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Dallas Divorce Law Blog

International parental child abductions

Unfortunately, some Texas parents who have gone through a divorce are affected by situations in which their child is wrongfully taken abroad by the other parent in order to evade child custody and access orders. Although this type of behavior is illegal, some parents still flaunt the court orders and take their children away.

The problem is a pervasive one, with nearly 8,000 cases reported to the U.S. State Department between the years of 2008 and 2013 alone. In order to combat this global issue, 93 countries have signed on to a treaty pledging to help return children who have been abducted and brought within their borders.

How to protect property without a prenuptial agreement

For many Texas couples who go into a marriage with money or assets, prenuptial agreements are one way that they can make sure their own assets are protected in the event of a divorce. A prenuptial agreement isn't the only way to keep assets protected if a divorce occurs. Instead, anyone who is getting married but can't get a prenuptial agreement signed can take steps to keep their money protected.

One important thing that anyone must do keep money and assets safe is to keep them separate from marital assets. This means keeping money in a bank account in only the owner's name and keeping real estate titled in only one spouse's name. Keeping assets separate means not allowing any assets owned prior to the marriage with marital assets like pay. Gifts and inheritances given to one spouse during the marriage can be placed with assets owned prior to the marriage as long as the gifts and inheritances were intended only for one spouse.

Shared parenting and child custody in Texas

For many years, the popular thinking in child custody and divorce cases was that children should live primarily with one parent, while visiting the other infrequently, such as every other weekend. The idea behind this was that a child would be stressed out by constantly going between two homes.

A recent study demonstrates the opposite, however. The Swedish study, reported in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health on April 27, instead found that children fare best when they spend more equal amounts of time with both parents in a shared parenting arrangement.

Calculating child support in Texas

The Texas legislature has established child support laws in an attempt to provide financial stability for children growing up in Texas with one parent. While all Texas parents have a legal obligation to support their children, child support is commonly at issue in divorce, visitation and paternity cases. Accordingly, family courts are often called upon to calculate amounts and enter orders governing payment.

Judges are granted wide discretion in calculating child support payments. The primary criterion is the best interests of the child. That said, the legislature has created guidelines for use by the courts. For a parent who has no children outside the proceedings, the guidelines suggest 20 percent of the parent's income be paid as child support for one child, and 25 percent for two. For six or more children, the guidelines suggest a minimum child support payment of 40 percent of the parent's income.

The accuracy of paternity tests

Many parents in Texas know that paternity tests are often used to determine the biological fathers of children. The tests are generally used to establish the paternity of fathers in child custody and support cases. However, what some people do not know is that paternity tests are not always 100 percent accurate.

The results of paternity tests are determined based on the number of loci pulled from the children and alleged fathers. Loci are the DNA match points. During a paternity test, the DNA of a baby is compared to the DNA of the alleged father because half of the chromosomes in a child's DNA come from the father. The best results come from tests that utilize 16 loci, but some facilities only analyze 13, resulting in less accurate results.

Beneficiary designations and divorce

Individuals in Texas who are divorcing may be preoccupied with thoughts of asset division and child custody, but it is also important to make sure that beneficiary designations are changed. This can be done either before filing for divorce or after the divorce is finalized. It is also important to note that changing beneficiary designation is separate from making changes to a will. A will cannot be used to change these designations.

There are some disadvantages to making the changes prior to the divorce if an individual has not yet discussed the desire to divorce with their spouse or if the relationship is already contentious. An individual may need the spouse's signature on some accounts in order to change the primary beneficiary. Even if that is not necessary, if the two have the same financial planner, the planner may contact the other party about the change. However, if an individual decides to wait until after the divorce to make the changes, it should be done as soon as possible.

Child support enforcement

Texas parents who receive child support payments rely heavily on this income, according to data from the United States Department of Health and Human Services. Most of the recipients of child support are mothers, and the payments make up an average of around 39 percent of their incomes. Child support payments are also responsible for a 25 percent reduction in the poverty rate of single mothers.

Despite the positive impact that court-ordered child support payments make on a household, many single-parent households do not receive what they are owed. In 2013, DHHS opened almost 16 million cases in an attempt to collect unpaid child support. Although 60 percent of these cases resulted in the delinquent amounts being collected, there were still several million children who did not receive child support from their noncustodial parent.

Domestic violence in Texas divorce

A trans-Atlantic study of over 1,000 women who identified as victims of domestic violence and abuse has revealed shocking implications for Texas women who may seek a divorce because of violence at the hands of a partner. According to the study, women who suffered domestic abuse were three times more likely to develop behavioral symptoms like those of psychotic schizophrenia. The risk doubled in those with a history of child abuse, making them twice as likely to present with depression.

Domestic violence is so prevalent in the U.S. that every minute, an estimated 20 people of both genders are victimized by a partner. While cuts, bruises, scrapes and abrasions heal, the psychological scars are far more debilitating than physical injury, according to the lead author of the study.

Collecting back child support from Social Security

When someone fails to meet their child support obligations, the individual with custody of their children has the option of having their wages garnished. However, if someone is no longer working, this is not possible. If they are collecting Social Security benefits, those benefits may be garnished. Social Security benefits for survivor, disability or retirement benefits may be eligible because they are paid into over someone's lifetime. Since Supplemental Security Income is considered welfare, people may not garnish these benefits.

Before someone can garnish an individual's Social Security benefits, they must first prove to the court that the person in question is not making child support payments or owes back payments. Once someone has done this, the judge will issue an income withholding order, which will need to be filed with the local Social Security office.

The role of illness in a divorce

A recently-published study based upon surveys of divorced couples in Texas and elsewhere has revealed that a marital breakdown is more likely in a situation where the wife becomes seriously ill than in the case of the illness of the husband. The disparity between the two statistics is significant, and it is necessary for all parties to be aware of this unpleasant possibility, both in an attempt to prepared for it and for the possibility of somehow ameliorating the situation.

A study of 2,701 marriages was conducted between 1992 and 2010 by researchers. It revealed that there was no indication of an increase in the risk of divorce in cases where the husband experienced a serious and life-altering illness. However, when it was the wife who became dangerously ill, the chances of divorce increased by 6 percent.

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