Monday, April 25, 2016

Should you Refinance your Home after your Divorce?


If you have gotten a divorce and you were awarded the home in your final decree, you may want to consider refinancing it.

There are times when doing so makes good sense.  Here are some of the benefits that you may receive from a refinance:

  1. You can help build your own credit.
  2. You can cut one more "tie" with your ex-spouse and move on to your own life.
  3. What you are doing about repaying the loan stays private between you and the lender and is not available to your spouse's eyes. 
  4. "Bookkeeping" is easier (for local property taxes, federal taxes and credits, potential sale of the home) because you will be the only owner. 
  5. You may be able to get better terms on your loan or even get cash out of the refinance in certain situations. 
Whether or not this would be a good option for you depends on your personal situation, but it is worth investigating. 


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Monday, April 18, 2016

Uncontested Divorce... or Not?


There is a lot of confusion about the term "uncontested divorce".

"Uncontested divorce" is sometimes used to mean "a divorce that has an agreement at the end of it, rather than a trial".  In that sense, it is used to mean a "cooperative divorce". However, just because there isn't a trial, that does not mean that the divorce is uncontested.

"Uncontested divorce" can also be used by some people to mean "no fault divorce". In this type of divorce, the parties do not assign fault to each other in the court paperwork. They simply say that they have "irreconcilable differences". But a divorce can be "no fault" and still  not be "uncontested" if the parties don't agree in advance on just one thing. (amount of support, who gets the car, visitation times, and so on.)

The true and completely uncontested divorce is one in which both parties AGREE on ALL the terms of the divorce and have already reached their own agreement about the split of property and debts as well as child support and visitation.   Sometimes the parties will even come to the initial legal consultation appointment together.    Although Texas law does not allow both parties to be represented by only one attorney, the true uncontested divorce features cooperation, information sharing, and an agreement that the spouses have reached on their own.

In a true uncontested divorce, the spouse who is the Respondent (the one who is not filing the initial petition) does not need to be served because s/he is happy to sign a waiver of service. If the respondent spouse later changes his or her mind and decides not to sign the waiver then the divorce is not uncontested.  An attorney cannot force a reluctant spouse to sign a waiver!

A family law attorney can help you with any of these situations.   If you have a "true uncontested divorce", you will want to write down the details of the agreement between you and your spouse and bring it to you consultation appointment with the attorney.    Having a divorce that is well-thought out in advance and truly uncontested can help save legal fees and emotional wear and tear on the family. Your family law attorney can prepare and file the paperwork and guide you through the process.


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Sunday, April 3, 2016

Do you really have to take the Parenting Course?


If you have a pending divorce and you and your spouse have children together, you may have already been told that you have to attend a parenting class.  They are technically called "Parent Education and Family Stabilization Courses".

At a time when people feel overwhelmed by circumstances and changes, they are often unhappy to learn that they must take this class. Yes, it is required by a provision in the Texas Family Code. A party who does not take the class when required to do so may find that it affects their right to be appointed as managing conservator of a child, or affects their visitation.  A judge may even postpone signing the final order of divorce until both parties present evidence that they have completed the course.

The good news is this.  You may be able to take it online. Another piece of good news; clients often tell us that they dreaded taking it, but ended up thoroughly enjoying it.

Before you invest your time and money in a course, make sure that it is one that is approved by the divorce courts in your county.

Oh, by the way, don't forget to turn in your certificate to your attorney or to the court to show that you completed it prior to the final hearing.



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Monday, March 28, 2016

What can Happen if you Refuse to Answer Discovery in your Case



Discovery.  Most people hate it.

If you are a party to a divorce, or any other type of adversarial lawsuit (child support, modification, probate contest, contract suit, neighbor dispute, suit for money or property, and many other types of case) you may be served what is called "discovery".

The term "discovery" can include a deposition or subpoenas to bring documents or things.  It also includes the more commonly used types of discovery which are written questions, requests for documents, and requests for other types of information that is relevant to the lawsuit.

Some people decide that they will simply refuse to answer the discovery because they don't know the answers, have decided that it is too difficult to understand or they believe the information is no one else's business.

Unfortunately, if you are a party to a lawsuit, you must comply or face possible consequences.

Some of the consequences of refusing to answer are:

  1. Losing something that you want because the information to support it is simply not there (Example: You want temporary support from your ex-spouse in a divorce case but don't provide enough evidence to show that your expenses warrant what you say you need.)
  2. Your pleadings are "stricken".   (Example: You file a lawsuit against your neighbor for trespassing and also for causing water damage to your property. You refuse to answer discovery out of anger even after ordered to do so.  The judge then orders that your pleadings about the damages be "stricken". There goes your chance to recover financial compensation.)
  3. Paying the attorney fees of the other party for having to force you to answer.   (Example: In a case against your former business partner, you answer discovery in a very sloppy and half-hearted manner, saying "he can get the information himself if he wants it."  In a court hearing, your ex-partner's attorney asks the judge to order you to answer the questions properly and to pay her attorney fees of $500 for all the time and trouble she took to force you to answer the requests. The judge grants her motion and you have to pay). 
  4. Looking really bad in front of the court.  Judges work hard and want to move cases efficiently through their courts. They are generally not happy when they have to take time from their busy schedules to order litigants to follow rules that they should have followed in the first place.   And a bad attitude does not gain any sympathy. 
  5. Paying more fees to your own attorney.  It takes less time and money to just answer the questions in the first place that it does to procrastinate.  If you do procrastinate or refuse, then your legal dollars will be spent on your attorney and legal staff repeatedly contacting you to request your information, arguing with the other side and trying to keep you from facing any of the consequences listed in numbers 1 through 4, above, rather than working on other aspects of your case. 
Yes, it can feel confusing and overwhelming when you read it. But, ask for help, don't ignore it!




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