How Co-Parenting Might Look This Summer Given Current Circumstances

Originally published by Bryce Hopson.

Summer season is fast approaching, and that would typically mean co-parents across the metroplex are gearing up for some significant changes to their daily schedules with kids staying home. In the current environment created by Covid-19 and social distancing, the summer of 2020 might look very different than those of the recent past. Nevertheless, with most counties slowly phasing back to a normal—or maybe “new normal” is more accurate—pace of life and business, the summer schedule remains.

There are numerous ways in which the possession schedule for summer months has been crafted into custody orders across the state. Some are standard and adopt the one-size-fits-all approach, while others are intricately unique and carefully tailored to fit the specific needs of a particular family.

What does the standard, one-size schedule look like?

The Standard Possession Order, crafted by our legislature and incorporated into the Texas Family Code, is a defined schedule delineating which parent is legally entitled to possession of a child, and it is presumed to be in the best interest of the child. Under the Standard Possession Order, one parent is designated with specific periods of possession, and the other parent is entitled to possession “at all other times not specifically designated” to the first parent.

The parent with designated periods during the school year is entitled to 30 days of possession time in the summer, which can be exercised consecutively or broken up into no more than two smaller periods of at least 7 days each if notice is provided to the other parent by April 15th (if not, the 30 days runs from July 1-31). The parent with designated periods will still get the regular 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekend periods that they normally have during the school year, but the Thursday periods go away in the summer.

If a 30-day block of time in the middle of the summer is impractical because of a parent’s work schedule, or a child’s summer activities, what options are available for a more customized approach to the summer schedule? Here are a few options that some parents have utilized when the circumstances called for more of a customized fit:

  • Week-on / Week-off: Alternating seven-day periods of possession has some advantages over the standard block schedule. It shares the load of additional childcare needs that comes when both parents are working and school lets out, and limits the span of time that the child goes without seeing the other parent. 30 days without seeing a 16 year old might not sound that bad (and in some cases, might serve as a needed relief), but it is typically more difficult to say goodbye to a 5 or 6 year old for such an extended period of time.

  • The “Quadrant” Schedule: This approach takes June and July and breaks them up into four quadrants. One parent gets the first half of each month, the other parent gets the second half of each month, and they rotate every-other year. Although the summer vacation schedule will generally run into the first couple weeks of August, this schedule has some clear advantages to a standard structure. It provides each parent with two opportunities to take extended trips and travel with the child—if you have the privilege of lasting memories of road trips to the Grand Canyon, summer nights on the beach, or sleeping under the stars next to a campfire, those are typically trips that take more than 7 days, and this schedule can make creating those memories much more available. It also has the benefit of avoiding the need for designating—and potentially arguing—over which weeks one parent wants to exercise. This schedule is set as soon as the order is signed, meaning you can start planning your summer vacation three years in advance if you feel like it!

  • Alternating Weeks with Extended Election: This schedule has the same general structure as the week-on / week-off, but it includes a carve out for each parent to extend one of their seven-day periods into a ten-day period. This gives added flexibility for those longer trips to visit Aunt Betty up in Brunswick or hop across the pond for a European Vacation.

At the end of the day, the schedule that has the best chance of working is the one that both parents agree upon and work together to come up with. And most importantly, crafting your summer schedule to be conducive with the child’s activities is crucial to ensuring a smooth, successful summer vacation.

 

The post How Co-Parenting Might Look This Summer Given Current Circumstances appeared first on Hance Law Group | Dallas Divorce & Family Lawyers.

Curated by Texas Bar Today. Follow us on Twitter @texasbartoday.



Read More –>

What goes into an award of spousal support here in Texas?

Texas appeals court asked to reconsider same-sex divorce case

Originally published by On behalf of Laura Dale.

The battle for equal rights for same-sex couples didn’t end when the Supreme Court quashed the Defense of Marriage Act in 2015. New sorts of battles — many of them related to the way that same-sex couples were treated in the past — were just beginning.

One of those battles is determining what exactly makes a marriage when your marriage isn’t recognized under the laws of your state. Same-sex couples who were in long-term, committed relationships that fall technically short of the definition of marriage only because the parties were of the same gender find themselves facing this question often when such a marriage comes to an end.

Why does the date of a same-sex marriage matter if the couple is splitting? It’s simply because the start and end of a marriage is both a social and a financial contract. The date of a marriage often informs issues like how much spousal support a dependent spouse is due or what assets are really marital assets and subject to division in a divorce.

Now, the Texas Fifth District Court of Appeals is being asked to grant a new divorce trial to a man who split from his partner of 15 years just prior to the Obergefell v. Hodges decision that made same-sex marriage legal throughout the country. A lower court said that no marriage existed because there was no legal same-sex marriage in Texas.

The plaintiff and his attorneys argue that the couple did everything short of legally marry. They say that since they were prevented from doing so by a law that is now considered unconstitutional, that shouldn’t prevent the court from treating their relationship as a marriage.

Cases like this will, unfortunately, continue to come up for a long time into the future. That’s why same-sex couples seeking a divorce are wise to look for attorneys who understand their unique concerns.

Curated by Texas Bar Today. Follow us on Twitter @texasbartoday.



Read More –>

How Does Shared Custody Work Between Separate States During COVID-19 Quarantine?

How Does Shared Custody Work Between Separate States During COVID-19 Quarantine?

Question:

What is the procedure when traveling across state lines during COVID-19 quarantine, when you share custody?

Answer:

Texas attorney Ashleigh Bearden

As I am barred only in Texas, I cannot provide specific legal tips with regard to your state in particular. However, I can provide some general guidance that may help you navigate your child custody issues during the COVID-19 pandemic.

No nationwide domestic travel prohibitions have been issued, and air and ground travel continues. However, many states have issued orders restricting both interstate and intrastate travel. Some have restricted all non-essential travel and further clarified their orders by defining what travel is considered essential.

Before traveling to exchange your children with your former spouse, consult your state’s executive orders, those in your former spouse’s state, and — if traveling by car — those in the states you will travel through for the exchange. If none of these states restrict travel, you likely are free to proceed with the exchange.

Keep in mind that a state’s stay-at-home order may define travel for these purposes as essential further into the document. Additionally, the order explicitly may not make mention of custody or children, but still may provide that travel for purposes of compliance with a court order is essential.

For example, the order may read similarly to the following: “Individuals may leave their residences for the purposes of traveling required by a court order.” This will apply to any order of the court, including any orders entered pursuant to your divorce or custody matter, so be sure to read the orders carefully and completely.

Additionally, be aware that some states specifically have issued orders regulating travel from certain states or localities. For example, Texas has ordered mandatory 14-day self-quarantines for people traveling by air from certain states, and previously implemented ground checkpoints to identify travelers from Louisiana. Keep in mind that you may be affected by travel restrictions like this.

If you plan to travel by air, be aware that the TSA has implemented social distancing procedures and modified their operations. Recent policies include an allowance for wearing a facemask during screening. However, the agency states that “a TSA officer may ask you to adjust the mask to visually confirm your identity.”

If you find that such travel is not restricted by your state, your ex-spouse’s state, or those states you will travel through by car, and your former spouse refuses to comply with your court-ordered custody or possession agreement, consider consulting a Cordell & Cordell attorney to seek enforcement of your parental rights. Bearing in mind the laws in your state, keep records of your former spouse’s refusal to comply and their stated reasons for doing so.

Regardless of whether you are able to facilitate exchange prior to the end of travel restrictions, these may be helpful to your attorney in the future.

If, however, any of the state orders restrict travel and do not provide clarification on whether travel for the exchange of children under a court order, or for purposes of complying with a court order in general, you should seek legal assistance from an attorney barred in your state.

To arrange an initial consultation to discuss divorce rights for men with a Cordell & Cordell attorney, including Texas divorce lawyer Ashleigh Beardencontact Cordell & Cordell.

The post How Does Shared Custody Work Between Separate States During COVID-19 Quarantine? appeared first on Dads Divorce.

Read More –>

Family Law: Transferring Private Company Interest in Divorce—Going Beyond the Basics to Ensure Continued Success and Avoid Conflicts

Family Law: Transferring Private Company Interest in Divorce—Going Beyond the Basics to Ensure Continued Success and Avoid Conflicts

Originally published by Winstead.

There has been considerable speculation that one consequence of the Coronavirus will be an increase in the divorce rate resulting from togetherness imposed by the quarantine that push marriages already on shaky ground over the brink.  Whether divorces will increase in the future due to Covid-19 remains an open question, but what is certain is that a sizable number of future divorces will involve the transfer of a business ownership interest between spouses as part of the divorce.  To address this situation, this post focuses on key business issues that arise when one spouse (the “Divesting Spouse”) transfers an ownership interest in a business to the other spouse (the “Recipient Spouse”) as part of a divorce settlement.  Addressing these issues will help the Recipient Spouse continue to run the business successfully and also avoid future conflicts with the Divesting Spouse, as well as with future investors and potential buyers of the business.

1. Don’t Rely on Divorce Decree or Settlement Agreement to Document the Transfer of a Business Ownership Interest Between Spouses

A divorce decree and settlement agreement will document the terms of the divorce and the division of property between spouses, but it is not a good idea to rely on the decree or the divorce settlement to memorialize the transfer of a business interest between spouses.  There are a number of reasons for the Recipient Spouse to insist on securing a stock transfer agreement (or its equivalent), including the fact that the Recipient Spouse will likely be required to show the transfer document to third parties in the future, including banks or other lenders, new investors, company officers or managers, and potential future buyers.  The Recipient Spouse will not want to show the decree or settlement agreement to these third parties, however, because they include private matters unrelated to the business.  This will therefore require the Recipient Spouse to prepare a heavily redacted document for review by third parties.  It is more efficient to simply require a transfer document to be signed that is limited solely to issues related to the business.

Another reason for the use of a transfer document is that it will include many provisions that are not normally part of a settlement agreement.  The decree or settlement agreement will become a very lengthy document if it includes all of the provision that are traditionally set forth in a separate document that covers the transfer of a business interest.

2. Secure a Separate Release of the Divesting Spouse’s Claims Against the Business

After the business is transferred and the divorce becomes final, the Recipient Spouse will not want to defend claims that are brought by the Divesting Spouse against the business.  This requires the Recipient Spouse to secure a broad release of claims against the business from the Divesting Spouse.  This release of the business is separate from and in addition to the release that the Divesting Spouse provides to the Recipient Spouse, individually.

For example, if the Divesting Spouse was an officer, employee, director or manager of the company, the Divesting Spouse’s release needs to include a release of all employment claims, such as claims for unpaid wages/back pay, vacation time, unpaid expenses, and commissions.  The release will also include the Divesting Spouse’s release all claims for wrongful termination, claims related to the distribution of any profits generated by the company and all other business related claims.  The release will also confirm that the Divesting Spouse has resigned from all positions with the company and has no further right or authority to take any action for or make any statements on behalf of the company.

3. Confirm Broad Transfer of All Rights by Divesting Spouse

The provisions that confirm the transfer of ownership in the business by the Divesting Spouse need to be broadly described in the transfer agreement to include all rights, title and interest of every kind related in any way to the business.  This includes all rights of the Divesting Spouse in any and all intellectual property of the company, such as company names, trademarks, trade secrets and patent rights.  This is particularly important if the Divesting Spouse worked in the business, because the Recipient Spouse does not want to be faced with a situation in the future where the Divesting Spouse later claims that he or she developed some software, designs or other intellectual property rights that are not owned by the business, and which are now being used by the Divesting Spouse in direct competition with the company.

4. Consider Requesting Divesting Spouse to Accept Restrictive Covenants

In a normal M&A transaction, a company buyer secures a set of restrictive covenants from the seller as part of the purchase agreement to prevent the seller from competing in any way with the company after the sale takes place.  The buyer will require the seller to provide all of the following restrictive covenants that will last for two to five years:  (i) a covenant not to compete, restricting any involvement by the Divesting Spouse — whether as an owner, employee, consultant, etc., — in a business that is competitive with the subject business for a reasonable period of time within a reasonable geographic area, (ii) an agreement not to interfere with the business’s relationship with its customers and vendors or to solicit customers, or attempt to persuade the business’s customers and vendors to cease doing business with the company, and (iii) an agreement not to hire or solicit the hiring of any of the employees of the business, or otherwise attempt to persuade any of the employees of the business to cease their employment relationship with the company.

If the Recipient Spouse is concerned that the Divesting Spouse may compete in business against the company after the divorce, the Recipient Spouse may want to request the Divesting Spouse to agree to accept some or all of these restrictions.  The Divesting Spouse will not agree to accept these post-divorce restrictions, however, without a corresponding commitment from the Recipient Spouse to provide some amount of additional consideration in the divorce settlement.

5. Request Confidentiality Agreement from Divesting Spouse

Confidentiality agreements are similar to restrictive covenants in that they prevent the person who is subject to the agreement from taking actions that are harmful to the business.  The confidentiality agreement is specific, however, in prohibiting the individual officer or employee from using or transferring any of the company’s confidential information or trade secrets.  All of the company’s officers and employees are subject to a common law duty not to use or misuse any of the company’s confidential information, but a written confidentiality agreement makes this prohibition clearer on the use of confidential information and trade secrets.

If the Divesting Spouse has not already entered into a confidentiality agreement with the company, the Recipient Spouse will want to request the Divesting Spouse to accept and sign a confidentiality agreement to protect the company’s valuable confidential information and trade secrets.  The Recipient Spouse wants to make sure that the company’s confidential information, technology and trade secrets are maintained in strict confidence.

6. Secure “Tail Coverage” of Divesting Spouse From D&O Carrier

 If the company has a directors and officers liability insurance policy (a “D&O Policy”) that provides protection for officers and directors from third party claims, these polices will generally remain for one or two years after the company’s officers and directors are no longer affiliated with the company.  The Recipient Spouse will therefore want to secure “tail coverage” to provide continuing insurance coverage for claims made against the Divesting Spouse.  In this regard, the Recipient Spouse may want to secure a tail policy will extend the D&O coverage over former officers and directors for a total period of five years.

The Recipient Spouse may feel like securing a tail policy that extends coverage for third party claims against the Divesting Spouse is unnecessary because it provides a benefit solely for the Divesting Spouse.  In fact, a tail policy provides insurance protection that protects both the Recipient Spouse and the Divesting Spouse, and it is also a benefit to the company.  If third party claim is made against the Divesting Spouse after the divorce related to the business, the Divesting Spouse will likely demand that the company indemnify him or her.  If the D&O policy is still in place, however, the tail policy will enable the company tender a defense of the claim against the Divesting Spouse, because the D&O carrier will cover all of these legal defense costs.  Fortunately, a tail policy that extends D&O coverage is often not too expensive to secure.

7. Specify Treatment of Future Tax Filings

Dealing with all of the tax issues involved in the transfer of the business is an extensive subject that goes beyond the scope of this post, and spouses engaging in the transfer of a business interest are strongly advised to consult with a tax advisor during their divorce.  But there is one tax issue that the Recipient Spouse should consider addressing up front.  Many businesses held in marriages are structured as pass through entities (i.e., LLC’s partnerships, Sub S corporations), which means that the owners pay the taxes on all profits that are generated by the company.  As a result, in the year following the divorce, Recipient Spouse may be required to issue a K-1 to the Divesting Spouse based on the ownership interest held in the business by the Divesting Spouse during the year in which the divorce took place.

If the K-1 issued in the year after the divorce reflects any income that is apportioned to the Divesting Spouse, he or she may expect to receive a cash distribution from the company that is sufficient to cover the Divesting Spouse’s federal tax liability based on this income.  If the company does not issue any distribution to the Divesting Spouse, that would create what is known as “phantom income” because the Divesting Spouse has to pay taxes on this income even though no distribution was issued by the Company.  The issuance of phantom income to the Divesting Spouse is likely to provoke a heated dispute at that point.

The Recipient Spouse will therefore want to address in the divorce settlement how the future K-1 that will be issued to the Divesting Spouse will address any income generated by the business in the year of the divorce.  If the Recipient Spouse is prepared to issue a distribution to the Divesting Spouse, that will take care of the issue.  If the Recipient Spouse has no intention of authorizing the company to issue any distributions in the future to the Divesting Spouse, however, this issue will need to be dealt with by the Recipient Spouse a manner that will not lead to a future legal dispute with the Divesting Spouse.

Conclusion

The transfer of ownership interests in business is common in divorce settlements.  But if business issues related to the transfer of this type of interest are not considered at the time of the divorce, the parties may find themselves engaging in continuing disputes they did not anticipate.  The Recipient Spouse, in particular, needs to take steps to ensure that the transfer takes place in a manner that allows the business to continue to run successfully, and to head off potential future conflicts with the Divesting Spouse and others after the divorce.

Curated by Texas Bar Today. Follow us on Twitter @texasbartoday.



Read More –>

What goes into an award of spousal support here in Texas?

What you should know about your business debt and your divorce

Originally published by On behalf of Laura Dale.

Could your business debt become a big problem in your divorce?

Most of the time, people think that the biggest bone of contention in a high-asset divorce is likely to be the family assets. However, business debt belonging to one party can also cause major headaches.

You may find yourself scrambling to convince a judge that a loan you took against business property to pay for family expenses should be repaid out of the marital assets. You may find that the judge won’t allow you to base your support payments off the reduced income you’ve been taking — even though the rest of the money was being put toward your business debts. Either way, you could walk away from your marriage saddled with a lot more business debt than you can manage.

How can you avoid this kind of problem? The experts say that there are a few basic rules you need to follow:

  1. Keep your business money separate from your family money. They’re two different resources, meant for two different purposes.
  2. If you do borrow against the business or the business property for personal reasons, clearly document where all of the money went. Also, keep track of any repayments that were made to the business out of family funds.
  3. Never pay your family expenses out of the business funds during your divorce. That’s a quick way to have the court impute more income to your name than you might otherwise believe is fair.

When you’re a business owner, there’s no such thing as a “simple” divorce. It may take the help of a forensic accountant and a financial advisor as well as your attorney to get you through.

Curated by Texas Bar Today. Follow us on Twitter @texasbartoday.



Read More –>

Coronavirus Legal News Briefing — April 27, 2020

Coronavirus Legal News Briefing — May 5, 2020

Originally published by Amy Starnes.

Editor’s Note: The State Bar of Texas is providing this collection of important links, blog posts, and media stories to keep its members and the public informed of the latest news and resources related to the novel coronavirus outbreak and its impact on the legal community.

Important links

State Bar of Texas Coronavirus Legal Resources Page — Texasbar.com/coronavirus

State Bar of Texas Coronavirus Public Resources Page — Texasbar.com/COVIDHelp

Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program Well-being Resources page — Texasbar.com/remote-well-being

Law firms are seeing major slowdown in business because of COVID-19, data shows — The shock to the global economy stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic has produced a 40% drop in the number of new legal matters being opened each week in the U.S. compared to late February. — ABA Journal

Covid-19 spurs demand for contract lawyers, recruiters say — Temporary contract attorneys and paralegals are in demand at corporate and government legal departments and law firms. — Bloomberg Law

Pay cuts, layoffs, and more: How law firms are managing the pandemic — A firm-by-firm guide to how law firms are protecting their bottom lines from the economic fallout of the coronavirus. (Subscription required) — Texas Lawyer

Nearly 800 COVID-19 lawsuits have been filed, according to law firm’s tracker — Wondering what kind of lawsuits are being filed in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic? A lawsuit tracker has the answer. — ABA Journal

Divorce cases expected to increase as shelter in place orders lifted in Texas — The expected increase in divorce filings is based on trends in other countries after stay at home orders were relaxed. — The Gilmer Mirror

May 15 hearing set for Texas vote-by-mail arguments — U.S. District Judge Fred Biery has ordered a hearing on expanding vote-by-mail to all Texas voters in advance of the July 14 Democratic Party runoff election, due to fears of coronavirus transmission should in-person voting be required. — Rivard Report

Commentary: What Dallas lawyer who nursed New York coronavirus victims wants you to know about heroes and this disease — “I watched more people in my first shift die of coronavirus than I’ve ever seen die from the flu,” Jim Mullen says from his self-quarantine. — The Dallas Morning News

Supreme Court arguments a tech success, but format strangles usual give-and-take — The U.S. Supreme Court made history Monday. The coronavirus lockdown forced the typically cautious court to hear arguments for the first time via telephone, and to stream the arguments live for the public to hear. — NPR

At least 15 states grant lawsuit protection to long-term care facilities during pandemic — The American Health Care Association is leading a lobbying effort to protect nursing homes and long-term care facilities from legal liability during the COVID-19 pandemic. — ABA Journal

Commentary: How the government will help families affected by COVID-19 — Recently, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act was passed to provide financial assistance. (Subscription required) — Texas Lawyer

Gold’s Gym files for bankruptcy due to coronavirus pandemic (video) — Gold’s Gym, which has operated for more than 50 years, filed for Chapter 11 protection Monday. Clothing retailer J.Crew also announced that it has filed for bankruptcy. — CNN

Subscribe

To keep up on the latest legal news from around the state, sign up for the State Bar of Texas’ Daily News Briefing by clicking here.

Curated by Texas Bar Today. Follow us on Twitter @texasbartoday.



Read More –>

Want to resolve your Texas family law case outside of court? Remember these rules of engagement

Special Needs Trusts: What they are and how they can impact your Texas divorce

Originally published by The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC Blog.

Special needs trusts are designed to hold onto assets of a person who is receiving governmental benefits like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid. Whatever assets are held in the trust would be available to augment and add to the level of care that a disabled needs. The main force of the special needs trust is that the person would still be eligible to receive the government benefits that they need due to those assets being held inside of the trust, rather than at their ready disposal or usage.

There are two varieties of special needs trusts. For example, you could create a special needs trust for a child of yours who has a special need or a disability. That special needs trusts may be created by you, your spouse or by both of you under estate planning provisions. The other type of special needs trust is one where the trust is created out of the special needs’ person’s assets or money. These trusts will reimburse Medicaid for any funds spent on the special needs’ person’s behalf.

What impact will a special needs trust have on your divorce

If your child or you are receiving benefits from Social Security or Medicaid, those agencies provide only limited guidance for you and your spouse in a divorce setting. Special needs trusts can play an important role in the negotiation and settlement process in divorces because they allow for you and your spouse to plan on how finances will be handled immediately after a divorce. This is critically important when one of the parties or your children have a special need and rely in part on government assistance to receive medical care, pay bills or both. Spousal maintenance, child support, and other court-ordered payments can be held in these trusts.

Think about this example to better illustrate my point. Suppose that you have a fifteen-year-old son who receives $500 per month in SSI benefits as well as Medicaid. Within your final decree of divorce, your ex-spouse is ordered to pay you $750 per month in child support which is paid directly to you.

Under the rules of Social Security, 1/3 of the child support that you receive is excluded from income limits that go towards determining eligibility, only $500 goes toward the government’s calculation of income and assets to determine whether or not your child is eligible to receive SSI benefits and Medicaid. Even still, the $500 of support that counts towards the calculation will wipe out the $500 of potential benefits ($500-$500 = $0). That means no SSI benefit every month and no Medicaid to help pay for necessary medical treatment. You may have been planning the entire divorce to live in part on the child support and SSI payments. Now you are in a position where you have only one of those sums to count on for survival.

Here is how you can structure your final decree of divorce to protect yourself and your child in the future. The final decree of divorce should require your ex-spouse to pay the child support directly to your child’s special needs trust. That will allow you to slip by the government’s income/assets test and receive both SSI and child support. This benefits you and your child and does not harm your ex-spouse in any way. It is a win-win all the way around.

Yes, there are costs associated with creating a special needs trust. You may even have to hire an estate planning attorney to at least give guidance on the subject if not create the whole thing for you and your family. However, the short-term investment than hiring an attorney and creating the trust entails will be quickly canceled out by the increase in benefits and child support that you are fully able to take advantage of. Medicaid eligibility is a huge part of the equation, one that you may not be able to accurately project how much money you will save throughout your special needs child’s life.

The bottom line is that you can have your child support payments ordered to be put into a Special Needs Trust. The cash payments by your ex-spouse which instead be converted into distributions by the Trust whenever they are needed.

Take care of these issues before your divorce is over with

Another important point that I want to stress to all of you today is that you should do whatever it takes to have the issues settled before your divorce concludes. If you do not, you run the risk of having the SSI payments reduced by the child support (as we saw above) or lost completely due to your receiving child support payments.

Whenever a child support figure is set, whether by agreement or order from a judge, I would recommend that the attorneys in your case agree to hire an attorney who has experience creating special needs trusts. There are details that this attorney must be able to sort out and it is not common to find a family law attorney who is also a competent builder of a special needs trust.

As far as your final decree of divorce is concerned, it should order that your ex-spouse make a payment for your child’s special needs to the Trustee of the Special Needs Trust each month. The resources and programs that are available to you and your child should be considered when negotiating child support. A judge will do so, and it makes sense for you to consider that when making a settlement offer for child support. Also, you need to think ahead to the future to determine if your child will need either more or less care and therefore monetary support as he or she ages.

I know of some people who would tie the amount of child support paid to the amount of SSI benefits that are paid. They would take the amount of SSI benefits and subtract that amount from the amount of child support that would otherwise be agreed to. That reduced amount would be the child support figure that is agreed to. Here is why I think that is a bad idea and why I would advise a client against doing so.

If your daughter is disabled and your divorce decree states that there will be an offset of the child support obligation for each dollar received in SSI benefits, this does not take into consideration that your child’s needs may increase. You can try to go back to court in the future to have the child support orders modified based on a substantial change in the circumstances of your case and probably win on that basis. The increase would need to be reported to the Social Security Administration. This will cause a substantial decrease in the amount of SSI that your child can receive.

There is a chain reaction that follows this decrease in SSI benefits due to your divorce decree tying the amount of child support that your ex-spouse has to pay to the amount of SSI benefits that your child receives from the government. The lesser amount of SSI increases the child support obligation, so on and so forth. What you have done is set yourself up for a roller coaster ride of increases and decreases in the number of benefits you receive and child support that your ex-husband has been ordered to pay you. This will go on and on until the SSI benefits completely go away.

As far as I can tell, you should just agree to a specific dollar value for child support. Do not tie child support to the SSI benefits that are also received. Do not have the child support payments go to you directly, but rather into a special needs trust. Your case will not look exactly like any of these examples that I have provided you with today. With that said, I think these examples can paint a clearer picture of the circumstances that you need to be aware of. Along with your attorney, look into your options and you can plan a course for your case that benefits you and your child.

How will a judge determine that your child is disabled?

The definition of “disabled” changes depending on who or what group you are asking. The DMV may find your grandmother to be disabled just based on a note sent by her doctor. The military may declare you to be disabled when you are not able to pass several mental or physical tests. Social Security makes disability determinations based on the ability to work and earn a sufficient income for yourself to live on.

Your family court judge has their criteria to look to when determining whether or not your child suffers from a disability. Whether your child requires substantial care and personal supervision because of mental or physical impairment is an important part of the judge’s analysis. Those impairments must also render your child unable to care for himself or to provide a basic level of self-support. These impairments must be in place before your child’s 18thbirthday, as well.

If you are trying to establish in your divorce that your child is disabled, you are likely trying to do the same through Social Security to establish SSI benefits for him or her. The impairment must be expected to last for at least 12 months or result in the death of your child to be approved for SSI. AS I mentioned earlier, it is a job-based analysis that Social Security will undertake. If your child is not expected to be able to work on a full time, sustained basis.

It is likely that if your child has already been approved for SSI benefits, he or she would also meet the first part of the disabled test for Texas family courts. That is, your child would be unable to support him or herself absent monetary support from one of their parents (or both). Requiring constant supervision and care is not necessarily a part of the SSI analysis, but it would follow that requiring constant and around the clock, care would mean that your child is also unable to perform substantial gainful activities in the workplace.

If your child has not yet been examined by Social Security for benefits, then your child’s doctor’s will need to act as witnesses in a trial or hearing to help establish their disability. Often teachers will work closely with special needs children and are therefore great at testifying as to their limitations currently and their prognosis in the future. These folks have direct experiences with your child and are oftentimes stronger witnesses than medical experts who know nothing of your child beyond the medical records provided to them.

You may want to consider videotaping your child throughout a day just to give the judge an idea of what a typical day looks like for your child. What special needs does your child have? Do you have to go to great lengths to feed, bathe or care for your child? This can be especially powerful evidence if your ex-spouse testifies that your child’s condition is not that severe and that child support after adulthood is reached would not be necessary.

More on child support for disabled children in tomorrow’s blog post

Thank you for choosing to spend part of your day with us here on our blog. We enjoy sharing relevant information with you and helping the people in our community. If you have any questions about today’s blog 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 learn more about family law, to ask questions of an experienced family law attorney and to receive feedback about your particular circumstances.

Curated by Texas Bar Today. Follow us on Twitter @texasbartoday.



Read More –>

What should parents do about exchanging their children under a Texas standard possession order when school is not in session due to COVID-19?

What should parents do about exchanging their children under a Texas standard possession order when school is not in session due to COVID-19?

Originally published by The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC Blog.

This is a question that the family law attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan have been receiving with great frequency since the middle of March. Most family court orders in Texas determine possession and visitation based on the school year calendar for the school district or school that your child attends. Without that reference point many parents were left scratching their heads as to how to proceed. With there being some question as to what will happen with school starting up (or not) in the Fall, we figured it was a good idea to continue to provide answers to these questions as we head into the summer months.

If you have been keeping your child on a set schedule with at home learning then you and your family will be ahead of the game at least when it comes to maintaining a structured environment. Many children, however, are left to fend for themselves due to a range of circumstances. Talking to your children about these abnormal times can help them to process these changes instead of just reacting to them without any context about how or why they are occurring in the first place.

Since your child lives apart from both parents you can utilize this time as a great opportunity to begin to focus on co-parenting and working together to coordinate your messages to your children, child care during the summer and what you all will plan to do during the fall if school does not start up on time at the end of summer. As unpleasant as it can be to work directly with your ex-spouse on situations like this I can tell you from experiences working with many parents in our community that it is best for your children.

What are family law attorneys advising their clients during this time?

It is beneficial to have an attorney in your corner who not only knows the law but can guide you as far as what to do in the event that a problem comes up associated with possession or visitation. If you have an ex-spouse who is not honoring your court orders or has decided to not be flexible with you during this difficult time then you may need to hire an attorney to help you sort of your options.

Without knowing your particular situation, it is tough to give specific advice. If you do want to talk with experienced family law attorneys then you should contact our office today. We can schedule you for a no strings attached, free of charge consultation via phone or video. It’s in these conversations where your specific questions can be answered. Otherwise, we will do our best in today’s blog post to provide general advice that you can apply to your life.

I think one piece of advice that is not legal in nature is that you and your family should focus on one thing above all else right now: your health. This means that you should be aware of what the government is advising you to do as far as staying healthy. However, that does not mean that you should not work with your doctor and the pediatrician for your children as well. Common sense (which isn’t so common anymore) cannot be ignored during this time, either.

Showing your child how to act in a tough circumstance can be a lesson that sticks with your child for the rest of your life. More in caught than taught with children, in my opinion. I know that with my kids they will often “forget” something that I tell them, but they will remember vividly the things I do. The habits that you display for your children as far as your health and how to take care of yourself are incredibly important for your children during this time.

Simple things that we take for granted are habits that need to be ingrained into your child starting now. This means handwashing before and after meals and making sure that the surfaces in your home are regularly cleaned seem like little things in the grand scheme of things. However, I think we can all attest to the fact that little things can make a big difference in the lives of our families right now.

Social distancing a concept that we are all undoubtedly familiar with at this stage of the game. The idea of distancing yourself from people who may or may not be ill makes sense and in theory should have been something that we did even before COVID-19 or the coronavirus became parts of our vocabulary. We should all be making sure that our kids understand why we are behaving like we are and that they begin to keep in mind how to protect themselves from sickness.

Finally, staying healthy means keeping up with the news at events warrant it. I am not saying that keeping the cable news networks on your phone or television all day long is a smart thing to do. In fact, doing that may actually do more harm than good. However, you should find a reputable news source and refer back to it when updates occur in our area. For example, as the governor begins to roll out various openings for businesses you should know when and if those changes impact you and your family.

Help your child to keep things in perspective

Your child may be one, seven or seventeen years old. Depending on the age of your child you need to be able to help him or her be aware of the changes that are ongoing as we begin to live our lives in the age of COVID-19. Eventually there will be a vaccine for this virus. Eventually we will be able to live our lives more normally than we have the past seven weeks. However, we are not there quite yet. As a result, we need to help guide our kids through this time.

That does not mean that our kids need to live in constant fear of becoming ill, getting others sick or seeing family members get sick. Someone they know may get sick, but you should help your child to understand that we all have a responsibility to keep ourselves healthy. That is how we can show responsibility to others, as well. Striking a balance between staying healthy, distancing ourselves in public when need be and educating our children on steps they can take in the meantime to keep a proper perspective on this virus.

Look to your court orders when deciding how to proceed with possession and visitation

Unless you and your child’s other parent are able to come to a mutual understanding and agreement on alternative set ups for visitation and possession, you will need to abide by your court orders. Dig out a copy and make sure that you understand what is expected of you. Those orders are not optional and do not stop working in case of pandemic. They are still the rules and you need to follow them until told otherwise by the judge from your court.

The tough part about that is your schedule and ability to care for your children during this time may have changed a great deal. For instance, if you are ill, live with a person who is ill or are a member of the “at risk” population, then you may want to allow your child’s other parent to care for your child at least for the next few weeks. Again, getting the coronavirus does not mean that you will get ill. It does not mean that worse will happen to you. However, if we are aware of the virus being passed from person to person there is no use risking your health or that of your child’s.

It would make a ton of sense for you and your child’s other parent to work out between yourselves how you would handle a situation where one of you get sick. Hopefully that never happens but you want to be prepared. Until that would occur I think it would generally be best for little to change in regard to your court orders. For one, changing court orders between yourselves will become difficult to enforce. Secondly, it will be good for your child to live their life as consistently as possible in these days where there is no school.

If you and your child’s other parent can come to an agreement on an alternative scenario for possession or visitation this week, your circumstances may change next week and one of you would simply need to change their mind for the agreed to scenario to go up in smoke. This will cause anger, frustration and a disruption to your child’s schedule. It also promotes (in my opinion) a constant degree of negotiating and back and forth between you all when it comes to modifying the orders on the fly.

The whole point of going to court, hiring attorneys and submitting them to a judge for approval was to avoid being in a situation where those orders stop working right away or are able to be changed without a great deal of thought. Coming up with new orders on the fly with your ex-spouse may work for a short period of time but in the long run may cause more problems than it solves. Talk to your ex-spouse as soon as you can about how you want to handle future periods of possession/visitation that are disrupted by this virus.

Do not try to hide your being ill if you do get sick

At this point, I’m going to guess that a lot of us know a person who has gotten sick with COVID-19. Whether or not the person got gravely ill or was just under the weather, the sickness has spread to the point of most of us having come into contact with it previously. You may have even considered what you would do if you do get sick and have a visitation time period coming up with your child. You wouldn’t want to get him sick but you also do not want to miss out on a period of visitation.

What you should do is be completely honest with your child’s other parent about your situation. If you think that you have the virus or are just sick generally speaking, then it is not wise to be with your child right now if you can avoid it. This is when working directly with your ex-spouse on coming up with visitation arrangements is a good thing to do. Our lives have all changed as a result of this virus- at least temporarily. It would make sense that visitation and possession would change as well.

You should make sure that your ex-spouse has a plan (and that you do, too) if the other one gets sick. Alternative child-care, transportation logistics, extended family who can help, etc. all need to be worked out before either one of you falls ill. This is no longer a situation where you can just say that you got sick out of the blue. We are all aware of what can happen as a result of this virus. Now it is up to us as parents to help keep our children safe.

Questions about possession and visitation in the age of COVID-19? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan appreciate the time that you spent with us on our blog today. We post unique content here every day so we encourage you to return tomorrow, as well. In the meantime, if you have any questions about the material that we have discussed in this blog post please do not hesitate to contact our office. We can schedule a free of charge consultation for you with one of our licensed family law attorneys. These consultations can occur over the phone or via video to better suit your needs as we hopefully transition back into a more normal, and virus-free, routine.

Curated by Texas Bar Today. Follow us on Twitter @texasbartoday.



Read More –>

Who wins between Agent and Trustee?

Who wins between Agent and Trustee?

Originally published by Paul Premack.

This column was first published in the San Antonio Express-News and other Hearst Newspapers on April 24, 2020.


Dear Mr. Premack: I have a Durable POA for my Dad, who is still alive but has been declared incompetent.  My Dad has a Revocable Trust that has my brother and me listed as Co-Trustees. While my Dad is alive does the Durable POA take precedence or is the Trust in effect because my Dad has been declared incompetent? Thank you. – VB

 

Your father had prepared a trust-based estate plan, including a revocable living trust and a durable power of attorney. If you dig deeper, it is very likely that his attorney also prepared for him a Will to back-up the trust, advance medical directives in case of illness, and a deed conveying his home to the trustee of the trust.

 

However, you say your father was later “declared incompetent”. By whom? If a court following proper legal procedure found him to be incapacitated, it is highly likely that the court appointed a guardian to control his individual assets and to make his medical decisions. The court’s order would then have voided your father’s durable power of attorney and his medical power of attorney. But the court’s order would have had no effect on the trust. 

 

On the other hand, if the declaration of incompetence is in a doctor’s letter, the letter is evidence of incapacity but is not a legal finding of incapacity. It would not void his durable power of attorney or his medical power of attorney. And if the trust agreement contains a provision, signed by your father, saying a doctor’s letter is adequate to invoke certain restrictions under the trust agreement, then it would affect the trust’s administration. You should consult with the attorney who wrote your dad’s trust for a specific guidance on that point. 

 

Go back in time for a moment to the date your father signed the trust and other legal documents. On that date, creating the trust split your father’s domain into two parts. The already existing domain was your father’s individual ownership and control over his assets and his decisions. This individual domain includes handling his taxes, government benefits, personal investments, insurance policies, etc. It can be delegated by him to an Agent under a durable power of attorney or can be shifted by a court to a guardian if the court rules your father incapacitated.

 

The other domain was created anew by the trust. The trust domain is limited to any asset your father conveyed to the trust. The trust’s domain is controlled by the trustee (or co-trustees) named by your father in the trust agreement. The trustee cannot manage your father’s individual domain, it can only manage assets which have been conveyed into the trust. 

 

Consequently, the durable power of attorney takes precedence over his individual domain while the trust takes precedence over the trust’s domain. They do not compete with each other, with one side winning and other losing. Rather, they are complementary and should be used in harmony to provide appropriate care and support for your father.

 

The only overlap between the two domains must be explicitly granted by your father in the documents. For instance, the Durable POA might state that the Agent has authority to convey assets to the trust, or to remove assets from the trust. The Trust might state that it can be amended by your father or by his Agent. If the Agent is not specifically granted a power related to the trust, the Agent likely does not have that power. The trustee controls the trust domain, and the Agent under the durable power of attorney under controls your father’s individual domain. 


Paul Premack is a Certified Elder Law Attorney, handling Wills and Trusts, Probate, and Elder Law issues. He is licensed to practice law in Texas and Washington. View past legal columns or submit free questions on those legal issues via www.Premack.com.

Curated by Texas Bar Today. Follow us on Twitter @texasbartoday.



Read More –>

Spousal support in Texas: What it means

Originally published by On behalf of Laura Dale.

After a marriage ends, spousal support in Texas is not a guarantee. Even then, it is limited to whatever is necessary to provide for the receiving spouse’s minimum basic needs.

What does that mean? Well, for starters, spousal support is limited to no more than $5,000 per month or 20% of the paying spouse’s income — whichever is smaller. However, the exact definition of what equals a spouse’s “minimum basic needs” isn’t clearly defined. That gives judges — and dependent spouses — a little leeway.

Some of the most common factors a judge might consider when setting a spousal support payment include:

  • A mortgage or rent payment
  • Utility payments
  • Car notes
  • Health insurance premiums
  • Medical expenses
  • Monthly groceries

Spousal support is generally designed to be temporary relief while the dependent spouse tries to gain their financial footing. It’s generally only awarded for five, seven or 10 years (depending on the duration of the marriage) — and only so long as the dependent spouse is still unable to meet their own basic needs.

Exactly what makes a dependent spouse unable to meet their own basic needs can vary from situation to situation, but some common examples include spouses who have put aside their own career developments to take care of the home or family. A spouse who develops a physical or mental disability during the marriage may also reasonably expect support. Other spouses may be awarded support so that they can more easily return to school or develop a trade.

If you hope to receive spousal support after your marriage ends, it’s smart to talk over your expectations and hopes with an experienced advocate.

Curated by Texas Bar Today. Follow us on Twitter @texasbartoday.



Read More –>