Older couples are divorcing at an increasing rate

In Texas and elsewhere in the United States, couples over the age of 50 are getting divorced at an increasingly higher rate. More specifically, there were twice as many ‘gray divorces” in 2010 as there were in 1990, according to one study.

One reason why couples may be getting divorced at an older age is that life expectancy has improved over the years, which means couples can now expect to be together for longer. Individuals who are in or nearing retirement may realize that they do not want to spend their golden years in a lackluster marriage, and they may also find it easier to get divorced once their children have grown and left the home. Older couples also find there is less social stigma now to walk away from a marriage, as compared to the time when they were first married.

Therapists commonly see couples drift apart after a few decades of marriage due to a sense of emotional disconnect, which often leads to divorce. Additionally, as women become more financially independent, they see less of a need to stay in a marriage, and they are therefore less willing to tolerate negative behavior such as adultery, gambling, or abuse.

Though getting divorced at an older age may be simpler in some ways (for instance, the couple may not have to contend with child custody issues), older couples do have to determine how to divide their assets (which, in Texas, must be split equally). Older couples may have more money in their 401(k)s or other retirement assets, which can be a little more difficult to split if the individuals began investing before marriage. Hiring an experienced family law attorney familiar with Texas law might help ensure that all assets are accounted for and divided appropriately.

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Author: On behalf of Katie L. Lewis of Katie L. Lewis, P.C. Family Law

Reasons women seek divorce at a higher rate than men

More than two-thirds of divorces are initiated by women according to a 2015 study by the American Sociological Association. Women in Texas may file for divorce from their husbands for a number of reasons, but the underlying theme of all those reasons is that marriage tends to hold fewer advantages for women compared to men.

For example, even working women continue to do more housework than their husbands; one study reports that just 20% of husbands do daily housework compared to 49% of wives. For some women, career advancement can also strain the marriage. A 2019 study found that many men reported feeling distressed when their wives began making more money than them. Women who find that they are doing more than their share of the home and child care and who are also resented by their husbands for career success may decide they are better off unmarried.

Communication problems also hinder many marriages. Men tend to be more emotionally closed off from others, and a spouse may be their sole source of emotional support, making men less likely to divorce. Women tend to seek emotional support from friends as well. Additionally, with fewer women reliant on marriage for financial security, wives are less likely to put up with infidelity, abuse or other behaviors than in the past.

Some couples may be able to reach an agreement about child custody and property division through negotiation or mediation. Others may have to go to court. The advantages of coming to an agreement without going to court are that the process may be easier, less expensive and less stressful. It also puts control about the final outcome in the hands of both spouses instead of a judge. However, if one spouse is uncooperative, litigation may be the only option.

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Author: On behalf of Katie L. Lewis of Katie L. Lewis, P.C. Family Law

Co-parenting your teenager doesn’t have to be so hard

Parenting children of any age is challenging. However, divorced parents who are raising teenagers face some unique hurdles. Whether you have been co-parenting with your ex since your child was young or you are newly divorced, facing those challenges is much easier when you are well informed.

One of the biggest things to remember is that it is normal for your teen to start pushing boundaries. Part of being a teen is getting ready to be an adult. He or she might be more concerned about exploring newly found freedom than what your custody agreement says.

Your teen is busier than ever

You and your ex were in charge of your teen’s schedule when he or she was younger. While you still make some scheduling decisions, he or she has more personal commitments that fall outside your realm of control. School, homework and after school activities take a lot of time. It is also important for teens to maintain active social lives. Many are even juggling part-time jobs on top of that.

The parenting schedule will not always line up with all those commitments. Being flexible is key, although it is not always easy. You and your teen’s other parent should be willing to bend the parenting plan when necessary. By allowing him or her to keep commitments, you will help foster a sense of responsibility.

Maintain open lines of communication

It is true that your teen is getting more freedom and responsibilities, so you might expect that he or she will keep you up to date on daily life. Unfortunately, teenagers are not exactly known for being open with their thoughts and feelings. This means that you might only know about things that happen while your teen is at your house, and the same could be true for your ex.

Since you are both committed to co-parenting, you need to keep talking to each other about the important things. This can be about anything from conflict with friends to poor grades at school. Neither of you should assume that you have access to the same information.

Keep working together

You know how important it is to provide the same type of consistent guidance for children across households. Maybe your teen seems like he or she can handle different expectations, but this is not true. Having different curfews and smartphone rules can be confusing and make things harder for everyone.

Child custody agreements should always reflect children’s best interests, but those interests change over time. It might be time to update your old agreement, or if you are currently going through a divorce, you should not specifically consider your teenager’s unique needs. So, whether you need to petition the court for a modification or need help creating your first agreement, you should be sure to work with an attorney experienced with Texas family law.

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Author: On behalf of Katie L. Lewis of Katie L. Lewis, P.C. Family Law

How good co-parenting can help children after a divorce

Divorce can be hard on children as well as their parents, but Texas parents can also conduct themselves in a way that eases the difficulty for their children. This mostly involves setting aside their own needs and emotions to focus on the child’s well-being. Although they may no longer be able to get along as a couple, they can still try to co-parent effectively.

Children need to be able to continue loving both of their parents, and they need to be reassured that nothing they did caused the divorce. They also need to be able to talk to each parent about the other parent without worrying about what kind of a reaction they will get. Parents should listen neutrally and should try to make space for the child as they would if the child were talking about any other family member or friend.

Holidays can be especially difficult for children. The best case scenario is for parents to spend them together, which takes the burden of having to go to two different celebrations. Eventually, parents will need to be in the same place for milestones like graduation and weddings. Parents should try to have similar rules between households even if they agree on little else. This can increase a child’s sense of stability.

People can lay the groundwork for a functional co-parenting relationship when they are going through the process of determining child custody in a divorce. This does not always mean having to go to litigation, which is an adversarial process. Parents may be able to negotiate an agreement with the assistance of their respective attorneys. In court, a judge makes a decision about child custody based on the best interests of the child, and parents should focus on this standard in negotiations as well.

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Author: On behalf of Katie L. Lewis of Katie L. Lewis, P.C. Family Law

Divorcing in 2020? Start preparing your finances now

Making the choice to end your marriage isn’t easy. If you decided to move forward with this step in 2020, it is probably after months or even years of difficulty and marital strife. You know that this road ahead can be long and complicated, but you can start taking steps now to prepare your finances for the process. 

Divorce will bring inevitable financial changes to your life, no matter how wealthy you are or what type of assets you and your spouse share. The choices you make today will impact you well into the future, which is one reason why thinking ahead and planning well can help you avoid complications and issues in the future. Preparation will lay the foundation for a strong and stable post-divorce future.

Paving the way for success

Every financial situation is different, and what you will need to do to be prepared for your divorce depends on the details of your individual situation and your objectives for the future. Some of the simple yet effective ways you can start looking ahead to get ready for a divorce in the coming months include: 

  • It may be helpful to speak with a financial planner regarding your finances. This can give you a good look at what your prospects will be after divorce, how you can recover losses and how to rebuild retirement savings.
  • One thing you may find beneficial is to look at your budget so you can start making spending habit adjustments. While it may not be immediately necessary to cut back, starting this process now can make it less painful during the divorce process.
  • Another thing you can do is to start making a list of your assets. You will want to account for all of your property, accounts, assets and retirement savings. This can make it easier to fairly and equitably divide marital assets during your divorce.

The end of your marriage will change your life in various ways. Thankfully, it does not have to lead to complete financial devastation. When prepared, you will be able to make adjustments and plans that will allow you to better protect your interests when the time comes.

If you are planning to divorce in 2020, start getting ready now. One of the first steps you may want to take is to speak with an experienced Texas family law attorney regarding your rights and the appropriate way to proceed.

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Author: On behalf of Katie L. Lewis of Katie L. Lewis, P.C. Family Law

Possible complications in splitting an IRA in divorce

When people in Texas get a divorce, they may have retirement accounts to divide. Certain types of retirement plans must be split using a document called a qualified domestic relations order. A marital separation agreement or divorce decree is necessary when splitting an IRA. While this is normally a straightforward process, if the person who owns the IRA has been taking 72(t) distributions, there might be complications.

People are not supposed to take distributions from an IRA until they reach the age of 59 1/2. There are a few exceptions in which it is permitted, such as distributions to pay for certain medical or educational expenses. However, if there is a modification to the account, there is a retroactive 10% penalty on the distributions. According to IRS regulations, splitting an account in a divorce appears to fit the definition of a modification.

When a point of tax law is unclear, individuals can seek what is known as a private letter ruling. These are public but are only supposed to apply to the individual’s case. In PLRs about this issue, the IRS has not penalized individuals. It is impractical for many people to seek PLRs due to their cost and the time it takes, so people with 72(t) distributions who are getting a divorce may want to consult a financial professional.

In a community property state like Texas, couples are supposed to split property equally in a divorce. One alternative to dividing a retirement account might be for one person to keep the retirement account and the other to keep a piece of property of similar value, such as a home. Costs such as taxes on distributions from the retirement account or upkeep on the home should be taken into account when comparing these values.

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Author: On behalf of Katie L. Lewis of Katie L. Lewis, P.C. Family Law

Finances and divorce for older adults

Divorce rates are dropping among younger adults, but it is increasing among older adults. “Gray divorce” refers to this phenomenon, and the 65 and older age group is getting divorced at a rate that is three times higher than it was in the 1990s. Since Texas is a community property state, this means that assets are supposed to be divided equally.

This can mean making substantial changes to retirement planning. Money saved in retirement accounts was intended to support one household, not two, but people getting a divorce may need to divide their 401(k)s, IRAs or other retirement accounts. Some people may want to try to keep the marital home, but this can be expensive in terms of upkeep and taxes. It is important to understand the financial implications of doing so.

Spousal support may be temporary when younger people get a divorce, but it might be permanent for older adults. Some people may need to seek new health insurance after a divorce. For marriages that have lasted a decade or more, a lower-earning spouse may also be able to draw benefits on the other’s Social Security contributions in certain circumstances. Individuals who remarry may want to consider a prenuptial agreement since second marriages are more likely than first marriages to end in divorce.

Couples may want to consider negotiating an agreement for property division instead of going to court. Mediation can help even in high-conflict situations since the purpose is to reach an agreement that is mutually beneficial. This may give the couple more flexibility than they would have if they went to court. For example, they may not want to divide all their assets 50/50. Negotiating out of court may give them the opportunity to come up with a creative solution that better suits them both.

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Author: On behalf of Katie L. Lewis of Katie L. Lewis, P.C. Family Law

Preventative measures to avoid financial regret after divorce

Texas residents may be surprised to learn that it can take about five years for an individual to recover financially after a divorce. There are some preventative measures that individuals can take in order to speed their recovery if they get a divorce in the future.

From the beginning of a marriage, it is important for each partner to be involved in the family’s finances. Even if one partner pays the bills or makes investments, both individuals should be involved in making big financial decisions and should have access to bank accounts, retirement balances and tax returns. A report by Fidelity Investments revealed that around 80% of respondents who went through a divorce regretted the fact that they were not more involved in their family’s financial affairs.

Communication regarding finances should be important for couples. The same report revealed that about 10% of respondents found hidden assets during their divorce, and 14% found uncovered debt. Transparency and regular discussions about finances can help couples minimize some marital problems or soften the financial blow that they will take during a divorce.

While not all couples feel comfortable signing prenuptial or postnuptial agreements, they should at least be aware of some of the benefits that these documents provide. A prenuptial agreement spells out what each partner owns before marriage and allows them to create a fair plan as to how they will split assets during a future divorce. Postnuptial agreements are made during the marriage and protect assets that the couple acquires together.

If a couple decides to sign a postnuptial agreement, it is best for each individual to have their own attorney. The attorney may answer questions regarding asset division, debt division and retirement assets. The attorney may also help draw up postnuptial agreements or even represent a client in court if it is necessary.

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Author: On behalf of Katie L. Lewis of Katie L. Lewis, P.C. Family Law

Proving that a parent is unfit to have custody of children

Divorces often unleash torrents of intense anger. Most divorcing parents in Texas attempt to shield their children from this tide of emotion, but occasionally one parent will accuse the other of being “unfit” to care for the couple’s children. What is the exact legal meaning of an “unfit parent”? Is it relevant in a child custody dispute?

The term “unfit parent” usually calls forth an image of a physically abusive parent or one who is addicted to drugs or alcohol. In Texas, an unfit parent is generally a person who cannot or will not provide the child with emotional guidance or attend to the child’s basic needs for food, clothing, shelter and medical care. If the parent’s negligent conduct is deemed to constitute the crime of child neglect, the parent may be subject to incarceration and a possible fine. Even if no criminal charges have been made, a court may terminate the parental rights of the unfit parent. If both parents are unfit, the child may be looked after by a public agency until the child is adopted.

A proven charge of being an unfit parent is serious in Texas, but proving unfitness is not usually a part of custody determinations in divorce cases. The general rule is that the court will grant custody to the parent who is better able to serve the child’s best interests. Most Texas judges and divorce attorneys understand that custody is not a competition between the parents to predict which of them will be the better parent after the divorce. Rather, the court looks at the present situation and determines custody based upon which parent is providing or able to provide care that will better serve the best interests of the child.

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Author: On behalf of Katie L. Lewis of Katie L. Lewis, P.C. Family Law

Spouses of Texas entrepreneurs may want postnuptial agreements

Before entrepreneurs marry, they and their future spouses may both be wise to seek legal counsel. A prenuptial agreement is an important option to consider.

After the wedding, the legal options and the emotional stakes change.

But some entrepreneurs start their businesses as married people, or they jumped right into marriage without a prenup Even they can still put their legal house in order, including a possible postnup.

Prenups are possible in a community property state

Texas presumes anything gained during the marriage belongs to the marriage, not to one spouse. According to state law, Texas divorces involve splitting the property “equitably.”

However, this does not mean 50/50. In means in a right, fair and just way. A postnup cannot that equity sign away, but Texas courts typically respect agreements signed voluntarily with full access to all information about assets.

Also, Texas provides rules for separating community property into separate individual property, as well as making separate property community. Much is possible if done correctly.

Besides, postnups can be part of a larger strategy (which also must pass tests for fairness).

For example, the entrepreneur can create and control a trust to hold the business assets. This may assist the postnup in protecting business assets.

Why would a spouse ever agree to sign a postnup?

Couples create postnups together for many sensible reasons.

Some entrepreneurs do not mind risking money and other assets on prime opportunities, sometimes understandably “stressing out” their spouses. The right postnup may give the entrepreneur more room to maneuver and help their spouse feel more forgiving.

Also, successful entrepreneurs know more money means more problems, including increased stress.

Having increased finances can raise questions about the future of those assets. And more options in life often create disagreements about life choices. A postnuptial agreement might help return the marriage to a more relaxed place.

Finally, many spouses appreciate that businesses employ people and satisfy the needs of their customers. Its value, even financially, is often in its people and brand. Protecting a business can be about much more than protecting the personal assets of one person.

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Author: On behalf of Katie L. Lewis of Katie L. Lewis, P.C. Family Law