Adoptions Attorney Leslie Barrows
Separate and community property division in Texas divorce 
 

Texas is a community property state and many people believe that means in a divorce each spouse gets an even half of everything, owned by both spouses, added together and divided down the middle. It is true that many marital assets are evenly divided, however there are more factors involved. The Texas Family Code defines community property as all property acquired during the marriage, other than separate property.[i] The property each spouse brings to a marriage, such as furnishings and personal items, is considered separate property. Additionally, separate property includes assets and items received by gift, through a will or an inheritance. An amount of money recovered in a personal injury lawsuit is also separate property.

There is a rebuttable presumption that all property in a marriage is community property.

The presumption in Texas law is that all the property owned by a married couple is community property, and subject to equal division. The individual, who claims that certain assets are separate property, has the burden of proving that the asset was owned before the marriage or otherwise is separate property as defined by Texas law. Separate property can become community property through the commingling of assets. An example of commingled property is a gift of money that is spent by the recipient spouse on home repairs or an investment, and once the money is spent, it is no longer traceable or identifiable, as it becomes part of the value of the home or investment. To preserve the separate nature of property, it is best to keep that property separate from the marriage, in a separate financial account with documentation of the source of funds, for example.

Gifts are usually considered a good thing, but they can also lead to contested litigation.

Money given within a family, unless it is documented, can be the subject of disagreements and litigation during a divorce. The issue is whether the money was given to one spouse or was intended for the benefit of both. Texas law includes a presumption that money given by a mother to a son, for example, is intended for the benefit of the son as part of the natural parent-child relationship. This presumption, however, is rebuttable and the party in a divorce can challenge the presumption and present evidence supporting a claim regarding the intended beneficiary of a gift.

Using the example of the gift of money from mother to son, if the money is used by the son to make a purchase that both spouses equally use, such as hot tub, it may be considered mixed property. Mixed property is another classification that is a blend of separate and community property.

Once property is classified, the community property can be divided and allocated.

Property distribution and settlement among spouses can involve a calculation of the value of separate property and a credit toward each. After the separate property is identified, the marital property can be divided. The division may be an equal split down the middle or it can be increased or decreased based on a variety of factors included in the Texas Family Code chapter on property division.

Judges can determine which spouse receives what items of property and the division of cash assets, however, most attorneys can advise their clients on what the judge is likely to do, and urge the parties to compromise and settle their claims to property by agreement and save time and resources they would otherwise spend at hearing and trial on property division.

In many cases, the classification of property is addressed in a pre-marital agreement.

While some young couples barely have enough money to take their honeymoon, others come to a marriage with significant assets they wish to protect and keep separate. A pre-marital agreement, entered into by both parties, can identify assets, name their source and classification as separate property, for example. If however, the parties commingle the separate property, the pre-marital agreement may not be effective in a divorce and property division. Attorneys who work with clients seeking pre-marital agreements have the opportunity to advise the client about not commingling or mixing separate property to the extent it would lose its classification.

Many marriages end up in divorce over impassable disagreements among spouses over money and property. Even the threat of filing for divorce could turn a comment about “who gets what” can lead to the set of circumstances where the spouses end up in divorce and property division. Knowing how Texas law generally applies to property in a marriage is important for anyone interested in getting married, as well as for those who are married and considering divorce.  

The Barrows Firm represents spouses in divorce with a variety of complex financial and matters.

If you would like more information about The Barrows Firm, P.C., please contact the firm by calling (817) 481-1583. The Barrows Firm is located downtown Fort Worth at 500 East Belknap Street, near the Tarrant County Courthouse and the Tarrant County Family Law Center.

You can follow The Barrows Firm on social media and find important articles and resources about Texas law and how it may affect you or your family. The Barrows Firm is on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. To read client endorsements and reviews of Attorney, Leslie Barrows, please visit her Avvo.com profile.

 

[i] Texas Family Code, Chapter 3, General Rules for Separate and Community Property.

Income tax issues and options in divorce and family law 
 

During an open divorce case, the parties identify all the income, assets and debts of the marital estate, which are divided between spouses based on Texas law and the Family Code rules applied to each individual case. The Temporary Orders hearing in family court is the proceeding at which the Court orders the preliminary division of financial responsibilities and property.[i] Child support and spousal maintenance are addressed at the Temporary Orders hearing, for which there are tax implications. The Temporary Orders hearing may also include tax liability and issues regarding tax filing status and dependency exemptions. Tax issues can be negotiated among the parties to reach agreements on financial issues. When the individuals in divorce are able to independently decide among tax filing options, a financial and tax advisor can identify the financial benefits and burdens associated with various options.

Tax consequences of child and spousal support

Child support and alimony referred to as spousal maintenance are often awarded on an interim basis in the Temporary Orders. Child support payments are not deductible by the parent paying child support and the recipient parent may not taxed on child support payments received.[ii] The party paying maintenance can deduct those amounts on their income tax return. The spouse receiving maintenance payments must report the amounts as income.[iii] Note however, that voluntary money given between spouses, to pay the other’s rent, mortgage or expenses is not considered maintenance, for purposes of income taxes; only court-ordered maintenance has tax consequences.

Tax exemptions for dependents

The custodial parent who has the child for the greater part of the year, and who is identified in the Temporary Orders as the custodial parent, receives the right to claim the dependency exemption and tax credit for a child, unless otherwise ordered or agreed to by the parties.[iv] The parent entitled to the dependent exemption can offer the exemption to the other parent. If there are other income and expense obligations, the exchange of a child tax exemption may be in lieu of other financial options during the division of the parties’ finances. The IRS Code does not allow both parents to claim a tax exemption, and since it may not be shared, the parties who want to split the tax benefit can estimate the amount of tax benefit and address the amount in a divorce financial agreement.

Tax filing status options

Deciding whether to file jointly or separately depends on your marital status on December 31, of the preceding year.[v] If you were still legally married on the last day of the year, with your divorce pending, you may file a joint return and receive the benefit of a lower tax burden because certain tax benefits are not available for an individual who files a separate return. Despite the tax consequences there are some situations in which filing as married filing separately makes sense. For example, when your spouse refuses to cooperate or you are concerned they may not be accurately reporting their income and expenses, and you fear that filing a joint return with them could subject you to the liability of a tax audit.

Head of Household is another tax filing status option, where you may be considered single despite not yet being divorced or legally separated as of December 31 of the preceding year.[vi] Heads of household filers often pay fewer taxes those filing as single because you are entitled to more deductions and benefits. To qualify for Head of Household status there are requirements you must meet:

  1. You paid for more than half of the housing and property maintenance payments of the home during the tax year;
  2. For more than six months your spouse was not living with you in the home;
  3. Your dependent child lived in the home with you for more than half of the taxable year; and
  4. You have the right to claim the dependent exemption for your child.

Dividing income and assets in an open divorce

If during your divorce, you sell the marital home there may be capital gains tax liability. Income received from all sources during the tax year must be included in your tax return. Each spouse has an equal right to the income derived by jointly held property, and in divorce, usually one-half of the income from the property is taxable as to each spouse. Deductions from medical expenses, mortgage interest and other itemized deductions can be equally divided or may be solely given by one spouse to the other if both spouses agree as such.

These general rules about taxes, exemptions, credits and filing status options are subject to exceptions. In the event of prior unpaid tax obligations and other complex financial matters affecting tax obligations, a tax attorney works with the family law attorney to help clients negotiate the best tax positions based on their facts and circumstances.

The Barrows Firm represents spouses in divorce with a variety of complex financial and matters.

If you would like more information about The Barrows Firm, P.C., please contact the firm by calling (817) 481-1583. The Barrows Firm is located downtown Fort Worth at 500 East Belknap Street, near the Tarrant County Courthouse and the Tarrant County Family Law Center.

You can follow The Barrows Firm on social media and find important articles and resources about Texas law and how it may affect you or your family. The Barrows Firm is on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. To read client endorsements and reviews of Attorney, Leslie Barrows, please visit her Avvo.com profile.

 

[i] Nolo Legal Encyclopedia, Temporary Orders in Family Court: Quick Decisions on Support and Custody.

[ii] Internal Revenue Service, Dependents & Exemptions.

[iii] Internal Revenue Service, Alimony Paid.

[iv] Internal Revenue Service, Personal Exemptions and Dependents.

[v] Internal Revenue Service, Filing Status.

[vi] Internal Revenue Service, Filing Status, head of household qualifications.

Veterans Bankruptcy Legal Clinic in Dallas: Feb 3, 2016 
 

Metroplex Veterans Legal Services is hosting a Veterans bankruptcy legal clinic on February 3, 2016, at Cityplace Events, 2711 N. Haskell Avenue, Dallas, Texas 75204.

The clinic is a partnership with the State Bar of Texas, and the Bankruptcy Law Section of the State Bar of Texas.

The clinic will immediately follow the Bankruptcy 101 Course held in connection with the Advanced Consumer Bankruptcy Course.  There are bankruptcy attorneys who have agreed to take pro bono cases from this clinic.

Veterans must register on-line in advance of the clinic. Click/tap here: Metroplex Veterans Legal Services.

Please be kind and share this post to help spread the word!

Veterans Bankruptcy Clinic Feb 2016

Child support for minor and adult children with disabilities 
 

When the parents of children with special needs are divorced, the family court judge may make a child support determination to provide for necessary long-term needs for the support of a minor or adult child with a disability that prevents that child from self-supporting, and that support order can be temporary or indefinite. The First District Court of Appeals, serving the Houston area, recently upheld a trial court’s order of indefinite child support for the care of a cognitively disabled 28-year-old, in the case, Thompson v. Smith, No. 01-15-00010-CV.[i]

The Texas Family Code includes law on the issue of child support for disabled children.

The Texas Family Code provides for court-ordered child support until a child reaches the age of 18, graduates from high school, is emancipated through marriage, dies, or is disabled for an indefinite period.[ii]  In determining who will be ordered to pay child support, the court considers the financial ability of each parent, whose rights have not been terminated, to pay support, based on the facts and circumstances in every matter brought before the court by a party seeking court-ordered support. Where the issue of indefinite support arises in connection with a minor or adult child with disability, the court weighs the factors involved in the required care and support for the disabled child.

The court may order support for a disabled child, adult or minor. Either or both parents may be required to pay child support for a disabled child upon the finding that: “(1) the child, whether institutionalized or not, requires substantial care and personal supervision because of a mental or physical disability and will not be capable of self-support; and (2) the disability exists, or the cause of the disability is known to exist, on or before the 18th birthday of the child.[iii]” When the court orders the payment of child support for a disabled child, the court will also determine which parent or person will have physical custody or guardianship of the child in order to receive support payments, and in some cases the court may order payments directly to a disabled child over the age of 18.

Several factors in Thompson v. Smith were considered by the court in awarding indefinite child support for the parties’ adult child with permanent disabilities.

Mark Thompson and Karen Smith divorced in 1992 when their daughter, J.L., was seven years old. By agreement of parties, Thompson provided child support for J.L. and the parties other children under the standard child support provisions in the Family Code. Smith petitioned the trial court to order Thompson provide support for J.L. in 2013, when J.L. was 28-years-old. “At trial, the evidence showed that at birth, J.L. had a congenital defect that caused the malformation of her jaw and tongue, and aparaxia, a condition caused by brain damage that affects motor skills. In addition, when J.L. was approximately five months old, she suffered an injury; she has been intellectually disabled ever since.[iv]

The court heard evidence from the parties, determined that J.L. was unable to retain information on a day-to-day basis, and needed supervision and assistance with daily hygiene and several basic life functions. The evidence also proved that J.L. was not able to obtain a driver’s license, prepare meals and her emotional instability made it difficult and impracticable that J.L. would ever be able to maintain basic employment to contribute to her financial needs. In this case, her mother, Smith indicated that she would be J.L.’s primary caregiver and would provide for her needs. In some instances, a child with permanent disabilities will reside at a care facility or with a third-party caregiver, who may receive support payments, when a primary custodial parent is unable to provide necessary care. The court also considered the availability of additional benefits such as Social Security Insurance (SSI) in balancing the availability of financial assistance and J.L.’s needs for support.[v]

After considering the financial ability of Thompson and Smith as well as the availability of SSI benefits, the appellate court reviewed the trial court’s ruling along with the monthly expenses related to J.L.’s basic living expenses and medical bills. The appellate court upheld the trial court’s findings that J.L. was disabled and required care and supervision, and the order for continuing child support was proper.[vi]

The Barrows Firm can provide additional information and resources on temporary and indefinite child support for minor and adult children with disabilities.

If you would like more information about The Barrows Firm, P.C., please contact the firm by calling (817) 481-1583. The Barrows Firm is located downtown Fort Worth at 500 East Belknap Street, near the Tarrant County Courthouse and the Tarrant County Family Law Center. You can follow The Barrows Firm on social media and find important articles and resources about Texas law and how it may affect you or your family. The Barrows Firm is on Twitter and Facebook. To read client endorsements and reviews of Attorney, Leslie Barrows, please visit her Avvo.com profile.

 

[i] Texas First District Court of Appeals, Thompson v. Smith, No. 01-15-00010-CV, Opinion issued Dec. 17, 2015.

[ii] Tex Fam Code § 154.001, Court-Ordered Child Support

[iii] Tex Fam Code § 154.302, Court-Ordered Support for Disabled Child

[iv] See HNi at page 2/18, Background.

[v] See HNi at page 15/18, Determination of support obligation.

[vi] See HNi at page 17/18, Conclusion.

Juvenile Law Podcast: Affluenza Teen Case with Fort Worth, Texas Attorney Leslie Barrows 
 

The Barrows Firm Law Review is a monthly Internet radio show podcast featuring information about Texas family, criminal, juvenile, probate and estate planning law and events. Attorney Leslie Barrows is our featured guest today as she shares insight and information about juvenile and adult courts and the Affluenza Teen case in Tarrant County, Texas.

Juvenile Law Podcast: Affluenza Teen case in with Fort Worth Attorney Leslie Barrows

  • The juvenile court system and how it differs from adult court
  • The rationale of the Affluenza defense, was it good in theory but may have failed in this case
  • How probation works and what happens how people run into problems
  • When is it most likely an individual is pulled from the juvenile system into adult court
  • Impressions about the Affluenza Teen case and what we can learn

Leslie Barrows is the principal founder of The Barrows Firm in Fort Worth, Texas. In her firm’s main practice areas of family law, criminal defense and juvenile law, Leslie is consistently challenged with dynamic cases and clients. When winning is what matters, many in the Fort Worth area go to The Barrows Firm based on their reputation an winning track record over the past decade. Leslie Barrows earned her undergraduate degree from Sam Houston State University and she earned her law degree from the Oklahoma City University School of Law. She is a member of numerous organizations primarily focused in Tarrant County.

If you would like more information about The Barrows Firm, P.C., please contact the firm by calling (817) 481-1583. The Barrows Firm is located downtown Fort Worth at 500 East Belknap Street, near the Tarrant County Courthouse and the Tarrant County Family Law Center. You can follow The Barrows Firm on social media and find important articles and resources about Texas law and how it may affect you or your family. The Barrows Firm is on Twitter and Facebook.

Texas open carry handgun law takes effect January 1, 2016 
 

January 1, 2016, is the effective date of the new open carry law in Texas. Campus carry is part of the law; however, the campus carry provisions are not effective until August 1, 2016. A Concealed Handgun License (CHL) or equivalent gun license issued from another state is required to carry a handgun, whether openly or concealed. Police, lawyers and the justice community anticipate future questions and answers as enforcement issues arise. There are specific locations where all firearms are prohibited and private storeowners may ban open and concealed handgun carry at their locations with proper signage. The open carry debates raised awareness among many Texans, busy sharing information about the new law, as is featured in the Open Carry Texas group publication, Frequently Asked Questions Open Carry. Attorneys well-versed in Texas gun and carry law advise individual and business clients about the new laws.

New law ends Texas’ open carry handgun prohibition of more than hundred years.

Well over 100 years ago, back in 1871, the Texas legislature restricted handgun carrying. In 1995, the concealed carry law first allowed Texans to carry handguns. Meanwhile, carrying long guns is historically unrestricted in Texas; many people grew up accustomed to gun racks in pickups. Some opponents of open carry laws suggest they mark a return to the Wild West, meanwhile many Texans consider what open carry means to them. A consensus among law enforcement supposes a few die-hard folks will carry shiny pistols in decorative belt and shoulder holsters, without their jackets, under which the piece has likely always been. Meanwhile, news outlets release public service announcement videos for the benefit of people who might not be familiar with open carry or the new law, watch “What to do?” – An Open Carry PSA.

A Texas CHL is required to open and conceal-carry holstered handguns.

Texas law requires any individual carrying a handgun, whether open or concealed, to have a current and valid CHL. Out-of-state residents must have their state’s equivalent gun license. Long guns, such as hunting rifles and shotguns may still be carried without a CHL. Texans who do not have a current and valid CHL can obtain one from the Department of Public Safety (DPS) if all the eligibility requirements are satisfied. Generally, to be eligible to apply for a CHL an applicant 21 years of age, legally residing in Texas for 6 months, and without any felony convictions or pending charges or recent history of mental disability, can take a qualified CHL instruction class and submit proof to DPS and pay a standard fee to obtain a CHL.[i]

There can be exceptions and blocks to CHL eligibility such as a final determination of child support delinquency, determination of family violence[ii], or is restricted by a protective court order affecting a spousal relationship. Convictions of certain crimes in addition to felonies can block an individual from CHL eligibility. An attorney can help review the law and advise clients if they are eligible to obtain a CHL and whether any exceptions to rules may apply to individual circumstances.

It is important to note that the open carry law requires a handgun (loaded/unloaded) be kept securely in a shoulder or belt holster.  Open carry also applies to vehicles, and if you have a CHL your holstered handgun no longer needs to be concealed, but must be within arm’s reach within the vehicle.[iii]

The law prohibits carrying open and concealed handguns in certain locations, and private storeowners can prohibit you from carrying a handgun on their premises.

Texas law prohibits carrying any handgun, openly or concealed, in certain places. Generally, it is unlawful to carry a handgun in schools, school grounds, and school property where school activities and sporting events take place, government offices, polling places, racetracks, airports and perimeters, and in bar-type establishments making more than 51% revenue from the sale of alcohol. Moreover, campus carry law does not take effect until August 1, 2016.

A CHL and a lawfully carried gun do not give anyone a right to carry a handgun in a private business. Establishments wishing to ban handguns on their premises may lawfully create such a gun ban by conspicuously displaying the legally required sign. Sign 30.06 (preventing concealed carry) and a 30.07 sign (preventing open carry) must meet Texas state law requirements to be considered legally effective to provide patrons with notice of a gun ban on premises[iv]. Additionally, any private business owner may at their discretion, ask someone carrying a handgun to leave the premises, and a failure to comply may subject the individual to criminal trespass and unlawful carry charges.

Law enforcement is being trained in the new law, and how and when a CHL must be produced.

Lawyers and individuals in the criminal justice system may be called to interpret how the new open carry law applies to certain individuals and situations. While the law requires an individual to have a valid CHL to open or conceal carry a handgun, a law enforcement officer must have probable cause or reasonable suspicion an individual is committing or committed a crime, to demand them to produce and show their CHL.[v] A police officer may ask an open carrier to see their CHL, and that individual has the right to refuse to produce the CHL.

There are a significant number of law enforcement personnel in the state of Texas and training every individual on the new handgun laws is an extensive process. It is possible a law enforcement officer could make an arrest or improper demand to produce a CHL. It is reasonable to expect arrests and charges that can be challenged in court as legal issues arise.

The Barrows Firm can provide additional information and resources on carrying a handgun in Texas and how the new law intersects with the Family Code.

If you would like more information about The Barrows Firm, P.C., please contact the firm by calling (817) 481-1583. The Barrows Firm is located downtown Fort Worth at 500 East Belknap Street, near the Tarrant County Courthouse and the Tarrant County Family Law Center. You can follow The Barrows Firm on social media and find important articles and resources about Texas law and how it may affect you or your family. The Barrows Firm is on Twitter and Facebook.

[i] Texas Department of Public Safety, Handgun Licensing.

[ii] Texas Family Code, Protective Orders and Family Violence.

[iii] OpenCarryTexas.org, Frequently Asked Questions Open Carry.

[iv] Texas Department of Public Safety, New laws for Handgun Licensing Program.

[v] See HNiii above.

Surviving the holiday season with The Barrows Firm 
 

The Barrows Firm Law Review is a monthly Internet radio show podcast featuring information about Texas family, criminal, juvenile, probate and estate planning law and events. Attorney Leslie Barrows is our featured guest today as she shares insight and information about the pitfalls of the holiday season and how we can prepare for a smooth transition to the New Year.

Surviving the holiday season with The Barrows Firm

  • Preparing for the holidays when you are in a divorce or family law case
  • Tips for seasoned co-parents who want the create the best memories for their kids
  • Making it safely to and from holiday gatherings, DWI enforcement and no refusal weekends
  • Planning events and social gatherings to keep the conversation light and avoid talking divorce
  • Discussing estate planning and wills with family members and preparing for the future
  • Coping with the loss of a loved one during the holidays and moving to a new normal
  • Veterans issues and the stress they and their families face this time of year

Leslie Barrows is the principal founder of The Barrows Firm in Fort Worth, Texas. In her firm’s main practice areas of family law, criminal defense and juvenile law, Leslie is consistently challenged with dynamic cases and clients. When winning is what matters, many in the Fort Worth area go to The Barrows Firm based on their reputation an winning track record over the past decade. Leslie Barrows earned her undergraduate degree from Sam Houston State University and she earned her law degree from the Oklahoma City University School of Law. She is a member of numerous organizations primarily focused in Tarrant County.

If you would like more information about The Barrows Firm, P.C., please contact the firm by calling (817) 481-1583. The Barrows Firm is located downtown Fort Worth at 500 East Belknap Street, near the Tarrant County Courthouse and the Tarrant County Family Law Center.

Texas DWI: No Refusal weekends in Tarrant County 
 

The Texas DWI “No Refusal” law allows law enforcement to take you to jail and draw blood if police pull you over under the suspicion of driving while intoxicated, and you refuse to cooperate with the officer’s investigation and request to submit to a breath test. In order for a law enforcement officer to arrest you for refusal and take you to jail to take your blood for evidence of intoxication, they traffic stop must be reasonable and the officer must have probable cause that the driver is intoxicated. The officer can apply for an expedited warrant from an on-duty night judge or magistrate to take a blood sample, at one of the central blood-draw locations, for evidence to arrest and charge the driver with DWI. “Search warrants for blood draws can be hand-delivered or transmitted electronically by fax or email.[i]

About No-Refusal Weekends in Tarrant County and around the DFW Metroplex

There are several “no-refusal weekends,” during the holiday season, and each county designates dates around holidays when no-refusal will apply. In Tarrant County, anyone arrested and charged with DWI have been included in a publications on the district attorney’s website. The Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s office publishes no refusal press releases (See November 25, 2015 Thanksgiving Weekend No-Refusal) as well as they mention no-refusal weekends on the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office Facebook page. Christmas holiday no-refusal typically starts Christmas Eve and runs through New Year’s Day weekend.

The Texas Transportation Code sections controlling the law and procedure for blood draws, implied consent and a driver’s withdrawal of implied consent are complicated and every case can contain police errors of procedure and application of Texas law. The underlying cause for the traffic stop and the officer’s probable cause to seek a search warrant to take a blood or breath specimen may be challenged in criminal court. Even despite proper training, law enforcement officers can make mistakes. Drivers arrested and charged with DWI on no-refusal weekends have a right to challenge the arrest and charge.

About diversion programs for DWI offenders and options available to avoid jail time

DWI diversion programs such as Drug Impact Rehabilitation Enhanced Comprehensive Treatment (DIRECT) program, the  Felony Alcohol Intervention Program (FAIP) or the Deferred Prosecution Program for youth offenders age 17 – 24 might be available to individuals who qualify under diversion program criteria. These programs offer offenders opportunities to avoid incarceration if they comply with the strict program requirements.

With increased enforcement of Texas DWI laws and the use of no-refusal weekends by law enforcement and the county district attorney’s offices, many more people take note and make plans to attend social gatherings and events with an appointed designated sober driver. The rise in popularity of affordable ride services such as Uber and Lyft also make it easy to get around without drinking and driving.

The Barrows Firm wishes everyone to be safe on the roads. Attorneys are available to answer any questions about DWI, no-refusal weekends, and the laws contained in the Texas Transportation Code.

If you would like more information about The Barrows Firm, P.C., please contact the firm by calling (817) 481-1583. The Barrows Firm is located downtown Fort Worth at 500 East Belknap Street, near the Tarrant County Courthouse and the Tarrant County Family Law Center.

[i] Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Tarrant County’s DWI no-refusal plans intact after court ruling, by Mitch Mitchell, Nov. 26, 2014.

Holiday Divorce Tips: Making new traditions and keeping a sense of family 
 

Divorce and family law matters can add pressure and anxiety during the already stressful holiday season. One constant in our lives is change. We all think back to the best years and holidays we shared with our families and friends, and even when you reunite the same people and recreate holiday traditions from year to year, we all get one year older every year and every holiday season is unique. When we recognize every new holiday season allows us an opportunity to make new memories, we can open the door with a sense of optimism and anticipation of great things to come.

The following list of suggestions can make the holidays easier on everyone involved in divorce and family law matters who still need to wear a smile.

  1. Plan and prepare for the anxiety moments. Hiding from and ignoring upcoming holidays and spending time in solitude might sound easier than seeing people, but it can only lead to self-pity and when drugs and alcohol are available, some really negative outcomes are possible. Instead, make your plans well ahead of time to know exactly who will be going where, what may be discussed and how people may react to news about the divorce or related matter, which often involves children. Make a list of all the possible questions people could ask, and write down some simple answers to satisfy others, acknowledging them and their concern for the situation, and then moving on to another topic. By preparing for anxiety ahead of time, the actual holiday event might not be as scary.
  2. Remaining flexible in scheduling is important to ensuring people get to where they need to be without any unnecessary confrontation. Most of the time a temporary orders hearing in a divorce or child custody matter already states which parent will have what time with children. Prepare to tell yourself and children that the spirit of the holiday and what it means is the important part, and the exact date upon which everyone celebrates is flexible. Children are happy when their parents are happy, and nothing gets in the way of happiness more than a battle over holiday logistics.
  3. Creating new and special traditions can be a fun way to create something new, something special that can be enjoyed by parents and children when the traditions and conditions of past years are no longer possible. Focus more on creating a new tradition or activity as opposed to when it takes place, because schedules and availabilities can change. Even the choice of food at holiday celebrations can be part of a new tradition, a new family history.
  4. Celebrate holidays together as a co-parenting family, with your ex-spouse and children. If it is possible that mom, dad and kids can all be together in the same room without trauma, a civilized holiday event can give everyone involved a sense of unity and awareness of who stands where and how interfamily relationships work now and in the future. The “family” celebration does not need to be the focal point of the holiday, it can be a new tradition, like going out together for a move, bowling or a sporting event; neutral locations often keep us all on our best behavior.
  5. Spend more time with your friends and other family members when the kids are not there. Sitting home alone on holidays is healthy if that is what makes you really feel the best. It is normal to not want to be a burden on others, but reaching out to other people and friends and asking them what they are doing for the holidays might lead to an invitation to do something fun and take attention away from any holiday awkwardness.
  6. Take some great pictures of you and your family and share them with others to let people know things are okay, even if you have to fake it. You and your other family members can focus on a picture and say how good everyone looks and that may be easier than digging down to talk about sensitive topics and risk upsetting someone.
  7. Make a list of statements to read and consider in the face of anxiety over the holidays:
    1. The holidays are not about you. Everyone is trying to get through them;
    2. The holidays are not about winning or losing compared to your ex-spouse;
    3. This holiday will never be like the last nor exactly like future holidays;
    4. Before you know it, the dinners and celebrations are over and a new day comes.

The attorneys at The Barrows Firm wish everyone a happy and civil holiday season, filed with joy and hope. We all understand these times may be difficult and feeling like a real person is important. Hopefully these holiday tips are helpful, even if reading them makes you think, “I can do this!”

If you would like more information about The Barrows Firm, P.C., please contact the firm by calling (817) 481-1583. The Barrows Firm is located downtown Fort Worth at 500 East Belknap Street, near the Tarrant County Courthouse and the Tarrant County Family Law Center.

 

 

November is National Adoption Awareness Month 
 

National Adoption Day, while officially observed on November 21, 2015, is celebrated in Texas counties at adoption events all November long. Thursday November 20th is the Tarrant County National Adoption Day at the Tarrant County Family Center, where starting at 8:00 a.m., more than 40 families will adopt children into their families. Many of the adoptable children are step and foster children who are already living with happy, safe and nurturing families and the legal adoptions makes these children permanent family members. Texas has an increasing number of young children removed from birth mothers, into the foster system, because of drug addiction and other threats to children. These children need and deserve the stability of loving families and proper homes.

Child adoption in the State of Texas and the Gladney Center for Adoption in Fort Worth

Texas Department of Family and Protective Services oversees foster care and adoption programs, its Texas Adoption Resource Exchange website offers information and resources about adoption.  Texas adoption law allows a mature and financially stable and responsible adult, age 21 or older to adopt any child age 12 years and younger, without consent (children 12 and older must consent), so long as the adopting adult satisfies criminal background and social services checks and investigations. There is a six-month (may be waived) home residency requirement before finalizing adoptions, which is usually satisfied where the children are foster or step children living with the adopting parents. After the background check and home study there is often, a training and education conducted for the new family to assess the fit and whether adoption is best for the family.

The Gladney Center for Adoption in Fort Worth, Texas recently celebrated 125 years in leading as a pioneering voice for improving the lives of children, adoptive families and birth parents. Founded in 1887 as Texas Children’s Home and Aid Society, the organization has placed at least 30,000 orphaned children with new families. The Gladney Center’s namesake is the late Ms. Edna Gladney, who served as the Superintendant of the Texas Children’s Home and Aid Society and was instrumental in her efforts to help Texas pass a 1936 bill legally removing “illegitimacy” from birth records, and in 1951, helping Texas give adopted children the same inheritance rights as biological children.[i]

Texas adoption procedures and the role of the adoption attorney in representing adopting parents

An adult may petition the local court in their county of residence to adopt a child who may legally be adopted. A child may be adopted if the parent-child relationship as to each living parent has been terminated in a separate legal action or an action for termination is joined with the action for adoption.[ii] The attorney representing the adult petitioning to adopt will file the appropriate petition and arrange for service of legal process of the adoption action upon any legal parent of the child with legal parental rights, subject to termination in the adoption action. In cases where a spouse of a parent seeks to adopt a stepchild, the court is first asked to appoint a nonparent as a managing conservator with authority to consent to adoption of a child.

Once an adoption case is allowed to proceed by the court, a social study is ordered. The social study evaluator conducts interviews, observes, and investigates home environments and the world of people with whom the adoptive child will have contact. The petitioners seeking adoption usually pay for the social study, which also includes a review of the financial and general stability of the petitioners to ensure the best interests of an adoptive child will be met. The adoption is ready to be scheduled for a prove-up before the court, after the social study is concluded along with any remaining court requirements, if any, such as the included report of an Amicus Attorney, appointed by the court to determine the best interests of the child.

For more on Texas adoptions and procedures, listen to the podcast interview, Adoption laws and procedures in Texas with Attorney Leslie Barrows.

The Barrows Firm attorneys are active in supporting the cause to increase awareness about adoptions and juvenile matters generally. If you would like more information about The Barrows Firm, P.C., please contact the firm by calling (817) 481-1583. The Barrows Firm is located downtown Fort Worth at 500 East Belknap Street, near the Tarrant County Courthouse and the Tarrant County Family Law Center.

 

[i] Gladney Center for Adoption, website – Our Heritage

[ii] Texas Family Code Sec. 162, Adoption