Originally published by The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC Blog.
Being able to maintain strong relationships with your children during a divorce or child custody case, as well as determining what sort of financial commitment your Texas family case will cost are two of the most frequently asked questions that I receive. This is with good reason. A family court case involves children and money, almost exclusively. There are very few issues that are relevant in your case other than these two. Today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan will seek to provide you with some guidance on these subjects.
Money concerns in relation to family law cases
Almost every person wants to know the same things associated with a family law case: how much is the case going to cost? How much child support will I be responsible for paying? The flip side to this question relates to how much child support will you be receiving. Other considerations center around health insurance, spousal support and contractual alimony. The bottom line is that people in your position are frequently concerned that their family law case (usually a divorce) will end up ruining him or her from a financial perspective.
Let’s talk first about how much it costs to hire a family law attorney to represent you in your case. The overall cost of your case depends in large part on you and your opposing party. If you and your spouse are not communicating at all and have no desire to do so, it means that your case will likely take longer to complete. The more time that is needed to be devoted to a family law case means that more money will need to be spent, as well.
The specific subject matter that you are in disagreement with your spouse about matters as well. If your big disagreements center around who gets the silverware, then your case can likely be resolved quickly. If your big disagreements center around your children, then you likely have a longer case on your hands. If you and your spouse are willing to compromise and meet one another halfway on any issues that need to be sorted out then your case is not going to be a marathon length nightmare that your friends have warned you about.
Finally, issues like medical support and spousal support may be relevant in your case. These are factors that many people do not consider in the lead up to their case. Keep in mind that the better prepared your attorney is to help you, the better shape you will be in. You can work to tell your attorney about relevant information at the beginning of your relationship with him or her. You can also save money by organizing materials that your attorney asks you for. If you leave that responsibility to your attorney or their staff then you will end up paying for services that you could have done yourself.
What happens to your credit as a result of a divorce?
When it comes to divorce cases specifically, it is easy to imagine a scenario where your credit score takes a hit. You may have started out your divorce with having no credit score to speak of. Taking out loans or spending on credit may have been something that you never had to explore. Once you find yourself involved in a family law case your income is going to be stretched to an extent and you can find yourself needing to rely on credit cards and loans to pay your bills and even pay your attorney.
Decision making in a family case carries with it a potential financial impact
For each decision that you make in conjunction with your family law case, there is a certain amount of financial impact that is inherent in doing so. One of the first questions you will need to ask yourself when it comes to a child custody or divorce case is whether or not you will want to hire an attorney to represent you.
Think about what is at stake in your case and the circumstances you find yourself in. If you believe that you will not gain enough of an advantage or enough benefit from hiring an attorney, it is likely that you will not do so. People hire attorneys because they are not legal experts and believe that the benefit that they derive from hiring an attorney will outweigh the financial costs associated with doing so.
It is essential that you understand what is at stake in your family case and how you can go about achieving your goals. Going to court or negotiating with an opposing attorney is not as simple as you may think. Certainly, the field of work that you are engaged in has subtleties that take time to learn. The same can be said of the legal world. Leaving these sorts of things to chance by not hiring a lawyer may save you money in the short term but will almost certainly cost you much money in the long term.
In the event that you do decide to hire an attorney, you need to put forth a great deal of effort into that relationship in order to get your money’s worth. Look for an attorney who you believes reflects your values and offers you the best opportunity to reach a timely and fair resolution with your opposing party. It may be necessary for your case to go all the way to a trial. However, keep in mind that the vast majority of cases settle in informal settlement negotiations or in mediation. Hiring an attorney who understands how important negotiation is essential to your escaping from your family law case.
I have seen many family law cases where the parties have worked out an agreement between themselves wind up in court because the other attorney did not believe the agreement to be fair or equitable. I will admit that many times those informal agreements do need to have some specifics worked out. However, if you and your spouse settle your case informally it is not a good sign if your attorney attempts to void that agreement over issues that are not important to you. This is your case, after all. You are the final decision maker as to what is and what is not important.
Maintaining the relationship that you have with your kids during a family law case
Probably the most frustrating circumstance associated with a family case is that which involves the other parent withholding your children from being able to visit with you. Being in a position where you would do anything to be able to see your children but having an unwilling parent on the other side is enough to drive a person to file a family law case.
Other circumstances that can lead to the filing of a family case is if you are the primary caretaker for your kids and you are not receiving any financial assistance from their other parent. No matter if you live with your child, you owe him or her a duty of financial care and support. If you and your significant other split up and he or she is not helping to support your child then you have the right to initiate a child support case in order to remedy that situation.
Still, other situations that involve your relationship with your child are related to your desire to simply spend more time with him or her. Maybe you are operating under a prior court order where you were only given weekend visitation with your kids. Now you find yourself in a position where you are working in a job where you have more flexibility with your schedule. Or, your children may have voiced a desire to live with your primarily instead of your ex-spouse.
It is crucial that your children have access to both you and their other parent. The whole system of family law in Texas is based upon the premise that children are more likely to thrive when exposed to both parents. Your kids seek attention and love from both of their parents. Your ability to return that love and affection is as important to their upbringing as any other factor in their lives. Coming to a resolution with your spouse on how to divide up time with your children can be among the most important factors when it comes to saving time and money in a family law case.
Will the debt be a relevant factor in your child custody or divorce case?
Maybe the least discussed, yet most important, a topic that I can think of in conjunction with divorces is that of debt. The way it works out in Texas is that you may become responsible for the debts incurred by your spouse. Obviously, you want to minimize your exposure to the debts of your spouse- especially if those debts are completely unrelated to you.
Deciding how to divide debt up in your divorce can be just as important as deciding how to divide up property in your divorce. Debts can come in all shapes and sizes. From the smallest credit card debt to a home mortgage, you need to be aware of what debts exist in your name and your spouse’s. I recommend to clients that they pull a copy of their credit report early on in the case. This way you can know exactly what credit accounts are in your name without any surprises popping up at the end of your case.
Another issue that is very important but not often considered is what will happen to your mortgage after your divorce. For example, suppose that you agree to leave the family home and your wife agrees to take over the mortgage payments in exchange for being awarded the house in your divorce. This all sounds fine and dandy until you begin to consider what can happen in the event that your ex-spouse falls behind on the mortgage. If that mortgage bears your name you will be taking a hit to your credit- no matter what the divorce decree says.
The reason for this is that your loan with the lending company is not impacted by your divorce decree. You can agree to whatever you want with your spouse in the divorce, but that will not necessarily impact how your loan is treated by any lender. What you agreed to with them years ago when you took out your loan is what will still be controlling- not what is contained in your final orders. You will need to have a plan to remove your name from the mortgage, and if that is not a possibility (as with a refinance), you need to have a backup plan in place to handle future missed mortgage payments by your ex-spouse.
Credit cards that allow your spouse to be an authorized user and even cars titled to you but used by your soon to be ex-spouse are other concerns that relate to debt which may arise in your divorce case. Do you know how to handle these situations? Does your attorney? Ask yourself these questions before your divorce even begins so that you can wisely choose an attorney to represent you.
Issues of safety and family law cases will be discussed in tomorrow’s blog post
In tomorrow’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we will discuss topics that center around your safety and that of your children. As much as I would like this to not be the case, family law cases frequently involve issues regarding family violence, child abuse, and generally hot tempers. Learning how to keep yourself and your kids safe during a family case is of the utmost importance, as a result.
If you have any questions about the material that we covered in today’s blog post or are seeking clarification on any other subject in Texas family law please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week. These consultations are a great opportunity to have your questions answered and issues addressed by an attorney with experience working with people in situations just like yours.