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BY THE TEXAS BOARD OF LEGAL SPECIALIZATION
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Houston Family Law Blog

Obtaining temporary orders during the divorce process

Regardless of a couple's financial situation, when the marriage ends, there will usually be a monetary deficit for both parties. The amount of money the couple was sharing is now cut in half, at best. This leaves many Texas residents wondering how they will survive financially during the divorce process. In addition, if there are children involved, the parent who leaves the family home may wonder if he or she will get to see his or her children.

For this reason, Texas courts can issue what are called "temporary orders" that will protect your interests and rights until the divorce is complete. Temporary orders cover a myriad of issues such as child support, child custody and alimony. The court can enter an order regarding who will be allowed to remain in the family home and who will be responsible for paying the mortgage loan. A temporary custody arrangement can be entered to allow both parents access to their children.

What will invalidate a prenup during the divorce process?

A prenuptial agreement is a useful tool for Texas couples that want to establish their financial rights and responsibilities both during the marriage and if the marriage ends. The agreement will be scrutinized by the court during the divorce process. If it does not meet certain standards established by law, it may be declared invalid, which means that the parties will be required to negotiate a settlement or take their disagreements before a judge in the event of a divorce. This is exactly what couples who execute prenups wish to avoid.

Therefore, a couple will need to take the necessary steps to reduce or eliminate the chance that the agreement will be invalid when needed. Like any other contract, a prenup has to be written and properly executed in order to be enforceable. Further, all of the information provided for the agreement needs to be complete and true.

Child custody agreement should include holiday plans

Arguably, the most challenging part of any divorce involving children is figuring out how to continue to be loving parents even though the marriage has failed. Texas parents who are negotiating a child custody agreement may not have any issues regarding shared parenting time under normal circumstances. However, when it comes to holidays, what was an amicable negotiation could quickly become contentious.

For most families, the holidays are full of traditions that have come to signify the joy surrounding them, and each parent wants to be able to continue those traditions even after the divorce. Unfortunately, that may not be possible. Therefore, it is up to the parents to determine how the holidays will be handled and create new holiday traditions for both parties and the children.

Pets are becoming a big issue in Texas divorce proceedings

Now more than at any time in recent history, pets are being treated like members of the family. Millions -- if not billions -- of dollars are spent each year on their care. Now, they are often the subject of contention in Texas divorce proceedings. Data suggests that the most often fought over pet is the family dog.

The problem is that pets are treated as personal property in a divorce court. This means that more often than not, Texas judges apply the rules of property division regarding who will receive the pets in a divorce even though they are often so much more to their owners. Some judges are willing to indulge couples by allowing them to present evidence regarding the issue of who should be awarded the family pet, but they are not under any obligation to do so.

Harold Hamm's ex-wife not happy with divorce settlement

Nearly anyone in Texas who has watched the news lately has heard about the divorce between oil tycoon Harold Hamm and his now ex-wife. Recently, she was awarded nearly $1 billion -- $995 million -- in the divorce. However, she does not think the settlement was fair and is appealing the decision.

The settlement represents about 6 percent of the couple's fortune. The cash portion of the award is to be paid in installments over the course of years, beginning with a $323 million payment by Dec. 31. Hamm's ex-wife was also given two homes with a total value of approximately $19.7 million.

Modifying a custody and visitation agreement

When a Texas couple with children gets divorced, child custody arrangements are made based on the information available and the family's circumstances at that time. As time goes by, those conditions could change. When there is a substantial change, it may be possible to modify the custody and visitation agreement.

Texas law provides that the court may issue a temporary order modifying the current child custody arrangement. However, the evidentiary requirements are the same for both temporary and final orders. Therefore, judges are not always amenable to issuing temporary orders.

Going from a couple to an individual during the divorce process

Many Texas couples going through a divorce have the tendency to focus on the past. It can be difficult to change from thinking about "us" to thinking about "I" until the divorce process is over. However, the process is about untangling two people's lives so that they can live as individuals.

Most people benefit by looking at the future instead of looking to the past. Doing so could help the parties focus on what they need to move forward. Creating a budget might be a good place to start since, in many cases, the parties are going from two incomes to one. Without proper planning, the change could come as a shock.

Child custody can be affected by who comes into the child's life

One of the advantages of being divorced is that an ex-spouse does not have a say in how a person spends his or her time or with whom. That may be true if the Texas couple did not have children, but when it comes to child custody, an ex-spouse may have some say after all. If either party believes that the children could be at risk, he or she could go back to court to revisit the issues of custody and visitation.

For instance, Texas fans of the realty television show "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" may already be aware that Mama June and Mike "Sugar Bear" Thompson are parting ways. It appears that Mama June has begun dating a man who is a convicted child molester who was recently released from prison. However, she has repeatedly denied that any relationship exists.

Fathers' rights issue highlighted by Halle Berry's court battle

Halle Berry fans in Texas may know that she has a daughter with Gabriel Aubry, a model from Canada. Since their breakup, the couple has shared custody of the 6-year-old girl. A recent petition filed by Berry regarding child support highlights a fathers' rights issue.

Berry is asking the court to lower the child support she pays to Aubry. Currently, her monthly support obligation is $16,000.  She wants it lowered to $3,000 because she says he has made no effort to find a job. The question is why Aubry's situation is any different from that of a woman in the same situation.

Prosecutors fight child custody request of grandmother

Many parents in Texas could never imagine abandoning their child, but it happens more often than anyone would like to believe. In a recent out-of-state case, a teenager's abandonment of her newborn son resulted in prosecutors filing charges against her for attempted first-degree murder. Now, the child's grandmother is attempting to obtain child custody, and prosecutors are fighting that request.

At present, the teenage mother is living with her mother -- the boy's grandmother -- while she is on home detention awaiting the disposition of the criminal charges. The local office of the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) believes that the best interests of the child necessitate him being placed with a biological family member. Prosecutors argue that leaving the baby with a foster family better serves his needs.

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