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El Paso Law Blog

Unexpected life changes can spark a need for support modification

As a parent, you probably want what is best for your child. Perhaps you and the other parent were unable to continue in a relationship. Although you might not want to fund the other parent's personal endeavors, supporting your kids financially could be a top priority. Unfortunately, certain life changes can create monetary issues that challenge a person's ability to maintain the current standard of living.

With a previous child support order in place, there could be consequences for missing payments. However, in some cases, such as a loss of income or change in health, you might not have a choice in the matter, potentially prompting a need for an adjustment to the original agreement.

Tax deductions and spousal support agreements

When El Paso couples divorce and alimony is awarded, the alimony payments are tax deductible for the one who pays. The person who receives the payments must pay tax on them. However, according to the U.S. Tax Court, the payments are only deductible if they are part of a formal separation or divorce agreement.

The case in question had to do with a couple who divorced in 2007. After filing for divorce but before it was finalized, the couple signed an agreement about one spouse paying half of a job bonus from 2006 to the other. Separately, a spousal support order outlined the support agreement without mentioning the bonus. The IRS challenged the payment when it was included on a tax return as a deduction, and the tax court found that since it was not part of the court order, it could not be deducted.

Negotiating an amicable child support agreement

Family law judges in Texas and around the country are often called upon to decide how much noncustodial parents should pay each month in child support, but couples can avoid having to go to court if they reach an agreement through informal negotiation or an alternative form of dispute resolution like mediation or collaborative family law. Divorcing couples are usually able to put their differences aside when the welfare of their children is at stake, and they may be able to settle issues like child custody and support amicably even when contentious matters like property division and spousal support remain unresolved.

Child support agreements stipulate how much noncustodial parents should pay as well as how often and for how long these payments should be made. Once these details have been worked out, a settlement agreement is drawn up and signed by both parents. However, these agreements do not generally go into effect until a family law judge has reviewed them to ensure that their provisions meet state child support guidelines.

Link between divorce and a husband's employment

Some Texas couples might be surprised to learn that the main factor in a divorce is whether or not the husband is gainfully employed. This is according to a study that was conducted by a sociology professor at Harvard University.

The study involved an analysis of 46 years of data on over 6,300 married couples in the United States. The researcher was able to note that there was a spike in the number of divorces in the mid-1970s. She was also able to determine that after 1975, housework was not a prevailing issue, possibly because an increasing number of women were going into the workforce. The researcher also concluded that the fact that a wife had a job was not related to the increased risk of a divorce.

Bring your divorce stress levels down with the help of a mediator

Dissolving a marriage in Texas technically requires filing a lawsuit. However, just because you have to file a lawsuit does not mean traditional litigation is necessary to work out the terms of your split. Many married couples today are relying on mediation to address their disputes instead.

With mediation, you depend on a neutral third party to facilitate your dispute resolution. The mediator will promote agreement between both spouses. The ultimate goal of the mediator is to help both parties to understand each other and to provide creative solutions to help them to arrive at their own agreements.

How to help children cope with divorce

When Texas parents of young children decide to end their marriage, it is important to help their children cope with the change. As kids are likely to sense that something is going on, it is best to tell them that a divorce is forthcoming. In addition to being honest about what is happening, it is important to encourage open lines of communication to help children deal with their feelings.

Children need to know that their parents will be there for them even if they are no longer going to be together. It is also important for parents to act in a manner that is consistent with their words. Otherwise, their insecurities or doubts may get the best of them as the divorce process moves along. No matter what happens, it is never a good idea to talk poorly about an ex in front of kids.

Property ownership key factor in gray divorce

The social stigma surrounding divorce that might have kept couples in Texas together in the past has faded, and the divorce rate has risen among people over age 50. Known as gray divorce, marital splits among those over 50 doubled between 1990 and 2010. In 1990, only five in every 1,000 marriages of older people ended in divorce, but, in 2010, the rate for that demographic had jumped to 10 out 1,000. The results of a longitudinal study that followed over 5,000 couples published in 2016 revealed that the amount of marital assets influenced the likelihood of divorce.

Couples with assets totaling over $250,000 had a 38 percent lower incidence of divorce than older couples whose assets totaled $50,000 or less. The authors of the study concluded that the element of financial security protected older couples from divorce. An earlier study in 2012 also indicated the influence of relative wealth.

Couples arguing more over politics

While it may seem that heated political issues have little to do with what goes on in the everyday lives of El Paso residents, some research shows that may not be true. Wakefield Research, a polling firm based in Virginia, reports that more couples than ever are arguing over politics, particularly the election of President Trump. Ten percent are choosing to end their relationship primarily over these differences. Though political disagreements are up among people of all ages, millennials cite political differences as a factor in splitting up at a higher rate of 22 percent.

The survey, conducted in April, is part of Wakefield Research's ongoing investigation into how topical issues affect relationships. Given the divided political climate during and since the 2016 presidential election, the company wanted to understand its effect on couples' relationships. The survey found that 24 percent of the respondents reported they argued more about politics since the election of President Trump than they did before. In addition, 22 percent of the respondents knew couples whose relationships were negatively impacted by the election of President Trump.

Dealing with debt in pre- and postnup agreements

El Paso residents who are getting married or who have already tied the knot might be concerned about having a different attitude toward debt than their future spouse. A prenuptial agreement or, for people who are already married, a postnuptial agreement, may help protect one spouse from the other's debts. While creditors may still pursue people for their spouse's debt, a pre- or postnup puts a framework in place that allows them to have the spouse pay them back.

Certain types of debt are more likely to be considered the responsibility of both spouses in the event of a divorce. For example, a student loan debt might be considered one that benefited both spouses if it allowed the student to get a better job with a higher income.

Blocking a non-custodial parent's contact with their child

Texas family courts are reluctant to place restrictions on noncustodial divorced parents who want to text, call or FaceTime their children, except in cases in which neglect or abuse may be present. Parents who do not want the other parent to do so should know that without a court order, they are unable to legally block the other parent from communicating with the child.

Parents who are prevented by the other parent from contacting their child may have legal recourse. If there are disagreements regarding unnecessary video calls, text messages or phone calls made by a noncustodial parent or one parent's access to the child has been blocked, the family courts will generally create schedules and rules for these issues.

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El Paso, TX 79935

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