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BY THE TEXAS BOARD OF LEGAL SPECIALIZATION
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Houston Family Law Blog

Determining who keeps the family pet in a Texas divorce

After the custody of any minor children, the fate of the family pet when a Texas couple ends their marriage may run a close second. However, who gets to keep the pet is not determined in the same manner as children. Under the law, pets are treated as property. Therefore, the rules of property division in a divorce govern the division of pets.

When determining which party keeps the family pet, the court will look at similar factors to those used in dividing any other property. Of course, the difference is that pets are often considered part of the family and are alive. Simply selling the pet or dividing it like a set of china is not feasible.

Is online divorce a good idea for Texas couples?

As technology continues to improve, Texas residents conduct an increasing amount of their lives online. One advancement in technology that could cause more problems than solutions is the prospect of conducting a divorce online. Paying bills, making purchases and keeping track of a stock portfolio online may be a good idea, but when it comes to divorce, the stakes are infinitely higher. Getting divorced online may seem like a way to save time and money, but risking not only the futures of each party but also any children involved may not be the best option.

One of the most important decisions made in any divorce with children is custody. A computer is incapable of understanding the dynamics of every family, and it may only offer so-called cookie cutter options. It cannot account for all of the factors involved. When custody arrangements are not tailored to the needs of a particular family, the children suffer the most.

Is paternity case filed against former NFL player false?

Texas residents know it is not unusual for male celebrities such as actors and sports figures to be the target of paternity claims. Ricky Williams, a former professional football player, recently had a paternity case filed against him that he says is false. He claims that she is simply looking for money and chose him as a place to try to get it.

The woman claims that she and Williams were intimate between 2009 and 2010. Even though she believes that Williams is the father of the child she had in 2011, she did not put his name on the birth certificate. Her court documents indicate that she is receiving assistance from her state and only makes approximately $300 per month. She is asking to be awarded sole custody of her son and child support from Williams.

Can Texas couples really learn anything from a celebrity divorce?

Many Texas residents enjoy reading about the comings and goings of celebrities. Some of the most entertaining stories surround celebrity divorces. Some people are of the opinion that couples can learn something from a celebrity divorce.

For instance, Kim Kardashian's marriage to Kris Humphries could be characterized as being more about money than for love. Gwyneth Paltrow convinced millions of people that it is possible to live fabulously, but that perception was called into question when she divorced. Her divorce illustrated the fact that no one can be sure how a couple's relationship really works when the cameras are off. When a couple like Amy Poehler and Will Arnett divorce, it takes people by surprise because their relationship seemed the most "normal" of several celebrity marriages.

What happens to stock incentives in a Texas divorce

A plethora of financial issues needs to be resolved when a Texas couple ends a marriage. Some of the assets that accompany those financial issues may need to be valued in order to be properly divided in a divorce settlement. One of the more subjective valuations concerns employee stock incentives.

Many companies offer their employees stock options or restricted stock as part of their employment benefits. Stock options allow employees to buy stock at a later date at a previously agreed upon price. Restricted stock is given to employees, but it has no value to the employee until certain agreed upon conditions, such as length of service, are satisfied.

Divorce, social media and the appearance of impropriety

Within seconds, most everyone in Texas can come up with an embarrassing moment in their lives that they wish never happened. Still others wish they could take back those not so nice words they once said about someone. Before social media, leaving those moments in the past was not that difficult, but now it may be nearly impossible. The use of social media in the divorce process is becoming commonplace.

Some Texas residents may still be under the mistaken impression that social media is private. Some people post about going on vacation or otherwise spending money they tell the courts they do not have. Others may post photographs or descriptions of a night on the town while in the middle of a custody battle. A momentary decision to put something out there on social media is a potential mistake that is difficult to take back.

Divorce has lasted 12 years so far, no end in sight

A couple married in 1971 and had two children who are now adults. Sometime around 2002, the couple decided to divorce. At the time, the couple had a sizable marital estate, which the husband says has been squandered over the last 12 years in spousal maintenance, legal fees and other expenses.

Texas readers may be surprised by the fact that this divorce is still not finalized. According to reports, the long battle is over money, most of which the husband says is now gone. He still lives in the marital residence, worth an estimated $7 million. It is held in trust for the husband's granddaughter, and he claims to live off Social Security.

Social media can turn an amicable divorce into a contested one

It may be safe to say that most Texas couples do not begin their divorce proceedings hoping they will be contentious. A contested divorce wreaks havoc on a family's emotions, time and finances. Most people prefer to come to a settlement that both parties can live with amicably.

One way to help ensure that would be to take a hiatus from social media from the moment the decision to end the marriage is made. These days, electronic media such as emails, texts and sites such as Facebook and Twitter are showing up in more courtrooms across Texas and the nation. It can be quite a blow to see communications believed to be private displayed in court for the entire world to see.

A paternity case involving mobile DNA testing lab could be on TV

Texas residents may have heard about a mobile DNA lab that conducts paternity tests on the streets of the Big Apple. What they may not yet know is that a cable television network has offered "Who's Your Daddy?" a chance at the big time. The reality show will feature the stories of people obtaining testing that could end up as part of a paternity case.

The mobile lab takes the samples and sends them for testing at labs with which they have partnered. Results are typically available within a week. The cost for this convenient service is $349.

Navigating parenthood in a Texas divorce

Sometimes when a marriage ends, it is difficult to remember anything good about a soon-to-be ex-spouse. At least in the beginning of the divorce process, hurt, anger and resentment can blind both parties. This emotional turmoil can make it hard to differentiate between the person as a spouse versus the person as a parent.

Regardless of what happens to a Texas couple's relationship, the relationship each parent has with the couple's children needs to be recognized. The divorce separates the couple but should not separate the parents from the children. At some point, both parties will typically benefit by acknowledging that the children still need both parents in their lives, and the parties may want to do what it takes to make that happen.

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