Williamson County Family Law Blog

Financial Planning For Blended Families

Divorce rates across the nation hover between 40 and 50 percent. In Texas, this converts to roughly 75,000 divorces per year. Many people are somewhat familiar with such statistics – reports on divorce rates are fairly common in the media.

Yet news about remarriage rates tends to go unheralded. The numbers are surprising. Simply put, it’s clear that remarriage is on the rise. The majority of divorcees remarry. There’s a bit of a gender gap –  64 percent of divorced men remarry, while only 52 percent of divorced or widowed women do so – but 40 percent of all new marriages involve at least one spouse who’s been married before, and there are at present 42 million Americans who have been married more than once.

Alcohol Addiction And Divorce

Individuals who struggle with alcohol addiction—or any sort of substance addiction— have a tougher time than most when it comes to maintaining a stable marriage. This isn’t news. Most folks would rightly guess that heavy drinking goes hand-in-hand with marital difficulties. What’s less understood, though, is the full range of consequences that alcohol addiction can bring about.

By some estimates, the divorce rate for those with alcohol addiction is three times greater than it is for the general population. In fact, nearly 50 percent of such married individuals ultimately end up divorcing. (The rates may be higher still when the wife is the one with the addiction.)

Picture books for families of service members

Military families face special challenges. You raise your children to understand that Mom and Dad have important jobs. You never want to see your child upset. It can be extra difficult when you work for our country. Military mothers and fathers may end up being deployed. You do what you can to comfort your child and help them feel better.

Picture books can be used as a tool to assist you in comforting your child.

"Gray Divorce" Rates Are Rising

Perhaps unfamiliar to many, “gray divorce” is a common term for divorce after the age of 50. Divorce is much more common with younger couples, but trends have changed in recent years. Divorce remains more frequent for those under 50, but the gray divorce rate has doubled since 1990.

These figures were released in a study by Pew Research Center earlier this year. It identifies that the after-50 rates remain about half that of the pre-50 age group. The divorce lawyers at the Law Office of Jim Jarvis have decades of experience with gray divorce. (We’re a little on the gray side, ourselves.)

The pros and cons of probate

One area of concern when people begin estate planning is the probate process. This is the process of resolving your final wishes and distributing your property after you pass away. Some people create an estate plan that intentionally avoids probate at all costs. However, probate is not always a bad thing. Here is a look at the benefits and downsides so that you can start to consider what’s best for your situation:

The consequences of making it harder to divorce

The Texas legislature is considering two bills that will make it more difficult for couples to divorce. According to State Representative Matt Krause, who proposed both measures, passing them would be a means to "reinforce the sanctity of marriage." But there would likely be a number of unintended consequences as well. Indeed, the bills seem poised to make divorce more expensive, more rancorous, and more traumatizing for any children involved.

Should child custody usually be a 50-50 split?

The Texas House of Representatives is currently considering a bill that could drastically change how the courts approach child custody. Specifically, the measure would mandate that unless extraordinary circumstances prevent it, divorcing mothers and fathers will be given equal possession time with their children.

We don't think it's a good idea. The combined experience of our law firm (well over 50 years) teaches us that equal possession time usually works for the children only when:

1) Both parents are equally invested and committed to sharing responsibilities;

2) The higher income parent is still willing to provide financial support; and

3) Both parents commit to live very near one another (often for many years).

This is why wise judges have rarely forced equal time possession on parents who did not agree.

The Difficulties Of Splitting Retirement Assets

An article recently published by Collaborative Divorce Texas -- an organization dedicated to helping individuals chart an easier path through divorce (of which our firm is a member) -- details some of the difficulties couples encounter when dividing their retirement assets. 

Keeping Divorce Simple -- And Keeping Costs Down

As many as 15 percent of couples who want to get divorced cannot afford to, according to a recent study. Programs like "Keep it Simple," offered by Law Office of Jim Jarvis, may be the solution for many of them. 

The study, presented at the American Sociological Association, tracked nearly 8,000 people from 1979-2008, paid special attention to couples in long-term separation. Many such couples, researchers found, never transitioned from separation to divorce - even though they wanted to.

With an average cost of well beyond $10,000*, divorce in Texas is, simply put, too expensive for many to manage. "Separation may not be their first choice, but they may feel it is their best choice," said one of the study's co-authors, noting that separation "may continue to be the norm for the disadvantaged unless they can see a better alternative."

That alternative already exists.

Collaborative Law: A Sane Approach To Divorce

The average cost of a contested divorce in Texas is $15,600 -- and that number jumps to $23,500 if there are children involved*. The bulk of that money goes to attorneys' fees, with the rest covering costs associated with court filings, serving documents, and paying for the services of tax advisors, financial analysts, child custody evaluators and other professionals.

Unfortunately, DIY divorces -- that is, divorces without an attorney -- can result in disaster (although, see our note on "Keep It Simple" divorces, below, for help). While this would seem to be a cost-effective way to end a marriage, the process is anything but straightforward. Our state's courts have incredibly complicated rules for filing; forgetting to include a provision or cross a T could result in a frustrating delay in obtaining your divorce decree, and lead to errors that come back to haunt. DIY divorce couples often make mistakes in matters concerning money -- they fail to understand their tax obligations, or the laws governing retirement, real estate, child support and alimony. In fact, many couples who begin a DIY divorce end up needing a lawyer later on.

Still, there are cheaper -- and less stressful -- alternatives to traditional divorce.

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