While most couples do not marry expecting to divorce, it is increasingly common: roughly 50 percent of first marriages, two-thirds of second, and nearly three-quarters of third marriages end in divorce, according to Forbes. When your fortune and family matter, it is critical to be prepared and protect your interests with a highly competent Dallas divorce lawyer on your side.
The Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy‘s divorce attorneys are high-energy, tough, and no-nonsense litigators. They have decades of experience identifying and building a compelling case to protect every conceivable resource and asset, including:
- Assets owned in multiple states or countries
- Complex income streams from numerous sources, such as stock options, performance incentive payments, bonuses and award trips, royalties, and capital gains
- Valuation of personal and business real estate property, businesses, and other assets
- Equitable division of tax-deferred retirement accounts: IRAs, 401(k) plans, and pensions
- Equitable division of stock options and restricted stock
- Division of patents, copyrights, and other intellectual property
- The valuation of businesses
- Division of outstanding debts
- Treatment of trusts
- Parenting and custody plans
In any divorce, especially those involving high-net-worth individuals, the division of property is complex and vital to protecting a client’s fortune and family. The Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy’s Tarrant County divorce attorneys understand these complexities and utilize forensic accountants and business valuation experts to determine the real value and character of a client’s assets. Any assets acquired during a marriage may be eligible for equitable distribution.
Divorce Process in Fort Worth, Arlington, Grapevine, Keller, and Southlake, Texas
The divorce process will involve several steps.
Before divorce proceedings begin, one spouse must file a petition with the court for a divorce. This spouse is known as the petitioner, plaintiff, or person filing for divorce. Attorneys usually draw up the petition.
The initial petition often demands much more than the petitioner expects, such as alimony, child support, and assets. This is because the petition is a negotiation starting point.
The other spouse, the respondent, defendant, or person who did not file for divorce, has a limited time to file a response, usually admitting or denying each assertion and asking the court to deny the petitioner’s request. With the response, the respondent can also file a cross-petition, counterclaim, or cross-complaint to set forth their position on the basic facts and the relief they seek.
It is always a good idea for the respondent to file a cross-petition, especially if they have demands of their own, such as alimony, child support, or assets. Without a cross-petition, the respondent could be at a disadvantage in court.
Early in the divorce process, parties may file motions for temporary orders to address urgent issues, such as child custody, child support, alimony, or use of the marital home. However, most parties prefer to reach a temporary agreement without going to court, as this can save money on attorney fees and create a more positive impression on the judge.
Discovery is the process of gathering information about your spouse and the circumstances of your marriage. This information will help you build a strong case for trial.
In addition to gathering favorable information about yourself, it is also important to anticipate your opponent’s case. This means thinking about the allegations your spouse is likely to make and gathering evidence to refute them.
Winning a favorable judgment requires being prepared to deal with your spouse’s allegations. By anticipating your spouse’s case during discovery, you can develop a strong defense and increase your chances of success.
It is common for divorce cases to settle on the day of trial, or even during trial. Settlement agreements have several important advantages.
- Control: A settlement agreement allows you and your spouse to have more control over the outcome of your divorce. Instead of leaving your fate to the hands of a judge, you can negotiate an agreement that meets your specific needs and goals.
- Anxiety: Many clients prefer settlements to avoid the uncertainty and anxiety of a trial. Knowing that your divorce is finalized can be a relief, even if the settlement is not perfect.
- Cost: Trials can be expensive, and the cost can increase significantly as the trial date approaches. Settling can save you money on attorney fees and other expenses.
While it is tempting to negotiate directly with your spouse, it is almost always a mistake. Even if your attorney is involved, direct negotiations can lead to unrealistic expectations and miscommunication. This can make it more difficult to settle and can increase your overall legal costs.
Additional tips for negotiating a divorce settlement:
- Be prepared to compromise. It is unlikely that you will get everything you want in a settlement agreement. Be willing to give up some things to get the things that are most important to you.
- Be realistic. Consider your spouse’s needs and interests when negotiating. It is important to reach an agreement that is fair to both of you.
- Get everything in writing. Once you have reached an agreement, it is important to put it in writing and have it reviewed by an attorney. This will help to avoid future disputes.
If you are considering a divorce, it is important to speak with an experienced divorce attorney to discuss your options and protect your rights.
In many states, you will be required to attend at least one mandatory settlement conference, also known as a divorce pretrial conference. This is a meeting between the attorneys for both parties and the judge, where they will discuss the merits of the case and try to settle.
Pretrial conferences can be a valuable opportunity for both sides to fully realize the emotional and financial costs of a trial. This can lead to more rational negotiations.
The judge’s demeanor during the pretrial conference is very important. After hearing an overview of the facts, the judge may offer their opinion on the case and suggest possible settlement terms.
Some states may require a mediation of status conference in place of the divorce pretrial conference. Mediation is a process in which a neutral third party helps the parties to settle.
Tips for preparing for a divorce pretrial conference:
- Be prepared to discuss the facts of your case and your desired outcome.
- Be prepared to compromise. It is unlikely that you will get everything you want in a settlement agreement.
- Be respectful and professional to the judge and your spouse’s attorney.
If you have any questions about the divorce pretrial conference process, be sure to ask your attorney.
While a minority of divorces go to trial, the likelihood of a trial varies depending on factors such as income level, length of marriage, and the wife’s occupation. The length of a trial depends on the time allocated by the court and the number and complexity of issues to be decided. Trials can last anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks.
The petitioner (the spouse who filed for divorce) presents evidence first by calling witnesses and introducing exhibits. Once the petitioner rests, the respondent (the spouse who did not file for divorce) presents their case. After both sides have rested, the court may allow the petitioner to present rebuttal testimony to respond to the respondent’s evidence.
Opening and closing arguments are not typically used in divorce trials, but some courts allow them.
During the trial, the judge will listen to the evidence presented by both sides and make a ruling on the issues before them. The ruling may include decisions about child custody, child support, alimony, and the division of property.
If you are facing a divorce trial, it is important to be prepared. This includes working with your attorney to develop a strong case and gathering all of the necessary evidence. It is also important to be aware of the trial process and to know what to expect.
Here are some tips for preparing for a divorce trial:
- Work with your attorney to develop a case strategy. This should include identifying the key issues in your case and gathering the necessary evidence.
- Be prepared to testify. This means practicing your testimony ahead of time and being able to answer questions clearly and concisely.
- Be aware of the trial process. This includes knowing the order of events and what to expect from each witness.
- Be respectful and professional to the judge, your attorney, and your spouse’s attorney.
Divorce can be a difficult and emotional experience, but it is important to remember that you are not alone. Your attorney can help you navigate the process and protect your rights.
Divorce can trigger a torrent of emotions, from anger to anxiety to depression. But even though this is a difficult experience, you cannot simply call in sick.
Your interests (and your children’s interests) depend on your ability to push through and make rational decisions. You must separate grievances that are significantly related to your children’s welfare from those that are personally offensive to you, no matter how serious they may be.
Remember that you are not alone on this journey. Your attorney will be your primary advisor, but many of the most important considerations are outside of their purview.
Therefore, it is usually helpful to seek advice from others whose knowledge and judgment you respect, such as a counselor. Always talk to your attorney first.
Friends and family can be helpful, but they may also make things worse. Knowing when to listen means knowing when to ignore.
- Allow yourself to feel your emotions. It is important to acknowledge and process your feelings, even the difficult ones.
- Talk to someone you trust. This could be a friend, family member, therapist, or support group.
- Take care of yourself. This means eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly.
- Avoid making major life decisions during your divorce. It is important to give yourself time to heal before making any big changes.
Divorce can be a difficult and painful experience, but it is important to remember that you are not alone. There are people who care about you and want to help you through this.
Common Issues in Divorce
Divorce can involve a wide range of possible issues requiring effective resolutions. Some of the most common include:
Conservatorship is a major part of any divorce involving children in Texas. It refers to the legal right and responsibility to care for a child, including making decisions about their upbringing, education, and healthcare.
There are two types of conservatorship in Texas: joint managing conservatorship and sole managing conservatorship.
- Joint managing conservatorship: Both parents have equal rights and responsibilities to make decisions about the child’s upbringing.
- Sole managing conservatorship: One parent has the primary right and responsibility to make decisions about the child’s upbringing.
The type of conservatorship that is best for your child will depend on their specific needs and circumstances. In most cases, joint managing conservatorship is preferred, as it allows both parents to maintain a close relationship with their child. However, sole managing conservatorship may be necessary if there are concerns about the other parent’s ability to care for the child safely and effectively.
If you are going through a divorce in Texas, it is important to talk to an experienced family lawyer about your conservatorship options. A lawyer can help you understand your rights and develop a plan to protect your child’s best interests.
When deciding conservatorship, the court will consider the following factors:
- The child’s relationship with each parent
- The child’s needs and well-being
- The parents’ ability to care for the child
- The parents’ willingness to cooperate with each other
The court will also consider the child’s preference if they are old enough and mature enough to express one. If you have any questions or concerns about conservatorship, please speak with an attorney.
In Texas, both parents are required to financially support their child after a divorce. This can be done through an agreement between the parents or through a court order. If you are going through a divorce in Texas, it is important to have a Dallas family law attorney on your side to help you negotiate a fair child support order.
Factors that the court will consider when determining child support include:
- The income of both parents
- The needs of the child
- The number of children
- The day-to-day living expenses of the child
- The cost of childcare
- The cost of health insurance
- The cost of education
The court will also consider any other relevant factors, such as the child’s special needs or the parents’ earning potential.
If you are unable to agree with your spouse on a child support amount, the court will hold a hearing to determine child support. At the hearing, both parents will have the opportunity to present evidence and argue their case. The judge will then issue a child support order based on the evidence and the factors listed above.
Child support orders can be modified if there is a significant change in circumstances, such as a change in the parents’ income or the child’s needs.
Establishing paternity is another vital part of any Texas divorce or conservatorship case. While mothers automatically have parental rights at the time their child is born, fathers in Texas must establish paternity to have the same rights and responsibilities.
There are two main ways to establish paternity in Texas:
- Voluntary acknowledgment: Both parents can sign a document acknowledging the father’s paternity. This document must be filed with the Vital Statistics Unit.
- Court order: If the parents cannot agree to a voluntary acknowledgment, the father can file a petition with the court to establish paternity. The court may order the parents to undergo a paternity test.
If paternity is established, the father has the same rights and responsibilities as the mother, including the right to child custody, visitation, and support.
There are many reasons why it is important to establish paternity, including:
- Legal rights: Fathers who have not established paternity do not have the same legal rights as fathers who have. This means that they may not be able to have custody of their children, make decisions about their children’s upbringing, or receive child support.
- Financial support: Fathers who have established paternity are legally obligated to provide financial support for their children.
- Government benefits: Children who are born to married parents are automatically eligible for certain government benefits, such as Social Security and Medicare. Children born to unmarried parents may also be eligible for these benefits, but the father must establish paternity for the child to qualify.
- Emotional support: Children need to know who their father is. Establishing paternity can help children develop a healthy sense of identity and self-worth.
If you are a father in Texas and you have not established paternity, it is important to do so as soon as possible. You can contact a family law attorney to help you understand your rights and options.
Asset Division and Property Division
Marital or community property is all property and debts acquired during the marriage, regardless of which spouse acquired them, except for gifts and inheritances to one spouse.
Non-marital or separate property is all property and debts owned by one spouse before the marriage, as well as gifts and inheritances to one spouse during the marriage.
Commingled property is once non-marital property, but has become marital because it was traded in to acquire new property, repaired or enhanced during the marriage with marital funds, or used to pay non-marital debts.
Dissipation is the use of marital assets or the creation of marital debt by one spouse for non-marital purposes after the marriage has begun to unravel. The spouse found to have caused dissipation may be required to reimburse the marital estate.
A premarital agreement is a contract between two people who are planning to get married. It can be used to specify which property will be considered separate property and which property will be considered marital property.
If real estate is acquired in joint names or transferred into joint ownership during the marriage, it will generally be considered marital property. However, there are some ways to protect real estate from becoming marital property, such as creating a trust or using a marital agreement.
Business property acquired during the marriage is generally considered marital property. However, there are some ways to protect business property from becoming marital property, such as creating a business entity, such as a corporation or limited liability company.
Bank accounts and investments acquired during the marriage are generally considered marital property. However, there are some ways to protect bank accounts and investments from becoming marital property, such as keeping them separate and keeping track of all transactions.
It is important to designate beneficiaries for your assets and to have a will. If you do not have a will, state law will determine how your property is distributed.
If you are involved in a child support or spousal support case, it is important to keep your assets and income separate from your spouse’s. This will help to protect your assets and income from being used to pay child support or spousal support.
It is important to understand the different types of property and how they are treated in divorce cases. If you have any questions about property division in your divorce, you should consult with an attorney
Protection orders are often used strategically in family law cases, especially divorce cases when child custody and visitation are in dispute. This is a misuse of the system, as protection orders are intended to protect victims of abuse.
Protection orders, also known as restraining orders or domestic violence injunctions, vary in terminology by state. However, they are all powerful tools that can be used to restrict a person’s contact with another person or to prevent them from entering a certain location.
In divorce cases, some people may use protection orders to try to gain an advantage over their spouse. For example, they may file a protection order alleging abuse to obtain sole custody of the children or to force their spouse out of the marital home.
It is important to note that protection orders should only be used in cases of genuine abuse. If you are considering filing a protection order, you should consult with an attorney to make sure that you meet the legal requirements.
Here are some tips for protecting yourself from misuse of protection orders in a divorce case:
- Be aware of the signs of abuse. Abuse can be physical, emotional, or financial. If you are being abused, it is important to seek help from a professional.
- Document any abuse that occurs. This may include keeping a journal, saving text messages or emails, or taking photos or videos of injuries.
- If you are considering filing a protection order, consult with an attorney. An attorney can help you understand the legal requirements and can represent you in court.
- If you have been served with a protection order, be sure to follow the terms of the order. If you violate a protection order, you could be arrested and charged with a crime.
If you are concerned about the misuse of protection orders in your divorce case, please speak with an attorney.
Divorce Attorney in Tarrant County, TX
Are you seeking a divorce or is your spouse threatening a divorce in Fort Worth, Arlington, Grapevine, Keller, Southlake, or other cities in Tarrant County, Texas? Do not wait to get in touch with The Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy.
Call (817) 422-5350 or contact us online to take advantage of a free consultation. Our firm knows how stressful these situations can be for most people and we will work hard to lessen your burden and try to make things easier for you.