End of Year COVID Updates and Family Law Issues
So Long, 2020: COVID, Christmas, and Challenges for Texas Families
As 2020 winds down and we are days away from Christmas and New Years, the Barrows Firm wishes all a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays as we pass along some end of year COVID updates and family law issues to consider for current and upcoming divorces and child custody cases.
In addition to COVID, the usual Christmas and New Years’ challenges concern Texas families with divorce, child support, and holiday possession issues. Even the best plans for the holidays that follow the court order and agreements among co-parents can be interrupted. From resolving visitation conflicts and concerns about drinking too much, Attorney Leslie Barrows and all at the Barrows Firm in Southlake are hoping everyone has the best holiday season and will be in touch if it is necessary.
Divorce and family law case filings usually spike in January after many have decided it is time to call it quits or time for a modification or enforcement of an existing Court Order. New divorce cases will follow the extended Standing Order in Tarrant County and the new discovery rules in Texas divorces in 2021.
For Texas Divorce and Family Law Advice and Counsel, Contact the Barrows Firm in Southlake at (817) 481-1583
Is Everyone Ready for Christmas and New Years'?
In a recent article, we addressed Holiday Possession Schedules and said, check your Court Order if there are questions or issues related to the holidays and visitation. With the year of COVID disrupting life, many are adapting and being flexible to challenges and potential conflict. However, there are still scheduling and life conflicts that arise and need attention. The Barrows Firm attorneys are ready to assist with finding resolutions to problems so everyone can enjoy the holidays.
Sadly, holidays can bring out the worst in some people who already have anxiety over the season. Adding the stress and challenges of the year of COVID, the normal concern about alcohol abuse and all that comes from it is now an elevated concern as we say goodbye to 2020. While we hope everything goes well, some parents want their child custody judge to order alcohol monitoring, as we shared in our recent article. Especially during the 2020 holiday season, we hope everyone is responsible with choices and that everyone makes good choices that are in the best interests of the children.
Psychology Today: Substance Abuse in Divorce Is as Complicated as You’d Think
Tarrant County: Second Amended Temporary Emergency Standing Order
Recently, the Tarrant County Amended Temporary Emergency Standing Order that went into effect on May 30, 2020, was effectively extended into 2021. That order expires on December 31, 2020. The Second Amended Temporary Emergency Standing Order is effective January 1, 2021, and expires February 1, 2021, unless extended further by the Court’s order.
This Standing Order applies in every divorce suit and every suit affecting the parent-child relationship, filed in Tarrant County or pending in the undersigned courts during the effective dates.
This Order is pursuant to the Texas Supreme Court’s First Emergency Order Regarding the COVID-19 State of Disaster. Standing Orders generally are used to automatically order the parties in a divorce or family case to maintain the status quo and not disturb people or property once the suit is filed and until it is finalized.
The Tarrant County Courts in which this Standing Order applies are:
- Judge Jesus Nevarez in the 231st District Court,
- Judge Judith G. Wells in the 325th District Court,
- Judge Kenneth Newell in the 233rd District Court, and
- Judge James Munford in the 322nd District Court.
Issues Addressed in the Second Amended Temporary Emergency Standing Order:
- No Disruption of Children;
- Protection of Family Pets or Companion Animals;
- Conduct of the Parties During the Case;
- Preservation of Property and Use of Funds During Divorce Case;
- Personal and Business Records in Divorce Case;
- Insurance in Divorce Case;
- Specific Authorizations in Divorce Case;
- Service and Application of This Order;
- Effect of Other Court Orders;
- Bond Waiver
New Discovery Rules in Texas Divorce
For all new Texas divorce and family law cases filed on or after January 1, 2021, there are new discovery rules. The good news for lawyers is that some fellow family law attorneys like the new rules. The challenge for lawyers is that new rules can lead to disagreements. The best news is that to clients with new cases filed, their lawyers are the ones who navigate the discovery process. One of the goals of the legislative change and the creation of new rules is to streamline the divorce discovery process and make things better for the families involved. Of course, there are opportunities and exceptions where the new rules can be set aside if there is a good cause. The attorneys at the Barrows Firm happily answer questions about the divorce process.
The Barrows Firm in Southlake is Open for Divorce and Family Law Matters
Everyone at the Barrows Firm is committed to safety and stopping the spread of COVID. From cleaning and sanitizing the office to maintaining appropriate safety measures, the Barrows Firm puts the needs of the client first. We also have several ways we can communicate and conference in-person and by Zoom and other electronic communication. During 2020 the family law community and Courts implemented new ways of handling divorce and child custody cases. As is usually the case, there are frequent new divorce cases, and other cases for enforcements or modifications, that are filed shortly after Christmas and the holidays. The Barrows Firm in Southlake shares end of year COVID updates and family law issues so people can make the best choices be the best parents.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the Barrows Firm in Southlake
Wills and Estate Planning: Taking Action on End of Life Decisions
Why Wills and Estate Planning Documents Are Best When Everyone is Healthy
This holiday season is one like no other, and with concerns of health and those who have passed, the conversation about wills and estate planning is important. While some families enjoy traditional Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years' celebrations with immediate and extended families, many are not together in-person this season. Because of COVID-19, flu, and other health concerns, many are sticking around home and doing family Zoom calls.
Thinking back to last year, many had no clue what was about to hit in 2020. Was the best of times with certain loved ones already passed? Did someone in the family get sick with Coronavirus and is having a hard time bouncing back? Is the table setting for the holidays forever a question moving forward?
American Psychological Association: Coronavirus Anxiety
Giving family members the best gift this holiday season, give the gift of peace of mind. Please set aside time to talk about and move forward with wills and estate planning. Especially among families with senior parents, it is an easier discussion about the end of life while everyone is still alive and well. Not resolving issues among family members now, can make it so much worse later. Nobody wants to end up in a contested probate case with heated arguments with family. Attorney Leslie Barrows says, “Trust me, it is so much easier on everyone to plan for the inevitable when everyone is happy and in good health.”
Wishing everyone a joyous holiday season from the Barrows Firm in Southlake, we all hope important family discussions take place about what happens in the event of our passing on. To set up a consultation with one of the Barrows Firm estate planning attorneys in the Southlake office, please call us to get the ball rolling (817) 481-1583.
How COVID-19 Affected Our Notions of Health and Living Forever
No matter how well anyone is prepared for the loss of a loved one, the reality of death is always difficult and it brings up all kinds of reactions and emotions. When a family member becomes sick with COVID-19, it hits the whole family. To make uncomfortable matters worse, an aging parent with pre-existing health concerns could be the subject of a family arguing over COVID safety. And if someone is pointing a finger at another, if a family member gets sick or dies from Coronavirus, the gloves start coming off.
Here at the Barrows Firm, a few of us know from experience how difficult it can be when even the most prepared people face the passing of a parent, sibling, or relative. By talking about the inevitabilities in life, it can be easier for everybody to prepare for a loved one’s last days.
Get Power of Attorney of Healthcare and Property Established Before It Becomes Too Late
When a loved one is not able to make their own decisions about healthcare and property, their appointed power of attorney can manage their affairs, sign documents, and enter into appropriate agreements on their behalf. Power of attorney documents become effective when triggered by a certain event, like the temporary or permanent incapacity of another. For example, being in a medically induced coma will cause a power of attorney's right to make important care decisions about a loved one.
Read more about power of attorney options in our blog article, Texas wills, and estate planning for everyone, all adults.
Becoming Executor of a Family Member’s Estate: Avoiding Will Contests and Litigation in the Future
In Texas, the executor of an estate plays an important role. When preparing a will and estate planning documents it is important to understand the roles of an executor. In many families, the individual preparing their will and estate planning affairs will let other members of the family know who the executor will be when the time comes. That way, everyone can accept the present intent and wishes of the person making these important decisions.
What Does the Executor Do?
- Executors locate and communicate with the beneficiaries named in the last will and testament of the deceased.
- Providing notice to the creditors, and paying the bills of the decedent is the job of the executor.
- The executor identifies protects, and manages the assets of the decedent for proper distribution, as stated in their will.
- Executors prepare and direct the filing of the decedent's final tax returns.
- Accounting for the assets and payments made, and distribution to heirs is the executor’s job.
Too often there are disagreements among family members and the named executor, so making that decision and letting others know while everyone is well and healthy can protect family members from will contests and litigation.
What Happens When Mom or Dad Live In Another State?
Believe it or not, some of our 28 million Texans grew up in, or have parents living in other states. When wills and estate planning documents are prepared in other states, and a parent or loved one passes as a resident of another state, children in Texas may need to become involved in the process, particularly when named as the executor in the will.
An executor in Texas, named in a will in Georgia, for example, can do much of what is necessary by email and phone calls. As well they might need to travel to Georgia, or another state to exercise their duties as executors. When the laws of another state apply, the executor can hire an attorney in that other state to assist. Likewise, if the decedent is a Texas resident, and the executor is out of state, that executor can hire a probate attorney in Texas.
Setting Up Wills, Trusts, and Other Estate Planning Documents To Avoid Probate
In some families, the preparations take place so that the person who passes, distributes their assets and liabilities directly to beneficiaries without going through probate. The process of probate is the court’s formal process for receiving a will and overseeing the executor in their duties. When problems arise in the process of probate, litigation can be serious and expensive. For this reason, many families use trusts and other estate planning documents so that assets pass without probate.
For All-Important Family Matters, Including Wills and Estate Planning, Call the Barrows Firm in Southlake (817) 481-1583
Holiday Possession Schedules: Check Your Court Order
Standard Possession Orders in Texas
The Texas Standard Possession Order sets the family’s calendar for time of possession and access for the primary parent and the non-primary parent with visitation time. In Texas family law, child custody orders refer to parenting time, calling it possession and access which essentially means the same thing as visitation. The Standard Possession Order incorporated into your custody agreement is the schedule you and the other parent can rely upon for parenting times. Many co-parents like the Standard Possession Order, especially over the holidays, because the time between parents is distributed and uses alternating odd and even-numbered years to equalize holiday time with children.
In some custody cases, parents come to agree upon a customized schedule that works, incorporating some or all the Standard Possession Order schedules. Additionally, if you both agree as parents to do your own thing and informally trade days as it may be fair, then everyone wins.
If you have any questions about your holiday possession schedules for the 2020 Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks, please check your court order to determine who has the children, and when. Southlake Family Law Attorney Leslie Barrows is always available to help you.
Considering Family Travel for Thanksgiving or Christmas? Use the CDC COVID-19 Travel Planner
Consider First the Best Interests of the Children
Few people in the world say that 2020 was a banner year, and for many, some constant challenges and setbacks can make Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays even bumpier than in years without a COVID-19 pandemic, restrictions, virtual school, limitations on activities, and so forth. At the end of the day, we all hope that life gets as close to what we used to consider normal. In the meantime, as parents we only have one chance to raise our children with love and security, giving them the best chances in life. And in 2020, if it means making compromises and different choices, it is important to put the best interests of children first, when wrestling with holiday possession schedules.
Thanksgiving Visitation for 2020
Standard Possession Orders alternate parenting time on Thanksgiving between odd and even years. During an odd-numbered year, the noncustodial parent has possession of the children over Thanksgiving. Since 2020 is an even-numbered year, the primary, custodial parent has possession of the children for Thanksgiving.
The beginning of Thanksgiving possession begins at 6:00 p.m. on the day school is dismissed for the break, continuing through 6:00 p.m. on the following Sunday or Monday depending on what is stated in the order. If you have extended possession time, Monday is the end of your Thanksgiving break with the children.
Christmas Visitation for 2020
For Christmas, our Standard Possession Orders split the break into two, divided like Thanksgiving, based on even and odd-numbered years. During those odd-numbered years, the primary custodial parent has the right to possession of the children from the day school is dismissed, until noon on December 28th. At that time, the non-custodial parent has the right to visitation with the children beginning at noon on the 28th, and through 6:00 p.m. the day before school resumes, or on the day school starts again if the parent has extended possession time.
Since 2020 is an even year, the non-custodial parent has visitation time with the children for the first part of Christmas break, until noon on the 28th, and then the primary custodial parent has the right to possession for the remainder of Christmas Break and until school starts again after the break.
What Happens When Schools Dismiss Children Early?
With COVID-19, schools may be announcing earlier dismissal days, at least for Thanksgiving. Some schools went to virtual school for some time before this year’s Thanksgiving week off. The question then becomes, if the school dismissal times change, do I still pick my child up at 6 p.m. or at the time school is dismissed? Attorney Leslie Barrows notes that the Barrows Firm receives these questions, and Leslie reminds us to check our current court order.
Many local Independent School Districts announced early dismissal days this year and just like other elements of our lives and schedules, this year many will need to adjust their schedules based on what schools are doing, and then reconcile that among co-parents.
Having Problems Agreeing on Holiday Possession Schedules for 2020?
With the decreased likelihood of significant travel this year, based on COVID-19 concerns and recommended restrictions, more families might be spending Thanksgiving and Christmas at home and enjoying the time of others virtually. Some say it might not be so bad saying hello to a few people for some time on Zoom, or a family phone call. In some families, this might be a saving grace for some who with a smile on their face, quietly dread the stress of the holidays.
Regardless of what families plan, things can always change last minute. If for some reason you do not get the time with your children you expect, you have plenty of options to make up that time. For example, missed holiday time could be added to another holiday or spring or summer break.
Need the Court to Intervene? That Can Also be an Option
Despite the best efforts at co-parenting and being flexible, especially during 2020, there are some family events and holiday celebrations that are unique and worth asking your judge to rule. It all depends on the facts in your situation, whether you will be successful with a trip to court on your holiday possession schedule. One example may be international or long-distance domestic travel. If your parents are coming to visit you and your family from far away, you might not want to compromise. Especially in 2020, some families are deciding not to fly and are driving long road trips to see family.
Call the Barrows Firm if you have a difficult situation with holiday possession schedules and need legal advice and representation. Sometimes getting the lawyers involved can be effective and your problems can be resolved by a special agreement outside of going to court. That said, if you do need to get on the Court’s Docket, the earliest you contact your lawyer, the better.
Everyone here at the Barrows Firm in Southlake Wishes You All a Happy Thanksgiving and a Merry Christmas! We Are Here for You if You Need Us (817) 481-1583
Celebrating National Adoption Day: What You Can Do
Would You Consider Adopting or Being a Foster Parent?
National Adoption Day raises awareness of children in foster care who need permanent families and forever homes. Since 2000, courts and communities finalize and celebrate thousands of adoptions of children from foster care. Many observe National Adoption Day every year on the Saturday before Thanksgiving Day. This year we celebrate families and their newly adopted sons and daughters on Saturday, November 21. And while in light of COVID-19 the customary events and in-court celebrations may be different or not taking place, it is more important than ever to share and tell others about foster children in need of adoption into forever families.
Attorney Leslie Barrows has been involved with the Tarrant County National Adoption Day program for years and has served as an events chair. “Bringing adoptive parents and foster children together and into permanent homes is among the most rewarding things I get to do.” Leslie Barrows says.
You Can Help Us Raise Awareness About Adopting
- Share Information About Adoption: Adoption from Foster Care - AdoptUSKids
- Find a Group on Social Media to Join and Learn: Adoptive Families on Facebook
- Donate to Support the Gladney Center for Adoption: Donate
- Post photos from virtual adoptions or past events on social media with the hashtag #NationalAdoptionDay and the tag @DTFA so that the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption can share your posts.
The Gladney Center for Adoption in Fort Worth, Texas
Families in the Fort Worth area and all over DFW can start their journey to adopt at the Gladney Center for Adoption. Parents adopting children through the Gladney New Beginnings Parent Adoption Program attend required training to adopt children from the Texas foster care system. Children separated from their birth families have experienced significant life events and need proper emotional care and attention. The Gladney Center extends its support to families during and after adoption to help ensure that everything is working well.
The Gladney Center also works with expectant mothers choosing families to adopt a child of an unplanned pregnancy. Mothers who are looking to family to adopt her child receive care and counseling through the Gladney Center for Adoption, during a very sensitive time and process in that mother’s life.
Encouraging Awareness About Children in Foster Care
At any given count, there are more than 100,000 children and teenagers in foster care and are waiting for a permanent home with a loving and secure family. Children go into foster care and it is not their fault. Children abused, neglected, or abandoned are separated from their birth parents for their safety. And while many of the children in foster care are eventually able to reunite with their birth parents, many more become eligible for adoption from foster care.
Birth-related relatives may have the option to adopt children from foster care, especially when they have an existing relationship with the child. Additionally, foster parents may seek to adopt foster children as permanent members of their family.
Becoming a Foster Parent in Texas
In Texas, the foster parent program is a good starting point for people who want to adopt a child. There are many benefits to becoming a foster parent. Especially if you have not had children before, becoming a foster parent can help you learn more about your parenting style and how to adapt to life with children before you make a forever commitment to adopt a child.
The first step in becoming a foster parent in Texas is to attend an informational meeting where you learn the requirements of being a foster or adoptive parent. Generally, you must be at least 21 years old, financially stable, and a responsible mature adult.
Training for Foster Parents in Texas
After the informational meeting and application process with DFPS, if you are selected to proceed in the process you will be invited to meet with DFPS staff to talk about becoming a foster parent. Next, you will attend a training course through DFPS as well as completing the Parent Resource Information Development Education (PRIDE) course. Applicants to become foster parents must also complete any additional training required by the state, including universal precautions training, psychotropic medication training, and First Aid and CPR training.
A final step in becoming a foster parent is the family home study, where a caseworker from DFPS will visit with you in your home and discuss personal histories and family interests. The caseworker will be interested in learning your existing childcare experience and how you are best able to meet the needs of a child. The caseworker prepares a report based on their recommendations after the family home study and may suggest a child who may be the best match for your family.
Encouraging Others to Adopt Children from Foster Care
Every family has its own story to tell about why they decided to become foster parents and adopt children. Some become foster and adoptive parents because of a relative or family friend. Some couples have difficulty having children but have so much love and care to give a child in need, and they become foster parents and later adopt.
If you know someone who has enough love and room in their heart and family to become adopt children from foster care, you can help a boy or girl become another family’s new son or daughter.
Sometimes life gives us situations and opportunities for which we did not prepare. Life can be happy and life can be sad, but one thing is certain, life continues and there are always surprises. Encouraging others to adopt children from foster care is significant because it might be something new to someone.
With Questions About Foster Care and Adoption in Tarrant County or Denton County, Call the Barrows Firm in Southlake at (817) 481-1583
Ex Parte Communications: Do Not Email the Judge
Preserving Fairness in Divorce Courts and Cases: Ex Parte Communications
The Texas Rules of Civil Procedure and local court rules provide the format for information and evidence to be used in divorce and child custody cases. Lawyers use formal notice and pleading documents like requests for the Court to provide relief to a party in the case. Neither a party nor their divorce lawyer may communicate directly with the judge in their case. See an example of a notice about ex parte communications on the 325th District Court website in Tarrant County.
Any decision made by a judge in a divorce and child support Court must be based on properly submitted evidence and legal arguments applying the facts and evidence to the law.
Justice requires fair and impartial Judges and Courts. To avoid the appearance of impropriety in any of the Judge’s activities, they do not communicate about the case without all the parties present, who are entitled to notice, or their attorneys when they are represented by counsel.
Southlake Family Law Attorney Leslie Barrows: “Do not attempt to call or email the judge in your case. You could be creating a serious situation that could have an impact. If you need an attorney to represent you in your divorce or custody case, call us at our office in Southlake.”
What Is an Ex Parte Communication?
Communications with the Court means communications with the Judge. That communication could be spoken or written; imagine a party in the case who tries to talk to the Judge before or after the case is called, or sees them outside the Courtroom, with a question or comment about the case. Now that Judges have emails, and many are available on their websites, they do what they can to ensure the parties do not email them about their case and talk to their attorney with any questions or concerns.
Communications with a member of the jury. While jury trials are not quite common in Texas divorce and family law cases, they are available in certain situations. Communicating with members of the jury outside of the official court process is also prohibited.
Do Not Email Judges About Cases: Ex Parte Notices on Websites
A party in a divorce or child custody case has no reason to directly communicate about the facts of a case with a judge, and neither does their attorney, outside the formal communication procedure. So why then, do Courts list the contact information and email for the Judge on the Court’s website? There may be acceptable times that someone contacts the Judge directly outside of the formal process. For example, the attorney’s office might call the judge’s clerk directly to let them know the attorney is delayed in another Court or is on their way to a hearing. Another example might be the family law attorney’s office sent a copy of correspondence about something filed in the case, such as a required response with a deadline.
Otherwise, parties in a divorce, child custody, and all family lawsuit should never directly email the judge about a case. Imagine a party emailing their judge that the other party was late to visitation exchange or did not give the children their medication during their overnight. In many of these situations, the Judge is put in an awkward position, especially in cases where the judge is deciding issues in the case that could be challenged later.
Why Are Ex Parte Communications Prohibited?
Ex parte communications are prohibited because there is no way to resolve the issue of bias and influence in the case. The rules of civil procedure are formal and specific for a good reason. The only information a judge should have about a case should come from filed legal documents in the case and from evidence, testimony, and attorneys appearing in Court on that specific case.
Consequences for Violating Ex Parte Communication Rules
Inappropriate and unauthorized communication with a judge can lead to serious consequences. For example, if one of the parties directly contacts the judge with substantive and material information about the case, the other party or their attorney might make a motion for sanctions and other relief in the case. The Court, when facing an ex parte communication, must make sure that the trial record is clear that communication happened and what was done in the interest of fairness to make sure that the judge or jury was not influenced in the matter.
Appeals of Court decisions can be appropriate if one party believes they can prove that the judge or jury was involved in an ex parte communication. Especially in high conflict cases involving children, the rules of civil procedure and judicial conduct must be enforced.
Judges are bound by the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct and shall not permit or consider any ex parte communications or other communications made to the judge outside the presence of the parties between whom the case is at issue. Depending on the situation, a Judge who receives information must take appropriate actions to make sure that there is no appearance of impartiality, including recusal from the case.
For More on Ex Parte Communications in Divorce and Child Custody, Call the Barrows Firm in Southlake, Texas (817) 481-1583
Divorce, Joint Debts, and Student Loans in Texas
Divorce with Joint Debts During Marriage in Texas
Texas divorce and family laws treat joint debts during marriage like other property which is either community property or separate property. Community property consists of the property, other than separate property that is acquired by either spouse during the marriage. When spouses divorce, the property owned by each is presumed to be community property. With community assets and debts, the spouse asserting an asset or debt is separate, can make that argument in a divorce with joint debts.
An argument that joint debts are separate and not to be shared between the spouses can be a bargaining tool in the property division process. After negotiating and settling issues of community versus separate property, the spouses and their attorneys can propose a fair settlement agreement stating who gets which assets and debts.
Note that Texas law states that community property is to be divided based on what the Court deems “just and right,” meaning fair and equitable. In some divorces a 50/50 division is appropriate. Depending on facts, circumstances, and allegations, one spouse might be awarded a greater share of the property.
Related Barrows Firm Article – Dividing up Businesses During Divorce and COVID-19
Options for Dividing Joint Marital Debt in a Texas Divorce
When you get divorced who gets stuck with the debt? Southlake Family Lawyer, Leslie Barrows frequently tells clients that every divorce is unique and requires the right strategy to achieve their goals. At the end of the day, there are two options, negotiate an agreement stating which spouse assumes which debts or let the Court decide. When Texas Judges must divide debts, they tend to give the debt to the spouse who receives the asset tied to that debt. For example, if the husband is awarded the car he is driving, he may be ordered to assume the debt and payments for the car.
Divorce Pro Tip – use a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) for Complex Financial Issues
At the beginning of a divorce in Texas, the spouses are ordered, or the attorneys make agreements not to sell, disturb, or give away property. But once the divorce is underway the parties can make agreements to sell certain community property assets to pay off debts incurred by both spouses during the marriage.
Another option to dividing joint marital debt is to give one spouse a larger share of community assets in exchange for paying off a larger share of community debt. Depending on the type of asset or debt, it can be difficult to divide things 50/50, and your divorce and property division attorney can work to equalize asset and debt division in a way that makes the most sense. For example, a luxury home that might be difficult to sell might affect negotiations.
Student Loan Debt and Community Property
The issue of student loan debt comes up frequently in divorce. Attorney Leslie Barrows reminds people, do not pay off your spouse’s student loans with your credit card in your name, and think your spouse must reimburse you. The issue with student loan debt is when the student debt was incurred. Generally, spouses with student loan debt from before the marriage will be responsible for their debt. Meanwhile, both spouses can be liable to pay student debt incurred during the marriage.
Despite general rules, every divorce and student loan debt issues are different. Spouses can make the argument that the student loan benefitted the marriage and should be treated uniquely. Another issue can be student loan refinancing and co-mingling of property. If for example, the spouses refinance the marital home and pay off student loan debt, there can be conflict in the divorce process.
Related Issue – Should You Pay Off Student Loans or Invest
Furthermore, credit card debt can be challenging in a divorce. If both spouses are on the credit card, there is an extra word of caution in divorce. The credit card company does not care which spouse was ordered to pay the credit card balance and if left unpaid, both spouses can suffer damage to their credit rating. If this is the case, you might ask the Court to order that joint credit card debt is paid off during the divorce, not afterward when it takes more work to enforce the Court’s orders.
Exceptions to Joint Debt Division in Texas
Before marrying, couples with significant asset and debt questions can resolve concerns with a prenuptial agreement. If the couple so chooses, they can agree in a prenup that any student loan debt incurred before or during the marriage be the separate debt of each spouse. Even if Texas law would favor any of the positions in a prenup, some people appreciate the added security of knowing what will happen in the event the marriage ends in divorce.
If during the marriage the spouses decide they want similar assurances of a prenuptial agreement, they can go to their local family lawyer and get a postnuptial agreement. In some marriages, a postnuptial agreement can save a marriage when the prospect of divorce causes great anxiety.
When facing questions about marriage, divorce, assets, and joint debt liability, get the right information to help make the right decisions. Contact an experienced divorce and property division attorney and learn where you may stand based on your situation.
Leslie Barrows is a Southlake Texas Divorce and Property Division Lawyer and Can Help You Learn Your Legal Rights and Options for Joint Debts During Marriage in Texas at the Barrows Firm (817) 481-1583
Alcohol Monitoring in Child Custody Cases
Alcohol Monitoring is an Issue in Child Custody Cases, Especially During COVID-19
When alcohol use turns into abuse or alcoholism, the best interests of the child are an important focus in a divorce or family law case with child custody issues. Too often when one or both parent has an alcohol problem, the children take on adult tasks and are doing things around the house that their parent is not because of their drinking. Many children should not have to be making their meals on their own and taking on adult tasks because of drinking. Remote alcohol monitoring with Soberlink can help the Court determine exactly what is going on at home and during visitation time.
The Barrows Firm in Southlake Can Help You with Alcohol Monitoring
Psychology Today Article: Substance Abuse in Divorce Is as Complicated as You’d Think
COVID-19 disrupts many of our lives as we all adapt to changing conditions. When you are in a divorce or already co-parenting, the stress of 2020 can lead to increased drinking that becomes a problem. Especially with so many people working from home and not going to the usual meetings and events, you can imagine how increased drinking can happen and lead to a problem that needs addressing.
In a divorce case, alcohol use and abuse may be issues in determining custody and possession schedules. After a divorce, visitation with the other parent could be a problem if they are drinking excessively, especially around the children. When these problems arise it might be appropriate to ask the Court to enforce or modify the terms of a parenting arrangement, including remote alcohol testing.
See our related article, Court-Ordered Alcohol Testing: Soberlink and EtG Testing
Why Alcohol Monitoring is Important: Key Facts from Soberlink
Divorce and child custody attorneys and judges are used to addressing alcohol abuse and alcoholism. Not everyone who drinks has a problem with alcohol, but for some people, use can turn into abuse. When sobriety is an issue in a Texas divorce or child custody case, Southlake Family Law Attorney Leslie Barrows often asks the Court to order the other parent to be monitored by Soberlink.
Soberlink is a company that uses technology and equipment that works with people’s mobile devices to remotely test and report their sobriety. Alcohol monitoring is used to protect the emotional and physical safety of children until the parent with abuse issues regains control.
Here are some facts from a Soberlink video about alcoholism and alcohol monitoring in divorce and child custody cases:
- Approximately 15.1 million adults in the U.S. have some type of alcohol use disorder.
- Reports indicate 9.8 million men have an alcohol use disorder, which is 1 in every 5 men.
- Reports indicate 5.3 million women have an alcohol use disorder, which is 1 in every 12 women.
- Fewer than 10 percent of men and women seek alcoholism treatment.
- Around 10 percent of children live with a parent with alcohol problems.
- Divorce rates are higher when one parent is a problem drinker.
- Approximately 55 thousand divorces a year involve a parent with alcohol abuse.
- More people abuse alcohol than other drugs combined.
Options for Alcohol Monitoring in Child Custody Cases
If one parent has a reason to believe the other is or had been drinking, they may refuse to let the child go with the other parent. This situation leads to accusations that require witnesses to get involved and without alcohol testing, it is difficult to determine the truth.
To determine a parent’s alcohol use and to prevent a child from being exposed to alcohol abuse, the Court can order alcohol monitoring. The Soberlink device and technology makes it easy for everyone involved. Whether a parent is ordered to blow into the remote device at set times, or on-demand, can be determined based on a case by case basis. If the use of alcohol monitoring shows that the parent is not abusing alcohol, that is a good thing and we do not prevent that parent from having meaningful parenting time with their child.
Proof of Sobriety with Soberlink Alcohol Monitoring Solutions
To prove a parent is not using alcohol, the Soberlink alcohol monitoring system can be a lifesaver. The parent being accused of alcohol abuse might be the one who wants a remote alcohol testing solution to prove their sobriety to the other parent and the Court. Test results can be sent to the Judge, the attorneys, and whomever else is ordered to receive scheduled or random alcohol testing information.
Soberlink offers a video explaining different types of alcohol monitoring and the advantages of the Soberlink remote alcohol monitoring compared to traditional methods. They note that Soberlink has been used in courts since 2011 and its technology includes not only real-time testing results but also facial recognition technology. The Soberlink system verifies the person taking the test is the one ordered to submit to remote alcohol monitoring.
For Alcohol Monitoring in Divorce and Child Custody Cases, Call The Barrows Firm in Southlake at (817) 481-1583
COVID-19 Challenges with Kids, Possession Schedules, and School Schedules
Kids, Possession Schedules, School Schedules, and COVID-19 Challenges
September is here and there are yellow busses on the road, some more full than others as divorced parents face common challenges with COVID-19 impacting their kids and possession schedules. Some of our children are back at school for in-person learning while others are at home doing virtual school online. And while this might work at first, anything can happen to screw it all up. If that is your concern or reality, the Barrows Firm divorce and family law attorneys are here to help you figure out a solution that works in the short term because it is going to be a while before the backlogged courts have in-person hearings and trials on possession schedules, school schedules, and visitation swaps.
Attorney Leslie Barrows and Amanda Roark are helping North Texas families in Tarrant and Denton Counties who call the Barrows Firm for help with COVID-19 challenges when work, school, and possession schedules conflict. Yes, you may need to have an enforcement or modification hearing or trial but mediation could be a much better course of action in the meantime.
Our recent article has more useful information – Back to School Schedules: The 2021 Academic Year and Virtual School
The Purpose and Intent of a Possession Schedule
When parents get a divorce in Texas, it is common to use a standard possession schedule to determine when the children will be with which parent. The term possession and access are used in the Texas Family Code regarding issues of visitation when the non-primary parent has quality parenting time with their children. A possession schedule includes references to holidays and school calendars. Pick up and drop off times are set around school schedules.
The possession schedule is intended to be relied upon by the parents as the final word on where and with whom the child should be at any given point in time. Wrapping a possession schedule around school calendars makes sense for parents and children. However, if you and the other parent have an agreement to do something other than what is stated in your possession schedule, that is allowable. If you and the co-parent can get along well enough to trade time on your own, it is okay to adjust, as necessary.
Interesting Options: Texas Virtual School Network
Psychology Today: Will Distance Learning Produce a Coronavirus Slump?
School Schedules During COVID-19 for Virtual/Online or In-Person Learning
Most Independent School Districts in Texas let parents know of deadlines to decide whether their child will attend school virtually in an online environment from home, or in-person at school. So far, parents have made their choices and kids are adjusting to their new school year despite COVID-19 challenges and fears of another wave of spreading Coronavirus among students. When schools shut down and extended Spring Break earlier this year, the concern was the number of students who could contract COVID-19 and transmit it to families, including elderly family members and those with already compromised immune systems.
Most of the ISDs like Carroll ISD, where Leslie Barrows is an active parent, have a school schedule for the virtual students that nearly mirrors the in-person instruction at school. So, at the same time, both sets of students have similar learning schedules. If this applies to your family, your possession schedule and visitation exchange should not be affected but for the location of the visitation exchange.
Should You Follow the Same Possession Schedule if Things Change or Schedules Conflict?
When people call the Barrows Firm and talk to attorneys Leslie Barrows and Amanda Roark the questions about custody, possession, and school schedules are unique to COVID-19 because none of the attorneys, judges, or school administrators can predict exactly what is going to happen with the Coronavirus and potential spread among students. People are divided over their thoughts about risks and safety, making this a bigger challenge for everyone involved.
Can you adjust your schedules as parents to accommodate your children? For some parents, the answer is, “I don’t know.” Some parents are working full time from home and others are outside the home at an office or in a job where they travel for work. If you can work with the other parent on adjusting possession time because school schedules are a challenge during COVID-19, you may earn good brownie points that come in handy later when you might need a favor.
Compromise Now? Court Hearings and Jury Trials May Not Be Available Until January
Before the COVID-19 outbreak and shutdowns, if your former spouse refused to comply with Court orders and possession schedules, you could file an enforcement action, or modification if needed, and get into Court to ask for emergency relief and to set a hearing or trial. Now that we are in the third quarter of 2020, that previous course of action is no longer an option.
The majority of Texas family courts have postponed in-person hearings in family law cases until next year unless the matter is a true emergency and it is essential to the best interest of a child to see a judge right away. If you are being denied possession time and your ex is being difficult with visitation exchanges, now might be the time to take good notes and hold onto your hat until Coronavirus passes and you can get into Court to address the situation. So, if you can find a way to compromise now, do that. If you can use mediation to settle post-decree kid and school issues, try it. A jury trial on contested issues may become available once the dust settles and court calendars adjust to something closer to normal.
Now is the Time to Get a Handle on School Schedules, Possession Schedules, and COVID-19 Problems and the Barrows Firm in Southlake Has Your Back! (817) 481-1583
Back to School Schedules: The 2021 Academic Year and Virtual School
In-Person or Virtual Learning, Back to School Schedules Impacting Co-Parenting
Southlake family law attorney Leslie Barrows is a boy mom of three and understands the concerns of parents about school schedules and possession schedules during COVID-19. Many independent school districts are offering parents the opportunity for their children attending school in-person or at home doing virtual school. If there was ever a time for patience, understanding, and flexibility, now is that time. Even the most acrimonious co-parenting situations might need to allow for compromise and agreements as conditions continue to change during the COVID-19 outbreak. Southlake family law attorney Leslie Barrows can help you and your family figure out back to school schedules as it may affect co-parenting and custody arrangements. Call the Barrows Firm in Southlake at (817) 481-1583.
See our related article: Emergency Order on Possession and Access Schedules During COVID-19 Pandemic
Kids in the Classroom and at Home for Virtual School
Parents changing their minds about in-person versus virtual school options is a concern among many. For example, Southlake parents with children enrolled in Carroll ISD were asked to decide whether they want their kids to be at school for in-person instruction by August 10, which was two weeks before the start of classes this coming Monday, August 24th. Parents who changed their minds were asked to notify their child’s campus principal in writing. Carroll ISD offers its Dragon Virtual Academy for the first nine-week grading period.
Depending on the ages of your children, their virtual instruction process if different. The schedules for younger students may be easier to adjust to schedules than the older children in blocks from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. where the virtual students will be on a regimented instruction schedule just like the in-person students.
HealthyChildren.org article: Return to School During COVID-19
Possession Schedules Based on School Schedules
Most of the in-person learning and virtual learning occur on the same clock schedules. The students will be structured in the virtual setting at home, much like they were at school for in-person instruction. Instead of mom or dad driving the kids to school, they may not need to leave the house. Even though your possession schedule is based on school calendars, clock times, and schedules, you can adjust to exchanging visitation around the school schedules like normal, even though the children might not be leaving the house.
Ever considered 50/50? Read our article: Divorcing with Children 103 – Equal Access Possession Schedules
Is the School Schedule the Same as Parenting Time?
It is reasonable to anticipate some parents objecting to the other parent having more parenting time with the children when they are at home with the kids during their virtual schooling when they would otherwise be at school with teachers and fellow students in-person. Most parents who have their children at home with them doing virtual learning might joke at the idea of the other parent being jealous of what seems like more time with the children and gladly offer the other parent oversee virtual learning. The technology used by many school districts requires that virtual students at home are active on their computers and working diligently. So even though those children might be at home with the other parent, they are busy and occupied with their classes.
Edutopia article: Why Are Some Kids Thriving During Remote Learning?
Sending Your Children to the Other Parent for Virtual Learning
People with busy careers might not be able to stay at home with their children who are doing virtual learning. This might be a reason to send the kids back for in-person learning instead. But what happens if the other parent, who is a joint managing conservator, objects to in-person learning due to COVID-19 risks? What if the primary parent works in a profession that requires them to be gone from the house every day and the other parent works from home, at least during COVID-19?
Consider agreeing with your co-parent, that during COVID-19 impacting schooling, that the children go to the other parent’s house during the school day, arriving and leaving just as if they were at the school buildings with their teachers and fellow students. Remember, you and the other parent can agree to do whatever you both want with school schedules and possession, falling back on your Court Ordered parenting plan and possession schedule when necessary.
Adjustments to Academic Calendar
Adjusting to scheduling conflicts and challenges requires patience during COVID-19. As kids start going back to school there may be new cases reported causing unknown consequences. Some parents might start sending their children back for in-person instruction and then quickly decide they want to pull them back out of school for virtual learning instead.
Modifications to Possession Schedules to Match School Schedules
Modifying possession schedules is appropriate for parents who cannot co-parent well and need to stick to their Court Order. If school schedules during COVID-19 are a problem, and you have children of varying ages and needs, where some are attending in-person school and others are attending virtual school, you might benefit from a modification. But before you run to Court, remember that a modification case is a new lawsuit with service of process and all the procedural formalities you may recall from your original divorce and custody case. By the time you get to see a judge, during these times, your issues requiring a custody modification could be resolved. Remember that in different counties, there are serious backlogs of cases and parties are only appearing virtually. Alternatively, a temporary agreement between you and the other parent can resolve conflicts with the 2021 school schedules.
Southlake Family Law Attorney Leslie Barrows Can Help You with Agreements, Negotiations, and if Necessary, Modifications to Possession Schedules when School Schedules and COVID-19 Disrupt Your Plans. Call the Barrows Firm at (817) 481-1583.
Dividing up Businesses During Divorce and COVID-19
Divorce and Property Division During COVID-19
Divorce is challenging and it is a significant life event, especially when there are businesses involved and property division issues. Even in great economic conditions, there are disagreements over who owns what, what it is worth, and how it should best be distributed among the parties in the divorce.
Texas is a community property state and the Texas Family Code divides property acquired during the marriage based on what is “right and just,” which can be 50/50 or can be otherwise depending on the facts and circumstances. Separate property that remains legally classified and identifiable as separate, is not considered for division in the divorce. The more businesses and properties that are involved, the more opportunities there are for unresolved conflict. Especially in high-stakes divorce with business interests, it is important to use an experienced divorce attorney and law firm that knows how to create a winning strategy to meet your family’s needs.
Attorney Leslie Barrows and her team at the Barrows Firm in Southlake will ask all the right questions in your initial consultation to advise how to proceed with divorce during the COVID-19 Coronavirus outbreak. Call (817) 481-1583.
Dividing Business Assets in a Divorce
Are there any existing agreements that direct what happens to property and businesses in a divorce? A premarital agreement, for example, can specify that a business asset remains the separate value of one of the spouses. One of the parties in the divorce may also have independent business contracts with other individuals and organizations that can play a role in the divorce process of property and business asset division.
Determining who has the legal right to what assets and business interests is one step. Another issue is how much money the assets and property are worth. By agreement between the parties or by order of the Court, the marital property and any businesses will be distributed between the spouses. One might accept a larger share of an investment account and waive ownership in a business, for example. There are many options and every divorce is different.
Learn more, see our article, Prenups, and Premarital Agreements in Texas.
Valuation of Property and Business Assets
Any property that is subject to division in a divorce must be valued. This means that marital homes, vacation properties, investment properties, and shares in a business and business assets must be valued. A property and business valuation expert can offer their report and testimony if necessary when the parties do not otherwise agree to property amounts.
The discovery process in a divorce involves the exchange of information between the divorcing spouses. The documents and information help the attorneys and their clients understand where the money and property are and who else may be involved with ownership interests.
When assets and property are identified, the valuation process can take place. The more complicated the asset or business interest is, the more work it can take to get a proper valuation. If there is a conflict between the parties in the valuation process, it might be necessary to go to court when an agreement on fair market values cannot be reached.
Getting into Court on Property and Business Division in COVID-19 Divorce
Texas courts are operating on different plans during the COVID-19 Coronavirus outbreak. What is happening in Tarrant County district courts may be different from Denton County, for example. In many courts, only essential matters are being conducted in open courts and most hearings and trials are being done remotely using Zoom.
If there are disputes over property and business values, contracts, and interests, your attorney may need to have a hearing with the Judge. So many families are waiting for hearings that have been continued and postponed due to the stress on the Courts and already busy dockets. Your divorce attorney can talk to you about various options in your divorce during COVID-19. It might make sense to handle some parts of the divorce now, and others later.
Please Also See our Article: Estate Planning and Updates During COVID19 Coronavirus.
How the COVID-19 Outbreak Affects Property Division
Uncertainty is a constant right now and changes happen quickly during COVID-19. Determining the fair market value of property and business interests is challenging during a pandemic. It is difficult, even for the experts, to forecast the value of property and business assets during 2020. Applying these challenges to a divorce with business interests, there could be cash flow issues, assets might need to be sold to sustain operations, and third-party contract obligations could cause temporary difficulties.
Conflict between spouses in a divorce can be resolved by agreement or by Order of the Court. During the COVID-19 outbreak, one party to the divorce might prefer to postpone certain elements of property and business division. The other party, however, may wish to proceed with the case despite various challenges. With uncertainty, postponing property and business division could work against the party seeking to wait for fair market values to return to normal and lose more money for both parties.
Southlake Family Law Attorney Leslie Barrows Advises and Represents Families with Complex Property and Business Division Issues in Texas Divorces. Call the Barrows Firm (817) 481-1583.
Estate Planning and Updates During COVID19 Coronavirus
Estate Planning for Everyone During COVID19 Coronavirus
Do you have a will, power of attorney, and healthcare directives? At any given moment one of us or a family member could fall ill to the Coronavirus making estate planning important. While our elderly population is at particular risk, people of all ages have contracted the virus and some require hospitalization, and some do not make it through COVID19.
But why do so many of us wait until confronted by a life-threatening pandemic to get our will and estate planning documents created or updated? Attorney Leslie Barrows can help you prepare or update your estate planning documents to give you and your family peace of mind. Call the Barrows Firm today and learn how easy it is to be prepared when times get tough.
For Estate Planning and Updates Call the Barrows Firm in Southlake at (817) 481-1583
Meeting Your Attorney with Social Distancing and Virtual Contact During COVID19 Coronavirus
The Barrows Firm attorneys and staff understand health and safety concerns and precautions. Estate planning documents and can be prepared and sent electronically for review and witnessed signatures. There are ways to use technology to bring the necessary people together to accomplish estate planning goals while maintaining social distance and COVID19 Coronavirus prevention measures.
Make Sure to Update Your Estate Planning Documents
Updates to estate planning documents help you and your family make sure that your wishes are carried out if you are incapacitated, physically unavailable, or deceased. The birth of new children, the addition of family members by marriage, as well as acquired assets and properties need protection. Estate planning documents, directives, powers of attorneys, HIPPA, and trust documents provide protection. Without intentions and directives in proper written form, your decision making can become the province of another person you did not select.
HIPPA Authorization for Patient Records and Documents
HIPPA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. HIPPA regulations protect your personal healthcare information and records and control how those records can be kept and shared in healthcare treatment and communication about patient care. A HIPPA release authorization for records is part of estate planning. It allows you to appoint people with the authority to make decisions for you about the release of medical records. The HIPPA authorization allows your designated spouse, child, or other family member or person to talk to your doctors and nurses if you are hospitalized and unable to make your own care decisions.
Advance Health Care Directives During COVID19 Coronavirus
An Advanced Health Care Directive (“AHCD”) document is an essential part of estate planning regarding the authority of others to make health care decisions on our behalf. Separate of HIPPA issues, decisions on how to proceed with health care can be made by the person you appoint with an advanced health care directive document.
Power of Attorney and Durable Power of Attorney Documents in Your Estate Plan
Decision making can be appointed for times you may be medically incapable or unavailable to make decisions. These appointments can apply to decisions about money, property, and other legal obligations. When you prepare and update your estate planning documents during COVID19 Coronavirus, you can make sure that
Wills with a Special Needs Trust If you Have Minor Children
Wills and special needs trusts are used when a minor child has special needs including public benefits including Social Security Insurance (SSI) and Medicaid, for example. The goal of parents with special needs children is to make their children’s lives as enriched as possible by taking advantage of appropriate and available government programs designed for their care, and administered through a special needs trust.
The benefit of a special needs trust involves the money for it, in the estate of the parents, is not legally considered an asset in the event of the death of those parents. How much income and principal is allocated for the right purposes can be written in the special needs trust.
Trusts in Estate Planning to Protect Beneficiaries
A trust document establishes the relationship among the maker of a trust, the money or property that is the body of the trust, and the rights of the beneficiary to the body of the trust, and their interest in the money or property that is the body. Simply, a trust protects money or property for the benefit of another. If for example, you are leaving money to a child or grandchild and you want to make sure they do not spend it until they reach a certain age, you can accomplish that goal through a trust.
A trustee of the trust for another could be a family member or a professional you trust with the fiduciary duties of a trustee, keep true to the intent of the trust maker or settlor, and the benefit of the named trustee. Trusts are commonly used to hold property as well, where the name of the beneficiary is kept private from the knowledge of the general public.
For All Your Estate Planning Needs and Updates Curing COVID19 Coronavirus, Call the Barrows Firm for Estate Planning, Probate, and Family Law Advice and Counsel at (817) 481-1583
CPS Investigations During a Divorce
Steps to Take if There is a CPS Investigation During a Divorce
Imagine being contacted by a Child Protective Services (“CPS”) caseworker intending to talk to your family in connection with a CPS investigation during a divorce. You are shocked and do not know what to do. Should you talk to them because not talking to them might make you look guilty or something? Are you afraid that if you insist on your lawyer being present it looks like you are covering something up?
Southlake divorce attorney Leslie Barrows is the principal attorney at the Barrows Firm and people frequently ask her questions about CPS investigations during divorces. Attorney Barrows often explains to people is that the CPS caseworker is simply doing their job and it is part of a process when they receive a communication from someone who makes a CPS inquiry or allegation of abuse or neglect of a child.
In this short article, there are a few tips to understanding how CPS cases work and steps to take if there is a CPS investigation during or after your divorce. If you need help now or have questions, don’t wait to call the Barrows Firm in Southlake and talk to Leslie Barrows or Amanda Roark.
What Does CPS Do When They are Investigating During a Divorce?
CPS in Texas is a part of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). The role of CPS is to keep children safe from abuse or neglect. If someone makes a phone call to the CPS hotline, then CPS must follow up on that report to find out if something is going wrong.
Initial contact with CPS does not mean there will necessarily be a formal investigation into abuse and or neglect. They might let you know that a report was made against you. If CPS determines an investigation is necessary because there is proof or a significant threat of harm to your child, they must start their investigation within 72 hours of the phone call reporting an incident.
Texas Department of Family and Protective Services Website: When and How to Report Child Abuse
Did You Know Many People Including Teachers are Mandatory Reporters?
The mandatory reporting laws require teachers, doctors, nurses, clergy, and other trusted people that work with and around children, to report suspicions of abuse or neglect to CPS. They can lose their licenses if they fail to report suspected abuse. In many cases, a kid might have been bruised or injured just being a kid, but in other cases, a mandatory reporter stumbles upon something more.
Reports made to CPS are anonymous and you may never know who called them. It could be just about anyone and trying to find out is a waste of time. The most important thing to do is make sure that you manage your stress level and keep your family safe and sound, ideally with the help of an experienced family lawyer who can help you through the process and answer your questions.
Texas Department of Family and Protective Services Website: Learn More About Mandatory Reporters
Knock, Knock, CPS is at Your Door! What Should You Do?
They are not law enforcement. They cannot detain you. You do not have to talk to them. They cannot pull your kid out of your house. They might try to talk to your kid at school.
Step one is to CALL A FAMILY LAWYER (817) 481-1583. You need to know your rights as a parent. Attorney Leslie Barrows has worked in divorce and family law cases with the full focus of her career as an attorney and CPS cases are certainly a part of her wheelhouse.
It will help you prepare for the right time to talk to the CPS caseworker if you take notes about everything that is going on and what was said. Be prepared to be pleasant and honest when answering their questions with or without an attorney present. It may seem like you are playing a game, but when you play it right you are allowing the CPS caseworker to close their investigation.
How Will This Affect the Divorce and Custody Case if There is an Investigation During a Divorce?
If you are seeking to be the primary parent and have sole custody of your children in a divorce, a CPS case on you or your spouse is going to be a big deal to your judge and it is necessary to have an experienced family law attorney representing you. If you are doing a simple divorce without a lawyer, you need to hire one if you want custody of your children.
What is The Family Plan Following a CPS Investigation During a Divorce?
Please do not think that CPS is only in the business of removing children to place them into foster care. If something was going on in your family and something happened to a child, it could be appropriate for CPS to put everyone on a family plan where the parents attend the proper parenting classes, counseling, or whatever is required to show CPS that children are not in any direct danger or at risk of current or future abuse or neglect.
Got Questions? For Information about CPS Investigations During a Divorce Call the Barrows Firm in Southlake (817) 481-1583
Prenups and Premarital Agreements in Texas
What Are Premarital Agreements in Texas?
The Texas Family Code defines a premarital agreement as “an agreement made between prospective spouses in contemplation of marriage and to be effective on marriage.” A prenup as most call it is a formal agreement that states what happens to the property of the parties should the marriage end in divorce.
Prenups tend to be stigmatized in movies where high stakes divorces and premarital agreements are sensationalized. For example, in the 2003 film, Intolerable Cruelty, the “Massey Prenup” is a central part of the story.
You do not need to be rich and famous to have a prenup. Many couples consider a premarital agreement to be an opportunity to talk about how they would handle property division in the event of divorce. It is not that the prenup is made assuming there will be a divorce, but if that were to happen, having a prenup is like having insurance, and you know what you may expect if you need it.
Related Article: The Unexpected Upside of Getting a Prenup
Talking to Your Future Spouse About Money and Property when Considering a Prenup.
Preparing information for a prenup may seem quite like the information contained in a divorce lawsuit. In each one of the bullet points below, there are issues to discuss one another’s rights and duties. Consider the subject of family gifts, where the father gives the husband $50,000 as a gift to be used as the down payment of the house. The couple could decide to include in a written premarital agreement to recognize that money as separate property, attributable to husband in the event of divorce. The prenup could be limited to specifically that money and silent as to anything else.
Likewise, anything on the list below could be a separate section of the premarital agreement. Note that the duration a prenup can also state, for example, that upon 10 years of marriage, the premarital agreement naturally terminates. Alternatively, the agreement could last longer, and some provisions simply kick in at the 10-year mark. Because a prenup is a contract between two people, they can add almost whatever they want in the language with the limitation of things only within the Court’s authority, like Child support payments and amounts.
Potential Issues to Address Before Marriage and in a Premarital Agreement in Texas:
- Premarital Assets and Debts
- Marital Property
- Regular Income Management
- Credit Cards and Debts
- Working and Earning Income
- Spousal Maintenance
- Considerable Gifts from Family
- Taxes and Filing Decisions
- Higher Education?
- Business Ownership
- Fault as a Basis of Divorce
- Death or Disability
What Happens When You Divorce and Don’t Have a Prenup in Texas?
If you do have a prenup, you can determine who gets what assets and property so long as your agreement satisfies the requirements in the Texas Family Code for premarital agreements. If you do not have a prenup, your separate property from before the marriage remains separate if you can prove it is separate property. Meanwhile, everything else you and your spouse acquired during the marriage is community property which the court divides between spouses based on what is “just and right.”
Related Article: “Just and Right” Community Property Division in Texas Divorce.
Are Prenups, also called Premarital Agreements Enforceable in Texas?
Different states have different laws about the process and formalities required to have a valid and enforceable premarital agreement in Texas. The Texas Family Code states that a premarital agreement must be in writing and signed by both parties. The content of the agreement may include the rights and obligations of individuals concerning assets and property. Additionally, spousal support may also be modified or eliminated by agreement of the parties in a prenup. Wills and trusts can also be addressed in premarital agreements as well as life insurance policies. Overall, matters concerning rights and obligations may be the content of a Texas prenup.
Will My Out of State Prenup be Valid and Enforceable in Texas Courts?
With so many families moving from one state to another for work and other reasons, a couple considering divorce might have a premarital agreement that was negotiated and signed in another state with different requirements for the process and formalities necessary for a valid and enforceable prenup.
The general rule is that a valid and enforceable agreement from another state will be enforceable here in Texas, so long as the written agreement satisfied the legal requirements for validity in the state in which the agreement was originally written. That said, any elements of a premarital agreement that would violate Texas law and the Texas Family Code might fail. It is also possible that part of an out of state premarital agreement would be enforced. The court could also declare an out of state prenup to be invalid in Texas but use the weight of the parties’ intent about their prenup when making property division decisions here in a Texas Court.
What Documents Are Needed for a Texas Prenup?
Generally, documents are used as evidence of ownership of assets and property. Proper documentation incorporated into a premarital agreement makes it easy to prove the intent of the parties when the premarital agreement was made. The more one keeps accurate records, the better one can prove what their claims in the event they are in court seeking to prove up the validity and enforceability of a premarital agreement in Texas.
Need a Prenup? Call the Barrows Firm for Premarital Agreements in Texas (817) 481-1583
Father’s Day and Father’s Rights
Celebrate Father’s Day and Father’s Rights Sunday June 21st
This coming Sunday the 21st of June is Father’s Day and it is a great time to appreciate father’s rights and their important roles in raising their sons and daughters. Why do we wait for one day a year to appreciate fathers when they are important every day? The Barrows Firm works with fathers and mothers who get a divorce and need to set child custody and possession schedules. Southlake divorce attorney Leslie Barrows, founder of the firm, sees all kinds of parenting situations that foster the growth of parent and child relationships. She knows that even when families use a more traditional co-parenting model, there are creative co-parenting options different families can use to make sure their sons and daughters get quality time with their fathers.
Life has been challenging this year and still many families are affected by COVID-19 Coronavirus, putting a strain on many families whose lives and routines have been disrupted. This Father’s Day might include some different plans from what dads and their kiddos normally do, but that should not take away from the importance of celebrating a great Father’s Day because he is their daddy.
Psychology Today: The Importance of Fathers
What are Father’s Rights?
Father’s rights mean the general rights and duties that apply to a father, including his right to parenting time with his children. Father’s rights may also be used as a reference to a father’s right to be notified of any hearing or action about his children, including adoption hearings where in cases a father’s parental rights may be terminated. In an employment context, the term Father’s rights involve the father’s right to time from work to raise a child.
At the Barrows Firm, our client could be the mother or the father. That said, we appreciate the importance of both parents in the growth and development of their sons and daughters. When we talk about Father’s rights in divorce and child custody, we represent our clients to establish the parental rights and duties of each parent. Operating within the Texas Family Code and the local rules of district courts, we negotiate and sometimes need to litigate parenting and children’s issues including Father’s rights.
Why are Father’s Rights Essential to Raising Children?
Father’s rights are important to the emotional development of his sons and daughters. Boys and girls need their fathers in their life and development. Children naturally want to make their fathers proud of them and that is important growth and strength as children grow. Cognitive, emotional, and social development are frequently tied to the roles of fathers in the lives of their children and studies support the importance of affectionate and supportive fathers.
Psychology Today: What’s So Special About Dads
Fathers and Sons
Sons grow up seeking the approval of their fathers, creating themselves in their father’s image. Dads show their boys how to act and how to conduct themselves in the world. Where a father is loving and supporting to his sons, they will grow up similar. Likewise, boys will likely take on other traits of their fathers and their personality types.
When a boy’s father is not actively present in their lives, the son may look up to other male figures in their lives to model themselves after, learning how to make their way in the world. When parents divorce, father’s rights are an important in determining custody and possession time. Fathers and their sons share relationship bonds necessary to their ongoing development. Even if the father is not the primary parent, it is important for the co-parents to make sure that sons get as much quality with their dads, not only on birthdays and Father’s Day, but every available day.
Fathers and Daughters
Fathers are a sense of security and emotional support. Daughters watch their fathers and learn from how they treat others. Girls who grow up with fathers who are kind, loving, and gentile, seem to seek out their own relationships with similar types of men when they grow older. Similarly, a strong leader-type of a father often leads young girls to grow up and seek our similar men.
Daughters can have many great male role models in their lives, but it all starts with their fathers. Divorce and new living situations are challenging for daughters who may not have their dads with them every day. Even if things go wrong in a marriage, the relationships among daddies and daughters are always building and growing.
Revising the Rights and Duties of Fathers as Time Passes and Sons and Daughters Grow Up
When parents divorce or have a suit affecting a parent-child relationship, the parties and the courts ideally work together to create the best custody and parenting plan, in the best interests of the children. Even when a parent, maybe a father, does not feel like he got his way with parenting time, he should know that things change as the children grow older. It may seem like eternities of time dads may are missing when the mother is named the primary parent. As sons and daughters grow up, they need their fathers at key points in their life when their grounding memories are made. Fathers have opportunities to play an active role in their children’s lives, every day, even if they are not the primary parent out of the gate.
Father’s rights include revisiting custody and parenting as the children grow up. The rights and duties of both parents are subject to enforcement and modification cases when necessary. A substantial change in circumstances may warrant custody or possession modification and certainly a father can be appointed the primary parent and the mother could have reasonable periods of possession.
No matter what the outcome of a divorce or custody case, we all know that our modern society is one of connectivity and whatever your family’s situation may be, fathers should be in as much contact and communication with their sons and daughters as is allowed and reasonable. The father who checks in with his kids all the time, and shows them strength, love, and support, is a father who is raising good kids.
To Talk About Father’s Rights, Call the Barrows Firm in Southlake at (817) 481-1583. Leslie, Amanda, and Everyone at the Barrows Firm Wishes You All Celebrate Father’s Rights and Father’s Day
Coronavirus COVID-19 Issues and Updates in Divorce and Family Law
COVID-19 Divorce and Family Law Update for June 1st
The courts are scheduled to reopen on Monday, June 1, 2020. Please be patient because many hearings and court appearances have been deferred and rescheduled over the past few months due to Coronavirus COVID-19 court closures and limitations. Scheduling new hearings and court appearances requires patience because there are so many people waiting for hearings on several divorce and family law matters.
The Barrows Firm in Southlake is Open for You and Your Family Matters
At the Barrows Firm, we remain open and are conducting client consultations, mediations, and appearing at hearings via Zoom. There are plenty of things we can do for our clients who are waiting for in-person hearings on several matters. In the meantime, we can work on discovery demands and responses, for example. Preparing for temporary order hearings is another thing we can do with clients waiting for their hearing if they otherwise could not have one using Zoom.
Amended Temporary Emergency Standing Order
Effective May 30, 2020, and expiring on December 31, 2020, unless further ordered, the Tarrant County Family District Courts (the following districts: 231st, 324th, 233rd, 325th, and 322nd) signed an Amended Temporary Emergency Standing Order on May 19, 2020. The standing order is for the protection of the parties, their children, family pets, and property while a family lawsuit is pending before the court.
Please note that this is different from what is normal in Tarrant County, where there were no “standing orders” automatically applied by the Court, like it is done in other neighboring counties such as Dallas, Denton, and Collin. In Tarrant County, most attorneys and their clients use agreed on reciprocal orders to accomplish the same goals as a standing order. The main difference is the new temporary standing orders are automatic when your lawsuit is filed.
A Quick Summary of The Amended Temporary Emergency Standing Order:
- No Disruption of Children;
- Protection of Family Pets or Companion Animals;
- Conduct of the Parties During the Case;
- Preservation of Property and Use of Funds During Divorce Case;
- Personal and Business Records in Divorce Case;
- Insurance in Divorce Case;
- Specific Authorizations in Divorce Case;
- Service and Application of This Order;
- Effect of Other Court Orders;
- Bond Waiver.
No Jury Trials in Tarrant County Until August
Due to health concerns related to Coronavirus COVID-19, jury trials will not take place in Tarrant County until August. Following CDC guidelines, limiting close contact with others means protecting potential jurors and postponing jury trials until August. This should not cause a hardship for anyone with immediate family safety concerns as those matters will still be heard by the Court and temporary orders can hold families over until a Jury trial on contested issues becomes available.
If you did not know, Texas courts allow for Jury trials over certain elements of divorce and family lawsuits. Jury trials can be used to determine the status of marriage, child custody, and residential matters, as well as the status of property, values, and distribution. Learn more by reading our article, Jury trials in Texas divorce and family law.
Happy Graduation to the 2020 Seniors: Terminating Child Support
While many are sad that their high school seniors missed the rest of their year after leaving for spring break, the Denton County grads do have the honor of walking through graduation at Texas Motor Speedway, having their smiling faces in caps and gowns up on Big Hoss. Great Article: Texas Motor Speedway to Hold Graduation Ceremonies For Schools in Denton County.
As parents who are paying child support are likely looking forward to terminating child support payments and we can help you with that at the Barrows Firm. The process is straight forward but does require action and is not automatic.
Planning for Summer Travel and Summer Camps
Just recently in April, parents had the opportunity and deadline to give notice of their summer possession and travel plans. During Coronavirus COVID-19, it has been difficult at best to make concrete plans, not knowing what the future has in store. Will there be another shutdown? What if new hot spots are detected or the curve needs are flattening again?
We can help you with any of your concerns about summer travel with children including summer camps, now scheduled to open given Governor Abbott’s recent declarations. Remember that being a good co-parent means being a reasonable person. Giving the other parent a break can go a long way when you might need a favor down the road. While this summer may be different, it is still a great opportunity to spend quality time with your kids, especially knowing how fast they grow and leave the nest.
Attorney Leslie Barrows at the Barrows Firm in Southlake is Here for All Your Coronavirus COVID-19 Issues and Updates (817) 481-1583
Court Orders and Modifications: Parents Drinking at Home
Alarming Alcohol Statistics and Parents Drinking at Home During Coronavirus
Drinking and drug use and abuse rates are alarming during the COVID-19 Coronavirus situation. Many people knew there would be an increase in alcohol consumption, but few may have realized how many problems would arise out of parents being stuck at home and kids being seemingly forever out of school. As we started learning to use Zoom for professional meetings, a few people started hosting Zoom happy hours with friends to keep in touch and be social. The problems start when the normal rules for social behavior are out the window. When the Zoom happy hours start earlier and people start finding day drinking acceptable, “during these times,” the best interests of children are at greater risk.
In a recent article by the Green Valley Recovery Center in California, the CDC reports alcohol sales have increased by more than 55 percent since quarantines began, as of the third week in March. Here in Texas, the Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission (TABC) reported significant increases in the sale of alcohol in Texas, as many stocked up at liquor stores, fearing a run on beverage supplies, despite liquor stores being deemed essential and remaining open during statewide and local shutdowns.
Got Questions About Your Divorce Decree, Co-Parenting, and Drinking or Drug Use and Abuse? Call the Barrows Firm in Southlake and Learn Your Rights and Options to Keep Your Children Safe. (817) 481-1583. Read the Barrows Firm Article: Court-Ordered Alcohol Testing: Soberlink and EtG Testing
While Texas is Slowly Reopening, Many Concerns Remain About Alcohol Use and Abuse
People are habitual. Habits are easy to make and easy to break. Many of us are now in the habit of ordering food and alcohol to go. Here in Texas, we can also have alcohol delivered right to our front door, which many argue is a great convenience that reduces drinking and driving. In a recent article, it appears alcohol to go sales may continue in Texas. While some praise the idea of delivery food and booze, others are concerned about an increase in excessive drinking at home.
Addiction and recovery professionals and therapists are rightfully concerned about alcohol abuse. It sneaks up on you, many will say, and what starts as an increase in drinking can easily slide into abuse and addiction. Many parents might joke about drinking more and enjoying their Zoom happy hours while the kids pretend to be studying and doing their online schoolwork, but just because everyone else is doing it, does not mean you should.
Imagine you are the primary parent and not only see on social media, but also hear from your children that when they are at the other parent’s house they see more alcohol in the refrigerator, more empties in the trash, and unfortunately the other parent being drunk or hungover during their parenting time.
Co-Parents Do not Buy the COVID-19 Coronavirus “Everyone Else is Drinking Excuse”
Without pressuring the kids to talk, many are quick to share or let the other parent know that something is going on with increased alcohol or drug abuse. People who may think they are getting away with it are dead wrong when kids are involved. Children do not think their parents are funnier when they are drunk. Kids do not feel safe when a parent abuses alcohol. Judges and opposing counsels are neither impressed by increased drinking because it is inconvenient to be shut down and ordered to stay at home.
People Ask for Scram and Soberlink Devices and Courts Will Order Them
While we all are likely worn out by the phrase, “during this time,” you can be certain that judges are ready willing and able to order parents to use Scram and Soberlink alcohol monitoring devices during this time while co-parenting and the best interests of the children are challenged by inappropriate and excessive drinking. Attorney Leslie Barrows has asked for court-ordered alcohol monitoring devices and she knows they work to keep people honest!
Scram systems offer remote devices that track and report alcohol use and monitoring. They offer products ranging from ankle monitors to hand-held breathalyzer systems. The technology used in court-ordered alcohol monitoring is effective compared to other methods used by courts in the past, including random ordered drug testing.
Soberlink is another effective professional alcohol monitoring system, not only for addiction recovery but also for family law. The Soberlink includes a hand-held breathalyzer, tamper detection, and facial recognition technology that instantly reports the test results to whomever you have set to receive immediate Soberlink data reports. There are all-in-one cellular Soberlink devices as well as a Soberlink device that connects to a smartphone for data transmission.
Do You Need a Modification Because the Other Parent is Drinking at Home with the Children?
A modification case is required to change and update what is already ordered in a divorce decree. There are several reasons for modifications, including a problem in co-parenting, such as increased drinking and drug use and abuse. Anything that places the safety and best interests of the children at risk may be grounds for filing a modification lawsuit.
In a recent Barrows Firm podcast, Leslie Barrows talks about modification cases and what you can expect. Please feel free to listen – Episode 6: What Does a Modification Case Look Like in Texas.
For Court-Orders, Modifications, and Other Relief Related to Co-Parenting, COVID-19 Coronavirus, and Parents Drinking at Home, Call the Barrows Firm in Southlake at (817) 481-1583.
Divorce and Stimulus Checks for Coronavirus Aid
Divorce and Stimulus Checks for Coronavirus Aid
Divorced couples with questions about stimulus checks for Coronavirus Aid are already arguing over who gets the stimulus checks, and how it works with taxes and the children. Attorneys Leslie Barrows and Amanda Roark and the team at the Barrows Firm have already experienced families in conflict over the stimulus checks for Coronavirus aid and are here to help answer questions and solve problems.
How Much Will My Stimulus Check Be?
The amounts for Coronavirus aid stimulus checks are based on the adjusted gross income of the taxpayer's last-filed IRS tax return. Individuals with adjusted gross incomes less than $75,000 for 2019 should receive $1,200 per individual adult and $500 for each child under the age of 17 at the end of the 2019 tax year. So, couples will receive $2,400 plus $500 per child.
If you have not yet filed your 2019 tax return, the IRS will base your Coronavirus aid stimulus check will be based on your 2018 tax return. If you and your spouse filed joint returns the individual amounts are doubled, so for an adjusted gross income of $150,000, the couple should receive $2,400. Heads of household plus one child with an adjusted gross income of $112,500 should receive $1,700.
Smart Asset Tool – Coronavirus Stimulus Check Calculator: How Much Will I Get?
I Received My Ex-Spouse’s Stimulus Check Money, What Do I Do?
If you have filed for divorce or been divorced since the last filing of your tax return, and you were the head of household filing at that time, you might receive your ex-spouse's share of the Coronavirus aid money. If this happens you should send them their share of the funds received. Failure to turn over another’s stimulus check money could be a violation of federal law. Call the Barrows Firm if you have questions or concerns. Do not simply keep the money. If you believe your ex owes you money, that is a situation that should be addressed by a reasonable agreement.
Who Gets the Stimulus Check for Coronavirus Aid if I Have a Pending Divorce Case?
The IRS will deposit stimulus checks into the bank account listed in the last tax return, where any tax payment refund was deposited. The head of the household is the one to whom the stimulus checks will be sent.
Other Topical and Related Articles by the Barrows Firm:
Do Stimulus Checks for Coronavirus Aid Affect Child Support Obligations?
If you are divorced and owe child support payments that are past due and in arrears, the tax intercept orders by the Texas Attorney General Child Support Division apply. So if the parent owing child support is past due, the stimulus money can be intercepted and used to credit the past due balance. Another situation may be a divorce which is still pending, where the children live with one parent and the other parent was the head of household tax filer and is receiving all of the stimulus money, including that which is meant to support the expenses of the children. If this is the case and you have questions, please contact the Barrows Firm for help with stimulus checks for Coronavirus aid.
There are all kinds of ways to address the application of stimulus checks for Coronavirus aid, and negotiating reasonable agreements can be done by phone, email, or Zoom, without an expensive trip to court for a hearing.
What if my Ex Stole the Stimulus Check Money?
The IRS sends the stimulus check for Coronavirus aid to the account at the bank listed on the last tax return. They do not know whether you filed for divorce or were recently divorced. The checks are sent to the person who files tax returns as the head of the household.
If you believe or know that a stimulus check was sent to your ex and they have a portion of the stimulus aid that you should have received, call the Barrows Firm and talk to attorney Leslie Barrows or Amanda Roark about your rights and options for stimulus check money. Attorney Barrows has already negotiated resolutions to conflicts over stimulus checks, who gets them, and how they are being used.
Why Haven’t I Received My Stimulus Check Yet?
Most of the electronic stimulus check payments were sent on April 11 to arrive by April 15. Note that the IRS issued a 2020 tax deadline extension of the due date to file 2019 tax returns from the April 15th due date to July 15, 2020. So, if you haven’t filed your 2019 return, you still qualify for a stimulus check for Coronavirus aid.
On Friday, April 24, the first paper checks were mailed by the IRS. The first to receive the checks will be tax filers with an adjusted gross income of $10,000 or less. More checks will be forthcoming over weeks and months. Some reports say it could be fall before everyone eligible receives their stimulus checks for Coronavirus aid.
Call Us at the Barrows Firm for Help with Divorce, Custody, and Covid-19 Issues Including Stimulus Checks for Coronavirus Aid at (817) 481-1583.
How Can We Parent at Home Under Stay-at-Home Orders?
Divorce Attorneys Helping Parents Who Ask, How Can We Parent at Home Under Stay-at-Home Orders?
Southlake divorce attorney, Leslie Barrows, and her team of attorneys, paralegals, and staff at the Barrows Firm in Southlake understand how challenging it is to parent a child during or after a divorce and or custody case during stay-at-home orders. Parenting a child during a global pandemic outbreak is another matter. From questions and arguments about visitation exchange for possession to battles over how the stimulus checks are used, people can resist the temptation to take the frustration out on their former spouse.
If your possession time is affected, later we can always make adjustments. Leslie Barrows reminds us that our court orders are necessary when we cannot otherwise adjust on our own. The time one parent missed can be made up later, maybe after the end of the stay-at-home orders when there is more going on.
Do your best to co-parent well, and communicate well. Exchange information and expectations about health, safety, and protective measures. Talk about the masks, gloves, and restrictions reasonably and let your children feel safe and let them know this will pass and it is not the end of the world.
Psychology Today article – Talking to Kids About Coronavirus
What Does Your Possession Schedule Say? Follow it First
When the State and County Stay-at-Home orders were issued, and while schools were extending spring break before closing their doors for longer, there was much confusion among parents. Some co-parents immediately had disagreements about what the extension to spring break meant to their possession time. There was so much confusion that the State Attorney General issued an Emergency Order on possession and access schedules during COVID-19. clarifying that parents were ordered to use the original school calendar to interpret their possession schedules just as if the schools had not been closed.
We spend time and resources negotiating customized parenting plans and possession schedules because we have busy lives and complex calendars. A good co-parent will be flexible and work with the other when one needs a favor. An extra day or weekend here and there should be fine and not upset anything. The goodwill you build with your former spouse can be an important factor in a healthy co-parenting relationship because one day the favor asked might be your own.
Need an enforcement or modification case? Call us at the Barrows Firm (817) 481-1583. Read our article, Child Support Modification, and COVID-19 Coronavirus.
Visitation Exchanges for Possession Time During Coronavirus Stay-at-Home Orders
Travel between pick and drop off locations is essential, and is the expected performance of your duties in your court order, in most cases, your final divorce decree including your possession schedule. Despite concerns about the Stay-at-Home orders, most co-parents understood that they are allowed to leave and drive the children to their destination for visitation with the other parent.
Remember that everyone is inconvenienced in some way during the Stay-at-Home time. You might be an essential-deemed worker still traveling, or you may be instructed to work from home. Worse, you might be laid off or out of work because of the shutdown situation. The more we all work together the better we will be on the other side of this outbreak.
What if You or Your Child Gets Sick or Tests Positive for COVID-19
Kids Health article – Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic: What to Do if Your Child Is Sick
Call your doctor or healthcare provider first. Second, call your divorce attorney if you have questions about your order regarding parenting rights and duties when it comes to healthcare. Common sense and precautions are important during any regular flu season and especially during a more challenging outbreak such as COVID-19 Coronavirus. If you or your son or daughter gets sick, is tested for, and has the Coronavirus, you should receive instructions from your doctor and county health department officials with instructions on what to do to properly quarantine.
If quarantine is necessary, both co-parents should make an effort to work well with the other in the best interests of the child, other children, and everyone else involved. If necessary, courts may be asked to enter Emergency Temporary Restraining orders or use other options to protect a child and a family when the child or a family member is sick, testing positive for COVID-19 Coronavirus.
Are You Concerned About Your Child’s Safety During Coronavirus Pandemic Precautions?
Call your lawyer before you engage in self-help or call 911 because your child tells you they were not required to wear a mask, gloves, and face shield while riding in the other parent’s vehicle. Recommendations by government agencies are not the same as orders issued in your divorce or custody case. Judges are very busy right now, with essential matters and all the liability involved in holding court in person and online using Zoom.
Sometimes it is a better idea to make a record of that with which you have a problem. Later, in an enforcement or modification case, your notes may help demonstrate patterns of questionable behavior. That said, if you believe your child is in actual and immediate harm or the threat of harm, call your lawyer and if necessary call the police.
Are You Violating the Stay-at-Home Orders? Don’t Post That on Facebook.
You don’t need to be a lawyer or creative problem solver to make the argument that certain activities fall within the essential exceptions to the order to stay at home and shelter in place until the state and counties order those preventative measures are no longer necessary to flatten the curve of infection and slow the spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus.
If you have determined that taking the kids out to the walking path, park, or lake, be aware that their other parent might not like the idea. And if you are posting it on social media, your honest and simple activity can get turned into the story of a passive-aggressive narcissist rule breaker, one your lawyer anticipates hearing about when you or the opposing counsel calls.
While we have not heard many cases of big busts or law enforcement cracking down on people out for “exercise” but if something does happen, as a kid gets injured, the spotlight and much worse consequences could be on your hands.
Attorney Leslie Barrows and Her Team at The Barrows Firm Can Help with Questions About Stay-at-Home Orders (817) 481-1583
Child Support Modification and COVID-19 Coronavirus
Child Support Modification Cases are Expected to Rise Due to COVID-19 Coronavirus
All over the DFW Metroplex, people are feeling the economic impact of the businesses forced to close, employees being laid off, and salaries being cut while families are ordered to stay and home, many of whom may need a child support modification. Even though stimulus money may be on the way and many companies are allowing people to postpone payments, it takes time. Also, the lines and time it takes to process and receive the bolstered unemployment benefits due to the current situation.
We do not need a degree in economics to understand the domino effect of business closures, layoffs, and reductions in staffing in all industries affected by COVID-19 Coronavirus. It will be some time before any of us see the full impact of the majority of the workforce being affected in some way.
There may be parents of children who never had child support ordered and have been working it out with one another individually. That can change when there is a substantial change of economic circumstances in a time like this with pandemic-related shutdowns. Others who do receive child support may not have gone back for a modification in many years and are suddenly looking into going for an increase.
See our related article, Emergency Order on Possession and Access Schedules During COVID-19 Pandemic
Example of Potential Client for Child Support Modification:
Bob owns a local restaurant that was forced to close and only sell take out to. Bob is running low on inventory and hears supply chains are interrupted. He doesn’t know how long he can keep the take out window open. Jimmy is the restaurant server out of work who cannot pay his rent for the house that Bob owns. Rent houses are great income until tenants stop paying, refusing to leave under temporary government protections. The mortgage still needs to be paid, if there is one. Meanwhile, the rent home owner’s wife Judy is a business executive at a firm that just cut salaries for a temporary but indefinite time. While both may be working, the cash flow is affected and Bob, might have to close the restaurant and he is already having a difficult time with the current child support payments for children from a past marriage.
In the above scenario, it is necessary to look at all the numbers to best determine whether a child support modification is an option for Bob, the child support obligor. To find out if he is eligible to file a child support modification due to economic losses tied to the COVID-19 Coronavirus outbreak, he should call the Barrows Firm in Southlake at (817) 481-1583.
Are your kiddos asking you about what’s going on? Not sure how to talk about it with them? Consider the tips in this Psychology Today article, Talking to Kids About Coronavirus.
Eligibility to File a Child Support Modification Due to Coronavirus Income Loss
In Texas, there are several grounds for modification of child support. If you qualify under one of these categories, you can file a case for a child support modification. Note that these are the grounds listed in the Texas family code and apply to all types of situations, including economic changes as a result of the COVID-19 Coronavirus.
First, a child support modification is allowed if the circumstances of the child or person affected by the order have materially and substantially changed since the last order was entered.
Second, a child support modification is allowed if it has been three years since the last order was entered or modified and the amount of child support under the order differs by either 20 percent or $100 from the amount that would be awarded under the child support guidelines.
Material and Substantial Changes: Incomes Affected by COVID-19 Coronavirus
Employment changes are common material and substantial changes that qualify as grounds for a child support modification. How much the change affects the obligor’s ability to pay is what becomes the issue in determining if modification is an option. A few weeks of disproportionate pay is one thing, and a layoff is another. And on the other hand, a substantial increase in the noncustodial parent is also a ground to modify support.
Medical coverage changes can also be material and substantial for purposes of qualifying to ask the Court for a child support modification, whether you are the child support obligor (noncustodial) parent or the recipient (primary) parent.
Additional children, born after the last child support order, as well as children that are now living with a different parent, are additional elements in establishing grounds to modify child support.
Child Support Modifications by Agreement or Going to Court for a New Support Order
Here at the Barrows Firm in Southlake, we always hope for the best for our clients who co-parent and share financial responsibilities for their children. We know that in most families, income increases are easy to establish from paystubs and tax returns, and that makes a child support modification a somewhat straightforward process. However, we also know our clients who have complex incomes from various sources, making it a more arduous task to determine one’s net resources for purposes of establishing a new amount of child support.
Whatever your situation may be, the Barrows Firm has you in good hands, even if right now you are not shaking hands. While social distancing and being ordered to stay home because of COVID-19 Coronavirus, the Barrows Firm can still meet with you by phone and video conference. Attorney Leslie Barrows and her team of talented attorneys, paralegals, and staff can Zoom with you and figure out if and how to best help you with a child support modification.
Need a Child Support Modification to Increase or Decrease Support? Call the Barrows Firm in Southlake today at (817) 481-1583
Emergency Order on Possession and Access Schedules During COVID-19 Pandemic
Possession and Access Schedules Not Affected by School Closures
Governor Abbott declared a state of disaster in all 254 counties in Texas in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Individually, our local independent school districts extended spring break and temporarily suspended classes, some for several weeks. The Governor issued a COVID-19 emergency order regarding court-ordered possession and access schedules.
The order states in pertinent part:
“For purposes of determining a person’s right to possession of and access to a child under a court-ordered possession schedule, the original published school schedule shall control in all instances. Possession and access SHALL NOT be affected by the school’s closure that arises from an epidemic or pandemic, including what is commonly referred to as the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Contact the Barrows Firm in Southlake if you have questions about school closures and your possession and access schedule. Our team can help you with your custody and visitation issues in light of temporary school closures. Divorce and child custody attorney Leslie Barrows and the team at the Barrows Firm attorneys are here to help. (817) 481-1583.
Keeping Children Safe During the COVID-19 Pandemic and School Closures
Talking to your kids about Coronavirus, COVID-19, and social distancing is important. Sometimes too much information can overwhelm concerned children. Make sure they know that they are going to be safe at home and that social distancing helps keep healthy people from getting sick. If you feel comfortable, explain to them how people who have no symptoms may be carrying the virus, and even though they may feel fine, they don’t want to infect others, including elders.
The National Association of School Psychologists offers an article on point: Talking to Children About Covid-19 (Coronavirus): A Parent Resource.
Spring Break Extensions, School Closures Options, and Possession Schedule Modifications
The Governor’s emergency order addresses modifications of their possession and access schedules, specifically stating, “Nothing herein prevents parties from altering a possession schedule by agreement if their court order(s), or courts from modifying their orders.”
With children out of school and at home for weeks at a time, the impact on families can be significant. Especially when there are young children, and children with specific needs, school closures can cause hardship for parents and children.
You can modify your court-ordered possession and access schedule if the COVID-19 pandemic and school closures are affecting your family. To modify your possession and access schedule you can negotiate an agreement with the other parent or you can file an original modification case.
The Barrows Firm Offers Information About Modifications of Possession and Access Schedules
On our website, we have short articles and podcasts explaining how modifications work and what you can expect if you need to take action because of the COVID-19 pandemic and related school closures.
Recent Article: The Child Custody Modification Process in Texas
Recent Podcast: Episode 6: What Does a Modification Case Look Like in Texas
Leslie Barrows and the talented attorneys and paralegals at the Barrows Firm are here for you and your parenting concerns about school closures and possession and access schedules, at (817) 481-1583.
The Child Custody Modification Process in Texas
Call Leslie Barrows at the Barrows Firm in Southlake for Child Custody Modification (817) 481-1583
Over time things can change and we can become dissatisfied with a Texas divorce decree. During a divorce, parents work towards a co-parenting situation that fosters the best interests of the children involved in custody and visitation determinations. The custody and visitation schedule might work wonderfully for many years until it becomes outdated or things change in the family and the child custody and visitation schedules might not work as well. It doesn’t have to be anyone’s fault, rather the need for modification may likely be tied to the needs of growing kids with demanding schedules.
Remember that your court-ordered parenting plan and visitation schedule is there as a backup when co-parents cannot agree. In many families with a Standard or Expanded Standard Possession Schedule, parents can adjust and trade time back and forth as necessary and when schedules and life happen. That said, when parents cannot get on the same page, they can fall back on their decree and orders.
If the currently ordered possession schedule no longer works, a modification can address the problems. Likewise, if one of the parents is having serious difficulties as a conservator, their parental rights and duties can be modified to preserve the health, safety, well-being and overall best interests of the children involved.
Take a Moment to Listen to Our Latest Texas Divorce Lawyer Podcast – Episode 5: What Does A Divorce Case Look Like in Texas
Attorney Leslie Barrows and her team of family lawyers at the Barrows Firm are ready to help you and your family. Attorney Amanda Roark is another fine divorce lawyer who works on Barrows Firm cases along with Leslie Barrows. To schedule a consultation to learn your rights and options, call the Barrows Firm in Southlake at (817) 481-1583.
What is the Process for Child Custody Modification Cases in Texas?
Child custody is a general term and in Texas, this refers to conservatorship (parental rights and duties), possession and access of the child, and which parent has the exclusive right to determine the child’s primary residence. A court with continuing, exclusive jurisdiction may modify an order for the conservatorship, support, or possession of and access to a child.
The parent, or person with standing to bring a suit under the Texas Family Code, may file the suit for child custody modification with the original court issuing the divorce decree, or order in a suit affecting a parent-child relationship. The standard rules of Texas Civil Procedure apply to a suit for modification, so the process is like the original suit for divorce.
You may have a similar discovery process, temporary orders, mediation, and other settlement negotiation procedures. To learn more details about the process for a child custody modification, please refer to our recent article, What is the Divorce Process in Texas?
What Are the Grounds Necessary for a Child Custody Modification in Texas?
A material and substantial change in circumstances must be established in order to qualify for a child custody modification. The material and substantial change must occur after the date the current order was signed. Children at the age of 12 or older can talk to the judge in chambers when a motion is filed as part of a child custody modification case. Note that the judge is not required to agree with or rule in favor of the child’s wishes, and the judge can make his or her independent decision based on the best interests of the child.
Another ground for a child custody modification is the allegation that the parent who was appointed as the conservator with the exclusive right to determine the residence of the child, has, in fact, relinquished their title and right as the primary parent to the other parent for at least six months. When that happens, the non-primary parent can file a child custody modification case, asking the judge to appoint them as the conservator parent with the primary right to determine the residence of the child.
Note that military service and deployment does not apply in a case where the other parent claims the primary parent has voluntarily relinquished their rights. In fact, there are specific rules for parents, conservatorship, and possession and access in the Texas Family Code.
Psychology Today offers a helpful article about child custody disputes: Three Rules for Negotiating Child Custody, Three things parents fighting over custody should know.
Modification of the Exclusive Right to Determine the Primary Residence of a Child Within One Year of the Order
The Texas Family Code allows for child custody modification within one year of the last custody order entered by the court of original jurisdiction, or the date the parties sign a mediated settlement agreement on which the order is based. Attached to the suit to modify, the party seeking the modification is required to attach an affidavit supporting the facts alleged in the suit for modification and at least one of the following must be alleged:
- The child’s present environment is a danger to their physical health or may significantly impair the child’s emotional development;
- The parent or person with the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child is the person asking for the child custody modification and that requested modification is in the best interest of the child; or
- The person or parent with the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child has voluntarily relinquished the primary care and possession of the child for at least six months and that the modification is in the best interests of the child.
When you meet with your child custody modification attorney at the Barrows Firm in Southlake, you and your attorney can discuss what happened and what strategy is most likely to solve conflicts and high-stakes child custody issues.
Another interesting Psychology Today article: Shared Physical Custody After Divorce: "Fair" to Children? Everyone likes shared custody, but there are emotional drawbacks for children.
Can You Change Custody, Visitation, or Child Support with an Agreed Modification?
Yes, you can modify child custody, conservatorship, support, and possession and access through agreements with the other parent, to settle your issues and modify your parenting plan outside of court. The procedure is still required but when you agree with the other parent or person with custody, the entire case moves along much quicker and saves time and money for all.
Call Leslie Barrows at the Barrows Firm in Southlake to Get Started with Child Custody Modification Suits by Calling for a Consultation Meeting at (817) 481-1583.
What is the Divorce Process in Texas?
Hiring the Right Divorce Lawyers for the Divorce Process in Texas
The Barrows Firm attorneys in Southlake, Texas are aggressive divorce lawyers prepared to go the distance with you when winning matters in the divorce process in Texas. Being that prepared for any twists and turns means the Barrows Firm team also knows when strategy means taking different turns in the divorce process in Texas. For example, when we can advise you on when to settle and when to litigate and let you make that decision while knowing what you may be in for if you take issues all the way to final trials.
During a divorce and family law consultation with attorney Leslie Barrows and Associate Attorney Amanda Roark, you will learn your rights and options. Your information and allegations about divorce and child custody are written in your divorce petition, the first filing in the divorce process in Texas.
Article recommendations from Psychology Today:
What is the Residency Requirement to Divorce in Texas?
For a District Court in the county where you live to have jurisdiction to hear your divorce lawsuit you must first be a resident of the State of Texas for at least six months and a resident of your county where you are filing for at least 90 days.
Texas residents in military service, on deployment, are still Texas residents for purposes of residency requirements for divorce suits. There are additional laws in the Texas Family Code about military service members and child custody and visitation.
Filing and Serving the Petition for Divorce
After you and your Southlake divorce attorney have the divorce petition filed with the clerk of the district court, the other party will be served. Most of the time a county constable in your precinct will serve your soon to be ex at the address you provide. In some suits, a petitioner suing for divorce can also request a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) to prevent the other spouse from spending, stealing, or hiding marital property. If a TRO is requested and issued by the court, a hearing will be scheduled within 14 days to allow both parties to testify as to whether the TRO should remain.
The respondent is the person served with the divorce. They have 20 days plus the next Monday, to file a response to the divorce petition and submit any of their requests for any temporary orders. A Temporary Orders Hearing is held shortly thereafter to determine who lives where, who drives what, who has what money or support of themselves and children during the divorce. Being well-prepared for a Temporary Orders Hearing is important because many of the conditions determined will carry through the divorce and in the final decree.
Discovery Requests and Documents in the Divorce Process in Texas
After a divorce petition is filed and served the attorneys for the parties send one another discovery demands and document requests. The discovery process is used to determine what facts and evidence are available to help determine property and children’s care decisions. Through exchanging discovery, the parties learn who the other one plans to call as witnesses and what evidence they will use to prove their allegations in their petition for divorce. The parties might object to some of the discovery requests or not turn over information the other believes exists. There are several tools the lawyers can use to get the information they need to win.
Discovery can include written requests to produce and turn over documents for review. Discovery can also include written questions and answers to discovery information such as witnesses who may be called to testify in court. Texas divorce lawyers also conduct discovery depositions where the parties and witnesses answer questions about important issues and evidence. Almost all depositions are recorded with audio and video that can come back later in the case and could be presented in front of a judge and jury.
Mediation and Settlement Negotiation in Texas Divorce and Custody
Most parties in contested divorces with conflict are required to attend mediation with a mediator. Simply put, mediation allows the parties to put everything on the table and figure out their respective bottom lines when it comes to what they are seeking in property and child custody. Most mediators are lawyers who receive specific training in mediation and the process of dispute resolution. One of the advantages of mediation is that there is no evidence taken so people and their lawyers can speak more freely in negotiating towards a settlement without worrying about how what was said will affect their case.
Mediation is a good process to help both parties figure out what they can agree on and what are the high-conflict issues that may need to be resolved in court. When contested issues can be resolved in mediation, a mediated settlement agreement can be signed and when it meets proper writing requirements it can become part of the court’s binding judgment.
Final Trials and Appeals in the Divorce Process in Texas
When there are contested issues that cannot be resolved in mediation or settlement negotiations, the parties will proceed to a final trial where each side can present their evidence and seek to prove their allegations. In Texas divorce trials a jury can be sought to make certain rulings, where otherwise the judge would make decisions. After the end of the final trial, the judge may take some time to review all the evidence and make their findings of fact and conclusions of law which is sent to the parties. Then, one of the lawyers drafts the final judgment and divorce decree which is then entered and becomes the court’s order.
In cases with children and contested custody, the court hearing the original case keeps jurisdiction over the parties and any modification or enforcement actions filed must be determined in the same court.
Appeals are not common but are permitted when the party filing the appeal makes a case that the judge made an error of law or otherwise erred in the process of making rulings in the divorce suit. There needs to be something more legally significant than a party not liking the outcome.
How Long is the Divorce Process in Texas?
The shortest divorce in Texas could be just short of three months because Texas divorces are not final until at least 60 days after the divorce petition is filed with the district court clerk. The longest divorce could take years to litigate and resolve when there are significant conflicts over property and child custody. The more issues involved and the more complex they are, the more time and extra moving parts there are in the divorce process in Texas. In the middle, most divorces can be negotiated, settled, or litigated within six months to one year or longer.
Note that if one of the parties is pregnant or becomes pregnant during the divorce suit, the court will likely wait until the baby is born to finalize the divorce.
If you want to save time and money, you can focus on being open to mediation, and compromise over conflicts with your ex. If you stand firm to disagree with everything he or she says and wants, you should be prepared for your divorce lawsuit to take a long time and involve significant attorney’s fees. That said, your family matters and depending on the issues, standing your ground may be the best decision you make.
Call the Barrows Firm in Southlake for More About the Divorce Process in Texas (817) 481-1583.
Divorce Taxation: Avoiding Penalty for QDRO Distribution Withdrawals
In Divorce, Pensions are Divided Using a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO)
Divorces in Texas require the parties community property to be divided equitably, including money in 401k retirement plans and accounts. The values of 401k plans are usually valued at the date of divorce and are divided using a form called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). While some people receive the funds from a 401k division using a QDRO and roll that money right into their own 401k investment account. However, some people want access to the cash value of the amount they receive following the entry of the QDRO.
A Qualified Domestic Relations Order is a form that identifies the 401k plan participant and the alternate payee who should receive an equitable distribution of funds. There are general QDRO forms, and specific forms and models used by individual plan administrators. For example, see the QDRO information page on the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) on their website.
If you are the Alternate Payee named to receive your equitable share of QDRO funds, and you chose to take an early distribution before reaching the age of 59 ½ you will the owe the IRS an early distribution penalty if you do not otherwise inform them that you qualify to avoid additional taxes on qualified retirement plans by completing an additional tax form, IRS Form 5329.
Got Divorce Taxation Questions? Call Southlake Divorce Attorney Leslie Barrows (817) 481-1583.
Divorce Taxation Issues and Questions that Arise During Divorces
Divorce taxation comes up during negotiations about property division, financial support of parties and children, and of course, the division of retirement funds and accounts. Divorce lawyers frequently advise their clients to get divorce taxation advice from qualified tax advisor professionals. Likewise, the tax professionals refer back to the divorce lawyers when they receive questions about who should be entitled to what monies and how.
For most families with straight forward finances, determining divorce taxation answers is easy. But when there are complicated business interests, investments, and stock ownership and options, the issues of revenue and taxation are more complicated. For example, the event triggering the sale or transfer of monies and financial interests can affect tax liability depending on how and when that event takes place. In many situations, it is best when the parties can work together in a way those divorce taxation dilemmas are resolved in everyone’s favor, and not in the favor of IRS.
Generally, a 10 Percent Early Withdrawal Penalty Applies When Cashing In QDRO Money
If you were not aware of early withdrawal penalties, do not be concerned. In the realm of divorce taxation and tax laws applying to QDRO money, the laws can change from year to year and all the experts must approach tax questions and research the current laws and implications of their application.
Let’s say you want to use the money you receive from the 401k distribution to make a down payment on a home. If you can avoid a 10 percent early withdrawal penalty, you have more money to use in getting your new life going after your divorce.
A New IRS Requirement Allows a Waiver of the 10 Percent Early Withdrawal Penalty
If you are the Alternate Payee, meaning you are the one receiving money from a 401k distribution ordered in your divorce decree, you may take advantage of the opportunity to avoid a 10 percent early withdrawal penalty. For many people, this 10 percent can mean substantial savings if you want or need to cash in your QDRO award.
When you sit down to prepare your tax returns after divorcing, you can separate early distributions by completing additional IRS forms allowing you to avoid owing the 10 percent tax on those early distributions.
Now, the Alternate Payee Uses IRS Form 5329 to be Exempt from the Penalty
IRS Form 5329 applies to the additional tax on early distributions from qualified retirement plans including IRAs, modified contracts, and Roth IRAs. You should consult an independent tax advisor qualified to advise and assist with tax forms and filings. They can help you with Form 5329, to be completed and attached to the main Form 1040 or 1040NR. You can also review IRS Form 5329 and this Investopedia article, Retirement Plan Tax Form 5329 for more information and instructions on completing the forms and marking “06” on line 2 and filling in the exempt amount.
Denton and Tarrant County Divorce Attorney Leslie Barrows Can Answer All Your Divorce Taxation Questions (817) 481-1583
The Barrows Firm attorneys, paralegals, and staff welcome your questions about divorce taxation, and all other financial matters that affect you and your family now, and in the future. Principal and founding divorce attorney, Leslie Barrows has professional relationships with all the best tax experts and financial planning advisors who know how best to turn your finances in the best direction after divorce. It is likely that these divorce and financial matters are stressful and at the Barrows Firm, we do whatever we can to make the transition easier and reduce your stress level.