What to Do when Your Ex-Spouse Interferes with Visitation

By | Divorce

Divorce is often an emotionally-draining experience, so it is normal to breathe a sigh of relief when you reach the end. You might expect your post-divorce life to be easy in comparison to your marriage and your divorce.

Unfortunately, problems often crop up between ex-spouses, even after a judge has signed a divorce decree. Your ex-spouse might interfere with your visitation rights. Helpfully, Texas law provides parents with the ability to compel compliance with the visitation order, but you should meet with an experienced Galveston, Texas divorce attorney as soon as possible.

Documenting the Interference

First, you should fully document the reasons why visitation has fallen through. Your ex-spouse might have plenty of excuses, none of which sound believable—your child is sick, an emergency has arisen, etc. Write down every date in which visitation was cancelled and document the reason given. If you were sent emails or voicemails, then preserve those, since they are helpful evidence.

You also should show up at the drop-off point, which might be a point halfway between where you and your ex live. Even if you know your ex is not bringing your child, you should still show up. Fully document that you were there at the time and place and that no surrender of your child took place.

Filing for Contempt of Court

Second, you should meet with a Galveston child custody attorney to discuss filing for contempt. Contempt of court means that a person subject to a judge’s order is disobeying it, and judges have inherent authority to compel compliance. When an ex-spouse interferes with visitation, they flout two orders:

  • To surrender your child at a certain date and time
  • To give you possession of the child for the amount of time spelled out in the custody order

To bring your ex into compliance, a judge might:

  • Fine your ex until he or she agrees to start following the visitation schedule
  • Send your ex to jail until he or she agrees to abide by the visitation schedule
  • Award you attorneys’ fees
  • Some combination of the above

Many ex-spouses are shocked to find themselves in jail for a few days for not letting you see your children. Nevertheless, judges do take contempt cases seriously, since your ex is flatly challenging the judge’s authority in this case.

Speak with a League City or Houston Child Custody Lawyer

Parents are not required to suffer in silence as their ex-spouse uses the children as pawns. Instead, concerned parents should immediately vindicate their parental rights in court, including their right to visitation. To start the process, please contact Galveston child custody attorney Tad Nelson to schedule your free consultation. Call 281-843-9776 or submit our contact form.

What are Community Property and Separate Property?

By | Divorce

A Texas divorce does more than free up each spouse to marry someone else. Instead, a marriage is an economic unit, and a divorce completely unwinds your financial entanglements. As part of your divorce, a judge will need to divide your marital property, which is called “community property” in Texas. Read on to find out more about what a judge will divide.

Community Property—What You Acquired Together

There is an easy, quick way to understand community property—it is any property you acquired while married. Generally, it does not matter whose name is on the title to the house, boat, or car. What matters is that you were married when one of you acquired the property.

Wages earned are also community property, as is anything bought with wages. If your husband bought a condo secretly using only his wages, the condo is still community property, which means each spouse owns a 50% stake in the property. Usually, community property is divided 50/50 upon divorce.

Separate Property

Separate property is often something you owned before getting married and brought into the marriage, such as the car you bought six months before walking down the aisle. It can also be a retirement account, cash in a checking account, or investments. However, income earned on separate property is often community property. For example, if you own a rental property, then the rent earned while married belongs to both you and your spouse.

Texas law also considers some property obtained while married as “separate” property, such as:

  • An inheritance. Say your mother died while you were married and left only you her home. Typically, the inheritance is your separate property.
  • A gift. If someone gave you a gift, then it is yours.
  • Some recoveries for personal injury claims. If a driver struck you, and you have a lawsuit seeking compensation, then the money is typically yours. You do not have to share it.

Sometimes there is a good faith dispute as to whether something is community property or separate property. For example, a family friend might have given you an expensive gift. But was it really for you and your spouse? A lot will depend on the facts.

Are You Confused? Speak to a Galveston, Texas Divorce Lawyer for Help with Your Case

Before divorcing, you should fully understand what property you can walk away with. However, community property rules are complex, and you should meet with an experienced Galveston or League City divorce lawyer to review your situation. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today at 281-843-9776 for a free consultation. We are eager to assist you throughout each step of your family law case.

How to Extend or Modify a Protective Order in a Texas Domestic Violence Case

By | Domestic Violence

If you have a Texas protective order for your security and the safety of your family, it can be terrifying to think about what the abuser may do when the stated time period comes to an end. According to the terms included in the order, a restraining order may be in effect for a few weeks, months, or even years, depending on the situation. Even when the order is not expiring, you may live in fear due to types of misconduct by an abuser that were not specifically addressed in the order, but are now becoming an issue. You are vulnerable because police cannot take action against conduct that is not officially illegal.

Fortunately, Texas law provides a modification process for protective orders, giving you legal options to extend your protection. However, because the process to modify a restraining order can be complicated, you should discuss your circumstances with a skilled Galveston, TX domestic violence lawyer.

Types of Protective Orders Under Texas Law

There are three classifications of restraining orders in Texas, which are applicable to different situations depending on the details of your case.

  1. Emergency Restraining Order: An EPO is an order that must be issued by the court immediately after an arrest; you can also apply for one due to an incident of domestic violence where there was no arrest. You are not required to be present in court, nor do you need to give notice to your abuser regarding the proceedings. An EPO may last from 31 to 91 days.
  2. Temporary Protective Order: A court may issue a TRO for up to 20 days upon filing of a petition related to a domestic abuse situation. It can protect you from a range of abusive conduct, since the law allows a judge to direct the abuser to do or not do certain acts.
  3. General Order of Protection: This type of order can go up to two years where a court determines that violence has occurred and is likely to occur again if the abuser is not enjoined. A judge may issue this restraining order for beyond two years, but only if the abuser was the subject of two or more previous orders or caused serious bodily injury to the victim.

Proceedings to Extend or Modify a Restraining Order Terms

To make changes to the terms and conditions of a protective order, you must file a motion that includes your specific requests, such as:

  • To extend the time period as provided by law; or,
  • To include any item or acts that could have been contained in the original order.

You do have to give notice to the respondent if you petition the court to extend or modify a restraining order, but this requirement is fulfilled by sending the documents via registered or certified mail to his or her last known address.

Legal Help from a Galveston, TX Domestic Violence Lawyer

If your protective order is coming to an end or you have reasons to modify the existing terms, it is critical to consult with a dedicated domestic violence attorney. Our lawyers at Tad Nelson & Associates can assist with modifications, extensions, or any other details related to Texas restraining orders, so please call our Galveston, TX office today at 281-843-9776 to set up a consultation. You can also visit us online for more information on our services.

Technology and Stalking in Texas Domestic Violence Cases

By | Domestic Violence

Physical harm and threats are synonymous with domestic violence, but there may also be elements of stalking if you are involved in an abusive relationship. While we rely on technology and digital devices for our everyday activities, they can also provide the means for an abuser to track a victim. NPR reported in January 2018 that digital stalking is on the rise among ex-spouses who use devices to manipulate, control, and gather evidence for divorce cases; plus, abusers may employ tracking technology to locate an individual and cause harm. If you are exiting or already left an abusive relationship, you can protect yourself by reviewing your use of certain devices and eliminating those that put you at risk. You should also consider retaining an experienced Galveston, TX domestic violence attorney who can help explain legal options for dealing with a dangerous abuser.

Cell Phone and Tablet Applications

Whether or not you are aware of it, your smart phone and tablet – and the applications you install on them – can reveal your whereabouts. You can disable GPS tracking on your mobile device, but use extra caution when posting content on social media. A photo, comment, video, or other material may include a time and location stamp. Messages you send, including texts and emails, can also reveal your actions, especially if you share a cell phone or other telecommunications account with a stalker.

GPS Devices

Even if you disable tracking functionality on your cell phone and delete apps that may disclose your location, there are miniature GPS devices that can be placed almost anywhere, undetected. They are small enough to drop into your purse, a jacket pocket, or other clothing items. Worse, they can be installed on the vehicle you use, giving an abuser a minute-by-minute account of where you are and have been throughout the day.

This is a criminal act and it may be possible to press charges if you do spot these tiny devices on your car. However, the above-mentioned NPR article recounted the story of a woman who was powerless to take legal action against her ex-husband after he placed a miniature GPS on her vehicle. After their divorce, the couple still maintained joint ownership of the car. Because it was half his, the man had a right to track his own vehicle.

Laptops and Tablets: Some of the applications that you use on your smartphone are also accessible via your computer or laptop. These devices can reveal your location and online activities in the same way as your portable devices.

Discuss Stalking and Physical Abuse with a Galveston, TX Domestic Violence Lawyer

If you suspect that an abuser is using any device to track your location or otherwise engage in digital stalking, immediately cease use of your cell phone, tablet, computer, and any other device that could allow monitoring. Check your vehicle yourself or have a mechanic look it over for foreign devices. Finally, please call 281-843-9776 or go online to reach the attorneys at the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates in Galveston, TX. We can tell you more about your legal options in all types of domestic violence matters, and we offer a free consultation to review your situation.

What are the Child’s Best Interests Factors Under Galveston, TX Custody Laws?

By | Divorce

When a Texas divorce case involves minor children of the two parties, a court must address such issues as custody, visitation, and support. Since the law generally favors a situation where the child has solid relationships with both parents, joint custody is usually the preferred arrangement. From there, however, the statutes covering custody and visitation can be very complicated. In making a determination, the court is guided by state law on the child’s best interests, which includes different factors related to the child’s physical, mental, and emotional needs. An experienced Texas divorce attorney can provide more specific details on how the statute applies to your case, but some general information may be useful.

Texas Law on the Child’s Best Interests

Both statutory and case law have been instrumental in developing the child’s best interests standard. The 1976 case of Holley v. Adams was the first to list out nine factors for a court to review in determining whether a custody and visitation arrangement serves the child’s best interests. They are:

  1. The desires of the child, where appropriate depending on age;
  2. The child’s current and future physical and emotional needs;
  3. Whether there is any emotional or physical threat to the child;
  4. Parental abilities, understanding, and involvement with the child’s needs;
  5. The presence of programs available to assist the parent and child in meeting developmental needs;
  6. Each parent’s plans for raising the child;
  7. The stability of the residential environment where the child will live;
  8. Any conduct demonstrating that a parent’s relationship with the child is not suitable, proper, or advantageous;
  9. Any excuses a parent uses to justify certain acts or omissions with respect to the parent-child relationship.

When Courts Consider the Child’s Best Interests

The interests of the child are always a primary consideration in divorce cases regarding custody and visitation, but it is important to understand how the standard applies.

  • Agreements on Child Custody and Visitation: Texas law encourages divorcing parents to agree on issues related to minor children, but that does not give the parties complete freedom to decide custody and visitation. A judge will review an agreement to ensure it complies with the child’s best interests standard before signing off.
  • Disputes Regarding Care for Minor Children: Where parents cannot agree on visitation, custody, or both, the matter goes before the court in a litigation-style hearing. Parties in dispute can present evidence on how they each meet the child’s best interests test, and the court will issue a decision.
  • Domestic Violence Situations: Where there is a history or threat of violence toward the child or one of the parents, a court may apply the child’s best interests standard to deny visitation or custody under #3 above.

Discuss Visitation and Custody with a Knowledgeable Galveston, TX Divorce Lawyer

If you have questions or would like to know more about how the child’s best interests standard applies in your divorce case, please call 281-843-9776 to reach the Galveston, TX offices of Tad Nelson & Associates. We can set up a consultation to review your legal options with a dedicated attorney. You can also check out our website for more information on child visitation and custody in divorce cases.

Dividing Business Interests in Galveston, TX Divorce Cases

By | Divorce

While parties are free to agree on property division in a divorce case, in the event of a dispute, Texas law requires a court to determine a division of marital assets that is just and right. The judge’s job is relatively straightforward when it comes to distributing such items as a residence, vehicle, bank accounts, and other assets. After evaluating the fair market value of the property, the proceeds are split equitably between divorcing spouses.

However, if you are an owner or stockholder of a privately held business, property division in divorce raises very complicated questions. Interests in a company are unique, typically requiring application of complex valuation formulas. If you are involved in such a situation, talk to an experienced attorney about divorce for business owners under Texas law.

Determining Business Value

Because of the technical nature of placing a value on a business, it is usually necessary to retain financial experts to assist with the assessment. These specialists employ generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) to establish value, including:

  1. Book Value: This approach analyzes the assets, income, and debts of a company. Real estate, equipment, vehicles, accounts receivable, and other types of property are itemized, and the financial expert calculates the current value minus depreciation over time. The Book Value method is a basic way to determine business value, but there are drawbacks. It does not account for items unless they have a defined value. Intellectual property, goodwill, and the owner’s unique contribution are excluded, even where they are central to a company’s operations.
  2. Fair Market Value: Here, a company’s worth is established by determining what buyers have recently paid for a comparable business, operating in a similar industry. The focus is on buy-sell transactions for companies of the same relative size, age, and location.
  3. Going Concern Assumption: Under GAAP, this approach starts by looking at the status quo, assuming that the business will continue to operate under the same circumstances and economic conditions that exist at the time of valuation. Unlike the Book Value, certain assets of indefinite value – such as intellectual property and goodwill – are included.

Evaluating Intangible Assets

A company’s reputation and brand have value. Therefore, this goodwill should be part of a business valuation for purposes of asset division in a Texas divorce case. When one spouse is the primary source of goodwill, determining value can be challenging. The company is worth less by taking away that party’s contributions, expertise, and business relationships. Other assets that are difficult to assess for value may include intellectual property and trade secrets.

When it comes to evaluating intangible assets, the Going Concern Valuation is usually the most effective as compared to the others. This approach includes these values, resulting in a more accurate assessment of a company’s value.

Consult with a Knowledgeable Galveston, TX Divorce Attorney About Business Interests

If you own a business and are going through divorce, it is essential to work with an experienced lawyer for purposes of property division. To schedule a consultation regarding your case, please contact a lawyer at the Galveston, TX offices of Tad Nelson & Associates at 281-843-9776. You can also visit our website for more information.

Developing a Safety Plan in a Texas Domestic Violence Case

By | Domestic Violence

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence gathers data from all US states, and the statistics on the frequency of domestic incidents in Texas are disturbing. Roughly one-third of women and a quarter of men experience some form of physical violence by a spouse, former spouse, or unmarried intimate partner. There were more than 185,000 calls to hotlines reporting violent domestic episodes in 2014: For some victims, a phone call was too late: 114 Texan women were killed as a result of domestic violence in 2012, which is around 10 percent of the nationwide total. Many organizations recommend developing a “safety plan” to protect yourself if you are in a dangerous situation or feel threatened by an attack. In conjunction with a Texas restraining order, these plans are an effective way to take control over your situation, so some background information should be useful.

Overview of Safety Plans in Houston

It can be difficult to know exactly how to remain safe while in an abusive domestic situation, whether you are currently in a relationship, thinking of leaving, or already left. A safety plan can offer guidance as you cope with emotions, take legal action, get support from family and friends, and work out a strategy for your future.

The content of the safety plan includes the important documentation and paperwork you need to move on with your life after escaping domestic violence. The most effective blueprint is personalized for your situation and can adapt to different circumstances. In a moment of crisis, your brain may not focus on your needs as well as when you are calm, so your safety plan helps you navigate the stress.

Items to Include in Your Safety Plan

Though every situation is unique, you should consider making certain necessities part of your safety plan, such as:

  • Developing an exit strategy from your home if you need to get out quickly;
  • Telling family, friends, and neighbors “code words” that you use to indicate trouble, without alerting your abuser;
  • Putting together a packet you can grab in a rush, which contains your passport, paperwork for your children, medical records, health insurance information, bank accounts, and other essential documents;
  • Installing new locks on windows and doors, and a security system;
  • Opening a bank account solely in your name; and,
  • Working out a safe place to stay if you need to leave under emergency circumstances.

In addition, you may consider talking to a lawyer if you are a victim of domestic violence or feel threatened. An attorney can help you obtain a restraining order against your abuser, directing that person to avoid all contact with you and other individuals. Include your lawyer’s information in your safety plan, so you can reach him or her right away to get started on the legal process for a restraining order.

Talk to an Experienced Galveston, TX Domestic Violence Attorney Right Away

Our lawyers at the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates in League City assist with all types of domestic violence cases, including emergency, temporary, and permanent orders of protection. Please contact us today at 281-843-9776 or online to set up a consultation at our Galveston, TX office.

How Witnessing Domestic Violence Affects Children

By | Domestic Violence

While they may not experience the same physical pain that a direct victim of abuse does, the impacts of domestic violence on children who witness it are no less severe. “Witnessing” may involve child who sees an attack or hears fighting, but it may also include seeing the after effects, such as blood, bruises, or other injuries. It may also mean a general state of awareness, such as watching the victim’s fear and mannerism when the abuser enters a room.

The Childhood Domestic Violence Association reports that five million children observe domestic attacks every year in the US, and there are currently 40 million adults in this country that grew up in environments where domestic violence was the norm. Considering the high number of Americans who are or will be affected, it is worth reviewing the short and long term implications for children who observe domestic abuse.

Emotional Implications

Children who are exposed to domestic violence often suffer silently, becoming fearful, anxious, and distrustful. They worry for themselves, the victim, and their siblings, causing them to miss out on typical childhood emotions like excitement and enjoyment. Life at home is agony, as these children witnesses feel emotional abandonment and isolation, even from others in the household.

Because they lack the maturity to address their complicated feelings, children experience guilt, shame, and depression. They may also become angry, both at the abuser for engaging in violence and at the victim they perceive as allowing it.

Physical Effects

The emotional implications of witnessing domestic violence manifest themselves in children physically, most often through sleep deprivation and exhaustion. Younger children may be unable to control their rage, causing injury to themselves. Other physical responses to observing domestic abuse include stomach problems, headaches, bedwetting, difficulty concentrating, and others. In a worst-case scenario, a physical effect may be actual injury when a child tries to intervene in an attack and is injured as a result.

Long-Term Impacts

Children who witness domestic violence may experience physical and emotional issues for years, long after they are no longer even in an abusive environment. Long-term effects include:

  • Learning disabilities, lower scores on IQ and standardized testing;
  • Problems with motor skills, memory, and attention;
  • Conditions similar to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) akin to what combat veterans face;
  • Premature aging by up to 7-10 years;
  • A propensity to abuse drugs and/or alcohol, up to 50 percent more likely than in non-abusive situations;
  • An increased potential of resorting to suicide, at up to six times more likely; and,
  • The tendency to become involved in criminal activity, with a 74 percent chance of committing a violent crime against another person after reaching adulthood.

Reach Out to a Compassionate League City Domestic Violence Lawyer

Domestic violence has significant consequences for children who witness it, but you do not have to address an abusive situation alone. Our dedicated Houston attorneys at the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates have extensive experience advocating for victims, helping them obtaining restraining orders and other aspects of a domestic violence case. Please contact us today at 281-843-9776 to schedule a consultation at our Galveston, TX office. You can also visit us online for more information about our legal services.

Finding Assets Your Spouse is Hiding in a Galveston, TX Divorce Case

By | Divorce

In a Texas divorce, there are multiple facets of the case that depend upon determining the full value of the assets which spouses acquire during their marriage. A judge must know how much the entire marital estate is worth before issuing an order divvying up property and deciding whether an award for spousal support is appropriate. Therefore, if one spouse is concealing assets to avoid having them factor into asset division or alimony, it is not possible to enter a final divorce decree that is fair and equitable for both parties. If you believe your spouse is hiding assets under these circumstances, state law does provide options for bringing this property properly before the court. An experienced Galveston, TX divorce lawyer can tell you more about your legal options, and some general information may be useful.

Texas Procedural Rules on Discovery

The Texas Rules of Civil Procedure apply to all civil cases in the state, including divorce proceedings. Just as you could use these rules to obtain information from the other party in a personal injury or breach of contract case, you can take advantage of them to find hidden assets. Available tools include:

  • Requests for Production of Documents: Through your attorney, you can request that your spouse produce all documents related to real estate or personal property. Paperwork such as deeds, bank statements, federal and state tax returns, business interest, and other documents may reveal the existence of assets. Once you identify these items, you can bring them before the judge.
  • Written Interrogatories: This method allows you to ask your spouse questions, in writing, that are likely to lead to discovery of real and personal property. You can then ensure that these items are included in the marital estate.
  • Oral Depositions: You can request a party to a divorce case to appear for an in-person interview session, where your attorney asks questions about income, marital property, and related matters. An oral deposition takes place before a certified court reporter who records the proceedings, so you can use the statements to find concealed property.

Penalties for Hiding Assets or Dishonesty in Discovery

Interrogatories and oral depositions require the responses of your spouse to be sworn to under oath, which is the equivalent of testifying in court. There are severe penalties for providing inaccurate, misleading, or dishonest answers to questions. In a divorce case, a party who commits fraud will be ordered to return the assets so they can be considered in determining property division and spousal support. Plus, the party could be ordered to pay a fine or the legal fees related to uncovering the concealed assets.

Discuss Hidden Assets with an Experienced Galveston, TX Divorce Lawyer

As you can see, Texas law provides you with powerful tools to discover hidden property and wrongdoing in a divorce case. Our attorneys at Tad Nelson & Associates have high-level skills in all aspects of divorce law, but we also have comprehensive knowledge of these discovery rules to ensure fairness in your case. Please contact us today at 281-843-9776 or online to schedule a consultation at our Galveston, TX office.

Do I Need a Lawyer for a Galveston, TX Uncontested Divorce?

By | Divorce

In short, there is no requirement under Texas law to have an attorney represent you in any case, including divorce proceedings. The idea of representing yourself is probably attractive considering that you will not pay legal fees, especially if you and your spouse can agree on the important issues. In the absence of disputes over asset division, alimony, and child custody, visitation, and support, you may not expect your legal rights to be compromised. Still, there are a number of reasons you should give careful thought to consulting with an experienced lawyer, regardless of whether your case is a contested or uncontested divorce in Texas. A few key considerations include:

Eligibility Rules for Uncontested Divorce in Texas

There are very strict requirements for taking advantage of Texas’ uncontested divorce process, so you and your spouse only qualify if:

  • You have no minor children together;
  • You are both in agreement about ending your marriage;
  • There are no ongoing proceedings regarding a bankruptcy case;
  • You do not have joint ownership of property;
  • There are no retirement benefits to divide between you; and,
  • Neither of you will seek spousal support, otherwise known as alimony.

Though these requirements seem simple, the details of the statute are much more complicated. You could waste considerable time and effort by trying to file uncontested divorce, only to find that your case must be dismissed because you are not eligible.

Filing Proper Forms and Supporting Documents

To initiate a contested or uncontested divorce case, you must complete and file and proper forms in the Texas county of your residence. These documents are complex; many of these forms must also include supporting documentation.

In addition, Affidavits and other documents require you to swear to and sign under oath. This is the equivalent of testifying in court, so there are serious consequences if you include false or misleading statements – even if you do so by mistake.

Understanding Your Rights

Without a legal background, you put your rights at risk by representing yourself in a Texas divorce case. You may get along with your soon-to-be-ex-spouse and be able to come to an agreement on asset division and spousal support, however, the law requires fairness. If you do not know how to determine what is “fair,” it is likely that you will not get it. Plus, you do have rights regarding child custody, visitation, and support. Your relationship with your child could be in jeopardy or you could receive insufficient child support without the help of an attorney.

Schedule a Consultation with a Dedicated Texas Divorce Lawyer

You may not think you need an attorney to assist with your divorce care, regardless of whether it is contested or uncontested. However, when you do not have comprehensive knowledge of Texas divorce law and cannot foresee what could happen in the future, you can see the importance of having a qualified advocate on your side. Please contact our knowledgeable divorce lawyers at Tad Nelson & Associates to schedule a consultation. You can reach our Galveston, TX by calling 281-843-9776 or contact us online for more information on our legal services.