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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Is Being a Single Dad Hazardous for Your Health? 6 Longevity-Boosting Tips

A recent study published in The Lancet Public Health revealed that single fathers face a significantly higher risk of early death than single mothers or parents in a relationship. In fact, single dads were twice as likely to die during the research period than other parents involved in the 11-year Canadian study. While the researchers couldn’t pinpoint exactly why these dads were at higher risk, they did find that single fathers in the study tended to lead less healthy lifestyles than the other parents. Hoping to gain custody of your kids after divorce? Check out our past post on the five crucial steps dads should take to get custody in Texas. Could your single dad lifestyle use a little house cleaning? There is no question that single parenting is hard work. However, that doesn’t mean health should take a back seat to the other responsibilities you’re juggling. More important, your kids need you around for love and support – whether that means walking your daughter down the aisle or giving your son advice when he faces challenges of his own. If you want to be there for your kids for years to come, take a proactive approach to good health. Here are a few tips to get the ball rolling. Tip No. 1: Put your binge drinking days behind you. The Lancet study revealed that single dads were more likely to binge drink than other parents. Guess what? Binge drinking poses serious health risks. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), binge drinking (typically five or more drinks in a two-hour span for men, four or more for women) increases the risk for unintentional injuries (car accidents, falls, burns, etc.), high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, liver disease, poor brain health, cancer and more. It can also lead to alcohol dependency. Speak with your doctor if you need help getting sober. If you don’t, it could negatively impact your ability to get custody or time with your kids. Tip No. 2: Man up and start getting annual physicals. Whether they see it as a sign of weakness, are afraid to find out something serious is wrong with them or feel uncomfortable undergoing certain tests (like prostate exams), many men avoid going to the doctor like the plague. Unfortunately, avoiding the doctor is another way men put their health more at risk than women, who are more likely to see a doctor annually or when they don’t feel well. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of men, however many of the risk factors for heart disease, like high blood pressure and cholesterol issues, don’t present symptoms people can feel. Fortunately, heart disease can often be prevented when risk factors are diagnosed and treated early on. So, pick up the phone and schedule a physical. If you have sons, this is also a great opportunity to set a good example and help them get comfortable with having annual physicals. Tip No. 3: Opt for a cleaner, heart-healthy diet. Another possible risk factor for single dads’ shorter life spans may be unhealthy eating habits. As the Lancet researchers pointed out, single fathers in the study ate fewer fruits and vegetables than their counterparts. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends following a healthy diet plan that includes nutrient-rich foods with a balance of fruits and vegetables, minerals, lean protein, whole grains, nuts, legumes and non-tropical vegetable oils. In addition, the AHA suggests limiting sodium, saturated fats, trans fats, and sugar. Eating more fresh, unprocessed foods is a great first step to getting the nutrients you need and avoiding the...

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Five Lessons on Love, Marriage and Divorce That We Can Learn from ‘The Crown’

By Christine Powers Leatherberry If you’re one of many fans who binge-watched seasons one and two of “The Crown,” you probably can’t wait for 2019 to roll around. That’s when season three of the popular Netflix series is projected to premiere. The Royal Family was – and still is – no stranger to divorce. As we wait patiently for the new season to arrive, let’s take a look at the lessons we’ve learned from “The Crown” – and today’s royals – about love, marriage and divorce. No. 1: It’s good to be King – if you want to get divorced. Well, at least it was for Henry VIII. When Henry VIII’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon, was unable to produce a male heir, the King asked the Pope to annul the marriage. The Pope refused, so Henry VIII broke with the Catholic Church. Subsequently, the Archbishop of Canterbury declared the marriage null and void. This cleared the way for the King to marry Anne Boleyn and take control of the Church of England. Strangely enough, when Anne was unable to produce a male heir, Henry VIII chose to have Anne investigated for treason and other crimes, instead of seeking a divorce or annulment. Anne was found guilty and beheaded in the Tower of London. No. 2: For some, love matters more than power. Even though Henry VIII facilitated his own annulment, the Church of England continued to frown upon annulments and divorce for centuries to come. To get divorced or become involved with someone who was divorced could be scandalous, especially for members of high society or the Royal Family. Such was the case in 1936, when King Edward VIII was forced to abdicate the throne to his brother George (father of the current Queen Elizabeth II) in order to marry the twice-divorced American Wallis Simpson. Edward’s love for Wallis was stronger than his desire to remain King, and the couple – the Duke and Duchess of Windsor – remained together and devoted to each other until Edward’s death in 1972. No. 3: Sacrificing love for duty may be bad for your health. “The Crown” covered this topic in depth. When Princess Margaret, sister of Queen Elizabeth II, fell in love with Peter Townsend, a divorced father of two, the Church of England – and ultimately her sister the Queen – refused to allow the marriage to proceed. Instead of leaving the monarchy – which she would have been forced to do had she married Townshend – Margaret eventually broke off the relationship. As depicted in this clip from season two of “The Crown,” Margaret was consequently heartbroken and began drinking more. When the Queen says to Margaret, “You’re drinking far more than you used to,” Margaret responds, “Why do you think that is? Because I’m unhappier than I used to be. And why is that? Because I’m still unmarried. And why is that? Oh, because you denied me my perfect match.” Margaret eventually married photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones in 1960. The couple divorced in 1978, resulting in negative press for the Princess and the Royal Family, because society and the public still frowned upon divorce in the 70s. No. 4: The times and the perception of divorce are changing. Even the Church agrees that there is a place for divorce in society today. In 2002, the Church of England announced that, “The Church teaches that marriage is for life, it also recognizes that some marriages sadly fail, if this should happen, it seeks to be available for all involved. The Church accepts that, in exceptional circumstances, a divorced person...

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Simple, Yet Unclear: What to Expect Following the Alimony Deduction Repeal

By Alissa Castro If you have been contemplating or are in the process of getting a divorce, you may be wondering how changes to the tax code under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (“TCJA”) will affect you. The key tax code change in question is the repeal of the alimony deduction that has been in place since 1942. The simple facts There are a few things that we know for sure, based on what is written in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act: If you get divorced after December 31, 2018, and you pay alimony – or spousal maintenance as it’s known in Texas – that alimony will no longer be tax deductible for the payor. In addition, the recipient won’t have to pay taxes on alimony, as it is no longer considered income. Beyond those basic facts, there has been much speculation regarding how the repeal will affect people who file for divorce and try to negotiate divorce settlements. Experts in divorce, tax law, and financial planning have also raised concerns about the financial impact the change will have on both the payor and payee. Based on our experience as divorce attorneys and what other experts are speculating, the following is what we expect may occur due to the elimination of the alimony deduction. More couples are likely seeing the courtroom Many experts speculate that the elimination of the alimony deduction will result in fewer couples negotiating divorce settlements outside of court. The alimony deduction has been very attractive for some monied spouses, because it reduced the amount of income they had to pay taxes on, often resulting in significant savings for the payor. With the deduction repealed, monied spouses will have less incentive to agree to provide support to help a spouse get back on her (or his) feet after divorce. The fact that the law is effective after December 31, 2018, could help settlement negotiations this year. Thereafter, it will become more difficult to settle in certain cases, which means divorce lawyers will likely be going to court with clients more often. The alimony repeal could also affect divorce modifications Many couples decide or are forced to modify their initial agreements after the divorce has been finalized. The courts traditionally consider these divorce modifications new agreements, which could be an issue for couples that included alimony in a past agreement that is subject to modification, especially those who don’t want to lose the deduction or the alimony. This could force some couples to decide against a modification, leaving them stuck with other arrangements that no longer suit their or their family’s needs. Because this change applies to modifications after December 31, 2018, if the modification specifically states that the TCJA treatment of alimony payments applies, it is very important to meet with an attorney to ensure that the correct language is included in any subsequent modification. Couples that get divorced before the end of 2018 should consider including language in their divorce agreements to ensure alimony is grandfathered in, should a future divorce modification be necessary. Learn more about child custody modifications in Texas here. Women and local governments could be hit hardest Not receiving a supplemental financial settlement could be especially devastating for women in states like Texas (98 percent of alimony recipients are women), where the monied spouse is required to pay minimal or no spousal support in most cases. In Texas, $5,000/month (or 20 percent of the spouse’s average monthly gross income, whichever is less) is the maximum amount of spousal maintenance a spouse could be ordered to pay. In addition, people...

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Royal Wedding: Should Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Get a Prenup?

By Christine Powers Leatherberry Britain’s Prince Harry and actress-philanthropist Meghan Markle are scheduled to wed May 19, 2018. Prince Harry’s net worth is estimated at $40 million, while Markle’s net worth is speculated to be around $5 million. MarketWatch also reports that she will not return to her role in the popular TV series “Suits,” and she shut down her lifestyle website “The Tig” last spring. By all accounts, Markle is all in when it comes to joining the Royal Family. She even deleted all of her social media accounts recently. However, the question remains, will the couple sign a premarital agreement before they walk down the aisle? Neither his father, Prince Charles, nor his brother, Prince William, signed prenups prior to getting married. Quitting your job for marriage or have considerable wealth in your family? Consider a prenup Premarital agreements can provide a number of benefits for both monied and non-monied parties. They can allow wealthy individuals to protect their assets, provide peace of mind for the lesser-monied party and potentially help couples avoid a litigious divorce. Since Markle has given up her career and income received through acting and endorsements, a prenup could provide financial resources to ease her back into life as a commoner should the couple split. For Prince Harry, a premarital agreement could protect his assets and those he is likely to inherit from his family – grandparents, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, and father, Prince Charles. Five things Prince Harry and Meghan Markle should consider including in their premarital agreement While laws pertaining to marriage, divorce and premarital agreements differ in the United Kingdom, many of the laws overseas are similar to those in the United States. Following are five things typically recommended for wealthy couples wanting a premarital agreement based on laws in Texas: No. 1: Keep individual property separate. Frequently referred to as a “roommate” prenup, this type of premarital agreement follows a “what’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is yours” philosophy. Many wealthy individuals want to ensure NO community property is created during the marriage. Instead, Prince Harry could agree to cover monthly living expenses and give Markle an allowance and other concessions, while requiring that she give up any community property rights. No. 2: Include a signing bonus. Some people view premarital agreements as a sign of distrust and may be reluctant to sign. To encourage the lesser-monied party to agree to a prenup, the wealthy party may offer a set dollar amount – or “signing bonus” – to be paid to the other party upon the signing of the agreement. No. 3: Address other financial considerations. Spelling out how much money the non-monied spouse will have at his or her disposal following the wedding is a good way to set expectations. Agreeing on specific budgets and clarifying potential payouts to be offered in the event of a divorce may also help couples avoid friction over money later on. Typical line items include: During the marriage: Monthly spending budget for miscellaneous expenses Shopping/clothing allowance Car/travel/entertainment allowance Upon divorce or death: Alimony or “exit bonus” based on duration of marriage should the couple divorce (may include cash, residence, jewels and other assets) Provisions for treatment of any retirement plans or employee benefits (in Prince Harry’s case, this may include benefits pertaining to his military service) Homestead rights – who will live in the couple’s home (or homes) after death, if the residence was separate property No. 4: Establish guidelines for disbursement of wills and trusts. Since Prince Harry is a member of a long-established family dynasty – the...

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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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