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Protecting your Finances in a Divorce

Having your mind on your money is not greedy. It is not a sign that you answer only to the almighty dollar. Rather, looking out for your dollars and cents is a sign of responsibility. You likely understand that you have more important items on your plate than going through a difficult divorce and wasting an opportunity to care for your money and your resources in doing so. Your money and your finances matter a great deal to you and your family. A divorce is a perfect time to put that into practice by protecting what you have worked so hard to create over the years. 

A divorce is not the time to jump to conclusions, assume the worst is going to happen, or give up hope for a better tomorrow. You have too much at stake in your case to give up that you can still determine where your case goes in large part. True enough, some circumstances are probably beyond your control in the divorce. However, there are certainly many elements of a divorce that you can exert some degree of control over. What you need to do is determine how you can do this when it comes to your divorce and what you need to prepare for before your divorce begins. 

Personal finance is 20% head knowledge and 80% behavior, as one famous radio host has said. While we think that investing for retirement, saving for college expenses and everything in between can be complex that does not mean that you must punt important decisions to other people. Rather, you can make decisions for yourself even if you are just a beginner in eh world of family law cases. Since the money you have will benefit primarily your family (most likely) after you pass away. Therefore, you need to be so thorough and detailed when it comes to protecting your finances during a divorce. You never know the impact that your financial decisions can have on your potential beneficiaries. 

Going through your estate planning is another subject that is directly tied to this one in the field of family law. How well have you thought through your end-of-life plans? Are you keeping your family informed of any major changes that you have made to wills or trusts? Does your spouse or children know where to find important documents that were to pass away suddenly? While nobody likes to discuss topics like these they are certainly relevant. The more you communicate with your family about your decisions and your finances the better equipped they will be to handle matters related to your passing when the time comes. The last thing you would want to do is have them worry about finances at a time when they could be spending it together as a family unit. 

Whether you are facing a situation where you need to learn about how to protect your finances in a divorce or you are going through an estate plan for the first time the Law Office of Bryan Fagan is here to serve you. There is nothing our attorneys pride themselves on more than being able to assist people just like you walk through a difficult or unique circumstance. Nobody can predict the future but I can tell you that having an attorney by your side in either of these situations will put you in a better position than had you never prepared yourself in this way. Many times we underestimate just how complex an estate planning or divorce case be. Then, when you least expect it, a situation comes out of nowhere to surprise and frustrate you. 

Rather than worry about what you are working through while doing nothing concrete to help yourself, why not take the time to learn more about these areas of the law today in this blog post?  Then, if you have any questions please contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family's circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case. 

Protect your finances before you ever consider a divorce

What if there were a way to protect your finances before your divorce even began? This would be a way that you could eliminate any concern about finances at all in the divorce. For those of you who are parents, this means that you could devote all of your attention to your children and the issues that are relevant to them. What parent among us would not willingly ignore all other issues in hopes of being able to spend more time working on issues related to their kids? I’m willing to bet every parent reading this blog post would do exactly that. 

However, the reality is that even the most diligent and devoted parent cannot afford to completely ignore the financial aspects of their divorce in favor of spending all their time on custody and conservatorship issues. Rather, if a parent takes that perspective they are sure to make mistakes and missteps in the financial realm while still not achieving all of their goals in the family realm. Instead, you need to consider what can be done to possibly remove one of these issues from consideration in the divorce. Fortunately, there are ways for you to limit your financial exposure in a divorce when it comes to your finances. This can be done through premarital and marital property agreements. 

The gist of these agreements is the same. The only difference is when you and your spouse/fiancé negotiate with them.  The premarital property agreement is negotiated and agreed upon before you are married. On the other hand,  a marital property agreement is agreed to after you and your spouse have gotten married. What these agreements encapsulate are matters related to your finances- both separate estates and community property. What are commonly referred to as "prenups" are not just for celebrities, the very wealthy and money-hungry second wives. Rather, prenuptial agreements are for everyday people no matter their background or wealth. 

A premarital property agreement is a useful estate planning, as well as a family law document, given that you can lean on that document if and only if a divorce is on your horizon. Until then the document means nothing. It has no legal importance other than to say that it contains potential agreements that you and your spouse have agreed to follow in the event of a divorce. Do not assume that you have to wait until you and your spouse are getting a divorce to walk through a divorce of your community estate. You can divide up property that you all own now and then plan for how a community estate will be divided. 

The beauty of a prenuptial or post-nuptial property agreement is that you can plan for a division of your community estate without having to go through a divorce. You can anticipate the divorce and then decide how you and your spouse want to handle financial matters. This can be negotiated while the two of you are on good terms with one another. You do not need to wait until a divorce where neither of you is seeing eye to eye on much of anything. Rather, you can negotiate on matters like this while the two of you can still stand to be around one another. This makes for a more fruitful and civil bargaining session. 

A marital or premarital property agreement should be in writing. This means that an oral prenup will not work. Next, you should utilize specific terms and very clearly lay out expectations for each of you if you get divorced. The last thing you want to do is spend time and money negotiating a marital property agreement only to find that the language utilized is so unclear and so ambiguous that a family court cannot enforce the orders at a later date. The paper that the orders are printed on would become more valuable than the orders themselves. 

If you want to avoid any type of argument in the future that the orders are not valid then you should be sure to negotiate them far enough in advance of a wedding as possible. The optics of a prenuptial agreement that is signed a few days before your wedding may give the impression that someone was forced or coerced into signing the document. Rather, you can plan and sign the prenuptial agreement long before the wedding. Finally, if you both hire an attorney to help you negotiate and draft the agreement then this will help you against any argument that the agreement is invalid. If your spouse in the future attempts to make an argument that the agreement isn’t valid then you can point to how both of you had an attorney as a way to make the argument that both of you willingly entered into the document and that no fraud or coercion was a part of the process. 

Perform a detailed inventory and appraisement of your property

One of the best things that you can do to protect yourself and your finances in a divorce is to perform a detailed inventory and appraisal. An inventory is simply going through all the property in your home and outside the home and compiling a list of what the item is and who owns the item. This can be something as simple as taking a yellow legal pad and drawing three columns: one for your separate property, one for the separate property of your spouse, and one for property owned by both of you (community property). You can go through all your properties and then assign each item to a column. 

Your spouse, as I’m sure you can imagine, may not agree with all of your opinions on what estate a particular item belongs in. I’m sure that he or she will have a different opinion about some item or another in your divorce as far as where the property belongs. That is what a divorce is for. However, by performing this exercise with diligence you are laying the groundwork for how your divorce will go and if necessary, how a trial will go. The better arguments you have to combat those of your spouse the more likely you will be to have the property assigned to the column you want. Ultimately it does not matter what your opinion is or what that of your spouse is. What truly matters is what the Texas Family Code says and what your judge decides to do as far as assigning property to a particular estate or dividing community property in a particular way. 

The appraisement part of a case is giving an educated guess as to what the value of a particular item is. For some things, this will be simple. You may be able to look up online what a particular stock or bond is valued at in this market. However, some other items or properties will be more difficult to appraise. We have all seen various television shows where a person takes an item to a professional appraiser to be told what its value is in their opinion. This is not dissimilar to what will happen in your divorce. If you and your spouse cannot agree on how an item will be valued, then you will either need to bring in an expert on that subject to appraise the item or you will need to go to trial. 

Do not overstay your marriage

Do you know people who are married but are not living together? Maybe this describes you and your spouse. Suppose that your spouse moved out of the family home five years ago. He lives in an apartment while you have remained in the family home. He and you do not see each other and no longer talk. It has been this way for five years. Even though he lives close to you that does not mean that you still see or talk to one another. The two of you may as well be total strangers at this point in the game. While that is sad to say it is the reality of the situation as far as you are concerned. 

However, you view the situation as a healthier one than you were in before. When you two were married and living together you were constantly yelling, fighting, and generally engaging in some unhealthy relationship practices. It felt like you two were in a bad television show with how much drama was in the home day in and day out. Rather than continue to subject yourselves to that your spouse decided to move out of the home and give you both some space to see what you wanted your next step to be. 

Fast forward five years and nothing much has changed. You rarely see one another and have made no definitive steps one way or another to salvage the marriage or go and get a divorce. However, neither of you saw this as a bad thing. You weren't causing each other grief; you were still able to pay your bills on a single income and life was generally better this way. Nothing was pushing you to do anything about living apart from one another, so you just decided to stick with it. One year became two and then two became five. Now you all are content living apart while still married. 

First, living apart from your spouse does not end a marriage. In a non-common law marriage, you can live apart from each other for decades and still be married to your spouse. This means that you need to watch out for the behavior of your spouse while still married due to its potential liability for you. If your spouse is a bad driver and is still on your car insurance, then your rates may increase when he or she gets into their next wreck Would your spouse ever take out a loan in your name using your identification or information? This is much more likely than you may imagine. Especially if you have no idea what he or she is up to considering that they no longer live with you. 

Undoubtedly there are a lot of financial considerations to keep track of in a Texas divorce. Before making assumptions about how something will turn out why not examine the situation thoughtfully and then move forward to do something proactive about your life? Hiring an experienced family law attorney is a great place to start.

Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan 

If you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family's circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case. 

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