Lisa E. McKnight, P.C. Lisa E. McKnight, P.C.
contact today for a confidential consultation
Phone: 214-528-4191 Toll Free: 866-586-5149
speak with an experienced attorney

Dallas Family Law Blog

Is divorce mediation a good tool for you?

Divorced Texan parents will have a lot on their plate when it comes to determining child custody. This is where Lisa E McKnight PC can step in and help you out. She can offer you guidance through the sometimes complex legalities of child custody and help you reach an arrangement that benefits everybody.

Though this hasn't always been the case, it's becoming frequently common for divorced couples to devote as much equal time to raising their child as possible. Perfectly equal divisions of time and attention aren't always possible. However, parents and family court judges alike now understand the benefits of allowing a child to grow up with equal influences and presences from both of their parents.

An “Empire” star’s divorce and spousal maintenance issues

In celebrity divorce cases, alimony awards, referred to as spousal maintenance in Texas law, sometimes seem exorbitant. The divorce of Terrence Howard, star in the television series “Empire,” and Michelle Ghent, for example, initially ended upon agreement that Howard pay $5,800 in monthly alimony support payments. However, later he claimed he was under duress during the signing of the agreement based on threats Ghent had made to publicly disclose private photos. On that basis, the lower court disapproved of the monthly alimony award in their final judgment of divorce because they found that Howard was under duress due to the threat. Ghent, claiming error on the part of the lower court’s finding and judgment, appealed the judgment and won. The appeals court found that Howard was not under duress when he signed the agreement. Now, the lower court will be required to amend its judgment consistent with the opinion of the appeals court.

If the case had proceeded in Texas, however, the spouse requesting spousal maintenance would have been limited to only that amount of support she needed to meet her own “minimum reasonable needs.” In a suit for dissolution of marriage, spousal maintence is comprised of payments made periodically out of the future earnings of the supporting spouse. The statutory cap on monthly maintenance is $5,000, and the providing spouse, known as the obligor, may be ordered to pay the lesser of $5,000 or 20% of the obligor’s average monthly income.

Detailed recordkeeping keeps divorced parents on the same page

At the end of your marriage, you are likely to have many details to track. Perhaps you are keeping a record of expenses or an event calendar for the first time, especially if you have depended on a spouse to watch over these day-to-day concerns. When you separate your finances and time from your ex-spouse, it can be tricky to determine what is fair for you and your ex. And when children are involved, you may be learning to share time and expenses for the best interest of the child.

After the divorce, it is likely that you will be responsible in part for the care and financial concerns of your children. Child support payments often occur as a monthly sum, but some families decide to handle less frequent expenses differently. A divorce settlement may outline certain specific financial and visitation guidelines. In Texas, both parents must follow the decision as ordered by the judge. It can be both helpful and legally important to have a written record that supports your statements about child care and expenses.

Studies find children who split time fare better

When Texas parents decide to split up, finding the best custody arrangement for their children can be a difficult and emotionally fraught situation. However, new studies have found that when shared custody is possible, it is the best situation for the child.

As the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports, a new study found that even when parents did a poor job of co-parenting or had significant conflict, children who were able to split their time between parents had the best outcomes. The researchers from Wake Forest University reviewed 44 previous studies on the role of conflict on children in divorce found that excepting abuse or violence, a child who has a strong relationship with both parents was the single-largest factor in a child's well-being. Since mothers are given custody 80 percent of the time, the researchers believe it may be time to change the way policies around divorce are written so joint custody is not the exception, but rather the rule.

Plan for divorce by understanding your financial situation

From high profile divorces involving millions of dollars to low profile and low cost divorces, the rules in Texas law remain the same. Either the parties have to come to agreement on the equitable distribution of property, spousal support, child support and physical custody arrangements, or they will have to litigate over these matters in court. In other words, there is no royal road to divorce. Fortunately, at Lisa E. McKnight PC we specialize in Texas family law and know how best to help clients plan for divorce.

While several practical and legal factors come into play when contemplating divorce, gather financial documents now can alleviate stress down the road. There are many actions you can take and recommendations you will  want to consider in order to place yourself in the best possible position and facilitate your peace of mind when it comes to finally making your decision.

Child custody issues for same-sex partners aren't always clear

Same-sex couples can now marry legally, and with that also comes the possibility of divorce and divorce-related issues. If you're part of a married same-sex couple and you have children, you will most likely have to iron things out like who will get custody of the children and who will pay child support.

The issues surrounding same-sex divorce are fledgling ones for court systems in the United States. Extra complications could arise if others are included in the scenario -- like surrogates or biological parents if you adopted children. It all depends upon what kind of agreements you and your partner had with others who played a part in your children's lives.

Texas and the growing issue of international child abduction

Divorces can come with countless negative repercussions, especially in cases wherein parents do not agree on assigned child custody rights. In Texas, child custody is also known as conservatorship, which describes standard legal rights of a parent. Identical to child custody, this process can include joint managing conservatorship or sole conservatorship. When it comes to disputes regarding children and divorce, there exists a shocking number of cases in which parents travel with children internationally in attempt to regain custody.

The Houston Chronicle notes of the increasing issue of international child abduction not only in Texas, but in the United States as a whole. Federal authorities in charge of mediating international family disputes have reported the increase in demand, and point explanations for these cases largely toward the growth of foreign-born populations in the U.S. Yet the only help most parents in such situations receive is from the 1980 Hague Abduction Convention, a treaty that works with 73 signed countries to return missing children to their place of habitual residence. Although the treaty is a step forward in regards to resolving international child custody issues, the instances of actually finding an abducted child remain slim in most cases.

Custody battle forces tennis star to miss US Open

Tennis fans across Texas will not see Victoria Azarenka compete in this year's US Open. As the New York Post reports, the tennis star has been ordered by a judge not to leave the state of California with her baby boy until she has settled a custody dispute with her ex-boyfriend, Billy McKeague. The tennis player, who was previously ranked first in the world until being beaten by Simona Halep at Wimbledon, had to choose between her child and her career. 

The custody documents were filed by McKeague in California, where Azarenka maintains a residence. The athlete was originally born in Belarus, and a judge has warned her that leaving the state with her son before the end of the custody suit, which is believed would be completed in October. Since the US Open begins in New York at the end of August, and Azarenka does not want to leave her son solely in the care of his father, this means she must miss the tournament. Azarenka's lawyer stated that they offered to pay for McKeague's travel and accommodations during the tournament so they could all be in New York, but the judge declined the arrangement.

Marital residence: Do I stay or do I go?

The family home: It can naturally be a wellspring of good memories and comfort for a married couple. However, when the couple gets divorced, the family home can quickly turn into a source of contention.

Spouses who are going through divorce in Texas may desire to keep the family home for a wide variety of reasons. Some prefer to keep the home due to the emotional connection they have with it, whereas others want it because they will assume custody of the children and want to keep the children in the home. A few things are important to consider when contemplating keeping the marital residence in Texas.

What is the Hague Abduction Convention?

If you are one of the many separated or divorced spouses in Texas who has minor children with your former partner, you will understandably be concerned about the strength and validity of any custody agreement you enter into. You know that even getting to the point of agreeing on how to share your parenting time can be a major undertaking. However, for some people there may be the added concern that the other parent may not always abide by the agreement.

Taking children out of the United States is one way that some parents attempt to circumvent a child custody decision or order. If this happens to you, you may be able to seek help under the Hague Abduction Convention. As explained by the United States Department of State, the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is a treaty that multiple nations have voluntarily entered into. It aims to help custody issues be heard and decided in the appropriate jurisdictions.