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Women and Divorce in Texas
During the first year following a divorce, a woman‚s standard of living usually drops substantially, while the man‚s actually increases. Responsibilities of motherhood often prevent the woman from pursuing a lucrative career. A less than favorable settlement can leave her without sufficient resources for ordinary living expenses.
The decision of whether or not to go through with divorce can be influenced by the financial findings. If a woman seeks professional financial assistance before the divorce begins, she can avoid a desperate position by getting help understanding the tax and financial intricacies involved in divorce. A certified financial planner who has studied divorce is an ideal source. You‚ll want a planner familiar with divorce in Texas, the tax issues involved in divorce, and able to create easy-to-understand financial graphs depicting the outcome of a proposed financial settlement in future years.
Attorneys and Mediators
Attorneys are not trained in financial matters but are trained to offer important legal advice. Some attorneys will work as a consultant by the hour, allowing the divorcing individuals to gather financial data and arrive at a settlement through a mediator. There is not a requirement for an attorney to totally handle the case. Using an attorney to handle all issues of the divorce can be very, very expensive. A mediator is a totally unbiased party who guides negotiations, prevents rancorous discussions and helps find a solution to the most difficult issues in settlement. This will save both time and money.
If the couple is unable to reach an agreement through mediation or attorneys‚ working on a divorce settlement, a court battle frequently ensues costing many thousands of dollars and leading to further acrimony between the divorcing individuals.
Separating Emotions from Business
Although it is understood that divorce is painful emotionally, try to separate the emotional upheaval from the business aspects. This will make it easier to make clear-headed decisions and work through negotiations. If emotions become overwhelming, call a friend or visit a counselor. A counselor can make the whole process much easier, assisting you in sorting through the emotions. Do not try to make important decisions when you are overcome with emotion.
Dealing with the Spouse
It is especially important to be business-like with the spouse, since emotions can interfere with negotiations. Don‚t let old battles rekindle. Refuse to continue a meeting that degenerates into a battle. While you want to be clear about what is important to you, try not to make your demands excessive. Never use your children as a pawn to hurt the spouse or draw them into the litigation process. The children will suffer unnecessarily.
Spousal Support (Maintenance) in Texas
Texas passed a law granting spousal support in 1995, although the guidelines are limited, allowing no more than $2500 per month or 20% of the wage earner‚s monthly gross income for a maximum of three years. This is available if you were married at least ten years and will not have sufficient property after the divorce for living expenses. You are also eligible for maintenance if you have a medical or psychological condition that prevents you from working or if the husband was convicted of spousal abuse during the preceding two years.
It is possible, however, to reach an agreement with your spouse to provide a certain amount of support for a greater number of years or greater amount than provided in the Texas statutes. This agreement becomes part of the divorce decree.
Texas has child support guidelines used by courts and, while not mandatory, are considered to be in the child‚s best interests. Courts will, however, consider reasonable variations if agreed to by both parties.
The guidelines provide for a percentage of „monthly net resources‰ to be paid in child support, with an increased percentage for additional children. The monthly net resources include all sources of income after taxes calculated for a single individual with one exemption. The percentages of monthly net resources based on number of children are:
These percentages apply to the first $6,000 of monthly net resources. The court can order additional support based upon proven needs of the child if the spouse earns in excess of this amount. All child support is subject to an „order for income withholding‰ deducting child support from the parent‚s paycheck. An additional sum may be added to cover the cost of health insurance for the child or children.
Debts during Separation
Separation from your spouse doesn't relieve you of liability for any debts incurred during this time. You should cancel joint accounts and write letters to the creditors notifying them of the pending divorce and that you are no longer liable for the account. Note, however, the creditor can still legally attempt to collect from you. Both parties should cancel joint accounts and transfer balances to new cards in each person‚s name.
In dividing marital assets, the after-tax value of each asset should be considered before the final settlement is reached. IRAs, 401ks and pension payments are taxable at ordinary income tax rates as payments are received. These assets should be valued at an after-tax amount for purposes of equitable settlement.
Keeping the House
Generally, the wife prefers to keep the home since children need continuity, although this may not be financially practical. A divorce financial analyst can analyze the numbers for you to be sure you are financially able to continue ownership of the home. Sometimes the payments can deplete available resources within a few years. Continued joint ownership of the residence with the ex-spouse is not advised, since this often creates grounds for disagreements and problems in the future. However, a clause in the divorce decree can provide for the sale of the home following the youngest child‚s 18th birthday, with the ex-spouse receiving one half of the net equity.
Renting or Buying
If you are moving due to the separation or divorce, consider renting for a year or so until the emotional and financial turmoil have subsided. This is a time of major changes, often resulting in moving again. Typically, if you purchase a home and sell within two years, expenses such as real estate commissions, closing expenses, moving costs will cause a net loss on the transaction.
Remember: KNOWLEDGE IS POWER. In order to reach a financially equitable settlement, you must first be educated about your own financial picture and how the divorce will affect your future. Contact a financial planner trained in divorce to help with the calculations concerning future financial needs, especially determining an equitable settlement (this may mean 60% of assets to one spouse, for instance, in order to stabilize one‚s financial future).
Texas requires that divorcing spouses try mediation before going to trial. Spouses can request a jury trial, but generally a judge decides the trial rather than a jury. Mediation is an ideal way to prevent the element of surprise that comes with taking a divorce case to trial. Many judges will tell you that a divorce trial has no winners, because the outcome is rarely in favor of just one party.
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