is a wall that goes up. You can’t use any evidence that occurred prior to the date of the last order or mediated settlement agreement. So, you can’t say, ‘Oh by the way, when we were married my ex abused the kids and did drugs in front of the kids.’ You can only submit evidence compiled from the date of the previous order or mediated settlement agreement until the present,” Abby says. 3.You may file for a custody modification earlier in some cases. For the courts to consider a modification of the child’s primary residence within the year timeframe, the parent needs to show the children’s present environment may endanger their physical health or significantly impair the children’s emotional development. As Abby explains, “If the mom turns into a meth addict, that behavior would very likely be considered an endangerment to the children’s physical health or significantly impair their emotional development. Any substance abuse, physical harm to the child, or other scenarios where one parent has impaired the wellbeing of the child will likely meet the threshold. On the other hand, if one parent loses a job, gets remarried or feels the possession schedule conflicts with his or her work schedule – those instances probably won’t meet the threshold for modification within one year.” 4.In case of emergency, call the police and your attorney A.S.A.P. If you find out your child’s life and/or wellbeing are in imminent danger (child abuse, drug use in the home, etc.) you should contact an attorney immediately (after you call the police) to seek emergency relief from the court. He or she can help you secure a temporary restraining order until a hearing can be held on the issue. 5.Custody modifications typically evolve along with children’s needs. Many parents simply want to modify the possession schedule to get more time with their kids. Plus, children’s needs change for a variety of reasons over time. In either case, a child custody modification may be in order. “Parents often seek a change in conservatorship, which covers the rights and duties of the each parent. In general, we find as children get older there is more conflict between parents about medical arrangements. This is particularly true when it comes to psychiatric care, issuing of medication, therapy and the like. You can seek...

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