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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Thinking About Dating During Divorce? 7 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t

By Aubrey Connatser If you’re in the process of a divorce and thinking about getting back into the dating scene, you may want to think twice. Not only can dating during divorce potentially jeopardize your divorce settlement and child custody arrangement, it can rock the emotions of everyone involved. Before you start downloading dating apps, consider the following reasons NOT to date during divorce. No. 1: It could take longer to finalize your divorce. If your spouse hasn’t come to terms with your split – which usually takes time – finding out that you’re dating someone else probably isn’t going to go over well with them. Depending on his or her current state of mind, it could feel like you’re pouring salt on their wounds, or you could end up fanning the flames of their anger. People who are upset and/or angry are typically less likely to want to make life easy for you or work with you to settle the divorce amicably. They could very well want to make you feel as miserable as they do, which in some cases, means drawing the divorce case out. No. 2: It could jeopardize your divorce settlement. In Texas, the judge will consider a couple legally married until their divorce decree is signed, sealed and delivered. An affair either party has prior to the divorce being finalized could be considered adultery, which could support a fault-based judgment against the adulterer, since adultery is one of the seven grounds for divorce in Texas. The issue here is that questions could be raised as to whether community funds are being used to pay for entertainment, gifts, loans or trips for a lover, leaving you subject to a reimbursement or waste claim. If the judge finds that misuse of community monies has occurred, your spouse could be awarded a larger portion of the community estate when all is said and done. No. 3: It could intensify the angst your children are feeling. Going through a divorce is a tumultuous time for everyone involved, but children can take it especially hard. Bringing someone new into the mix can be confusing and stressful for children. Plus, the time you spend dating or with a new lover is precious time taken away from your kids. Don’t underestimate the fragility of your child’s mental health right now – they need as much attention as you are able to give. Check out this past post where Aubrey shares five valuable resources to help kids cope during divorce. No. 4: It could complicate co-parenting and child custody. If your spouse is hurt or angry that you’re dating someone else, how eager do you think he or she will be to amicably co-parent and share custody with you? They may also have concerns about your child spending time with your new lover and whether that will affect the child negatively. Don’t be surprised if the other parent fights tooth and nail over every item in the parenting agreement or if they’re unwilling to let you keep your child an extra day for a special trip. No. 5: It could cost you more to get divorced. Whenever you do anything that complicates or drags out your divorce, you’ll most likely end up paying more fees to your attorney. If your spouse isn’t pleased that you’re dating before your divorce is finalized, your case could get prolonged, and therefore more expensive, if your spouse pursues relief from the court to keep the kids from being around your new love interest. Want to keep costs in check during your divorce? Avoid these eight mistakes....

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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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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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5 Things You May Find Surprising About Cohabitation Agreements

Millennials are waiting longer than their parents did to get married and baby boomers are taking a second (or third or fourth) chance at love. Whether you’re putting marriage off or you simply don’t want to get married, getting a cohabitation agreement can be a smart financial move. Along with establishing how finances will be handled during the relationship, cohabitation agreements are especially beneficial when one or both of the parties enters the relationship with sizable assets. In Texas, these contractual agreements can be used to: No. 1: Disprove common law marriage. In Texas, a couple that cohabitates faces the risk that their relationship will constitute common law marriage, unless they mutually sign a written agreement stating that they are not married. According to Texas law, the following three requirements must be met in order to constitute common law marriage: There is an agreement between the two parties that they are married; The couple lives together as husband and wife; and The couple has presented themselves to other people as husband and wife. Since Texas is a community property state, any property, earnings and debt acquired during the relationship may be subject to division by a court of competent jurisdiction if the court decides a common law marriage exists. By mutually signing a cohabitation agreement, you can avoid the entanglements of common law marriage. No. 2: Clarify financial obligations during the relationship. While this is one of the key reasons to get a cohabitation agreement, there are many financial concerns people don’t think about before moving in together. First, it’s important to spell out who will cover what expenses and for how long, such as: Household expenses (rent/mortgage, association dues, utilities, repairs, etc.) Car payments and repairs Insurance (home, auto and health) Pet food, care and vet bills Club memberships and dues In relationships where a monied party will cover the majority of the expenses, the cohabitation agreement can also include provisions for the non-monied spouse, including: A “signing bonus” at the outset of the agreement Monthly spending budget for miscellaneous expenses Shopping budget Guaranteed date nights Requirements pertaining to wills, trusts, life insurance, etc. No. 3: Define who gets custody of the pets. Though you may consider your fur baby to be a member of your family, the state of Texas views pets as property. However, judges will consider legal agreements that explicitly spell out who will take custody of – or own – the pet should the relationship dissolve. If you want to ensure you maintain custody of your pets, be sure to include those wishes in your cohabitation agreement. No. 4: Set the rules for disengagement should the relationship end. Cohabitation agreements can help eliminate confusion and minimize stress related to a messy breakup, because both parties will know where they stand financially and otherwise. The rules for disengagement may include: How assets or property acquired during the relationship will be split. Who will be responsible for debts, such as credit cards and other monies owed. How joint financial accounts will be handled, closed, money distributed, etc. Who will have to move out of any shared residence and when. What financial support (if any) the monied party will provide to the non-monied party, as well as under what circumstances the support would be paid (i.e., if the monied party instigates the breakup). No. 5: Provide peace of mind. There are a number of ways a cohabitation agreement can provide peace of mind to the parties involved. For example, if you are the non-monied party, your cohab could establish what money and/or assets you will receive in...

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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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