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San Antonio Family Law Blog

Life insurance considerations following divorce

Those who come to see us here at The Law Office of Roland R. Esparza, P.C. as they prepare for their divorces in San Antonio often have their minds preoccupied with traditional divorce-related matters such as child support, alimony and property division. If this describes your current scenario, then your preoccupation is understandable. It is important to remember, however, to not overlook one other important aspect of your life that will most certainly be affected by your pending divorce: your life insurance. The Insurance Information Institute reports that 60 percent of all Americans are covered under some form of life insurance plan. Yet many forget to address this topic during their divorces.

You might assume that any claim your ex-spouse may have to a life insurance benefit for which you are the policy holder would automatically end with your divorce. You would be wrong. If he or she remains listed the beneficiary on your policy, he or she would be given the benefit upon your death. This is true even if you amend your will and state that your life insurance proceeds should go to someone else.

Dealing with the marital homestead

One of the first major purchases that newly married couples in San Antonio make together is a home. Sharing a residence together, however, is not always the secret ingredient to marital bliss. In fact, the Texas Department of State Health Services report that as recently as 2012, over 80,000 divorces were reported to the Texas Vital Statistics Unit. For many of those separating couples, one of the biggest issues they must deal with is what to do with their marital homestead.

The Texas Family Code states that regardless of whether a homestead is considered to be separate or community property, one spouse cannot sell or otherwise dispose of it without the permission of the other. There are, however, certain exceptions to this rule. For example, if one spouse has been declared to be legally incapacitated by the court, the other may seek to sell the marital home without his or her consent. This exception applies regardless of the homestead’s property distinction.

What if you pay too much child support?

Typically, the common complaint heard from those involved in the exchange of child support in San Antonio is that one who is obliged to pay it is not meeting that obligation. Yet what if you actually end up paying too much child support? This might seem an odd scenario given the importance that you likely place on helping to meet your kids’ needs, yet there are situations where this could reasonably happen.

According to the Texas Family Code, any of the following actions, events or milestones could prompt an end to your child support obligation:

  •          Your child dying
  •          The marriage of your child
  •          The removal of any disabilities he or she was determined to have had
  •          The formal termination of your relationship (adoption or emancipation)
  •          Him or her beginning active duty in the armed forces

Woman recognized as ex-wife’s husband for custody purposes

The issue over parental roles has become hotly debated in recent years in San Antonio, particularly considering many of the shifts seen in societal norms. Recent federal rulings that have served to legalize same-sex marriages have even further blurred the lines between what it means to be a father and mother. With the rise is same-sex marriages has also come an inevitable increase in same-sex divorces, as such couples are subject to the same stresses that cause many heterosexual marriages to fail. Without established laws on the books, family courts are often encountering the need to be creative in the way laws are applied.

This notion was on full display a custody case ruling that recently occurred in Tennessee. A woman was essentially granted the same rights as a husband as part of her custody case. She and her former wife had a child through donor insemination. Tennessee state law allows husbands parental rights for children that their wives conceived through this method. The woman argued that she should be extended the same right, even though her name is not listed on the child’s birth certificate due to the fact that same-sex marriages were not recognized in Tennessee at the time the child was born. After consulting with the state’s Supreme Court, the judge hearing the case ruled in the woman’s favor, citing a recommendation for the higher court to view the terms “husband” and “wife” in this case as being gender-neutral.

Easing into your reintegration after a deployment

If you are like most military members in San Antonio who are also divorced parents, the prospect of deployment can be a significant source of stress. Compared to those concerns, the thought of coming home will likely solicit feelings of joy. Yet we here at The Law Office of Roland R. Esparza, P.C. can attest to the fact that reintegration following a deployment can also be a stressful process.

During the 12-18 months that you were away, your ex-spouse and your children likely have established a routine that your return, while welcome, will significantly disrupt. There are, however, certain steps that you can take to help assist in getting all of your lives back to normal. These include:

Reviewing Texas annulment guidelines

While couples who divorce in San Antonio may want to convince themselves that their marriages never happened, their unions are recorded as a matter of public record. That is, if they do not choose to pursue an annulment. While many use the terms “divorce” and “annulment” interchangeably, the truth is that they are different. Divorce describes the legal dissolution of a valid marriage, while an annulment declares that a marriage was never valid to begin with. Annulments tend to be less common than divorces, with CNN reporting that on 50,000 were granted in 2012. However, some may prefer this method of ending their marriages due to social or religious circumstances.

It is important to understand, however, that there is a difference between annulling a marriage and having it declared void. A voided marriage is viewed as unlawful, and thus requires no legal formality to terminate. The Texas Family Code lists any marriages between people related by whole of half-blood or adoption, or between couples in which one is still legally married to another as being void.

What is an inconvenient forum?

Typically, matters involving child custody determinations in San Antonio are often easily resolved given that the both parents usually choose to remain in close proximity even after separating in order to stay in contact with their kids. There may be times, however, when employment obligations or other circumstances may prompt your ex to move to another state before your child custody hearing may be initiated. If and when this happens, the issue of who has jurisdiction in your case may suddenly come into play. This could potentially leave local courts contemplating whether your case presents an inconvenient forum.

An inconvenient forum describes a situation where a local court that has jurisdiction over your case according to the Texas Family Code determines that it would be better to decline that jurisdiction on account of a court in another state offering a more appropriate forum. This is not a decision that the court comes at lightly, however. It considers a number of different factors when making this determination, including:

  •          The length of time your child may have resided in your spouse’s new home state
  •          The distance between the two courts claiming jurisdiction
  •          The nature of any evidence needed to resolve your child custody case (including the testimony of your child)
  •          How quickly circumstances would allow the respective courts to come to a decision on a custody ruling
  •          The familiarity of each of the respective courts regarding the facts of your case

Control of murder scene being contested in divorce case

When married couples in San Antonio choose to separate, one of the first issues that may become a point of contention is the division of their property. Both sides involved in a property division dispute may feel as though their reasons for wanting a particular asset or piece of property are just, and thus something to fight for. That reasoning may be due to any number of factors ranging from potential resale value to the amount of time and effort put into securing and/or managing it. In some cases, it may even come down to a matter of emotional significance.

An ongoing divorce case in Illinois seems to reinforce this point. Currently, the couple involved is embroiled in a conflict over a unique and seemingly odd parcel of property: a garage. The garage in question is attached to the townhouse where the husband is currently living. The townhouse itself was gifted to the wife by her mother, yet she no longer lives there. However, she and her family are insistent that her soon-to-be ex-husband not use the garage. The reason why the garage holds so much significance? The wife’s father was murdered in it 20 years ago.

Withholding state funds due to child support arrears

If you count yourself among the many people in San Antonio that is owed child support by an ex-spouse, the you may be concerned about how you might be able to collect on any arrears should he or she fall behind on his or her payments. Your concern is shared by many that we here at The Law Office of Roland R. Esparza work with. Most rely on state enforcement methods designed to recover unpaid child support from an obligor directly. However, if those methods fail to produce results, there are other, more indirect ways to recover what is owed to you.

What if your ex-spouse is involved with a company that relies heavily on state funding or contracts? According to the Texas Family Code, his or her business may be denied payments made from state funds for products or services rendered, or denied state-funded grants or loans if he or she has not fulfilled the terms of your child support agreement. In order to enact this method of enforcement, two criteria must be met: First, he or she must be more than 30 days delinquent on his or her payments. Second, his association with his or her company must be in one of the following roles:

  •          Sole proprietor
  •          Partner
  •          Shareholder
  •          Owner with a minimum 25 percent ownership interest

The impact that family violence may have on divorce proceedings

Domestic abuse may be among the chief reasons why couples in San Antonio may choose to get a divorce. At the same time, some may cite that as the reason why they choose not to. Their fears may be that the abuse they have suffered will continue even after the dissolution of their marriages, particularly if they are forced to continue to interact with their abusers to raise their children. In either case, victims of spousal abuse (as well as accused abusers) should understand the implications that such actions may have on divorce proceedings.

Section 71.004 of the Texas Family Code defines “family violence” as the act of a family or household member against another member that is meant to cause any of the following results:

  •          Physical harm
  •          Bodily injury
  •          Assault
  •          Sexual assault
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Law Office of Roland R. Esparza, P.C.
325 S Flores St.,
San Antonio, TX 78204

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