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fort worth divorce lawyerCouples who have worked long and hard to earn and maintain a significant net worth often face considerable challenges when they get divorced. Resolving the division of complex assets is usually the most challenging obstacle to overcome, but other problems are also common. High net worth couples frequently enjoy significant influence in their community, which can make privacy concerns paramount during a divorce. Alimony payments can be very difficult to negotiate in a high-net-worth divorce case. If you are a high-net-worth individual in Fort Worth and are considering divorce, here are five unique challenges to prepare yourself for. 

Sorting Assets into Marital and Non-Marital Property

Generally speaking, anything that either spouse acquires during the marriage is considered marital property. In fact, the presumption in a divorce is that all property owned by either spouse is marital property, and a spouse who wishes to claim certain property as individually belonging to him or her will need to provide convincing evidence of the property’s ownership. Spouses frequently contest property as being marital or non-marital, so be prepared to dig back into an asset’s history for proof. 

Valuing Complex Assets

Savings accounts and family vehicles may be easy to value, but complex assets like investment portfolios, business assets, art, and collectibles can be far more difficult to assess. Complex asset valuations often require specialists with industry-specific knowledge and, for assets with varying value (such as a stock portfolio), couples will need to agree on a specific valuation date so the value is not in flux throughout the divorce process. 

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Fort Worth Family Law Attorney Nathan Hatton Offers Advice to Wealthy Individuals Considering Divorce

Gather information about assets.

It isn’t always an easy task to gather information on assets, particularly in cases in which one spouse runs a business that the other does not play a large role in. However, it is prudent to take any steps that a spouse can easily take, such as making a copy of quarterly IRA statements. The more a spouse knows about marital assets, the quicker the process can move, and the lower the costs. 

Don’t make a run on the bank.

It is natural and normal to be anxious during a divorce, but spouses should not take extra money out of joint accounts. Nor should one spouse spend marital assets on any large purchases without getting an okay from the other. Don’t go on a spending spree.

Consider tax implications.

Division of assets may be taxable unless they are rolled into another qualified purchase within a specified time.  Likewise, withdraws from retirement savings accounts may occur without penalty but may be taxable. In high net worth divorces, in addition to working with a divorce attorney, spouses should expect to consult with their CPAs or other tax professionals. 

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Vacation is a part of life in the United States.  Whether it is a “staycation”, weekend away, or an overseas excursion, vacations are crucial for individuals and families to relax and unwind. However, if you have a custody agreement, you need to know whether your parenting plan allows for vacation plans with your children.

Are Your Travel Plans Part of the Agreement?

Before planning your trip, it’s essential to check your child custody agreement. Your custody orders may have restrictions or certain obligations before taking your trip. Some of these restrictions include:

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Lawyers and divorcees blame social media for inciting an increase in divorces over the last decade and a half. Although social media networks alone aren’t the cause for divorce, they are the catalyst for problems that arise from consistent use: infidelity, greed, jealousy, and addiction. Unfortunately, these problems aren’t going anywhere. Social media users have more than tripled in number in the last decade.

Getting off social media is not a viable solution for most people. Still, if you’re going through a divorce, whether or not social media is the reason for it, you must understand the implications of your online presence.

What’s the Connection Between Social Media and Divorce?

Most people use their social media accounts to share memories and exciting moments in life. But many people also use it to vent about work and spouses. When going through the divorce process, you must be careful about what you post. More than likely, the opposing team of divorce attorneys is looking at your online presence to find anything that can swing the court in their favor–especially for child custody.

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If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that many people struggle with some form of mental health.  It is comforting to know that the mental illness narrative in law has shifted over the year but it still may impact your family law court case. Whether your mental illness is temporary and instigated by the divorce or struggle with persistent mental disorders, your condition affects the court case. The best way to know how to handle yourself and win your family law case when you struggle with serious mental illness is to know beforehand your disorder’s impact on the divorce and child custody case.

Mental Illness and Divorce

For many people, divorce can heighten a parent’s mental health. When you get divorced, your world and life turn upside down. As you go through the court process, it is entirely normal to feel overwhelmed and confused. While your mental health issues might disappear once the judge finalizes your divorce, that doesn’t lessen the physical, mental, and emotional toll it takes on your life.

Lawyers are aware of the mental toll divorce takes on a person to offer mental health considerations. You must speak with your lawyer if you are struggling because not only does this help them understand your position, but they can direct you towards counseling services to aid you during this difficult time.

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Posted on in Divorce

In 2019, there were over 750,000 divorces in the United States alone. Divorce is a complicated process for many people. The emotional and mental toll it takes on family members can be heartwrenching. There are several aspects to work out when getting a divorce. These include considerations regarding children, property, assets, and debt. With so much to work out, it’s no wonder that many divorces end up contested. If you find yourself in difficult divorce proceedings, you must work with a lawyer to help protect you. The team at Hatton and Hatton is ready to help.

Contested Divorce

A contested divorce occurs when spouses cannot reach an agreement on the best way to split property, assets, child custody, and visitation rights. This term does not necessarily mean that the spouses are angry with each other, nor does it mean the divorce will get ugly. There are many things you need to go over with your spouse when getting a divorce. With so much to figure out, it is understandable that you both won’t agree on every aspect. In this moment of contention, an attorney can help you navigate the court.

How Can Lawyers Help?

Experienced lawyers understand the emotional and mental stress you are under throughout the process. Our job is to do what is best for you. That’s why we prepare for the hearings and file the correct documents and divorce petition so the court and the other party know exactly what you are seeking.

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Posted on in Child Support

You and your spouse are in family court and must determine who will have physical custody of the children. During court, the judge determines your spouse should be designated as the “primary” parent for your child.  The court will award you a possession schedule but will also order you to pay child support. Unfortunately, over time, your ex-spouse begins preventing you from seeing your child. You consider stopping your payments as payback until you can see your child.

Do not stop your payments. If you don’t make your payments, you can wind up in legal trouble.

Do I have to Pay Child Support If I Have No Visitation Rights?

If your ex-spouse prevents you from seeing your child, the worst thing you could do is stop making child support payments. While you might do this as revenge against the custodial parent, this financial decision is considered a contempt of court and can send you to jail. These payments are a legal obligation to your child and not based on the condition that you get to see your child whenever you want.  The old adage rings true – two wrongs do not make a right.

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Texas is a community property state, which means that everything that comes in or is purchased during the marriage is presumed to be community property. For example, all equity that builds up in a house purchased during the marriage is community property, regardless of which spouse is making the payments.  Likewise, all retirement funds earned during the marriage are considered community property.

By the same token, the debts taken on by either husband or wife or both are also presumed to belong to both. There are rare cases where a debt incurred during the marriage would solely be the responsibility of the person who incurred the debt.  However, usually all community debt is factored into the final division of property.

Inheritances or gifts are considered separate property…so long as the person claiming it is an inheritance or gift can prove so.  Throughout my years handling divorce cases, I have worked with many clients who did not get legal advice when they received an inheritance and did not take steps to ensure that money they received as a gift or inheritance was kept separate.  Comingling of separate and community property funds will make it difficult to divide it out properly down the road.

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Posted on in Fathers Rights

As a family law attorney practicing in Fort Worth, I have represented both men and women in divorce cases and in resolving issues of child custody. Some of the fathers who I have represented in these cases have asked me about the rights of fathers in Texas.

When I probe a little, I often find that the client asking this question is worried about whether he will be treated fairly.  Usually, he feels that it will be very difficult to convince the judge to award him primary custody and expects that the court will automatically require him to pay support because he is a man.

Based on stories of my more seasoned colleagues in Tarrant, 30 or 40 years ago, this most likely was the case.  Decades ago, I believe Texas judges tended to have a traditional view of gender roles and tended to give primary custody to mothers.

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As a Fort Worth family law attorney, I get many questions about child custody modifications because circumstances often change and what made sense in the prior order may no longer be in your child’s best interest.

In some cases, that change is dramatic, such as one of the parents going to jail. Sometimes, sadly, a parent has become physically abusive to the child or children, and quick action must be taken.   This involves an emergency restraining order and a hearing within 14 days.

In other cases, circumstances gradually change, and the old custody arrangements no longer work. For example, a parent who was designated as primary parent may have relinquished that role to the other parent.  Or, the non-primary parent may be able to exercise additional visitation than they were able to do when the prior order was signed.

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Family Law Attorney Nathan Hatton Offers Some Steps to Take

As a family law attorney, I am sometimes asked what steps a parent with children in virtual school should take during a divorce.

  • Make sure both parents are signed up to receive notices from teachers. Taking this step is particularly important if one spouse used to handle all (or nearly all) the communication with the school and with teachers.
  • Reach out to teachers. Be proactive, especially if you have historically relied on your spouse. Let your children’s teachers know you want to hear from them. Consider telling teachers you are getting a divorce so that they can watch for any changes in your children’s behavior or performance.
  • Know how to use the parent or student portal. Whether your child’s school uses Google classroom or some other online learning platform, you should know how to log in to see your child’s progress. If there is not a parent log in, be certain that both you and your former spouse can log in to the student portal. Don’t rely on your child to tell you about homework. Log in and get a sense of what needs to be done during your time. 
  • Take inventory. When you are picking up your child, make sure he or she has any books and materials needed to complete assignments. When you are dropping off, double check that nothing needed for the upcoming week has been left behind. 
  • Make passing the baton a regular part of the drop off ritual. Be sure to tell your former spouse what schoolwork has been completed during your time with your children and which assignments remain to be done so that he or she can easily pick up where you left off.
  • Anticipate possible quarantine. If your student gets Covid and is quarantined, it may be best that he or she not travel between households. Follow your doctor’s advice and common sense.

To schedule a consultation with Attorney Nathan Hatton, call 817-349-8120.

Fort Worth Family Law Attorney Nathan Hatton Explains the Steps in Getting a Divorce in Tarrant County, Texas

While each case is different, and can take its own twists, turns and detours, below are general steps from the time to a party decides to file a petition to a final order.

  1. Filing the petition for divorce. The petition will include basic information about you, your spouse, your children (if any), as well as what you are asking the Court to do in your divorce.
  2. Giving your spouse legal notice. After the petition for divorce is filed, you must give legal notice to your spouse. Notice is usually given by hiring a process server who will deliver a copy of petition to them.
  3. Getting an initial hearing before a family law judge. Your divorce attorney will work with your spouse’s attorney to figure out what you and your spouse agree upon and what remains to be presented to the judge.
  4. Receiving temporary orders. Based on the hearing, the judge will issue a set of temporary orders that are usually close to the status quo. These orders will resolve issues such as where the children will live, what the visitation schedule will be, etc., and will provide a set of rules for you and your spouse to live by until the divorce is finalized.
  5. Answering questions as part of discovery. During a divorce, each party has the right to gather evidence from the opposing party in a process called discovery. The goal of discovery is to assure that you and your spouse have access to the same information so that you can negotiate a fair agreement or present your case effectively to a family law judge. During discovery, you may be asked to produce documents such as tax returns, bank records, brokerage statements, etc.  You may also be required to answer questions under oath in a deposition.
  6. Giving feedback and making tweaks. While you and your spouse are living under the temporary orders, your attorney will gather feedback on what is working and what needs to be adjusted before the judge issues final orders.
  7. Bringing in a mediator. If you and your spouse cannot reach agreement with the help of your divorce attorneys, the judge will give you an opportunity to work with a mediator to try to come to an agreement to spare you the expense of a trial. It usually is beneficial to all parties to reach an agreement.
  8. Going to trial. Only a tiny fraction of divorce cases in Tarrant County reaches this point.  The judge will hear any issues that have not been resolved and render a judgment.
  9. Finalizing the case. Besides a Final Decree of Divorce, there are usually other documents that need to be executed to finalize the divorce.  These range from warranty deeds in order to transfer property to Qualified Domestic Relation Orders to divide retirement accounts.

Stepparent adoptions can be tricky, as they usually involve terminating the rights of the other biological parent. Usually this is accomplished by that parent agreeing and signing over their rights. However, some cases need to be litigated in order to obtain the necessary termination order. If you are in that position, here are three things you can do to position yourself for a successful adoption:

  1. Get a sense of whether your former spouse is likely to contest the adoption. A stepparent adoption that is uncontested is far less expensive and far less emotionally draining than a contested adoption. It is very helpful to know ahead of time whether the other biological parent is going to contest the adoption.
  2. Make sure you meet the other guidelines to adopt in Texas. To adopt a child in Texas, the child must reside in Texas. In addition, he or she must have live in the county where the adoption is taking place. Finally, the child must have lived in the same household as the stepparent for the last 6 months.
  3. Realize your celebration of the adoption will be different during COVID. Before COVID, it was common to have extra people in the courtroom when an adoption was finalized because it is a landmark that many families want to experience together and celebrate. For the foreseeable future, additional people are not permitted, so families should expect to see the final step in the adoption via Zoom.

To schedule a consultation with Fort Worth Family Law Attorney Nathan Hatton, call 817-349-8120.

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