5 Ways to Co-Parent Like a Ninja During Holidays and Summer Vacations

By Christine Powers Leatherberry Whether you’re thinking about the upcoming holidays or want to ensure co-parenting with your ex goes smoother next summer, it pays to plan ahead. You’ll also have a better shot at co-parenting ninja-hood if you and your ex work together and agree on a co-parenting plan that works well for everyone involved. Ready to start co-parenting like a ninja during upcoming holidays and summer vacations? Consider the following tips.   No. 1: Review your parenting plan and holiday schedule. If it’s been a few years since your parenting plan and possession schedule were agreed upon, it may be time for an update. Children’s needs, activities and interests can change drastically over time. Schedule time with your ex (and, if necessary, a mediator or parenting coordinator/parenting facilitator) to make adjustments. Once both parties agree to the changes, their respective attorneys can file any necessary paperwork. If you’re in the process of divorce and need to make plans for an upcoming holiday or vacation, your divorce attorney can explain what the default possession schedule in the Texas Family Code provides and whether a hearing will be necessary to address holiday and vacation plans. For additional tips, check out our holiday co-parenting infographic.  No. 2: Keep the shared family calendar up to date. Shared calendars help keep everyone on the same page and are readily available online. Some judges even require parents to use shared calendars, like Our Family Wizard, during the divorce process. However, shared calendars only work when they are accurate, so agree to diligently update the calendar when new events or activities arise. These include the children’s school and extracurricular activities, doctor appointments, family celebrations, birthday parties and other outings, as well as upcoming vacations. Newly divorced? Check out our back-to-school tips here.  No. 3: Discuss how to handle unforeseen costs and expenses. Who pays for what should be covered in your parenting plan; however, it isn’t unusual for unexpected events or activities to come up during summer vacation and holiday breaks. For example, say your son is invited to join his best friend and his parents for a weekend ski trip, and they’ll cover all expenses except airfare. You could ask the other parent to split the cost of the flight, or agree that the more affluent parent will pay a larger portion or all of the expense. No. 4: Be proactive about planning YOUR solo time. If you’re not used to spending summer vacation or holiday time without your kids, being apart could be difficult for you. To ease the loneliness, schedule activities for yourself while the kids are away. Whether that means reconnecting with old friends, going on vacation, pursuing a new hobby or donating time to a favorite charity, staying busy helps time fly and can be fulfilling as well. No. 5: Remember, the kids come first. Splitting children’s holiday and vacation time with another parent can be challenging, especially during and following a high-conflict divorce. To help minimize trauma and maximize enjoyment for your child, try to be as kind and flexible as possible with your ex. This will hopefully encourage him or her to do the same in return. If you find it impossible to co-parent – regarding holidays or otherwise – bring in a mediator or parenting coordinator/parenting facilitator to help sort through any issues. Your family law attorney can make recommendations if you need help finding one. Christine Powers Leatherberry is a compassionate family lawyer who is equally comfortable in the courtroom as she is counseling her clients one-on-one. To learn more about divorce and child custody in...

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The Seven Grounds for Divorce in Texas and Why They Matter

By Alissa Castro At some point or another, you’ve probably heard the phrase – “That’s grounds for divorce!” Whether it was on T.V. or during a couple’s argument you accidentally overheard, “grounds for divorce” has long been a part of the fabric of America. But what are the grounds for divorce, and why do they matter? It all depends on where you file for divorce. What are the grounds for divorce in Texas? In Texas, there are seven grounds for divorce spelled out in the family code. These include both fault grounds and no-fault grounds. That’s right – you don’t have to prove fault grounds in order to get a divorce in Texas. However, the grounds on which you base your request for divorce may affect the outcome of your divorce settlement. Sound confusing? Let’s break it down, starting with the three no-fault grounds, where neither party is at fault for the marriage breaking down, but circumstances exist where the marriage is no longer viable for one or both parties. Texas no-fault grounds include: Insupportability. These grounds are commonly referred to as irreconcilable differences. To prove insupportability, you have to show that the marriage is insupportable because of a discord or conflict of personalities that destroys the legitimate ends of the marital relationship and prevents any reasonable expectation of reconciliation. Insupportability is one of the most common grounds people use to file for divorce in Texas. In layman’s terms, the person has filed because they no longer see eye-to-eye with their spouse or living with the spouse has become intolerable for some reason. Living apart. If two spouses have lived apart without cohabitating for three years or more – at the time of the trial – that could support living apart grounds for divorce. In these types of cases, the court typically views the arrangement as something both parties agreed to, based on the fact that they have lived apart for so long. Living apart grounds can play a role in the just and right division of the estate. For example, say one party claims she hasn’t seen her spouse in over five years, and she doesn’t know where to find him. The court might award her everything in her possession, provided she meets certain conditions, such as taking steps to serve him papers, even if that means serving a notice in the newspaper. Confinement to a mental hospital. People become mentally incompetent for a variety of reasons, whether due to mental illness, as the result of an accident or another cause. What’s key here is that the party must have been confined for at least three years and the severity of their mental disorder is to the degree that it’s unlikely to improve and, if it does, relapse of the disorder is very likely. While confinement may be grounds for divorce, the statute was also put in place to help protect the confined person’s interests and the just and right division of property. The court will likely appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the person who is confined. If you say, “Oh well, they’re confined, so I should get everything in the estate,” you probably won’t be granted the divorce! The role of fault-grounds in Texas divorce The difference between no-fault grounds and fault grounds is pretty straightforward. With fault grounds, someone is actually found at fault for the divorce. Again, you don’t have to prove fault grounds to get a divorce in Texas. However, if you claim certain fault grounds – like adultery – and the judge doesn’t buy your argument, he or she could still...

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Like, Share, Delete? How to Safely Navigate Social Media During Divorce

For better or worse, social media evidence plays a role in the majority of the cases our divorce lawyers handle every day. If you’re planning to divorce, it’s essential to understand how social media could affect the outcome of your divorce and follow best practices for managing social accounts. Deleting social media accounts and posts is a big no-no One of the first pieces of advice we give clients is DO NOT delete any of their social media accounts, posts, messages, conversations or comments. It’s true, anything you say and do on social media could be held against you. However, deleting accounts or posts that don’t represent you in a positive light is not a good idea, because a judge could find that you destroyed evidence, which is illegal. Just because you delete something, doesn’t mean the opposing party or his or her counsel didn’t find that evidence earlier and preserve a screen grab. Claiming that such evidence doesn’t exist, then having it revealed by your spouse’s attorney could harm your case. Judges don’t look favorably upon people who lie. Live your life like you’re being watched … Because the world IS watching. During a divorce, it’s best to assume that everything you post, message, share and like on social media will be scrutinized by your spouse’s attorney and your judge. While it’s typically best to avoid engaging with social media during a divorce, if you must post, post with care. Only share photos, videos or comments that are positive, such as a family outing or your child performing in a school play. At the same time, don’t think that you can just fake “nice” on social media either. Remember, smartphones are everywhere and someone could capture your bad behavior at anytime – even as you walk away from your child’s baseball game, five minutes after you posted that you were there. Learn how to prevent the cloud from scuttling your divorce in this helpful post. Don’t underestimate the power of social media as evidence Judges in the family courts take social media evidence very seriously and some are even intrigued by it. Video evidence can be especially compelling, because, depending on the content, it is typically more difficult to dispute than a photograph. Social media evidence can make or break your case; so don’t take it lightly. Talk with children about their social media habits While you may not want to stop your kids from using Snapchat, Instagram or Facebook completely, do have a conversation with them regarding what they should and shouldn’t post, like, message and share. It’s also helpful to explain to children that what they post may have consequences. Learn more about the pitfalls of technology during divorce and child custody disputes in this past post. For safety purposes, disable GPS or location access in social media apps Many social media apps allow you to tag your location or even assign a location to your post automatically. If you’re afraid your spouse could harm you or your children, it’s vital to take precautions to keep your location private. Check the settings for all social media apps on all of your digital devices – phones, tablets, laptops – and turn off each app’s access to your location. If you don’t know how, visit the store or service provider where you purchased the device and ask for help. Turn to your divorce attorney for additional guidance Social media apps and capabilities change practically every day, which means how social media factors into divorce cases continues to evolve. Since reputable divorce lawyers monitor social media’s influence on divorce...

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International Custody 101: Helpful Tips for Parents

By Christine Powers Leatherberry In the wake of actress Scarlett Johansson’s split from French journalist Romain Dauriac and pending custody concerns regarding the couple’s young daughter, Dallas family law attorney Christine Powers Leatherberry shares advice for parents facing international custody disputes. Custody disputes between high-profile couples can become very heated, even when they play out in one country. However, what happens when one parent files for custody in the United States, while the other parent hopes to maintain custody of the child in another country? In the case of Scarlett Johansson and Romain Dauriac, the Daily Mail reports that she has requested daughter Rose reside with her in New York, while he allegedly will be petitioning the court to take the child to live with him in his native France. While we don’t know all the details pertaining to Johansson and Dauriac’s dispute, what we DO know is every international custody dispute plays out differently. In addition, they are almost always more complicated than traditional domestic child custody issues. Two of the biggest challenges that arise during international custody concerns include: No. 1: Jurisdiction and the Hague Convention. Where your child’s custody case will be heard and which country’s laws apply are the first issues that need to be addressed during an international child custody dispute. If your case ends up in a different country, you literally have to deal with a foreign legal system, and that definitely complicates things. Issues can be compounded further, should one parent illegally move a child to another country without the other parent’s consent. The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (also known simply as the Convention) is a multilateral treaty developed by the Hague Conference on Private International Law that helps ensure a child abducted by a parent from one member country to another be expeditiously returned. However, the primary role of the Convention is to determine in which country the custody issues will be heard, and that determination is based on the “status quo” in regard to where the child had been regularly living prior to being kidnapped and moved to another country. For example, if a parent takes off to Peru with his or her children, which basically amounts to a parental kidnapping, then Peru and the United States (which are both parties to the Convention) would work together to get the children back to United States, because that was the status quo before the alleged wrong happened. Even when international kidnapping isn’t an issue, jurisdiction still needs to be established. Where the child has regularly resided prior to the parent filing for custody – again, the status quo – is typically the primary question for the court. No. 2. Failure by other countries to recognize orders issued in the U.S. Another common issue our international custody clients face is noncompliance with court orders by the other parent. Unfortunately, many other countries won’t force parents to abide by custody orders issued in the United States. For example, an American court could order a father to pay $2,000 per month in child support or afford the mother the right to establish residence. However, the court in the other country could assert that it has jurisdiction over the case and refuse to enforce the U.S. court’s order. That’s why we typically recommend hiring attorneys in both countries, at least for a period of time. The attorney in the other country can help you navigate the custody laws of the foreign legal system. He or she can also advise you regarding how to get the Convention treaty applied in...

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How to Avoid the Pitfalls of Technology During Divorce and Child Custody Disputes

By Abby Gregory While technology can simplify our lives, it does come with a potential downside, especially during divorce and child custody disputes. Dallas family law attorney Abby Gregory sheds light on common technology-related miscues that can negatively affect divorce, child custody and visitation outcomes. In today’s high-tech world, married couples often share phone plans, home computers, email accounts, cloud accounts and passwords. This may make sense during marriage, but what if you plan to file for divorce and if the custody of your children is at stake? Unfortunately, most people don’t realize how deeply their personal devices (phones, tablets, computers) and digital accounts (email, text messaging, cloud, Dropbox, social media, apps, etc.) are intertwined with their future ex-spouse’s. Abby discusses the misunderstood intricacies of sharing data and why it’s important to know what information can be accessed via the cloud. A fine balance – preserving evidence AND privacy Destroying evidence during a divorce is illegal, and this includes any past phone call, text, email, financial and other records you shared with your spouse. However, during a divorce, you do have a right to keep personal communications private on non-shared accounts. That’s why it’s so important to open a new phone plan in your name only, which is in no way tied to your family’s cloud account. In many cases, I also recommend creating a new email account with unique passwords that only you can access. You should also take steps to ensure that neither your spouse nor your children have access to any device where your personal email or text messages could be retrieved. This may sound simple, but in our practice we regularly see instances where parties private communications have been intercepted. Abby explains how incriminating text messages were discovered and used against a parent in a custody case. 7 steps to outsmart technology AND protect confidential information during divorce and child custody disputes Step 1: Don’t call, text or email any information about your plans to divorce on any devices your family shares. For example, if you have a laptop that you, your spouse and your kids all use, it probably won’t be password protected. This can be problematic, because: Any email accounts or social media profiles you regularly access from that device probably open automatically, without logging in, simply by turning on the device. Any communications you send and receive on shared devices and within shared accounts (email, text messages, etc.) can be accessed from any device tied to your shared cloud account. For more insight on technology, check out this past post: Is Technology Secretly Sabotaging Your Divorce? Step 2: Log out of social profiles and private email accounts on shared devices. You should also change all associated passwords and do so on a device only you have access to. If you don’t want to raise red flags by logging out of your email account, move on to Step 3. Step 3: Create a new, private email account – with a unique password – on a personal device only you have access to. Use this account to correspond with your divorce attorney and family or friends who know about your situation. Step 4: Keep a careful eye on your personal devices (phones, tablets, laptops, etc.) and change your device passwords. Many parents share tablets or smartphones with their kids. However, this can be a bad idea if your private digital accounts can be accessed there, especially if your child brings the device to your future ex-husband or ex-wife’s home for the weekend. Step 5: Turn off location services for apps on devices tied to...

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

Since founding Connatser Family Law in 2013, 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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