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Man and woman discussing divorce in front of his luxury home villa

Protecting Assets and Exposure in High Net Worth Divorce

March 15, 2022
Divorce Finances

Protecting Assets and Exposure in High Net Worth Divorce: Old Money Wasn’t Accumulated by Luck

The best way to protect assets and financial exposure to divorce liability is not to get divorced. If, however, the best-laid plans have gone awry, there are plenty of ways to protect assets, investments, and properties from being devalued and/or distributed inequitably in a divorce.

Much to the chagrin of families split by divorce, there seems to be a culture portrayed in media and big industries that just like marriage, divorce, and child support are just ways of life. People online and in movies and television rarely show how important it is to fight to save the marriage and family unit, for the betterment of the children and all involved. And we rarely hear the stories of recently made single-parents one year afterward talking about how much better it is being divorced. Do we ever ask whether they have regrets, or could have done anything to work it out?

Survive Divorce: How to Avoid Divorce: 13 Ways to Save Your Failing Marriage

Nevertheless, for some, divorce is the only option because the marriage is simply not salvageable. Some people are toxic, and their interpersonal relationships become beyond repair. For many, it can become important to end a marriage to protect oneself, one’s family, and one’s long-term financial interests. Whether money is new or old, it likely wasn’t obtained and preserved simply by luck. Rather, hard work and prudent decision-making were involved in building and preserving wealth.

In Southlake, high net worth families trust Barrows Firm attorneys like Leslie Barrows, for experience in navigating high-stakes divorces with high net worth issues and complex child custody concerns. Because of her experience helping families protect assets, attorney Barrows is frequently consulted for pre-marital agreements and post-marital agreements to preserve and protect personal and family property and financial interests.

Very Well Mind: 10 Ways to Strengthen a Marriage and Avoid Divorce

Know What You Both Have and Want Before Getting Married

Money and financial responsibility are common causes of marital discord and eventual divorce. Advising new Southlake divorce clients, attorney Barrows often hears what happens when one spouse is a saver and the other one is a spender. Financial responsibilities for successful business owners and family wealth managers are important. Discussing expectations for the future is important and everyone should know where they stand, especially if pre-marital agreements and family business agreements are controlling in the event of a divorce.

Especially when new couples marry and start raising families there can be stress about what to do with additional income as careers continue to take off and businesses produce income for the family. This is when the spender versus saver problem comes to light. Arguments happen when the saver plans to invest and save new income while the other spouse wants something to show for the fruits of efforts and work. Be ready to answer questions about “How we can have money but look like we are barely making it.”

Unfortunately, and as awful as it is to talk about money, if you are someone getting married and grew up very differently from your soon-to-be spouse, it is going to matter when money becomes a point of contention. Don’t put it up to luck, hoping the love vibes will power you through any problem no matter the size, rather be realistic, and be prepared for all inevitabilities.

Article Tip: The Man Who Coaches Husbands on How to Avoid Divorce

Pre-Marital Agreements and Post-Marital Agreements Protecting Assets and Exposure in Divorce

A fool and their money are soon parted when they fail to get a good pre-marital agreement. Go ahead and scoff at the anti-romantic idea of a legal document to anticipate your demise. Now moving forward with common sense, appreciate the value of knowing exactly where one stands in the event of a divorce. Look, nobody wants to get a divorce, and nobody ever thinks they are marrying the wrong person. The reality is life happens and if your marriage hits the rocks, and bleeds out, don’t lose your family life raft in the process.

Pre-marital agreements can be drafted to provide the distribution or non-distribution of assets personally, and in community property, as the parties desire. Note that child support and certain other common expenses are determined by Texas statutory law and cannot be avoided by contractual agreements.

Post-marital agreements are helpful when something happens after the couple is married and they decide them and the family should agree on their individual and collective rights to money and property. Often when the marriage is in trouble and divorce is foreseeable, a couple can solve certain disputes through post-marital agreements. And when a post-marital agreement can save a marriage, everyone comes out a winner.

When Never to Invade the Principal Assets or Sell Stocks in a High Net Worth Divorce  

Abacus on Principal Invasion and Dividend Issues

Common advice among those with old money is never invade your principal assets or baseline. Remember that money generates interest and more money when you grow it. Just remember to leave that principal amount alone, and only spend an amount of interest you plan to use as discretionary income. In a divorce, one might need to raise money to buy out the other’s interest in a property settlement. There are ways to come up with liquid cash without disturbing well-invested assets and interests generating money. Even a loan, secured, if necessary, is a better financial idea than disturbing principal assets.

Situations like this in high-net-worth divorce are the reason it becomes so important to hire the best divorce and financial professionals in your area, the people who know how not to lose money in a divorce.

Hiring The Best Divorce Lawyer and Experts for Protecting Assets

Targeted in divorce are those with money, especially if there are children involved. While there may be more work to do in a high-net-worth divorce case, it does not need to drag on forever. In many cases, inexperience in navigating complex financial issues leads to more resources than necessary spent in negotiating and protecting a client’s rights and financial interests. The experienced divorce attorney knows exactly when to hire experts and direct case strategy to the professionals who will get the best return on the investment of resources.

For example, in a family-owned business with complex assets and future financial interests, spending money on the right business valuation experts can help in negotiating the best result for the client and their family. Especially in North Texas, among high-net-worth families, people know which law firms get results and are worth of referrals.

Using Alternative Dispute Resolution to Shield Sensitive Family Information from Court Litigation

Protecting reputations, as well as the identification of assets and property, is important. While efforts are made to limit the information made public in divorce cases and filings, there are benefits to keeping private information out of court and using alternative dispute resolution to keep things private. The right mediators can help work with families in mediation to reach an agreement on certain issues so that the more important concerns can be properly litigated in court.

In not leaving your family’s best interests to luck, the Barrows Firm recommends making one’s own luck in the process and outcome of protecting assets and accumulated money and property. Whether working together in planning a new marriage, saving a troubled marriage, or managing strategy in divorce and litigation, Leslie Barrows, and the team of attorneys at the Barrows Firm are in your corner.

Seek Divorce and Family Law Counseling in Protecting Assets and Exposure and High Net Worth Divorce at the Barrows Firm in Southlake (817) 481-1583

Lawyer explaining legal situation during a divorce mediation

Laws of Love: Mediation In Texas Resolving Disputes of the Heart

February 15, 2022
Divorce Litigation

Mediation in Texas: Resolve Disputes Informally, Show Love for The Family

Mediation is one of many forms of alternative dispute resolution in divorce in Texas and child custody. Mediation is a non-evidentiary process to settle family lawsuit disputes over children, money, property, and more in divorce and child custody cases in Texas. Because the focus isn’t presenting and getting evidence accepted in the court, mediation is much less formal, and the mediator can go back and forth between the parties and reach settlements of some or all the issues on which the parties cannot agree. The more issues that can be resolved in mediation, the more focus everyone can give to the important issues that might need to be litigated before the judge or jury.

When you love your family, even your soon-to-be ex, and your children, keeping them out of court can help everyone heal and move forward in a positive position, ready for co-parenting and raising children in a positive, caring, and sharing environment. Show love for the family and resolve disputes informally with mediation in Texas.

In Southlake, Attorneys Leslie Barrows and Samantha Ybarra are Court-Certified Mediators. Call today and make an appointment to learn rights and options in divorce and child custody mediation(817) 481-1583 at the Barrows Firm.  

Our Family Wizard Article: The Importance of Family Mediators

Features and Benefits of the Mediation Process in Texas

At mediation, clients and their attorneys work from separate rooms and the mediator goes back and forth with the parties to help them resolve certain issues in an informal setting. In mediation, some or all the contested issues can be addressed. A client going through mediation gets to talk to their family lawyer about what they might expect if they must litigate certain issues in court and have the judge make the ruling. Judges prefer clients to resolve their issues in mediation and hopefully sign a binding Mediated Settlement Agreement.

Child support, conservatorship, and the rights and duties of parents can be determined through the mediation process. Property division is also a mediated issue. The parties should be well prepared before mediation, having reports and opinions of experts ready to weigh the positions of the parties on issues of children, money, and property.  

The strengths and weaknesses of the different parties and their issues are evaluated by the mediator. The mediator’s job is to try to settle. Whether the mediator’s settlement is fair and equitable is something the arties can determine when deciding to take the settlement or push forward in court.  

Loving the family first is something accomplished through mediation because it saves loved ones from the process of litigating in court and the adversarial process. Even though the soon-to-be ex-spouse is the source of current problems and the divorce or child custody suit, remember they were once a loved person with whom so many plans were made. The best way to love oneself is to let the other one go and let them also find love again without the weight of love lost.

Search the Barrows Firm Blog by Keyword and Category and Learn About  Texas Family Law

Getting Answers to Common Questions About Mediation in Texas at the Barrows Firm in Southlake

Everyone’s divorce and child custody cases are unique, and so are the mediations. The more people learn about mediation the more questions they ask. When used properly and when the parties are well-prepared, mediation can save time, money, and the underlying love of family members, even in such a tough time.

Psychology Today Article: 3Ways Mediated Divorce is Better for Your Family

Who Pays for Mediation in Texas?

Mediation can cost a few hundred dollars an hour depending on the mediator. Mediation sessions can be billed according to agreement by the parties or as ordered by the Court. Attorneys who are mediators usually charge more than non-attorneys and when hiring a mediator, many find they get what they pay for. Usually, both parties pay for the mediator and the judge can also enter an order regarding mediation and payment. Show love for the family by saving money for the kids’ future college expenses.

Is Mediation Legally Binding in Texas?

The whole point of mediation is that it is a non-binding procedure and nothing in mediation becomes legally binding without a written agreement signed by both parties and approved by the Court. When a Texas Marital Settlement Agreement is signed by both parties it becomes legally binding. These agreements are also called Separation Agreements. Show love for the family by committing to a Mediated Settlement Agreement.

How Do I Prepare for Mediation in Texas?

The purpose of mediation is to resolve contested disputes. If one parent claims they should have custody, for example, they can make their case as to why they should the one to get custody. In the mediation process, they offer what they may use as evidence to ask the judge or jury to rule in their favor. When the issues in mediation are about money and property, evidence should be presented establishing claims of ownership, value, and the character of property as community or separate property. Show love for the family by making the best use of everyone’s time and resources by being well prepared for mediation.

Who Can Mediate in the State of Texas?

The Texas Alternative Dispute Resolution Act sets the requirements to become a licensed mediator in Texas. Both Attorneys Leslie Barrows and Samantha Ybarra are Court-Certified Mediators. While Texas currently does not have state-mandated requirements to be a mediator, there are qualifications for someone to be an impartial third-party mediator, involving training.

Very Well Family Article: 10Signs of a Healthy, Effective Co-Parenting Relationship

Can Mediated Agreements Be Challenged Later?

To make a Mediated Settlement Agreement binding in Texas, so that it cannot be challenged later, it must so state, very clearly in bold, capital letters, or underlined text, and be signed by each party and their attorney. Show love for the family by taking mediation seriously and committing to sticking to the Mediated Settlement Agreement.

Showing Love for Family and Self Happens When Mediating Divorce and Child Custody Disputes with Barrows Firm Mediators (817)481-1583

image of a ticking clock

Protecting You and Your Family: A January Life Management Checklist

January 12, 2022
General Information

January is Life Management Time, for Families in Transition

Recently divorced people, parents, and the new and expecting mothers make time to get their house in order, literally and figuratively with a life management checklist and the right professionals to help when necessary. Divorce in Texas is a significant event and so is having a new baby or getting remarried. Especially for families with significant life events taking place around the holidays, it can be easy to forget some important life details needing prompt attention before being overlooked. Please start the habit of making an annual life management checklist and learn to appreciate the benefits of smart planning for the family.  

Barrows Firm attorneys in Southlake give their advice and counsel to families in transition who need to update important documents, create new estate plans, modify or terminate child support, and make plans for the growth and needs of children. Successful parents think and plan well in advance, knowing just about anything can happen along the path of life and raising happy and productive kids. Attorney Leslie Barrows is well-known in the Southlake area for helping families adjust for their needs as they click off necessary items on their life management checklist.  

Organization is important for good parenting. Part of being organized is notifying people who need to know certain information should they need to take action. Let people know if you have granted them power of attorney authority and under what circumstances you expect them to make decisions. For example, let people know where the important documents are located. Some keep copies of important documents with their attorney, and it is important to let important people know the name and contact information for the attorney or anyone else who needs to be identified in the case of a serious life event.  

Fatherly.com: 8 Tips to Help You Become a More Organized Parent

Important Updates for the Recently Divorced

Recently divorced people should keep a list of every financial interest and be familiar with accounts and documentation, making sure that everything is updated to reflect a new marital status and name change if it applies.  

Life Management Checklist & Common Post-Divorce Updates:

  1. Beneficiaries on life insurance;
  1. HIPPA releases at medical offices;
  1. Check bank accounts;
  1. Run credit reports;
  1. Update life insurance policies;
  1. Remove ex-spouses from life 360 tracking apps;
  1. Meet with your financial planner;
  1. Use a qualified CPA;
  1. Verify that the correct Final Order is on file with the child’s school;
  1. Make sure ex-spouses are no longer authorized users on any bank accounts, and  
  1. Update all passwords. 

Child Support Modifications

Child support can be modified every three years as a general rule, and the Barrows Firm frequently files modification cases when the prior court order needs to be updated to reflect a change in the income and net resources of the child support obligor. Especially in 2022, with so many people changing jobs since 2020 many parents receiving child support payments need a child support modification. In certain situations, it is also possible to modify child support before three years have passed since the last court order, and the Barrows Firm attorneys can assist with reviewing your child support situation and advise on different rights and options.  

Special Needs Trusts

Parents of children with special needs such as autism, medical, physical, mental, and other disabilities, need special help and care for their children, young and adult. Where there is court-ordered support for a child with special needs, the Court can designate a special needs trust to receive direct support payments for the benefit of the special needs child.  

Barrows Firm Article: Special needs Children and Divorce

Estate Planning and Trusts

Estate planning is for everyone, and that includes all of us. Whether it is your first time having a will or set of power of attorney documents prepared, or you need to make an update after a divorce or the addition or loss of a family member, January is a good time to take stock of life and get things in order while working through the 2022 life management checklist.  

Understand that anyone who dies without a will or a trust is allowing the State of Texas to take control of and distribute your assets by statutory construction. Don’t let that happen. Get a proper will and estate planning documents like a living trust, power of attorney documents, and other trusts. Depending on the situation, we make referrals to a Texas Board of Legal Specialization-Board-Certified trust attorney for complex and high net worth management issues.  

Nerdwallet: Estate Planning, A 7-Step Checklist of the Basics

We offer estate planning if necessary and can refer you to a board-certified trust attorney if you need further assistance. Family members are dying without wills and trust me you are letting the State of Texas what to do with your assets without a will which is difficult on your loved ones.  

New Babies and Adopted Children

After bringing home a newborn baby or adopted child, don’t forget to make an appointment to update wills and estate planning documents. As Leslie Barrows mentioned recently, she has seen many newborn babies at church and she hopes they are all well covered and their parents remember to plan for their futures and update their wills, estate, and insurance plans.  

Keeping Up to Date Life Management Checklists and Positive Results with Southlake’s Barrows Firm (817) 481-1583

Child receiving an injection

Court Battles Over COVID-19 Vaccines for Children in Texas

November 30, 2021
Health Care

Parents Suing in Court Over Vaccines for Children: There Are a Few Options

Regardless of where parents stand on disagreements about COVID vaccines for children, we rightfully assume that both parents want the best for children. Sometimes those good intentions become clouded by resentment against the other parent over the same reasons they are not together in the first place. And when it comes to disagreeing about vaccines for their children, parents might argue that when they agreed to their current custody order, they were operating under the assumption that language about vaccines was meant for the standard vaccines offered under traditional Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval, as opposed to the COVID vaccines available under an FDA Emergency Use Authorization.

Emotions run high and it can seem like every move we make could be the end of the world. The endless arguments in the media and on social media are turning too many people into self-learned experts on a variety of issues. When everyone fights over competing expert opinions their arguments and lawsuits start forming and being filed as parents start suing in court over vaccines for children.  

Options for parents with disagreements over vaccines include enforcing and/or modifying their current custody orders to resolve the dispute. In either case, a modification or enforcement action is a new and separate lawsuit with all the formalities the parents experienced in their original divorce or custody suit. For those with immediate concerns, who don’t have the time for the traditional process, emergency hearings can happen, and the court can order temporary relief, pending further hearing or trial. However, alternative dispute resolution can be a much better approach. Using a mediator, a parenting coordinator or a parenting facilitator can help co-parents iron out their disagreements and reach a conclusion. That said, it’s difficult to compromise on the issue of whether a vaccine is given to a child because that is not something that can be undone.  

Read Our Article: Making the Case for Using Parenting Facilitators

The Barrows Firm in Southlake receives frequent calls and emails from parents with concerns about whether their child can or must be vaccinated against COVID and its variant forms. With questions and concerns about court battles over vaccines for children, please call and make an appointment to speak with Attorney Leslie Barrows at (817) 481-1583.

What Does Your Court Order Say About Medical Decisions? Do Both Parents Have to Consent?

In Texas, what we refer to as child custody, is called conservatorship. A parent may be appointed as a joint managing conservator, a sole managing conservator, or a possessory conservator. Most divorced parents are joint conservators and they both have a say about medical decisions including vaccinations. When determining issues about custody and medical care, the court order will identify specific rights and duties. In child custody litigation, either the parties agree to settle their unresolved issues or have their Court decide. In some cases, where both parents have a legal right to make medical decisions and disagree, there is a tie-breaker who can decide, such as the child’s doctor.  

Court battles over vaccines for children get interesting when the custody order addressing vaccines is based on the standard language used by many. And what is stated about regular and customary vaccinations may be distinguished from the COVID vaccines, and whether they are technically vaccines within the meaning of the word vaccine, as written in the order if it is even that specific. Courts are being asked to decide whether the parties intended to agree on vaccine choices and whether that applies to the Novel Coronavirus Vaccine options.  

Moving forward with the benefit of knowledge and experience, more custody orders in the future may be crafted with special attention paid to vaccines and how to resolve disputes among co-parents. As more information is learned, some parents might elect to have their custody agreements modified or enforced as necessary to act as parents in the best interests of their children.  

Barrows Firm Podcast: What Does a Modification Case Look Like in Texas?

The Novel Coronavirus is a New Strain, Not Previously Identified in Humans

The “novel” Coronavirus is new and different, a matter of first impression. For this very reason, the arguments on all sides of the several issues involved are about something new and unknown. Science is defined by the Google Dictionary as “The intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.” Knowledge about the world is always changing, and thus so is science. What we now accept as truth, was once conjecture. Science is an ongoing study and academic pursuit and what may be “good science” one day, could be tossed out the next when more information is learned. To put it simply, it’s our best guess given the information we have at the time.  

As time goes on, and as doctors and scientists study patient data, therapeutics, vaccines, and everything COVID-related, that science evolves and there are more answers. But when it comes to court battles over vaccines for children, parents do not have time to wait 50 years to see all the data and science on point. Another interesting point about COVID vaccines is that they are not technically vaccines. Because COVID is not a live virus, the way traditional vaccines work does not apply the same way. What we are referring to as vaccines for children are therapeutic gene therapies, which is also the subject of much disagreement and many are fighting over words and semantics.  

CDC: Myths and Facts about COVID-19 Vaccines for Children

What Do We Know and What Don’t We Know: The Jury is Still Out on Many Issues Related to COVID

It is very easy to find articles that blame vaccine disputes on vaccine “misinformation,” which minimizes the valid concerns of parents. There are many sources of confusion about health decisions we make with children. People have been disagreeing about medical care for a long time, way before anyone heard of COVID. And while most believe the vaccines are safe and appropriate for children, not everyone agrees, and they should not be forced into making up their minds.  

The vaccines at issue were given Emergency Use Authorization by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and some parents chose not to get a vaccine, for themselves or their children. Those in opposition are concerned about future complications and side effects, which remain unknown. The very enforceability of vaccine mandates has yet to be determined, as lawsuits are pending in state and federal courts. Those who support vaccines rely on information they receive from government agencies and news sources.  

Among the medical community, there are disagreements among physicians over vaccines and their safety, especially when it comes to children. Some doctors are comfortable saying they believe there is too much missing information to make an informed medical decision. There is a big difference between missing information and misinformation.  

Learn the Rights and Options Parents Have in Enforcing or Modifying Custody Orders and Resolving Disputes About Vaccines for Children at the Barrows Firm in Southlake (817) 481-1583

mom and son using tablet at home

Making the Case for Using Parenting Facilitators

November 17, 2021
Possession Schedule

Using Parenting Facilitators, Outside the Court System, When Co-Parenting Fails

Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's are on the way and so is the burden of co-parenting with someone who does not want to play nice; using parenting facilitators can help solve problems and keep everyone out of Court. A Texas-licensed parenting facilitator, often another family lawyer, plays an important role, as an appointed officer of the Court to help families resolve conflict. Using parenting facilitators can save time and money.  

Parenting facilitators are appointed by the court to help families resolve co-parenting issues using non-confidential methods, out of Court. Many parents find that parenting facilitators help move things along and resolve conflicts because they write reports that are sent to the Court. In later hearings and trials, the Court can give great weight to the parenting facilitator’s report, so there are consequences to working with a parenting facilitator as opposed to other dispute resolution options.  

Southlake family attorney Leslie Barrows is a strong proponent of using parenting facilitators, especially when there is a last-minute freak out over holiday planning and possession schedules. Sometimes those possession schedules need adjusting, and holidays bring conflicts to light. Let the parenting facilitator help everyone figure out what works now so after the holidays their report can be used in making a better agreement, or if necessary, enforcing or modifying the parenting plan in court.  

Contact Barrows Firm in Southlake with Specific Questions About Parenting Facilitators (817) 481-1583

Holiday Possession and Problems with Co-Parenting

Planning the holidays means knowing where the kids are going to be and what to expect for the holidays. Add the wrinkle of COVID-19 and vaccination concerns and problems can escalate quickly. People get mad and say, “Fine, what are you going to do, take me back to Court, I have some things to share with the Judge if you do!” Angry words can turn into Court filings and hearings over problems that could have been avoided if co-parents were able to get along and focus on the best interests of the children.  

Family plans may include or exclude certain family members and plans that take place right at home, or out of town, out of state, or even overseas. We all know to look at our parenting agreement and Court order first, but what if things have changed and the current parenting plans no longer work? It may be time to go back to court for a modification case, but when time is of the essence, it can be much more effective to negotiate out of court with a parenting facilitator and handle the modification after the holidays.  

Barrows Firm Tip, Holiday Possession Schedules: Check Your Court Order

Office of the Attorney General of Texas: For Our Children, Co-Parenting Guide

What Does a Parenting Facilitator Do?

A parenting facilitator (PF) is a person who is appointed by the Court to assist co-parents, resolving problems out of court, in a non-confidential setting, like mediation. The role of a parenting facilitator is much like that of a parenting coordinator (PC) with one significant difference. The PF can be called to testify in court at a later hearing or trial, while the PC cannot be called to testify.  

A parenting facilitator, like a parenting coordinator, helps to identify disputed issues, reduce misunderstandings, clarify priorities, and generally they help the parties resolve conflict when it comes to the parenting plan and best issues of the children. A visitation problem over the holidays and dispute as to where the kids are supposed to go, and who owes the other parenting time, can be a perfect problem to be solved by a parenting facilitator.  

The parenting facilitator is required to submit a written report to the court and the parties, as it is ordered by the Court. The Court may take into advisement the recommendations made by the parenting facilitator in determining how to enforce Court orders, make modifications of parenting plans, and determine outcomes when disputes involve the conservatorship of or possession of or access to the child, subject of the suit. Note that the Court may weigh the recommendations of the parenting facilitator with the evidence presented to the Court, but the Judge is not bound to follow the recommendations of the parenting facilitator. Using a parenting facilitator can be quicker and easier than going back to court with possession schedule issues.  

Custody Exchange: 7 People to Know in Texas Child Conservatorship Cases

When is a Court-Appointed Parenting Facilitator a Helpful?

Parenting facilitators are very useful in resolving co-parenting conflicts out of court because they can be more flexible in working with both parents without being constricted by Court and attorney schedules and time constraints. So, when it is the week before Thanksgiving and there are problems with co-parenting, it is much easier for the Court to appoint a parenting facilitator versus bringing the parties into court for a hearing or trial.  

When you have an ornery former spouse or their world is becoming full of problem players, the parenting facilitator has some teeth they can use to let the parties know that they can make recommendations to the Judge who will likely give those recommendations significant weight in making later decisions. This can be more helpful than traditional mediation because of the report writing element.  

Concerned About Co-Parent’s Drinking? Alcohol Monitoring in Child Custody Cases

Benefits of Parenting Facilitators: Keeping Cases Out of the Court System

Nobody loves the idea of spending the holidays preparing for an enforcement or modification hearing. When problems arise, save time and resources for the family, and use a parenting facilitator to iron problems out of court, knowing if going to court is necessary, the parenting facilitator’s report can be useful to the judge.  

Hearings and trials become part of the official court record and many people want to keep their problems out of public records whenever possible. Especially if there are problems following parenting plans and one of the parties is up to no good, that information can be damaging in many aspects of one’s personal and professional life.  

The stress on children and other members of the family can be avoided by asking the Court to appoint a parenting facilitator to work on peacekeeping and problem solving out of court. Going to meet with the parenting facilitator can be easier and less of a production than going to battle in a hearing or trial.  

Why do People Change Course and Become Spiteful Co-Parents?

There are several patterns of co-parent relationship breakdowns. Things may be going well for a long time until suddenly the co-parenting communication is disrupted. When former spouses or never-married parents disagree with one another about a significant issue, it brings up emotions that initially led to the reason they are co-parents in the first place.  

When one of the co-parents gets a new significant other, marries, or has a significant life event the other may disapprove or have a problem with how the children might be affected. If there are no Court-ordered restrictions on new relationships or the conditions causing strife, there is little the disapproving parent can do. Bringing up all the hurt feelings and issues from the past breeds contempt, and holiday times seem ripe for problems.  

Using Barrows Firm Family Attorneys in Southlake to Keep the Family on Course (817) 481-1583

Stubborn couple avoid talk ignoring each other after fight

Divorce on the Horizon: When People No Longer Like Their Spouse

October 7, 2021

What Happens When People No Longer Like Their Spouse?

Couples are unhappy when they are not getting what they need from each other, leading to contempt and feeling they no longer like their spouse. Marriages take constant work, and it is very easy to let things go. Some couples unintentionally alienate themselves from one another and end up like roommates with children.

Contempt for another comes from all kinds of sources. When a spouse is doing or not doing something that causes a growing annoyance, all the other irritating thoughts seem to arise from out of nowhere, breathing life and validation into feeling they just don’t like them anymore. Initially, people feel guilty for having negative feelings and thoughts about the person they loved so much they vowed to remain with them until death.

Deciding to divorce is never easy, and not all spouses who no longer like one another decide to get divorced, at least not right away. There are all kinds of opinions about whether it is better to stay together for the kids, and for every family, that decision is unique. At the end of the day, parents should consider their relationships in terms of how it affects their children and their best interests.

When divorce is the right choice for a family and child custody is a focused issue, among property division and others, the Barrows Firm in Southlake is available for consultation to learn rights, options, and potential next steps. Call (817) 481-1583 for Divorce and Family Law Attorney Leslie Barrows at the Barrows Firm.

Huffpost: Coming to Grips With Not Being in Love With Your Spouse Anymore

Married with Babies, Couples Figure Out They No Longer Like their Spouses

Over time, things that bug other people on the surface, seem to work as signals that there is something wrong on a deeper, internal level. Just like we listen to our bodies about our health, we should learn to listen to our observations and intuitions about how we react to people, especially our spouses. Sometimes it starts as little joked we make about one another in front of other people that seem innocent enough, but underneath we could be laying the groundwork and battlefield for something wicked to come.

Root causes of spousal irritation can stem from not feeling satisfied to feeling lied to or betrayed somehow. And financial issues surprisingly outrank fidelity problems when looking at the breakdown of most marriages. When one spouse is a saver and the other is a spender it can feel like drowning, and instead of reaching for a lifeline, too many just tread water, hoping to keep up to get a breath now and then.

Children growing older and growing up are a common force of distraction and impending need so that many couples don’t have enough time to even realize they have their problems because they are dealing with kid issues all the time. Only when the smoke clears, or when everyone is on top of each other during vacations or holidays, do the deeper problems rear their head.

Can You Love Someone and Not Like Them?

Yes, you can deeply love someone but not like them for a list of reasons. Especially in the ending of long-term marriages, some say they will always love the other one, with who they raised a great family, but they just don’t want to live with them anymore or need their daily input.

Whether growing dislike or irritation gives rise to the decision to divorce and separate assets and property depends on the couple. Especially if children are grown and out of the house, it is easier to divorce, knowing custody and children’s expenses will not be divorce issues.

Redbook: 17 Signs You’re In an Unhappy or Loveless Marriage

Significant Life Events Can Be Gamechangers in Marriages

While it is more common to hear about the loss of a child leading to divorce, having children can also change a couple’s relationship to the point of no return. For some, the dynamic of having children changes things. Being a young couple without kids, life can be fantastic and seemingly limitless. The moment a couple brings their first newborn home, the reality hits that life as they knew it has changed. Not everyone is ready to be a parent and sometimes, the reality is they know they do not want to be a parent married to their spouse.

Career and money issues can also be too much to bear when problems arise between spouses, and they are never really solved. When promises are not kept and job and financial stress grow, it can lead to a point of no return.

Rebuilding Relationships and Marriages in Crisis

Substance abuse and addiction problems can put marriages in tailspins, and it can take some work, but with help, these problems can be overcome. Sometimes a spouse’s excessive drinking or addictive behavior of whatever kind causes the other spouse to start disliking everything the other does. And when the underlying problem that makes the other the maddest is addressed and corrected, relationships can be rebuilt. Unfortunately, it takes both parties to want to make the effort to fix things and sometimes ego gets in the way and there is no going back.

Doing What is in the Child’s Best Interest, First

Waking up one day to realize you no longer like your spouse does not mean you can just walk out the door and move along with your life if you have kids with that person. In most divorces with children, there is an element of contested child custody and visitation when both parents believe they would be the better primary parent who can determine where the children will reside.

Keeping children safe, in a positive and nurturing environment is crucial to their development and growth as healthy young people. While children certainly survive divorce, how much they go through, and what they experience, is something to consider.

Psychology Today: Should You Stay Together Only for the Kids?

Learning from the Experience, Moving Forward

After divorce, getting married, and having children are life options people approach with better care and judgment after living through what they consider life mistakes. When something is learned, something is gained, and when dating again, the wise person knows what to look for based on collective life experience. And when some people notice, they keep getting attracted to the wrong people, or bad experiences seemingly seek them out, there might be something to find in the mirror if one is patient enough.

Mental Health Professionals for Self-Care

Accepting one’s mental health concerns is for a lack of a better description, healthy. Nobody is always happy and productive in life. We all have limits in what we can bear. Even if the process simply provides self-assurance that everything is okay, a relationship with a mental health professional can be very helpful and inspiring.

As we move through life at different stages, we find the spot to place more of the puzzle pieces that make up the mosaic of our lives. And when the puzzle becomes clearer and we understand our own needs better, divorce might be on the horizon. And when it is, we should make certain we handle difficult situations the best we can with an eye on a brighter future.  

The Barrows Firm for Divorce Consultation in Southlake, Call (817) 481-1583

Father and little kids outdoors

Updated Child Custody Law: Closer to Equal Possession Order

September 21, 2021
Child Custody

S.B. 1936 is the New Child Custody Law Amending Beginning and Ending of Possession to Further Closer to Equal Possession Time

Equal parenting time and 50/50 custody orders are the goals of legislation affecting the Texas Family Code in the recent 87th legislative session in Austin, and the updated law provides for closer to an equal possession order giving more parenting time to possessory conservator parents. Republican lawmakers were presented with testimony regarding the best interests of children and the goal of creating closer to equal parenting time to foster important close parent-child relationships with mothers and fathers after divorce in Texas.

The new law updates the alternative beginning and ending times that the non-primary parent, also called the possessory conservator, has with the child, as stated in the Expanded Standard Possession Order. Now parents living 50 or fewer miles from the primary residence of the child get at least 46 percent of possession time in the new Expanded Standard Possession Order schedule for overnights, weekends, and alternating holidays. Parents in custody suits can make their agreement to adopt a standard plan or make their own. When the Judge must order a custody arrangement, they can apply the updated Expanded Standard Possession Order or, if in the best interest of the child, the judge can order any alternative custody schedule. The change in the law was effective September 1, 2021, and it does not itself qualify as a basis to file a modification case.

The Barrows Firm attorneys are available to explain parent’s rights and options in child custody matters. And when it looks like equal parenting time is likely, we can help make it work for your family. Call Attorney Leslie Barrows with questions and consultation requests (817) 481-1583.

Psychology Today: An Essential Tool to Protect Kids From Conflict in a Divorce (The parenting plan is one of the important tools of successful co-parenting.)

Changes Apply to Possessory Conservator Parents Who Live 50 or Fewer Miles from the Primary Residence of the Child

In North Texas, it is more feasible than in the past to transport children among parents within 50 miles of one another, and with so many new lanes of interstate and toll roads, people are moving further out from cities and working more hours from home. That said, the possessory conservator parent still must get the children to and from school, friends, church, and whatever extracurricular activities they have going on when they are with the possessory conservator parent. This for some means driving up to 50 miles each way to school and activities. Some people can make it work, but not everyone. If the parent has flexible work schedule and location options, this situation can be feasible.

More frequently a possessory conservator parent with visitation time chooses to live closer to the primary parent with whom the child primarily resides. This makes taking children to school much easier. Everyone can find a balanced work and family schedule and situation that works so that parents and their children have the greatest amount of quality time together.

New Changes Affect the Expanded Standard Possession Order

Child custody cases pending as of September 1, 2021, and filed thereafter, are subject to the new closer to equal parenting time provisions in S.B. 1936. To understand the options, first note that there is a Standard Possession Order (SPO) which can be increased to an Expanded Standard Possession Order (ESPO) essentially giving the possessory conservator more parenting time with the child. These possession orders specify exactly when each parent has possession and alternating holidays.

Possession order schedules are designed to create stable schedules for children during the school year, minimally disrupting children during the week so they can focus on school. The parties in a child custody suit have the option of agreeing with one another about one of the possession orders or they can create their custom possession schedule. When the parents are not able to agree, judges use their discretion in ordering an appropriate possession schedule such as the new ESPO, with close to equal parenting time.

CNBC: A psychologist shares the 4 styles of parenting – and the type that researchers say is the most successful (raising successful kids)

Increased Possession Time for the Possessory Conservator

With the change in the law, the possessory conservator will have more visitation time with their kids when they live up to 50 miles from the child’s primary residence. The new law gives the possessory conservator visitation time of 46 percent with the additional overnight visitation.

Courts Have Discretion to Decline Applying the “New” Expanded Standard Possession Order and Parties in a Child Custody Suit Can Opt-Out

Texas district court judges presiding over Texas family law and custody cases have the discretion to override the new law if they believe the additional time is not in the best interests of the child. The travel times between parents’ homes are an example of something that could adversely affect the child’s schedule. Access to vehicles and public transportation could be another factor in opting out of the new law. And if the possessory conservator parent did not have regular time with the child before the suit, and is more of a stranger, that can be good cause for a judge not to order a nearly 50/50 custody arrangement.

The New Possession and Access Rules Are Not Alone Sufficient to File a Modification Suit

In custody and visitation cases that are already settled and there is a final order regarding conservatorship and possession and access, a new modification suit would be necessary to change that order. Modification suits are new actions and to have the standing to be granted a custody modification, the parent bringing the suit must prove a material and substantial change in circumstances. This new change in the number of visitation overnights in the new Expanded Standard Possession Order is not itself a basis to file a modification suit.

Looking for Equal Possession in Child Custody? Call the Barrows Firm in Southlake (817) 481-1583.

Sad mature woman against elderly man with newspaper

Gray Divorce: Middle-Aged and Senior Couples Parting Ways

August 27, 2021

Gray Divorce and Unique Issues in Senior Divorces in Texas

Divorce in Texas is becoming more common among men and women who are 55 and older, the category often called Gray Divorce. As children leave home and start their own lives, some spouses find themselves wanting different things with their time and future. Some became like roommates over the years and neither recognize what used to be a loving marriage. And with so many couples both working in their careers, it is increasingly common to part ways with financial independence.

People are living longer and once kids are raised there are new opportunities. Being 55 years old is considered young among many, with many great years ahead. With advances in health and technology, we are living our best lives well into our middle and senior years, with all kinds of roads to travel. Some people feel inspired to reinvent themselves on their own, possibly in a new place, considering new work or volunteer positions. When the kids are well on their own, it can be time to join the gray divorcee club.

HuffPost: The 7 Differences Between Being 55 And 65

Both spouses may be working and have financial independence. Generations ago, when more families were single income-based, the stay-at-home spouse, usually the wife, might not have had been in a good position to get divorced from her husband. In modern times, women have independent careers and finances to support their current and future needs, making divorce much less worrisome.

Stigmas about divorce have changed over recent decades. In the somewhat recent past, divorce was taboo in many faiths and among members of the communities, especially in smaller towns. Today North Texas is a modern collection of cities and towns with all kinds of people. And with technology, it is easier to meet new people. As divorce has become more accepted in society, the fear of what people may think or say, becomes less of a concern.  

Spouses can drift apart and may find new partners. That which attracts people to one another can change over time. We often feel obligated to feel guilty not claiming to still love our partner the same way we did when walking down the aisle. The truth is that marriages take work and constant effort. Another truth is that people want different things over time. It may not be anyone’s fault when a marriage reaches its expiration, it just may be a matter of life.

The divorce attorneys at the Barrows Firm understand middle-aged and senior divorce issues and have the experience and resources to counsel clients on the best path to achieving divorce goals while preparing for the next chapter in life. Make a consultation appointment with Attorney Leslie Barrows and learn your rights and options.

Why Older Couples Are Divorcing, Making Gray Divorce a Thing

Expectations of marriage and marital success are changing and men and women acknowledge their happiness or lack thereof. At points in a marriage, people often ask themselves whether they accomplished their goals. If the couple falls short, why? Is someone more committed to reaching goals while another is fine to settle for less?

When the kids are raised and out of the house, some couples end up looking at each other and thinking, “Now What?” Ideally, empty nesters can re-engage in each other and spend time in activities they both enjoy. But not everyone wants to engage. And when one is holding the other back it can be time to call it quits.

Financial issues lead to gray divorce when expectations are broken, often over many years. Saving for retirement is important but some people have little to show for their financial efforts. When one is a spender and the other a saver, the arguments over the years can lead to the decision to divorce. For some, going at it alone can be easier, especially when being in control of your own money.  

Today: What Is A “Gray Divorce”? 6 Things to Know About Splitting Up Later in Life

Real Estate Issues in Gray Divorce in Texas

Many gray divorce issues focus on money, property, and future needs. Community property subject to division in divorce can include real property, money in accounts, investments, business interests, and more. The important decisions can involve whether one of the parties needs cash liquidity for their needs, versus being okay with long-term investments. Asset valuations are necessary to understand the complete financial picture, so the best decisions can be made about dividing property and assets in a way that makes sense and helps the client reach their personal goals in their gray divorce.

Making the most of your money heading towards retirement and taking a pension is crucial. Downsizing is a goal of many middle-aged and senior couples, for the benefit of saving money when no longer needing a larger space to raise children. However, it might not be the best time to sell a family home. Many couples in gray divorces are focused on their equity and assets taking them through their senior years. The focus must be on the future, and after divorce, we can control our ability to stick to the retirement plan.  

Real estate markets present many options, especially in North Texas. With rising home prices, the marital home might be worth much more, putting more cash on the table to divide. But when the inverse is true, it might be best to hold onto a home and rent it out if that makes financial sense. Deciding what to do next could involve buying a smaller property or a condo. And for many, renting makes sense, and on fixed incomes, it can be a great choice.

Health Issues Affecting Decisions to Divorce, and Future Health Concerns for Middle-Aged and Senior Divorce

Over years of marriage, some people keep their health and wellness a priority, and others let themselves go. Ongoing health conditions can keep couples from being active and enjoying life. Some people seem to age quicker than others, and it can be an issue leading to divorce.

Substance Abuse Disorder issues can affect all marriages, and cause gray divorces. With age, it is harder for many to handle substances and addiction becomes a problem. Many people have a breaking point and after the children are grown and on their own, it can be much easier to say no to someone who won’t act to get help for substance abuse.  

Future healthcare needs can impact divorce decisions for middle-aged and senior men and women considering divorce. Medications, doctor visits, and general healthcare expenses can add up as we age. Making sure we have the best options for available medical care and insurance is important. Making sure you discuss these issues with your divorce attorney is important.

Gray Divorce Rights and Options: Contact the Barrows Firm in Southlake for a Consultation (817) 481-1583

Student outside school standing smiling after changing schools

Changing Schools or Moving: Time is of the Essence

August 13, 2021
Child Custody

Changing Schools and Districts, or Moving Before the2021-2022 School Year


Monday, August 16 is the first day of school in many districts, including Carroll ISD, and some parents are changing schools. While most students will be back with their friends and neighbors, some students will be going to a different school this year. While current events and concerns motivated many making different school choices, many others spent the summer buying and selling homes, with historically low-interest rates and high values on Southlake area homes that made moving very appealing for some and changing schools and districts can be part of the process.


Meanwhile, recent school board election races were spirited and there were many issues on which parents voted and made their opinions well-known. Among the concerns of parents with primary school-aged children were health andCOVID-19 policies and protocols, as well as issues about diversity instruction and critical race theory instruction. In a divided culture, it is not a surprise that some parents wanted to pull their kids out of Carroll ISD, while others have been doing whatever they can to enroll their children in the district. Changing schools and districts is not uncommon, and parents have several options.


Carroll Independent School District 2021-2022 Back-to-School Information


Relocating into another district, working to change what district kids attend, and deciding to change from district-zoned schools to different educational options are increasingly common occurrences. Parents who are divorced and co-parenting can work together on school choice issues, or they can battle one another and fight it out in court. However, the family decides to handle school choice situations, there are policies and procedures along the way.


The family law attorneys at the Barrows Firm in Southlake are well-versed in school choice issues. Attorney Leslie Barrows and Attorney Amanda Roark can help parents with issues involved in changing schools, school districts, or moving before or near the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year.  


Education Bills Passed by the 87th Texas Legislature


The Texas Association of School Administrators published a recent collection of new education laws that have either been assigned by Texas Governor Greg Abbott or are awaiting signature or final adjustments. Many of the new laws that amend the Texas Education Code focus on the safety and welfare of children. New changes in education laws also expand or limit the powers of independent school districts.


Which Parent Has the Right to Determine Where Children Will Attend School?


When parents divorce in Texas there are parental rights and duties appointed to one or both parents. Parental rights are determined either by agreement of the parties in a custody lawsuit or by the Order of the Court. If both parents are joint managing conservators, they both have decision-making authority over school and educational decisions. But if one parent is the sole managing conservator, they have the sole power to make schooling decisions.


Importantly, one parent over the other usually has the legal right to determine the primary residence of children and that is important in figuring out which schools are options for children. In Texas, the residence of the child determines the district school system assignment. In some situations, a short move a few streets down means the children may be going to a different school district. Texas independent school districts have the authority to determine whether a child may stay in that district even despite a recent move.


Can Parents Change School Districts Without Moving?


Generally, a child must attend the school district where they reside. The school district administrators can use transfer agreements to allow students to attend school districts other than the one in which they reside. A parent asking the district to make such an allowance must present good cause as to why their son or daughter needs to be in one school district versus the other. The student’s best interests and academic performance are primary concerns. The issues over mask mandates and diversity training might not be sufficient to convince administrators to allow a district change. Larger districts with more options to move students around may be more amenable to these requests. A common request is to keep a child in the school in which they are currently enrolled despite a recent move that might be within the district or close by where it is determined an allowance is reasonable.


Texas Education Agency School District Locator FAQ Page


When Can Parents Change School Districts?


Assuming a parent has the legal authority to move the child to a new school district, the changes should be done before the beginning of the school year. That said, things happen in life and job changes and extraordinary circumstances can be reasons for districts to allow students to change schools and enroll in another district. These situations are handled on a case-by-case basis and parents who anticipate making changes should not wait until the process becomes more difficult. Notifying the district administrators promptly is important.


School Choice Week Website: Texas School Choice Roadmap


School Options in Texas: District-Zoned Schools, Magnet Schools, Charter Schools, and Private Schools


District-zoned schools are free to attend for the students who reside in the specific neighborhood or zip code. These schools are the default option for students whose parents do not otherwise request a  transfer or apply to have their children rolled in another type of Texas primary school.


Magnet program schools are public schools that are free to attend and offer special programs and educational curriculums such as college-preparatory, performing arts, engineering, and other focused-areas of study. Magnet schools often have waiting lists and students must apply and be accepted to these programs.


Charter schools are also public schools but they are not managed by local school districts, which makes them unique. While they are free to attend there may be fees for special programs. Like magnet schools, charter schools have applications for admittance and certain priority area preferences apply to students living in certain areas.


Private and religious schools are non-publicly funded schools and have control over their programs and educational curriculum. Private schools charge tuition and many have scholarships to which students can apply and help defer some of the costs. Interviews and testing processes are common in private schools which may also have religious affiliations.


Need to Change Schools or Districts? Moving? The Barrows Firm in Southlake Can Help in Negotiating with Co-Parents and Making the Best Decisions for Children and School Choice (817) 481-1583.

Foster parent with little boy in vintage style

Foster Care Parents Can Intervene in Texas CPS Cases

July 20, 2021

Intervene in Texas CPS Cases: Foster Parents Join the Case

Foster care parents can intervene in Texas CPS cases under certain circumstances. When children are suspected to be abuse and or neglect victims, CPS (Texas Child Protective Services) steps in to investigate the situation, and when in the best interest of a child, removes the child from a parent or parents and places the child in the Texas foster care system. It is possible to start an original lawsuit as a foster parent if you have standing, meaning the legally established right as a proper person to bring the lawsuit. It is also possible to intervene in an existing case when the legal standards are satisfied.

Foster parents are not the only ones who can file a lawsuit to intervene in a Texas CPS case. A stepparent, for example, can petition to intervene in a CPS matter when the other parent is having issues causing CPS to get involved. Grandparents can also assert standing to sue for custody and visitation rights under the right circumstances. Note that not all foster parents are strangers to the children in their care; many foster parents are related to the children they seek to foster and adopt.

When CPS investigates and makes a positive finding of abuse or neglect, the professionals involved in making foster placement determinations will try to keep children with known family members and friends with whom a child has an established relationship.

See the Adoption Page with FAQs on Our Website: Adoptions in Tarrant County

At the Barrows Firm in Southlake, Attorneys Leslie Barrows and Amanda Roark, advise and represent both people seeking to intervene in Texas CPS cases, as well as those who may be on the other side, responding to another person trying to intervene in an existing CPS matter or an originally filed petition affecting a parent-child relationship and parental rights.

Steps to Become a Foster/Adoptive Parent in Texas

Standing: Will You Have a Legal Right to Intervene in a Texas CPS Case

Intervening in a Texas CPS or lawsuit affecting a parent-child relationship requires legal standing to be involved in the case or file an original lawsuit as a foster parent. Standing means that a person has a personal stake in the controversy at hand. In family law matters involving children, standing also involves the Court examining the relationship a child has with the person who wants the Court to recognize their standing to sue for rights and to adopt the child.

Parents naturally have standing to be involved in a CPS case. Established legal guardians also have the standing to intervene. A person who cannot already asset standing through a parent or guardian relationship must petition the Court to first recognize whether they have standing to get into the CPS case to foster and adopt a child.

Foster parents proving standing have two options to intervene in a Texas CPS case. First, they can file an original lawsuit as the foster parent if they can prove the child was in their placed care for at least12 months and that time is within 90 days of filing the petition to intervene. Second, standing to intervene is possible if the person filing can prove past substantial contact with the child, and prove the parent or both parents would threaten the child’s health or emotional development if those parents are joint managing conservators.

Learn More From Our Article: CPS Investigations During a Divorce

Actual Care, Control, and Possession of a Child for Determining Standing

There is a standard of proof in Texas legal decisions involving issues of standing for foster placements, conservatorship issues, and possession and access to a child. The Courts require a non-parent, non-guardian, seeking standing to show actual care, control, and possession of a child to intervene in a Texas CPS case.

Factors proving actual care, control, and possession of a child:

·        The child lived in the home with the person seeking standing, on a consistent and frequent basis, often shown by having their own space and sleeping arrangement when staying overnight.

·        The foster parent seeking standing supports the child financially, providing food, shelter, clothing, medical, and schooling expenses.

·        The individual seeking standing of the child participates in the child’s education, drives them to school, and helps them with schoolwork and extracurricular activities.

Based on the circumstances, there are all kinds of possible situations to show the foster parent or individual seeking standing to become a foster parent or adopt, can show their actual care, control, and possession of the child involved in the CPS matter.

Attorney Leslie Barrows Speaks on a Podcast: Adoption Laws and Procedures in Texas with Attorney Leslie Barrows

Responding to Another Trying to Intervene in a Texas CPS Case

When talking about parental rights, it is important to always consider the importance of mothers and fathers being involved in the lives of their children. To remove children into foster care, and to terminate the parental rights of a parent are significant events. As a family law attorney working with all kinds of Texas CPS cases, there are so many situations that an outside person really cannot understand, not walking in the shoes of another. And defending the rights of a parent is something that should also be taken very seriously.

The Barrows Firm family attorneys are experienced and aggressive when necessary to help clients win. And we hope we must work hard to prove the alleged facts and law that applies in every case involving a child and their best interests. And whatever side on which we are representing someone, we expect a proper legal procedure and application of the law to the facts in every situation. At the end of the day, only the family and people directly involved in peoples’ lives can understand complex family relationships and dynamics. That said, we do all we can to protect natural parents, foster parents, and children.

To Intervene in Texas CPS Cases and to Learn About Adopting Foster Children with the Barrows Firm in Southlake, Call to Schedule a Consultation Today (817) 481-1583

parents and daughter celebrating graduation

Terminating Child Support in Texas

June 17, 2021
Child Support

How to Terminate Child Support Obligations when Children Becomes of Age or Graduates

Child support in Texas can be straightforward and follow the guidelines, and be easily collected and distributed until the child either turns 18 or graduates from high school at which time it is proper to terminate child support in Texas. The child support order, withholding, and payment systems make paying and receiving support easy. However, some people make their arrangements outside of the Court system, and if there is a co-parenting or personal breakdown of relationships, it becomes necessary to address child support duties with a lawyer, in Court. At a hearing to set current support or calculate retroactive support and past due arrears, a judge can make a ruling, or the co-parents can enter into an agreement to be presented to the Court to become an order.  

Terminating child support obligations is not automatic. While the obligation to pay may naturally terminate on the date of the child turning 18 or graduating from high school, there is still a Court procedure to terminate support obligations and make plans to settle on the payments any amounts outstanding.  At the Barrows Firm in Southlake, our Texas family law attorneys work with clients who need to go to court to terminate child support obligations. And in most cases, this is an easy process, but sometimes there are issues and some amount of payments for past-due support are ordered.

Barrows Firm attorneys work with returning clients as well as new parents who just need to terminate child support. We can represent parents with these needs in the Court that retains jurisdiction over their original family law case where child support was originally ordered. Some people have moved to DFW from other areas and other states where support orders were originally entered and we help with all of those processes and procedures.  

Got COVID-19-related Income Issues? See our recent article, COVID-19 Child Support Issues, and Options

About Texas Child Support Withholding Orders and Payments

Child support in Texas is calculated based on a percentage of the average monthly net resources of the noncustodial parent and the number of children for whom the custodial parent receives child support payments. Child support is ordered for the benefit of the child and their general, medical, and dental needs and expensive. When the Court orders child support to be paid, the judge uses a Child Support Income Withholding Order that is sent to the employer of the parent paying support. The among of child support is withheld from that obligor’s paycheck and is sent to the Texas Attorney General Child Support to Division for direct distribution to the parent receiving support. Texas family attorneys like Leslie Barrows and Amanda Roark, advise and represent their clients in the process of setting correct child support amounts in divorce and family law cases where child support is an issue.  

When Can Child Support Payments be Terminated in Texas?

The Texas Family Code determines when the duty to pay child support ends. The noncustodial parent paying child support is responsible for payments until the child turns 18 years old or graduates from high school unless there is another agreement in writing and ordered by the court that uses different dates to terminate support.

While reaching adulthood and graduation from high school are the two most common grounds for terminating child support, there are other reasons child support payments can be terminated in Texas law. Additional grounds are the marriage or death of a child, or the removal of disabilities if the child is or was found to have disabilities. The Code also provides for child support termination if the child enlists in the armed forces. And in cases that genetic testing proves the obligor is not the child’s genetic father, the obligation to pay support is terminated.  

Search Our Texas Divorce and Family Law Blog by Keyword and Category for Important Topics

How to Stop Child Support Payments in Texas? It Is Not Automatic.

When a child reaches the age of 18 or graduates from high school, contact the family law firm to begin the procedure to terminate child support payments. Just because the obligation “terminates” upon a qualifying event, that termination needs to be done legally, through the Court, to stop the income withholding. The payments for child support obligations are collected by the Texas Office of the Attorney General Child Support Division. The attorney files a Petition to Terminate Withholding for Child Support and serves the filed copies of the same with the other parent.  

At a hearing on the petition to terminate child support, the Court will review the status of child support payments and order the employer to terminate withholding for support. Assuming that the child support payments are current, and it is verified that the child reached the age of 18 or graduated from high school, the payment obligation ends. However, there may be back owed past-due child support obligations and those arrearages must be addressed.  

What Happens with Past Due Child Support, Arrears, Interest, and Retroactive Support

Texas child support law states that the Court has the power and authority to take enforcement action for any back child support still owed. The past-due amounts are called arrears. At a hearing to terminate child support, the Court will likely order the arrears to be paid. If the current child support withholding order includes an amount paid monthly towards arrears, that amount may continue, or it could be increased to catch up quickly and become current. The incentive for a child support obligor to pay support on time is the interest that accrues on missed child support payments, at the rate of six percent.  

Retroactive support can be ordered by the Court if the parent had not previously been ordered to pay support or was not a party to the suit in which child support was calculated and ordered. There are all kinds of reasons that child support payments were not set and ordered. There are times that unmarried parents make informal, direct payments, and have different arrangements from what they could expect by going through court. In some situations where there is a dispute about the amount paid in child support in determining arrears and retroactive support, there might be an overpayment in which case the obligor could ask the court for an order to return support monies and attorney’s fees if appropriate.  

With Questions About Child Support Orders, Obligations, and to Terminate Child Support in Texas, Call the Barrows Firm in Southlake (817) 481-1583

Up close image of computer hard drives

Computers, Hard Drives, and Technology Issues in Texas Divorce

June 10, 2021

Technology Issues in Texas Divorce: Issues with Computers, Hard Drives, and Online Accounts

Recently the attorneys and staff at the Barrows Firm had a computer crusher recycling company come to the office to destroy a hard drive in a divorce, one of the frequent technology issues in Texas divorce. After the hard drive was destroyed, the company issues a proper certificate as evidence of what was destroyed and a guarantee that no personal information remained on the device. While this is a straightforward situation when done appropriately and correctly, the destruction of computers, hard drives, and technology can be a big problem in a Texas divorce when it is done outside the law.  

Texas community property law applies to computers, hard drives, and technology. Unless agreed to otherwise, both parties have an interest and legal right to the technological devices owned during a marriage and the contents therein. There is a proper way to address personal property and privacy concerns about computers, hard drives, cell phones, and other devices. If an individual destroys community property and information on their own, without an agreement with the other party or Court order, the consequences can be serious.  

At the outset of a divorce, either the Court’s automatic Standing Orders apply, or the attorneys agree to a mutual restraining order, preventing either party from destroying community property or disturbing assets during the divorce suit. If one party decides to delete everything and destroy hard drives and computers, they could be in contempt of court and face more serious penalties for destroying evidence.

Rare Situation: Judge Charged with Crimes in her Own Divorce Case (including perjury and destroying evidence)

At the Barrows Firm, Southlake Family Law Attorneys Leslie Barrows and Amanda Roark represent men and women with all kinds of concerns about their technology, devices, and private information stored both on computers and hard drives as well as in the cloud and on various websites. Most situations can be resolved with an agreement negotiated between the husband and wife, but other more contentious issues require a trip to Court. In either case, the Barrows Firm frequently advises and represents clients with technology issues in Texas divorce.  

Privacy Concerns in Divorce when Information is Contained on Computers and Hard Drives

In many marriages, husbands and wives usually have personal phones, laptops, and devices and have family computers and other devices used by everyone. When it is time to divide individual property and assets, the technology issues get much more complex than dividing closets and personal items. Remember that the information you shared with your spouse and trusted them to safeguard may now be in the hands of your nemesis if the divorce is contentious. And honestly, if things were better, there probably would not be a divorce in the first place.  

What information is contained on the family computer? Do both the parties have saved passwords in website browsers? Are there files on hard drives where private information is stored? If you had to itemize all the technology in your home right now and answer these questions, could you do so without some considerable time and effort?  

Especially during the pretrial discovery phase of divorce, it is important to follow the Court’s orders and Texas law that applies to property division. Do not run and destroy your hard drives, computers, and technology before there is an agreement or Court order. Otherwise, you might be violating the law by destroying evidence and affecting the other party’s privacy rights.  

Divorce Mag.com Tips: Here is How to Protect Your Data During a Divorce

Negotiating an Agreement or Seeking a Court Order Regarding Technology

Situations lead to different courses of action regarding technology devices and digital property rights. If there is a concern about the data and files contained on the computer’s hard drive, the attorneys can negotiate an agreement that addresses concerns and preserves information that may be used as evidence in the divorce trial. For example, the parties can agree that a forensic technology professional will retrieve and produce any relevant data that responds to the scope of the search. Likewise, after evidence has been retrieved, the parties might agree to have hard drives destroyed to prevent any future concerns.  

When husbands and wives cannot agree about their issues with computers, devices, and online accounts, their attorney can file a motion to have a hearing in Court to get a Court Order compelling one or both parties to act regarding the technology, data, and privacy issues.  

How to Properly Destroy and Dispose of Technology Devices

Computers, hard drives, and technology come up in the news from time to time when things are not handled correctly and within the limits of the law. In a Texas divorce, once the case is filed and the parties are ordered to maintain the status quo, there is going to be a problem if either husband or wife decides they have all the information they want from a laptop and destroy the hard drive on their whim and will.  

The proper thing to do is use a reputable computer crushing and recycling company, or a data review and retrieval resource to either destroy or preserve data and information. When talking with your lawyer about computers and data, be open and honest about everything and let the data fall where it may, and let your divorce lawyers sort everything out.  

Learning Moment: Top 5 Hard Drive Destruction Methods That Work

Maintaining Personal Privacy and Protection with Online Accounts  

Anyone getting divorced should create new usernames and passwords on any online accounts, on social media websites, applications, and so forth. Your soon-to-be ex-spouse likely knows passwords, hints, and all kinds of private information others do not know, so consider that. And if there are concerns about hacking or accessing online accounts, it makes sense to write down new usernames and passwords and store that list somewhere safe.  

If reading this article in anticipation of filing for divorce, it might be a good idea to start changing personal information if it can be done safely and without disclosing divorce plans. At the very least, while possible, make a list of all accounts and areas where information is stored on various devices and who has access and control of those computer hard drives, and other technology.  

When talking to an experienced divorce lawyer before filing for divorce, have a chat about computers, technology, online accounts, and privacy concerns before doing anything that could end up causing more problems than solutions.  

Using Technology to Communicate During Divorce in a Controlled Environment

When divorcing, there are new and clean methods to communicate in a controlled environment that leads to better interaction and reduces the risk of problems. For example, instead of texting or emailing, try using the Our Family Wizard (OWL) product designed for healthy co-parenting and communicating information, documents, and more in a divorce. Especially when there are children’s issues, husbands and wives need to communicate from time to time before, during, and after the divorce. The OWL software allows approved users to send messages to one another, upload documents, and share calendars of important dates and events.  

What many appreciate about the OWL is that the settings can be adjusted so that the lawyers and the judge can access and see what information is there and what is communicated. This is a very streamlined system, compared to the exchange of text messages and emails, where people going through a divorce might forget their manners.  

Talk to the Barrows Firm with Concerns About Technology Issues in Texas Divorce (817) 481-1583

Two people pulling on a model house to split the house during divorce.

Divorcing and Keeping the House

May 14, 2021

Divorcing and Keeping the House by Buying Out the Other Spouse

Almost every divorce involves a property settlement and there are several factors to consider when deciding to sell or refinance the primary residence. There are many reasons divorcing spouses agree on a buyout so one of them keeps the house, often living there with the children. The competitive North Texas real estate market in 2021 can be a challenge when divorcing and keeping the house by buying out your spouse.  

Whether to sell the house and buy or build another is the issue facing couples getting divorced in 2021. The Dallas-Fort Worth area remains one hot market where buyers and sellers continue reporting record over-listing offers, an unprecedented volume of offers, and a relative shortage of homes available. The inventory is further limited by new home construction interrupted by massive spikes in construction costs due to the prices of building materials, affected by pandemic issues. So even though it might be appealing to sell the house, many people want to keep the house, so they do not have to buy a new home in a sellers’ market, and that makes sense.  

Homelight Article: Is It Better to Sell Your House Before or After a Divorce?

At the Barrows Firm in Southlake, we advise and represent our clients on preserving their best interests of the children and family moving forward into deciding to sell the marital property and buying new homes or staying in the house and buying out the other spouse. The Southlake and Northeast Tarrant County real estate market values are unique. Leslie Barrows and the Barrows Firm team are well-connected in the Southlake area and know the competitive and respected real estate professionals to help clients succeed in the face of challenges including buyouts.  

Options for Buying Out the Other Spouse when Divorcing and Keeping the House

Divorce negotiations involving the marital home require an agreed or determined the fair market value of the marital home. The fair market value should be based on real-time values as if the house were going to be listed for sale. Local experienced real estate professionals can be retained to offer their professional advice on the fair market value of the family home if it were going to be listed for sale. Fair market value is in part based on the comparable sales of similar recent homes in the area. The spouses can agree on retaining realtors to determine fair market value and once that is agreed on in the process of divorce financial calculations, the buyout options can be explored.  

NerdWallet Article: How to Find the Right Real Estate Agent for You

Refinancing Options

Mortgage refinancing is the way process by which people who want to keep the house can renegotiate their mortgage without their spouse on the loan or title. Refinancing the mortgage is a way to raise the money to compensate the other spouse for their equity in the home. If there is equity in the home, the refinance process is like pulling cash from the equity to settle with and compensate the other party.  

Because the underwriting process can be extensive, it is important to know how much the borrowing party is approved before negotiating what can be done about buyouts. It is a good idea to talk to several lenders because some may focus their business on divorce refinance buyouts and know competitive tips for securing financing approval.  

Which Spouse Can Best Buy the Other Out?

If the divorce financial negotiations indicate the equity in the home is to be split equally into 50/50 shares, the spouse who wants to keep the house and not sell must make the offer to pay the other spouse their share of the equity. If the fair market value of the house is $800,000 and the amount owed on the mortgage is $400,000 then each spouse is awarded $200,000 of the equity. That means the spouse who wants to buy out the other spouse on the home, needs to come up with cash or the equivalent value of that money. Refinancing the mortgage at $600,000 is one way to come up with the money to buy out the other spouse and keep the house.  

The borrowing ability of the spouse looking to refinance is a key issue in whether that works as an option. And when negotiating the divorce and buyout options, the spouses can talk to lending professionals and determine pre-approval amounts and the other details of the refinancing process. If the spouse looking to stay in the house is having trouble qualifying to refinance and buy the other out, there may be other options in satisfying the equitable split of the home equity.  

Alternatives to Cash Buyouts When One Spouse Wants to Keep the House

Waiving the right to receive equitable shares of other marital assets can be part of negotiating a buyout of the other spouse’s interest in the home. For example, at the date of divorce, the party who wants to stay in the house may be awarded a share of vested retirement accounts and other assets including vehicles, boats, and other land and property. Waiving the rights and interests in these other-awarded marital assets can be the basis for a buyout.  

In divorces where one spouse is awarded spousal maintenance and they want to assume responsibility for the marital residence and buy out the other, the amount of spousal maintenance due could be used to offset the buyout amount to the former spouse. Be aware that some payments ordered in family court cannot be negotiated outside of their regular purpose, such as child support payments.  

For Barrows Firm Tips for Divorcing and Keeping the House by Buying Out the Other Spouse in 2021 Get Our Advice and Counsel (817) 481-1583

Estate planning documents

Estate Planning in Texas: Frequently Asked Questions

April 22, 2021
Estate Planning

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Texas Estate Planning and Probate

The time for wills and estate planning is now, not later when it might be too late to account for unknown events and conditions in the future and these frequently asked questions and answers help people understand why wills and estate planning in Texas is important. Someday we will die, but we could also become temporarily incapacitated due to a medical or physical condition. Being unavailable to make life decisions creates a burden on family and friends who may not be legally authorized to act. Estate planning documents are for everyone and plans for unknown situations should be made when all are well and healthy. An experienced will and estate planning lawyer helps advise clients on being prepared for whatever may happen during and after their lives. Estate planning in Texas is important to protect the individual, their friends, and family.

Estate Planning Attorney Leslie Barrows uses proper estate planning with Barrows Firm clients in divorce and family law cases, juvenile matters, and whenever guardians are involved. Knowing how important it is to have estate planning and power of attorney documents ready when people are alive and well, attorney Barrows frequently offers will and estate planning deals to first responders and members in the community upon whom we all rely, and who need to prepare to care for their loved ones if they cannot.  

Why Do I Need Estate Planning?

Estate planning allows for the control and direction of what happens to property and provides for loved ones during life, and after. An individual estate includes the person’s ownership interests in real estate, bank accounts, investment accounts, insurance policies, retirement accounts, and all personal property such as homes, vehicles, boats, and similar personal property and items. If someone dies without a will, their community estate is distributed by state law. The Texas Estates Code contains intestate succession laws that apply when someone dies without an enforceable will. The laws of intestate succession identify a person’s descendants and distribute the community estate of the deceased, to descendants in certain portions.  

Who Needs Estate Planning?

Estate planning not only covers death but also applies to decisions during life. For example, estate planning involves determining who can make healthcare, business, and financial decisions for another in the event of temporary or permanent incapacity. Estate planning also allows for the appointment of a guardian for minor children in the event of incapacity or death. Wills are an important part of an estate plan, to determine what happens to assets when an individual dies, including the proceeds of life insurance policies and other death benefits that may apply. So even though an individual might not think they have significant assets, it is still important to make sure that funeral arrangements are properly handled and paid, just for one example. Again, in life, and death, proper estate planning is important to all involved family and loved ones.

What is a Will?

A will is a formal legal document controlling what happens to the estate assets of an individual when they die. A written will names the beneficiaries who are the persons who shall receive property and assets through the will, and as well the will names the executor named to carry out the process and wishes of the decedent’s will. In Texas, a will must follow certain formalities to be valid and enforceable. An experienced Texas estate planning attorney assists their client in preparing wills and estate planning documents from simple estates to those with complex assets and beneficiary wishes. It is common for Texas family lawyers to also advise and assist clients with wills and estate planning.  

What is Probate?

Probate is the legal process of satisfying the terms of the will of the deceased, in public proceedings, also called Estate Administration. If someone dies without a will, the probate court will distribute the estate by state laws of intestate succession. And when someone dies with a will, the probate court will admit the will, appoint the estate administration responsibilities, and ensure that the community estate is properly distributed, overseeing the process. In probate court, any legal challenges to the validity of a will, its contents, or acts of administrators can be litigated.

Who Can I Designate as the Executor of My Estate?

Professional fiduciaries make great estate executors because they are not usually named as beneficiaries with any interest in the community estate of the deceased. A fiduciary is an individual or organization authorized to act on behalf of another, putting the other’s interests ahead of their own. A fiduciary is legally and ethically bound to act in the other’s best interests.

Family members can also be executors of estates, but there can be conflict among family members when one person does not agree with the actions or accountings as executors. Many disputes in probate courts involve family members making objections to other family members who were named as estate executors. An estate planning attorney may advise that a client disclose who they are naming as their executor during their life so that no surprises are leading to conflict after passing.

Common Estate Planning Documents: What are About Durable Power of Attorney, and Medical Power of Attorney Documents?

When Texans get a new or updated will, it is common to also update power of attorney and healthcare documents and directives, as well as trust documents. A durable power of attorney document for financial matters names an individual who will be entrusted to handle financial decisions in the event of temporary or permanent incapacity, such as during surgery, if one is in a coma, or one simply cannot make those decisions for certain reasons. A medical power of attorney document similarly names an individual to make sure healthcare wishes and decisions are carried out during a period of incapacity.

What Are Living Wills, Also Called Advance Healthcare Directives to Physicians and Family Surrogates?

Living wills are also used to ensure end-of-life concerns and decisions are carried out as the individual planned, and in Texas, these living wills are known as advance healthcare directives, or also a Directive to Physicians and Family or Surrogates. When an individual is unable to make their wishes known because of illness or injury, these directive documents are important so that critical decisions like life support measures do not need to fall on family and friends. The living will is made by a principal and appoints an agent to carry out directives. Living wills must be made following legally required formalities and they can be revoked by the principal.

What Types of Trust Documents Are Used in Estate Planning?

Trusts are used to hold money, assets, and property interests for the beneficiary of another, where a trustee has the legal power and authority to make decisions in the best interests of the beneficiary. For example, a grandparent might leave money in their will or in a trust, to be used to pay for college and certain life expenses for a grandchild. That money or property in the trust is overseen by the trustee who is authorized to make distributions that benefit the beneficiary, as outlined in the trust. These distributions could pay for anything named in the trust, from education to housing, and whatever life expenses may be identified. Estate planning attorneys advise and represent clients about trusts and the different options to protect assets for the benefit of others.

When Should Wills, Trusts, and Estate Planning Documents Be Updated?

While most wills, trusts, and estate planning documents are written to apply to the circumstances at the time the documents are needed, certain life events require updating all estate planning documents. Examples of major life events include marriage, divorce, birth, death, and anything else that can affect the outcome of an individual’s estate planning wishes. For example, when divorcing, the former spouse might not be a preferred agent for power of attorney over medical or business affairs. Likewise, one might not want to protect the interests of children who shall someday be recipients of a divorce property settlement, in another example. Estate planning documents to be updated upon major life events also include insurance beneficiary designations, and payable on death sections of documents tied to any other life benefit, retirement policy, and similar documents.

For Wills, Trusts, and Estate Planning in Texas, the Barrows Firm in Southlake Helps Texan Families Prepare for the Future Now When All Are Hopefully Well and in Good Spirits

You can receive COBRA after divorce

COBRA After Divorce: Health Insurance Options in Texas

April 15, 2021
Medical Expense

Should I Get COBRA After Divorce in Texas, or Are There Alternative Options for Health Insurance in Texas?

After a divorce in Texas, a spouse qualifies for continuing health insurance through COBRA, at 102 percent of the plan premium, or chose an alternative short or long-term health insurance option. Keeping health insurance is important, especially when parents have dependent children. During a divorce, the Court normally orders the parties to maintain the status quo with insurance coverage, until the divorce is final. After the divorce, a spouse who will lose health insurance coverage must be notified and allowed to enroll in COBRA coverage, to remain on the current health plan until they can get new coverage on a short-term or long-term basis. Opting-in for COBRA coverage is expensive because both the employer and employee premiums must be paid, as well as a two percent administrative fee. Many parents must consider alternative health insurance plans and options that are affordable and provide necessary and required health coverage.

Related Article from Survive Divorce: A Guide to Health Insurance During and After Divorce

Children with acute and ongoing health conditions cannot be without health insurance. When divorcing in Texas the parents make agreements and the Court can order the parties to pay for healthcare expenses. Having uninsured dependent children, and former spouses is not an option. Parties not complying with the Court’s orders regarding post-divorce health insurance coverage can lead to enforcement and modification suits. Talk to your family attorneys at the Barrows Firm in Southlake to learn your rights and options.

Because the spouse with the option of enrolling in COBRA coverage must pay the full premium rate plus two percent, insurance is expensive, even at the same group rate price. Depending on the insurance plan coverage, the needs of the parent and dependent children, an alternative health plan option might make more sense financially. If there is another more affordable option, the family lawyers at the Barrows Firm can help navigate the process. Through years of networking with locally respected insurance and health care professionals, attorney Leslie Barrows has the resources to help answer the most challenging insurance questions.

Health Insurance During and After Divorce in Texas

In most families, the parents and children are enrolled in the best health insurance plan offered by the employer with the best health and medical coverage for the family’s health care needs. When someone files for divorce in Texas, one of the initial hearings is the Temporary Orders hearing, where initial determinations are made about who will live where, drive what cars, and satisfy which financial responsibilities.

In addition to COBRA health insurance coverage after a divorce in Texas, the spouse, and dependent children in need of insurance might qualify for Medicare or Medicaid. For many parents getting a divorce, the spouse in need of coverage through the employer, must wait until the next enrolment period and need a short-term coverage option in the interim. Especially with children who may have significant medical needs, a lapse in coverage can be a serious problem, and COBRA might not be the best option.

From the Barrows Firm Article Collection: Considering a summer divorce? Read our article on point, Why Starting a Divorce in June is Popular in Texas.

What is COBRA, and How Does it Work to Preserve Health Insurance Coverage After Divorce in Texas?

COBRA is the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, the law requiring health insurance providers to offer continued coverage to former spouses and dependent children after divorce. This is how COBRA applies in divorce in Texas. In other scenarios, continued health coverage under COBRA must be available after the reduction in an employee’s hours of employment, employee termination, death, or other qualifying events such as divorce.

Employees are entitled to COBRA coverage when they work for a qualified employer, which is an employer who has at least 20 employees on more than half of the working business days in the previous year.

After a Divorce in Texas, An Ex-Spouse Can Get COBRA for 18 Months, and 36 Months for Dependent Children

Following the date of divorce, the spouse being removed from the insurance plan of the other must be given notice of COBRA eligibility within 14 days, that they have within 60 days to enroll in COBRA benefits. When the spouse takes the COBRA option, they can remain on the former spouse’s health insurance plan, the one they were on before the divorce, for up to 18 months. Additional COBRA coverage is available for dependent children for up to 36 months.

Parents and children have different health care needs. A parent might cost more to insure than their children. If a child has a significant medical condition and sees physicians frequently, it might be important to keep that dependent child on COBRA coverage until a better option is available. This is another example of the different care options for families in need of health insurance after divorce.

Short-Term Versus Long-Term Health Insurance Options Instead of COBRA Coverage

In Texas, there are several options for health insurance for medical needs and care for parents and children after divorce. When a parent is getting a divorce in Texas and has the option of electing to enroll in COBRA coverage, they might also select a short-term or along-term insurance option. Whether the former spouse has employer-based coverage options coming up in an open enrolment period, or whether they chose to buy private health coverage, not through an employer, short and long-term options alternatives to COBRA are available. Considering the cost of COBRA, and the full premium cost, without the normal employer contribution, and two percent additional administrative fees, a short-term or long-term private plan might be the more cost-effective option.

Watch this YouTube Video About Short-Term &Long-Term Health Insurance Options

Short and long-term plans are different in their cost and their available benefits. For basic coverage for healthy people who do not use insurance often, a competitive short-term plan makes sense. If however, the parent or dependent children have significant medical needs, the additional benefits provided in long-term medical and health care plans can be necessary. In addition to insurance eligibility and benefits, there two other issues are policy renewals and cancellations. What if something happens to someone during a short-term policy? A Policy may be canceled, or it may not be renewable.

Because medical and health care costs are significant, especially when people have children, it is important to consult with an experienced family lawyer to help determine which options make the most sense to cover former spouses and their children.

With Questions About COBRA After Divorce and Other Health Insurance Options, Call the Barrows Firm in Southlake at (817) 481-1583

Image of special needs adult

Divorce with Adult Special Needs Children

March 17, 2021

There Are Unique Issues in a Divorce with Adult Special Needs Children

Some several medical conditions and disorders affect children and as they become adults their needs and challenges can change. Special needs can be physical, developmental, behavioral, and sensory-impaired. Some children are born with special needs and in others, they develop later in life.  On a range of abilities to cope with stress and change, a divorce with adult special needs children requires several additional steps.  

When getting a divorce in Texas and there are some additional considerations to protect the best interests of adult special needs children in the family. First, understand that in no way does having a special needs child prevent a couple from divorcing if the marriage is no longer able to be rehabilitated and repaired. Staying together because there is a special needs child, especially an adult, does not make it easier on anyone, rather it can further complicate existing problems.  

Mental health professionals working with adult children with special needs can be consulted before the divorce to make a game plan that considers the limitations and conditions of the child so that the disruption to their life is minimal. In the divorce, child support is calculated and ordered in the manner best providing resources for the special needs child. Spousal maintenance may also be ordered when the custodial parent is a full-time caregiver of an adult special needs child.  

Attorneys Leslie Barrows and Amanda Roark at the Barrows Firm in Southlake, work with parents divorcing who have minor, and adult special needs children. To learn your rights and options, call the Barrows Firm at (817) 481-1583.

Protecting Adult Special Needs Children and Their Best Interests in a Divorce

Negotiating child custody and visitation with a child with special needs may require the use of mental health professionals who work with families with minor, and adult special needs children. Depending on the individual medical conditions and disorders, caring for the child may be different as they age and grow into adulthood. Knowing what a day in the life may be like in the future is important in negotiating a parenting plan. Planning for an unknown future requires thinking ahead and having plans in place if things do not go as planned.  

Possession and access and visitation may need to adjust on an annual or even a monthly basis depending on the changing needs of the child. Parental rights and duties are also something that can be reviewed and adjusted as the needs of the child change, especially when they are transitioning into adulthood.  

Mental health professionals can help the family and their attorney understand long-term needs and care. This helps in creating estate planning and parenting arrangements. Mental health counseling for the family can also help everyone with transitions. Depending on the individual child, their reaction to a significant life change like a divorce can be much more difficult to handle.  

eParent Article: 5 Ways to Advocate for a Child with Special Needs During a Divorce

Limitations in Social and Coping Skills to Handle Divorce

Divorce and child custody issues are difficult on all children, and everyone has different coping skills to handle divorce. But, when caring for adult special needs children, those social and coping skills can be put to the test, and sometimes that minor, or adult child has an extreme reaction. An autistic child, for example, might appear to be adjusting on the surface, but there can be outbursts and shutdowns on the way. In another example, a child with an emotional disorder might have a difficult time adjusting to a new school and social setting, leading to behavioral issues at school and home.  

Minimizing the risk of upsetting a minor or adults special needs child requires understanding all the elements of life changes that are going to take place with the divorce and those need to be discussed among the attorneys, parents, and mental health providers, doing the best to take the sting and shock out of major life changes.  

Child Support and Spousal Maintenance in Divorce with Adult Special Needs Children  

In Texas, the Court may order either or both parents to provide for the support of a disabled child for an indefinite time based on the Court’s findings. The Court makes findings of whether the child will be able to at any time self-support themselves, whether institutionalized or not. Where the disability exists before the child’s 18th birthday, the Court orders support for the child to be paid to the custodial parent. The Court may also designate a special needs trust providing that support be paid directly to the trust instead of the state disbursement unit.  

When the Court determines a party’s eligibility to receive spousal maintenance when that parent is the custodian of a child of the marriage of any age, requiring substantial care and personal supervision because of a physical or mental disability parenting the spouse from earning sufficient income to provide for their reasonable needs. Also, in certain situations, it may be appropriate to determine if the needs of the child should impact the division of the marital estate. As well, ask your lawyer about obtaining additional social security disability benefits from the Federal government, and any other assistance programs.

Special Needs Alliance Article: Divorce and Children with Special Needs

Special Needs Trusts for Adult Children  

When determining the available resources to pay for the needs of a minor or adult special needs child, money may be coming from child support, spousal maintenance, part of the community estate, Social Security disability, Medicaid, and whatever other sources, and a certain amount of that money can be directly paid to a special needs trust or a supplemental needs trust.  

In a special needs trust, the trustee holds and manages the assets for the beneficiary child. The trustee is responsible for making financial distributions and making payments as needed. A special needs trust is important because, without that formality, the money received by the child could be considered income, affecting eligibility for Social Security benefits.  

Need Advice on Divorce with Adult Special Needs Children? Call the Barrows Firm in Southlake, Texas at (817) 481-1583

Man and woman at a table discussing getting divorced in Texas

Changes to Discovery Rules in Texas Divorce

February 26, 2021
Divorce Litigation

Discovery in Texas Divorce Cases Involves the Exchange of Information

The first of the changes to discovery rules in Texas divorce lawsuits is about Level One discovery, which now applies to many more divorces and requires an expedited exchange of personal and financial information. The Texas rules of civil procedure list the rules for a discovery control plan in levels. There are Levels One, Two, and Three. Discovery can be written and can be oral testimony. Common discovery tools in Texas divorces include disclosures, interrogatories, requests for production, requests for admission, and depositions where the parties provide oral testimony recorded by audio and video. The recent changes to discovery rules in Texas Divorce became effective for new cases filed on or after January 1, 2021. For most intents and purposes, the changes in the rules are for the divorce lawyers to worry about, but as a client, it is helpful to be aware of the process.

Because every divorce is unique, the parties may enter an agreement or ask the Court to order different discovery terms and schedules. Know that in some divorces, the parties agree to what discovery exchanges they will perform, if any. So, if the parties come to their divorce lawyers and they already agree on settling finances and they agree on who gets what, there is no need to use discovery in their divorce. However, it is more common for divorces to involve discovery exchanges.

Read Our Article for More Information: What is the Divorce Process in Texas?

How Do Changes to Discovery Rules in Texas Affect Divorcing Clients

When getting a divorce in Texas, your divorce lawyer lets you know how the process works and when you will be expected to produce documents and information in the discovery process. At the Barrows Firm in Southlake, attorneys Leslie Barrows, and Amanda Roark as well as the paralegals and staff are available to help with questions along the way. For example, a discovery request from the other side might be looking for documents that are unavailable or in the other party’s possession. There might also be confusing questions, and it may be difficult to respond. Do not worry, at the end of the day the discovery process is a necessary part of divorce and it helps the attorneys, parties, and the Court understand what issues, assets, and people are involved in the divorce process.

Interesting Article: Divorce Rates and COVID-19

What is Level One Discovery, and What Changes Were Made to Discovery Rules and Limits?

Level One discovery now applies to divorces in which the parties claim the marital estate is worth less than a total amount of $250,000and this limit is an increase over the previous limit of $50,000. Note that Level One discovery does not apply to divorces involving children. In a Level One divorce, the discovery period starts when the initial disclosures are due,30 days after the Answer to the Petition for Divorce, and then the discovery period continues until 180 days after those initial disclosures are due. Not only does the window of time change, but the amount of time also allowed for depositions has changed. Now the parties may spend more than six hours taking depositions and they may now use up to 20 hours examining deposition witnesses. Note that the parties need not use the entire deposition time, and the more that can be accomplished and settled outside a deposition, the more resources are saved.

Level Two Changes to Discovery Rules in Texas Divorce

A Level Two divorce discovery plan applies now when the parties seeking a divorce have alleged owning community property and assets greater than $250,000.  Level Two discovery begins when the initial disclosures are due, just like in a Level One divorce, but they continue longer and can continue until 30 days before a scheduled trial date. In a Level Two divorce, each side may use up to 50 hours in a deposition, to examine and cross-examining parties on the opposing side, and their experts. Additionally, under the changes to discovery rules in Texas divorce, if one side discloses more than two experts, the other side may have an additional six hours of total deposition time for each additional expert. Level Two discovery also limits interrogatories to no more than 25 written interrogatories to be answered by the other side.

Disclosures After Changes to Divorce Discovery Rules

While it has been common to serve discovery requests along with petitions for divorce, and under the changes to discovery rules in family cases, discovery may not be served on the other party until after the initial disclosures are due. If certain information is subject to claims of privilege, that still applies. In Texas divorce, the parties may request and obtain discovery information and documents that are relevant and not privileged. A privileged communication must be something that may only be shared between two people, such as an attorney and their client’s communications are privileged and not subject to disclosure.  

The biggest change with the new rules is that disclosures are automatically required instead of requested. Copies of documents must be served with the response. Given the time limitations in complying with the new disclosure requirements, divorce lawyers are going to learn the best methods to obtain necessary information from clients to meet disclosure deadlines. Preparation and organization are important.

Do Not Lie: What Happens When You Lie on Your Divorce Documents?

Divorcing Parties Can Agree to Change their Discovery Level

While the legislative intent behind the changes to the discovery rules was a quicker, more efficient, and cost-effective process, not everyone will like these changes and there is a proper way to address issues. For example, the requirement to produce a large number of documents in such a short time at the beginning of the lawsuit might create a burden on one or both of the parties. Depending on the financial information and complexity of asset and property issues, the parties can agree to change their discovery level and they can also ask the Court to enter an order that cures any of the problems in the case because of the new rules and limitations they impose.

Who Pays for Discovery in Texas Divorce Cases?

The general rule in divorce in Texas is that each side pays their own attorneys fees and costs to produce and exchange discovery documents. There are situations when it is appropriate for one attorney to ask the Court to order the other party to contribute or pay attorneys fees and that is the subject of a different article. Generally, unless one of the parties has done something wrong or is intentionally causing problems in the process, the parties pay for their discovery costs. If a party to the divorce action is causing problems, the Court can hold them in contempt as well as order them to contribute to pay the fees of the other.

Questions About Changes to Discovery Rules in Texas Divorce, Call the Barrows Firm in Southlake at (817) 481-1583

Angry woman and man standing outside

Financial Considerations Before Filing for Divorce

February 10, 2021
Divorce Finances

Addressing Financial Considerations Before Divorce Helps Family Lawyers Best Represent Clients

The two most common issues in a divorce in Texas are money and custody, and in this article, we focus on the important financial considerations before the divorce. When we talk about money, we include the values of property that must be disclosed in a divorce. Depending on your situation, you may be splitting the community estate 50/50 or using another method of fair and just property division. Texas is a community property state and that means that all the property acquired during the marriage is considered the property of both spouses subject to division. Alternatively, the property can be classified as separate property and the property can be addressed in a private contract such as a premarital agreement or post-marital agreement among spouses. Before you file for divorce, it is necessary to collect as much financial information as possible so that your family lawyer can advise you and bring in necessary financial professionals depending on your situation.

At the Barrows Firm in Southlake, Attorneys Leslie Barrows and Amanda Roark advise and represent families with Divorce, Child Custody, Adoption, Estate Planning, Wills, and Probate Matters. Call the Barrows Firm at (817) 481-1583.

Talk to a Financial Advisor and Meet With a Family Lawyer

Financial advisors and family lawyers work together to help clients determine the best options for the family and their future. Some of the financial considerations before divorce involve joint debts and student loans, dividing up businesses during divorce, and divorce taxation regarding retirement accounts. For example, if the family has business ownership interests, a financial professional can help review the business assets and relative ownership interests of the spouses to determine who owns what. Especially in smaller family-owned businesses, things can be complicated and it takes some work to determine the property rights of each spouse in the divorce. At the Barrows Firm in Southlake, attorney Leslie Barrows has long-standing relationships with financial advisors who are well-experienced in even the most challenging divorce financial situations. A specific financial advisor used in divorce cases is called a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst.

A Certified Divorce Financial Analyst Can Help You Project Best Financial Outcomes

A Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) helps divorce clients with the financial issues that will affect them for the rest of their lives. The work of a CDFA includes matters of separate versus marital property, valuing and dividing property, and retirement assets and pensions, to start. A CDFA becomes especially important in financial considerations before divorce when tax and financial issues affect the divorce, including issues regarding spousal and child support and dividing assets such as homes. An example of the issues addressed by a CDFA is whether the spouse needs liquid cash accounts to manage, or whether they would prefer receiving funds in qualified retirement accounts, as well as homes and assets not otherwise in cash form.

From the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts: Why Hire a CDFA Professional

Knowing Your Financial Status Before Filing for Divorce

Gathering financial documents before filing for divorce is important, because the more you share with your family lawyer, the better they can help. Waiting until after the divorce is filed and served could cause an angry spouse to restrict access to information and change passwords on accounts. Anticipating an emotional reaction makes sense because divorce is a major life event and many spouses act out in ways they normally do not do with one another.

Make copies of all the known and available statements. If all the statement copies are not available, do not worry because the family lawyer can help you get them directly or through the discovery process in the divorce case. If you know the name of the financial institution and account numbers, that can make it easier to find the missing pieces later. Online account access makes it easy to collect your financial information and send it to your family lawyer to review when putting together your financial disclosures that are required in a divorce.

U.S. News & World Report: Financial Steps to Take Before, During and After Your Divorce

Finding Assets and Financial Considerations During the Divorce Process

After a new divorce lawsuit is filed, the parties often attend a Temporary Orders hearing so that the parties and the Court can determine who drives what, who lives where, and how the family will be financially supported during the divorce process. In preparing for a Temporary Orders hearing, and during the initial stages of the divorce, the family lawyer works with the client to obtain a full financial outlook of the parties and the marriage to determine the financial issues. Remember that it is most important that the family lawyers and the Court can create a complete picture of the finances of the family so that the financial rights and duties can be determined.

During the discovery process, the family lawyer has several legal tools and processes to obtain the necessary information to present to the client and the Court. Please understand that there are many situations where one spouse has more control over the information than the other. It is important to do the best one can to collect and present information and financial considerations before divorce.

To Learn More About the Divorce Process and Financial Considerations Before Divorce, Call the Barrows Firm in Southlake at (817) 481-1583

A mixed family with adopted children on a hiking trail.

Adoptions Affected by COVID-19 in 2021

January 28, 2021

Adoptions Affected by COVID-19: Common Pandemic Problems Affecting Texas Families

The COVID pandemic forced many people to look at their lives and focus on what is most important. So many of us realized the importance of family, especially in times when we were not able to be with loved ones. 2020 was difficult for families, and it was particularly tough on foster children hoping to be adopted into forever families. Adoptions in Tarrant County were down in 2020, as reported by different adoption agencies. For a variety of reasons, the process of adoptions became a challenge during the pandemic. Also, many mothers decided to keep their newborns and be their loving parents. Meanwhile, in addition to adoptions affected by COVID-19, foster parents in many cases are concerned about the virus and are not taking in as many foster children who need stable homes.  

As we move forward in 2021, getting vaccinated, and getting back into healthy routines, we hope that adoption prospects and success stories abound. With questions and concerns about adoptions, the Barrows Firm in Southlake is available to assist and offer referrals to great agencies like the Gladney Center in Fort Worth. Adopting a child into a forever family is a great way to share the love and make a difference.  

People and Parents Looking to Adopt

There are many reasons people adopt a child. Some children are adopted when a birth mother selects an individual or couple to adopt and raise her child. In other cases, children are adopted from the foster system. The people who adopt children in Texas have stories they tell about why they chose to adopt children. Some are unable to have their children, others have children who have grown up and there is still room to add an adopted child to the family. In many cases, people first become foster parents and may later adopt their foster child.  

COVID-19 Affected the Adoption Process

There is a process to become an adoptive parent. The meetings and time required to become a foster parent and to adopt a child require a serious commitment. And during the pandemic, the process changed. No longer able to have in-person meetings and connections, some people decided to wait until after COVID-19 to resume the adoption process. Many feel that Zoom meetings are useful but not the same as in-person meetings, and adoption is a serious and emotional life event for all involved. When the intimacy of the adoption process is interrupted, we can understand how adoptions affected by COVID-19 can be on hold.  

Uncertainty is a significant factor in decision making and family planning. Consider how many people had no idea whether their jobs and small businesses would be there to support another child, let alone the current family. Hopefully, as vaccinations continue to become available, and as the science surrounding the pandemic helps us all fight to wipe it out, more people can feel comfortable resuming the adoption process affected by the pandemic.  

Adoption Placement Agencies Reporting a Slower Year in 2020

For the many reasons COVID-19 affected the adoption process, many adoption agencies in Tarrant and Denton Counties reported fewer adoption placements in 2020. November is national adoption month and adoption and foster rates decreased. November was also the month of an election that caused all kinds of emotions and concerns as we all waited for the promise of vaccines.  

A recent article by Very Well Family, COVID-19 Has Had Significant Effect on Foster and Adoption Rates, suggests that there are options for adoptions during the pandemic if people are open to a change in the regular adoption and fostering process. In-home visits, for example, can be delayed by pandemic restrictions and adoption agency policies. It is recommended that anyone interested in adopting contact local agencies with a virtual process and participating in foster-to-adopt plans.

Mothers Changing Their Mind and Deciding to Parent Their Child

Expecting mothers working from home and spending more time at home due to COVID-19 restrictions and safety precautions are changing their minds and keeping more babies to raise themselves. It is easy to imagine how busy we all were before the pandemic, and how so many expecting mothers felt like they did not have the time or resources to be a parent. The reality of isolation and loneliness might have caused several women to reconsider their priorities and being a mother became a new and exciting prospect.  

It is easy to let priorities become unbalanced and it is easy to take things and people for granted. Not being able to see families face to face has been difficult for many people who have had lots of time to think about their priorities and what is truly most important in life.  

COVID-19 Bed Shortages and Foster Placement Interruptions

Foster children removed from their homes are sleeping in shelters. They have nowhere to go. Shelters, churches, CPS offices and makeshift bedrooms are being used to house foster children who cannot otherwise be placed in foster homes. In many of these facilities, complaints surface about unsafe conditions and fighting among teens.  

The number of foster homes decreased due to several conditions, including COVID-19. Also, investigations in the Texas foster care program over allegations of abuse impact placement capacities. Sadly, there are no homes for these children right now. However possible, hopefully, more loving people will become foster parents and help get these kids into safe homes.  

Call the Barrows Firm for Referrals to Local Adoption Agencies, and for Assistance in Becoming a Foster or Adoptive Parent Even While Adoptions Are Affected by COVID-19

A father helping his daughter ride a bike

COVID-19 Child Support Issues and Options

January 11, 2021
Child Support

COVID-19 Child Support: Job and Income Losses Affect a Parent’s Ability to Pay Child Support

The December2020 Jobs Report indicated a decrease in jobs for the first time since April. The current report is that 140,000 jobs are no longer available. The unemployment rate has remained steady since April, holding at 6.7 percent. With election-year uncertainty and so much debate over the Coronavirus, many Americans are being cautious with spending, and with slow spending comes a lack of reason for companies to hire new employees, affecting the ability of many to pay child support because of COVID-19.

The long-term impact of serious financial conditions and ongoing business closures takes time to affect people, and some take a harder hit than others. Consider a local restaurant owner taking every step in their power to keep their doors open and pay their employees and vendors. At the end of the day, the local restaurant and other small business owners might not be drawing any income for themselves.

In Southlake, Attorney Leslie Barrows has been a divorce and family lawyer for many years, and she has seen and heard many reasons there is a problem with child support payments. Her experience matters in helping clients make smart choices in addressing COVID-19 child support issues.

Texas Attorney General: Child Support and COVID-10

People Ask, What Are Common Reasons Child Support Is Not Being Paid?

First, let us assume that parents ordered to pay child support are subject to an Income Withholding Order and the human resources or payroll department directly withholds the amount of monthly child support due, which goes to the Texas Child Support Disbursement Unit, who gives the support money to the child support recipient. This scenario is easy to understand when we think about how the collection and distribution of child support are supposed to work. But what happens when the real story is more complex?

If the child support obligor is self-employed and or has greatly varying income, the child support process can be a challenge. In many cases, you must go to court for an order of enforcement if payments are not being paid, or for modifications, if there is a substantial change in the income of the obligor parent.

The reasons child support payments are not being made could be anything from job loss to reduction in income. In other cases, a parent willfully refuses to make scheduled child support payments in the correct amount to be spiteful. There are many ways your family lawyer can handle a spirited non-payer.

Unique COVID-19 Pandemic-Related Job Loss and Child Support

Many people lost jobs or experienced temporary or permanent reductions in income as a direct result of COVID closures. It is important to immediately notify your attorney if this happens. It might be necessary to file a case to modify child support obligations to affect the net resources of the child support obligor. As many legal issues are litigated over Zoom calls, a modification or enforcement case can proceed that way. Understand that some courts may be behind with a backlog of suits affected by the Coronavirus court closures and disruptions.

Trying to find a new job is imperative. A judge is not going to appreciate inaction when it comes to making money to support children. Even if the previous income was higher and the job lost, was significant, anything to bring in money is helpful while getting back to where things were.

Resource: Tarrant County Financial Assistance – COVID-19

Some parents with job losses are receiving unemployment benefits, but what about those who are self-employed and cannot get unemployment? Some are selling personal assets to pay child support. If it is possible, and there is a problem with child support, consider working it out directly with the other parent. Communicate what is known and what is expected. For example, if the interruption to income is going to be temporary, it might be possible to avoid the expense of going to court for enforcement or modification. After things stabilize financially, any unpaid amounts can be figured out.

Consequences for Nonpayment of Child Support in Texas

The Texas Office of the Attorney General has all kinds of tools to enforce child support obligations. If someone loses income it is up to them to get their child support obligation modified, because otherwise the unpaid support amounts add up and so can the enforcement actions.

These are some of the actions the Attorney General can take to enforce a child support order:

·        License Suspension: driver's license, professional license, hunting, and fishing licenses can all be suspended for failure to pay support.

·        Passport Denial: a noncustodial parent not paying child support can be denied a new passport as well as the renewal of a current passport.

·        Liens: a lien can be filed against property, bank accounts, retirement accounts, life insurance policies, personal injury claims, insurance settlements, and other assets, for nonpayment of child support.

·        Credit Bureau Reporting: the law requires the amount of child support owed and paid to be reported to the major credit reporting agencies.

·        Lottery Intercept: lottery prizes may be intercepted and used to pay past-due child, medical, and dental support.

·        Civil or Criminal Contempt: a civil contempt charge for nonpayment of child support includes a specific number of days in jail and/or a fine for missed payments, meanwhile a criminal contempt charge isalso available to put the obligor in jail until they comply with the court order and pay a “purge” amount or all the support in arrears.

Options for Child Support Recipients Who Are Not Receiving Child Support Payments

Call the lawyer and talk about the available options. Remember that aggressively enforcing child support can impede the obligor’s availability to make money. If the Attorney General takes their driver's license, professional license, and makes it nearly impossible to earn an income, expect less. Remember that there are many cases where past-due child support payments add up and then get paid off with the cooperation of co-parents who always remain in the best interests of the child.

Filing a Lawsuit for Enforcement or Modification of Child Support Obligations

Here at the Barrows Firm, our attorneys, paralegals, and staff understand that some people are determined not to obey the Court’s Order and will avoid their duties whenever possible. Especially during something as overwhelming as a pandemic, some people think they can fall between the cracks and not get caught intentionally shirking child support obligations. A common scenario is when the obligor loses a job or has a business income loss and misrepresents their finances and net resources. That is not a game anyone recommends playing because the Judges and lawyers have all heard it before and the outcome on the willful non-payor can be significant.

Call the Barrows Firm in Southlake for Legal Advice forCOVID-19 Child Support Issues Questions at (817) 481-1583

clock for the end of the year Family Law updates

End of Year COVID Updates and Family Law Issues

December 23, 2020

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

Image of a will and gavel representing wills and estate planning

Wills and Estate Planning: Taking Action on End of Life Decisions

December 9, 2020
Estate Planning

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.

Kiplinger: 7 Tips on Choosing the Right Executor for Your Will

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

Father and son hanging ornaments on the Christmas Tree - Holiday Possession Schedule

Holiday Possession Schedules: Check Your Court Order

November 25, 2020
Child Custody

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.

AARP: Families Weith the Options and Risks of Gathering, Through a Pandemic Lens

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

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