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Dallas Divorce Law Blog

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.

Divorce is down among doctors

Texas residents may be interested in learning more about a study that suggests physicians are less likely to divorce than the average American. The recent study refutes the conventional notion that doctors are more likely to divorce due to how demanding the hours and stress can be. This is the first large-scale case study to investigate whether the assumption was based more on fact or fabrication. Researchers discovered that doctors actually had divorce rates that were lower than several other healthcare professions examined in the study.

The study involved surveying over 40,000 doctors as well 200,000 dentists, healthcare executives, pharmacists and nurses from 2008 to 2013. The highest divorce rate observed was among the nurses, accounting for 33 percent of those interviewed. Only 24 percent of the doctors were divorced, representing the lowest rate in the study, aside from pharmacists reporting 23 percent. Outside of the healthcare sector, researchers found that the average divorce rate among other workers was 35 percent.

Marital property in Texas

Texas is considered a community property state, meaning that all property that is acquired during the length of the marriage is considered to belong to both the husband and the wife. In addition, this means that any debt incurred during the marriage by either party is also presumed to be responsibility shared by both parties.

While all property obtained during the length of the marriage is considered to belong to both parties, certain property that was owned by one party prior to the marriage may be considered separate property. Additionally, if the property was given to one spouse as a gift or through inheritance, this property may also be considered separate property. However, separate property can be easily commingled. In order to protect separate property, it is recommended that both parties enter into a Premarital or Marital Property Agreement, which may protect a person's separate property during the marriage.

When child support payments end

For many divorced Texas parents, child support payments, whether they are being made or received, are a simple fact of life. However, when child support comes to an end, it can impact parents' finances, especially if the parent has been receiving child support payments for years. In most cases, child support ends when the child turns 18; however, there are instances where child support may end before the age of 18 or after.

In all states, child support may end when the child reaches what is called the age of majority. In the state of Texas, this is when the child either graduates from high school or turns 18. However, in some cases, the noncustodial parent may agree to continue to provide child support until the child is 21 if they are attending college. Additionally, if the child has special needs or is disabled, the child support payments may be extended.

Unmarried fathers and paternity

When a child is born to unmarried parents in Texas, the father will not exercise his rights as a parent until and unless his paternity is established. As a noncustodial parent, the unmarried father must take this necessary step in order to seek and obtain visitation rights with his child.

Paternity may be established in several ways. If the parents agree that the man is the father, both may sign an acknowledgement of his paternity and file it with the court. If the man is uncertain, however, it is important that he make certain he is the father through genetic testing before filing such a document, as the legal acknowledgement can be very difficult or sometimes impossible to later rescind.

Keeping divorce costs in check

While some Texas couples are able to keep the costs of their divorces relatively low, others commit common errors that can result in substantial legal fees that they otherwise would not have incurred. In many cases, people whose fees balloon often do so primarily because they are giving in to the raw emotions brought forth by the divorce.

The most common mistakes people make during their divorces are in some instances easily correctable. People should first remember that their attorneys will likely be billing by the hour, so the more phone calls and meetings, the higher the charges will be. A common problem people have is acting as if their attorney is also their therapist. While the divorce attorney is certainly there to advocate on behalf of their clients, calling them and asking for help to settle very minor problems only serves to increase the amount owed.

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