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Tad Nelson

Can I Receive Alimony If I Am Disabled or My Children Have Special Needs?

By | Divorce

In any Galveston divorce case, neither spouse is automatically entitled to alimony. The court has the discretion to order “spousal maintenance” if certain conditions are satisfied. For instance, a spouse may receive maintenance payments if he or she suffers from an “incapacitating physical or mental disability” or is the custodian of a special needs child and lacks sufficient income or property to provide for their “reasonable minimum needs” after the divorce becomes final.

Houston Court Reverses Alimony Award Due to Wife’s Disability Benefits

What constitutes a person’s “reasonable minimum needs” will vary from case to case. A judge will consider the testimony from the spouses as well as their respective financial statements. But remember, the burden of proof is always on the spouse seeking alimony.

Consider this recent appeals court decision. The husband and wife in this case were married in 1995 and separated in 2009. The wife sued for divorce in 2014. Following a trial where the spouses were the only witnesses, the court granted a divorce and, among other terms, ordered the husband to pay the wife $972 per month in alimony.

The husband appealed that and other parts of the divorce court’s judgment. The Texas 14th District Court of Appeals agreed with the husband that the award of spousal maintenance was not supported by the evidence. Accordingly, the court deleted the maintenance award while upholding the rest of the divorce judgment.

The appeals court noted that at trial, the wife’s testimony and supporting exhibits established she had monthly expenses of $1,455. Her monthly income included $1,409 in Supplemental Security Income (SSI)–the wife suffers from end-stage renal disease and two of the couple’s three children are classified as special needs–and under the final divorce decree adopted by the trial court, the wife will receive an additional $1,000 per month as part of the division of community property. Even excluding the children’s portion of the SSI benefits from the calculation of the spouse’s income, the 14th District said the wife will still have “at least $1,603 per month in property” following the divorce, which is enough to meet her “minimum basic needs” of $1,455 per month.

Need Help From a Galveston Divorce Attorney?

It should be noted that there are other scenarios aside from incapacity or the needs of a child where a spouse may still petition the court to award alimony, such as marriages that lasted at least 10 years or which ended due to the other spouse’s acts of domestic violence. But as the case above illustrates, the courts are not in the habit of granting alimony merely out of sympathy. There must still be concrete evidence that the spouse cannot meet their basic monthly expenses before maintenance payments may even be considered.

If you are in the process of going through a divorce, it is important to have skilled representation to assist you in handling issues like requests for spousal maintenance. If you need to speak with a Galveston divorce lawyer about your situation, contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today.

Can My Spouse’s Online Activities Prove Adultery?

By | Adultry, Divorce

Adultery can mean different things depending on the context. Psychologists often speak of “emotional adultery” when referring to spouses who carry out explicit relationships with non-marital partners over the Internet. While such emotional affairs “do not involve physical contact,” according to one expert, these extramarital activities can be “just as devastating to the family as a physical affair.”

But from a legal standpoint, “emotional adultery” is not the same thing as adultery. Texas courts have long said that when it comes to citing it as grounds for a fault-based divorce, adultery refers exclusively to the “voluntary sexual intercourse of a married person with one not the spouse.” While you do not necessarily have to catch your spouse “in the act” to prove adultery, you still need to offer the court direct or circumstantial evidence that proves intercourse likely took place. As a Texas appeals court observed in a 2009 adultery case, “clear and positive proof is necessary and mere suggestion and innuendo are insufficient.”

Following the “Digital Breadcrumbs”

With that in mind, there are cases where evidence of an online extramarital relationship may be used to help prove adultery. Your spouse’s emails, text messages, and social media posts may contain valuable information about who they are speaking or meeting with when you are not around. Also remember, we live in an age where people commonly record and publish their every action. Even if your spouse did not leave any “digital breadcrumbs” for you to follow, the person they are seeing may not be so careful. For that matter, a third party may have photographed or recorded your spouse at a public event where he or she was seen kissing or engaging sexual activity with someone else.

In addition to evidence of intimacy or sexual activity, your spouse’s online actions may also lead you to uncover financial evidence supporting the existence of an affair. Obviously, if you notice any unusual charges to your credit card, you should be concerned. But also consider more unconventional financial activities. For instance, is your spouse “investing” in cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin? This can be a useful way of hiding assets from you–and sending money clandestinely to a secret lover.

Get Advice From a Qualified Galveston Divorce Lawyer

To reiterate a critical point, circumstantial evidence may not be enough to actually prove adultery in court. Merely hiding money from you or seeing someone without your knowledge does not always add up to sexual intercourse outside of marriage. And even if you think you have sufficient evidence to prove adultery, it may not be in your family’s best interest to make such allegations in open court. After all, Texas does recognize “no-fault” divorce, so you are not compelled to prove adultery in order to get out of a failed marriage.

On the other hand, proving your spouse’s adultery can work in your favor when it comes to the court dividing marital property or determining whether to award you alimony. This is why you should speak with a Galveston divorce attorney to discuss your options. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates to schedule a consultation today.

 

Managing a Galveston Divorce When One Spouse Refuses to Follow the Rules

By | Divorce

Ending a marriage is often an acrimonious process. We see many Galveston divorce cases where the spouses choose to fight over every little detail. Such an aggressive approach is often counterproductive, however, and often accomplishes little more than delaying a final resolution of the couple’s outstanding issues.

Despite Wife’s Misconduct, Appeals Court Said Default Judgment to Husband Was Unjustified

If you are in the midst of a divorce and unable to resolve any critical issues with your estranged spouse, keep in mind that once you head into court, you are obligated to follow the judge’s orders and the general rules governing civil trials. This means, for instance, that when you are required to turn over certain information to your spouse (or their attorney), your failure to comply is not simply passive-aggressive behavior–it is a violation of the court’s orders and can get you in serious trouble.

How serious depends on the severity of the contempt. There are cases where judges have been known to impose “death-penalty” sanctions on uncooperative parties in a divorce. Of course, this does not literally mean death, but rather refers to a scenario where a judge awards one spouse relief solely based on the other spouse’s refusal to cooperate.

Judges are not allowed to impose such severe sanctions without good cause, however. Earlier this year, a state appeals court held that a death-penalty sanction was not justified despite evidence of the wife’s refusal to cooperate. In this case, the wife filed for divorce against the husband, who then filed his own countersuit. In his countersuit, the husband accused his wife of fraud and misuse of community property, among other allegations.

As explained by the Court of Appeals in its own opinion, the wife “largely failed to cooperate with oral and written discovery” requests made by the husband over a period of “several months.” The husband asked the judge to compel his wife to answer certain questions or impose sanctions for her refusal to do so.

During a hearing in open court, the judge deferred the question of sanctions but did order the wife to comply with her husband’s discovery requests. The husband was not satisfied with the wife’s subsequent responses and renewed his motion for sanctions. At a second hearing–where the wife did not show up or have an attorney appear on her behalf–the judge decided enough was enough. He imposed death-penalty sanctions in the form of striking the wife’s complaint for divorce, barring her from presenting any defenses to the husband’s allegations, and awarding default judgment to the husband. The judge later issued a final divorce decree addressing child support and the division of property, again without the wife’s participation.

The wife did manage to file an appeal. And the appeals court agreed with her that the trial court abused its discretion. Without commenting on the wife’s misconduct, the higher court said the lower court could only order death-penalty sanctions only after considering “lesser sanctions” and providing a “reasoned explanation concerning the appropriateness of the greater sanction imposed.” The trial judge failed to do so, and as a result its default judgment award and final divorce decree had to be reversed.

Need Help Learning the Do’s and Don’ts of Divorce?

As you can see, even judges have to follow certain rules when handling a contested divorce case. Indeed, following the rules is what keeps the entire divorce process from degenerating into a never-ending series of fights. If you are contemplating divorce it is important to understand the rules upfront. An experienced Galveston divorce lawyer can help. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today if you need advice on how to proceed with your own divorce case.