Clients often ask me – Can I pay Texas child support directly to my ex?
Today we are going to discuss if direct child support payments can be made, whether they should be made, and what the risks and benefits are.
The Texas Office of Attorney General’s Role
In the State of Texas, the Texas Attorney General plays a significant role in child support. The attorney general can bring lawsuits for child support payments against the non-possessory conservator. The attorney general also operates the formal record keeping for child support payments made through its Disbursement Unit.
For both the person receiving child support (possessory conservator) and the person paying child support (the non-possessor conservator), the parent paying should make the payments through the Texas attorney general’s office. Rather than making a direct payment to the parent receiving child support.
Child support payments made through the State of Texas and the Disbursement Unit yield efficient and complete record-keeping that is done by the Texas Attorney General.
When clients ask to pay Texas child support directly to their ex, it is usually because they believe it is easier and more efficient to do direct payments. But there are many more risks than benefits to doing direct child support payments to your ex.
What Happens With Direct Child Support Payments
If the if child support starts when the child is very young and the payments are not done through the AG’s office, the person paying child support must keep records of up to 18 years of payments. If the payments are not done via the State of Texas, the attorney general has no records to determine whether child support has been paid, either in full or at all. The record keeping burden falls completely on the parent paying the child support to prove that each payment has been timely made.
Avoid Double Child Support Payments
So, if you are the person paying child support, to avoid being hit with potentially double payments if you can’t prove with almost two decades of records that you made the payments, you should make payments through the Texas Attorney General’s Office.
Have a Complete Child Support Payment Record
Making child support payments through the Texas OAG also yields a complete payment record of exactly what has been paid, and what the arrearages are, if any.
Avoid Unnecessary Child Support Complications
Many times with direct payment of child support not going through the State of Texas, the person paying child support may ask the parent receiving the support for changes in child support. For example, the request may be for an agreement for an extension of time, or to skip a month of payments, or to only pay a percentage of the amount due as the result of financial hardship. This can be an uncomfortable position for the parent receiving child support and can also complicate record keeping.
Additionally, with direct payment not going through the Texas OAG’s office, the parent receiving child support might ask the parent paying for additional money or to contribute additional items like diapers or groceries in addition to child support payments.
So, across the board, making child support payments through the State of Texas is preferable for both parents, making child support more efficient, less complicated, and easier to keep records.
If you have questions about receiving or paying Texas child support, call Erik or Diana Larson at The Larson Law Office in Houston at 713.221.9088.
A question I am frequently asked by new clients when they call me on the phone to represent them is “Help I’ve been served with divorce papers in Houston – what should I do now?”
Today I am going to walk through with you some of the very first steps that you should take when you’ve been served with divorce paperwork.
Read the Paperwork You Were Served
The very first thing that you want to do take is to read carefully and review what you have been served with. In reading the paperwork, you want to look to see if you have been served with something called a temporary restraining order or a TRO.
What is a TRO?
A TRO contains injunctions, which restricts permissible activity of one or both parties. This means that a TRO is a list of a variety of things that can include financial issues, issues regarding the children, issues regarding the marital residence, and other issues.
In a TRO, one or both of the parties are restrained from or prevented from doing until the court makes further rulings at a temporary orders hearing. The paperwork you have been served with will typically include a date and time of that temporary orders hearing has already been scheduled that you need to be present for at that date and time at the courthouse.
The Divorce Petition and Citation
If you have not been served with a temporary restraining order, the chances are pretty good that you are only been served with a divorce petition. If you were served with the divorce petition you will also have been served with language from the district clerk’s office on a citation that starts with “You have been sued” and that basically instructs you to have an Answer on file no later than the Monday next following the expiration of 20 days after service. If you fail to file an Answer by that deadline a default judgment may be taken against you by your spouse.
So, there are some important deadlines that are put in place by the court with regard to divorce paperwork that has been served upon you. If you have questions about this process, or if you have been served with divorce paperwork and you want to speak with a lawyer feel free to call Erik Larson or Diana Larson and The Larson Law Office at 713.221.9088
In Texas, pets are still considered property. Even though a lot of people treat their pets like their children or family. Texas does not yet recognize this distinction. So, what does that mean if you are getting a divorce? Who gets the dog in a Texas divorce?
Community Property or Separate Property?
The first thing we look at is when was the pet was adopted or purchased. This is because the court needs to determine whether the pet is separate property or community property. If the pet was purchased or adopted prior to the marriage, the pet is most likely going to be the separate property of the party that purchased or adopted the pet.
However, if the pet was adopted during the marriage, then the pet is most likely going to be a community property asset. What that means is that the pet is subject to division by the family court in the divorce. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the court is going to physically divide the pet. It does mean that the pet will be assigned a value and someone will be awarded the pet by the court. Once awarded the pet, that pet will be the property of that spouse after the divorce. That will be the spouse who gets the dog in a Texas divorce.
Texas courts are not necessarily going to do a determination of what is in the best interests of the pet in making this determination. However, some states are starting to look at pets as more than property and will look at the best interests of the pet or who the pet is best suited to be with – much more like a child custody analysis.
Is Pet Visitation Possible?
That brings us to the next question people sometimes ask: Can we have a visitation schedule with the pet. We understand – just because you are getting a divorce does not mean that you don’t want to see the pet that you and your spouse adopted during the marriage. Texas is not currently a state where a court will give you a visitation schedule with a pet. However, that does not mean that you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement to include a visitation schedule for your pet.
It is possible that Texas courts will change the way that they deal with pets in the future, but for now, the courts will only be dealing with whether the pet is separate property or community and then awarding that pet to one party or another. It seems fitting that people often treat their pets like children, so we anticipate seeing more and more people including custody arrangements for pets in the future. These agreements can also be dealt with in a prenuptial or post nuptial agreement if the parties wish to include them. For now, the family pet may be property to the Courts in a Houston divorce, but we all know that pets are way more than property.
For more information about dealing with pet issues in your divorce case, call Diana Larson or Erik Larson at 713.221.9088
Are there advantages of filing first for divorce in Houston and other nearby counties? In other words, will you get any benefits from winning the race to the courthouse and filing your divorce petition first?
Yes, there are advantages to be gained by filing first. Most of the advantages yield benefits at the beginning of the case. Sometimes those benefits can affect the final outcome of the case as well.
There can be an advantage for filing your Texas divorce case first. There are a couple of different ways in which it can be advantageous. N0umber one, there’s a time advantage that you can utilize if you are looking to file for temporary orders quickly and you are the first to file.
Timing Advantage in First Filed Divorce
First, there can be a timing advantage if you file first, and if your spouse is unaware of your intentions to file for divorce in Houston, you may have the element of surprise, which is an advantage on your spouse. You can have your spouse served with the petition along with a hearing for temporary orders.
Many times, service of process is completed just a few days prior to the scheduled temporary orders hearing. So, if you are able to preserve your element of surprise, your spouse may have very little time to prepare for the temporary orders hearing when your spouse is served. Contrast that with your comparative high level of preparation if you select the right Houston divorce lawyer.
Psychological Advantage for Filing for Divorce First
There is also a psychological advantage that can come into play when you’re the one that has your stuff together, you are the one who is organized and aggressive, and you file your Houston divorce case first.
When you are the person making the decisions, when you are the one taking the initiative and moving the ball forward, your spouse may be on his or her heels and unprepared. This can be a significant psychological advantage for you for negotiating a settlement and preparing for litigation.
If you have any questions about filing your Houston divorce case, give Erik and Diana Larson a call at 713-221-9088.
Today we are going to discuss some of the provisions in a Texas prenuptial agreement. A prenuptial agreement is an agreement you enter into prior to getting married dealing with property, spousal support and other financial issues.
Eliminating Community Property
One of the first issues that typically comes up in premarital agreements is whether or not you are going to have community property during the marriage. You can use a prenuptial agreement to eliminate future community property in a prenuptial agreement. This means that during the marriage you keep everything separate between the two spouses, so that there is no creation of the community property in the marriage. Each spouse only owns their own separate property during the marriage. This obviously makes it easier to divide property in the event of a divorce.
Temporary Spousal Support
Another issue that frequently comes up in prenuptial agreements is whether or not you are going to have alimony or temporary spousal support. You can provide for a certain amount of agreed temporary spousal in the event of divorce or you can eliminate alimony altogether by agreement.
Establishing a Household Account
Additionally, something that arises often in premarital agreements is whether you are going to have a household account. Are you going to set up a fund to pay for the mortgage and daily expenses that you incur during the marriage? And how are you going to fund that? How are you going to divide that account or who gets it upon a divorce?
You can also include an infidelity clause. If there is infidelity – if somebody cheats in the marriage – what is going to happen in that situation? Meaning that you have a greater share of money or property awarded to the “innocent spouse” if adultery is established.
Award of Marital Residence
You can also deal with what is going to happen to the marital residence upon a divorce. Who is going to live there during the divorce process, and how long does the other party get to stay in that house? Does the house eventually get sold on the open market or does the home get awarded to one of the spouses in the divorce?
In a prenuptial agreement, you are basically outlining what will happen upon a divorce. It may sound like you are starting a marriage with discussing what’s going to happen upon a divorce, but those things can give certainty. This can also reduce anxiety because the agreement ensures that everybody’s on the same page in the event of a divorce.
These are just some of the provisions that you can consider in a prenuptial agreement. If you’re looking to enter into a prenuptial agreement or you need one reviewed, feel free to reach out to The Larson Law Office. We can be reached at 713.221.9088.
One question that we often get is — How long does it take to divorce in Houston? From the very beginning to the very end.
Let’s start with the quickest possible time to finalize a Houston divorce under Texas law. Texas has a 60 day waiting period before any agreed order of divorce can be finalized. The waiting period begins to run on the day that the Original Petition for Divorce is filed with the court. The waiting period is a cooling off period provided by the Texas legislature.
So, the soonest that an agreed divorce can be finalized in the Houston area is 61 days. The first thing that needs to happen is that a divorce petition must be filed to start the 60 day clock. Once this occurs, your spouse must either be served by service of process, or your spouse must sign and complete a waiver of service of process that must be filed with the Court.
Of course, finalizing the terms of a divorce within this 60 day period is going to require an agreement on the division of property, liabilities, as well as child custody and child support issues, if children are involved. So, an agreement on these issues has to be reached by the parties if you want to finalize the divorce within 60 days of filing Then a final and fully signed decree of divorce can be entered with the court after the waiting period expires.
If you do not have an agreement with your spouse on these issues, it is unlikely that you will be able to finalize your divorce within 60 days. In this event, you should anticipate needing to either go to mediation for assistance in reaching an agreement. Or it is possible that you may end up going to court so that a judge can resolve your differences for you.
If you need help filing for divorce in the Houston Area, you can reach Diana Larson or Erik Larson at 713.221.9088.
In its November 2018 issue, H Texas Magazine states that it compiles its list of Top Lawyers in Houston based on “nominations from clients and peers as well as rigorous background checks.”
To contact Diana or Erik about retaining them to represent you in your divorce or child custody case, contact them at (713) 221-9088.
The end of the year is a popular time for people to either update their estate planning, or to finally get a Will done! Over the next few weeks, we will be posting tips on how to avoid common estate planning errors. The first two are below.
Not Updating Beneficiaries
Failing to name a contingent beneficiary on retirement accounts and insurance policies is a very common mistake. If you fail to name a beneficiary, the result can mean that the proceeds likely will default to your estate. This means that an asset that would have passed without probate, would now be subject to probate. Also, neglecting to remove a former spouse on these accounts can have significant negative consequences.
Failing to Address Guardianship of Minor Children Who Are Beneficiaries
Who will handle the money and assets for the minor children? And for how long – until they are 18, 25, 30 years old? Do you need a Trust to help in these determinations? What are your wishes about who should raise your minor children if you pass when they are still small? You should make those wishes known in your estate planning to avoid costly litigation later.
An AV® Preeminent™ Rating “is a testament to the fact a lawyer’s peers rank him or her at the highest level of professional excellence.” This distinct achievement of professional excellence is earned through a strenuous Peer Review Rating process, which places Diana Larson and Erik Larson among the elite of fellow legal professionals.
This is also Mr. Larson’s 15th consecutive year to receive an AV® Preeminent™ rating from Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Ratings, since 2003.
Martindale-Hubbell has been conducting peer-review ratings for over 100 years to identify and recognize lawyers with the highest legal ability and ethical standards. Lawyers are rated by their peers — attorneys and judges — in the categories of legal knowledge, analytical capabilities, judgment, communication ability and legal experience as well as a high level of ethical standards.