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Relevant questions to ask a family law attorney in Texas

In doing some recent consultations with potential clients of the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, I have encountered some topics that I don't think I have ever written about on this blog. With that said, I would like to get after a few of these topics today to address and hopefully help some of you out as far as increasing the amount of information you have access to.

If you would like some specific advice regarding something that we discussed here today, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. We offer free of charge consultations six days a week with one of our licensed family law attorneys. It is there that you can get individualized, specifically tailored advice for your situation.

Could your marriage be invalid without you knowing it?

I had a woman come into our office recently, and she told me a story very similar to what I am about to layout for all of you. She began by telling me that she was living with her husband for years before she found out (not from her spouse but another source) that her husband had been married before to another woman. Unfortunately, this in and of itself is more common than you would think. Sometimes people do not feel comfortable disclosing this information about their past. In some instances, people don't believe it is relevant at all.

I learned from this person that after she confronted her husband about the prior marriage, he fessed up and told her that he did not think it was relevant because the woman was now deceased. Therefore, he never pressed forward with divorce plans that he had because they were unnecessary. There was nothing to worry about, he told her. Famous last words, if I've ever heard them.

The story took a fateful turn when this woman did some research and found out that the supposedly deceased ex-wife of her husband was very much alive. She was living in Houston but had never contacted her husband nor moved toward getting a divorce from him. The husband was understandably surprised by all this (from what she told me). All three were facing an issue now that the husband in this story had two wives.

Bigamy is illegal, but a second marriage may benefit the putative spouse.

If you are already married, you cannot marry a second (or third person). That is called bigamy and is against Texas and every other state in the country. I had to tell this potential client who had come to say to me that her marriage was invalid. However, she may still be positive to collect benefits of the marriage based on her belief that she was validly married to her husband.

She and her "husband" had been married in a civil ceremony that was just like any of the weddings that you and I have been to in our lives. Since the potential client of ours had reasonably believed that she was married in a valid ceremony, she may still be able to receive proceeds of a life insurance policy should her "husband" pass away or be listed as a covered person under his health insurance; as his "wife."

Her next question had to do with whether or not a divorce was necessary if she did not want to be married to her spouse. After all, they had lived together for years, with him keeping an important secret from her. She felt like she could no longer trust him and wanted out of the marriage.

Her thought (a reasonable one, at that) was that she would not need to get a divorce because her marriage was not valid in the first place; a divorce wouldn't be necessary. I had to tell her that it is possible that because the length of their marriage was pretty substantial that it would not surprise me if a judge would require them to get a divorce based on a refusal to declare the marriage invalid.

At the end of the meeting, I told her that if she wanted to get a divorce from this man, she would likely need to file for divorce, have her "spouse" served with the paperwork, and then have a hearing on the matter to determine how the judge would allow them to proceed. The attorneys on both sides could present arguments to the judge, and from there, a judge would give them their pronouncement. It may seem like this is a lot of trouble for a marriage that was invalid from the start, but the critical point here is that you cannot make any assumptions about marriage and the laws that institutionalize it.

Premarital agreements- what are they exactly, and is one right for you?

With some regularity, I have received questions regarding premarital or prenuptial agreements. It is probably because the word is used so much in popular culture that the concept of a premarital agreement has begun to spread throughout our society.

A premarital agreement is a contract that two spouses can enter into before marriage. That premarital agreement defines each party's rights as they pertain to property and spousal maintenance.

People enter into premarital agreements to define expectations for the marriage regarding some pretty essential topics related to finances and property. In that way, there is no question as to how much money one spouse will pay to the other in the event of a divorce as far as spousal maintenance is concerned, for example.

Premarital agreements also allow parties to declare property, either community or separate property, in ways that a judge and the laws of the State of Texas may not do. Also, suppose that you have a small business that takes on a lot of debt annually and pays it off in the coming years. If you and your spouse are concerned about the risks that this presents to your spouse, you all can enter into a premarital agreement that specifically names this debt as a separate debt of yours should a divorce be necessary for you all.

We are interested in knowing what the "wealthier" spouse has to gain from signing a premarital agreement? Stay tuned to our blog, and you can learn this tomorrow.

We will pick up tomorrow where we left off in today's blog post by discussing premarital agreements. If you are marrying a person with a high amount of wealth or a wealthy person, you may be interested in learning the benefits that a "wealthy" spouse-to-be has from signing a premarital agreement.

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