Benefits of a Texas Collaborative Divorce

A traditional divorce is done in the “litigation” process. This is where, if the parties cannot agree, they end up in court and let a judge make the decision. The litigation process can be difficult on the parties and the children.  As one of the Best San Antonio Divorce Lawyers, Rebecca Carrillo, has seen how destructive litigation can be on families. Litigation puts the parties in a “win” or “lose” situation. It makes people throw all the “dirt” they have on the other parent in a public setting.  After a court hearing, it is very common to see parents that could call each other before, now refuse to even send an email or a text message to the other parent. Mending the damage of the court experience can take years.

Collaborative divorce is completely different than litigation. In a Texas Collaborative Divorce, the parties begin by signing an agreement that they will NOT go to court. This lets everyone breathe a little bit easier from the beginning. One of the greatest advantages of a collaborative divorce is that it is private and confidential. You can even file your divorce with your initials instead of your full name. This provides you privacy that is impossible in litigation. Furthermore, and most importantly, it puts kids first. You are able to craft a unique and carefully thought out parenting plan with the help of your lawyer and any other professionals in the team. In the litigation process, it is very common for judges to slap on a standard parenting plan and move on in the case. This could be detrimental to kids who have extracurricular activities or parents with nontraditional work schedules.

As on of the best San Antonio divorce lawyers, Rebecca Carrillo is also familiar with how the collaborative divorce process saves money. People are usually turned off from collaborative when they hear that we utilize additional professionals in addition to the lawyers for each party. However, it is these professionals who save the clients the most money. In Collaborative, we typically use a Mental Health Professional a/k/a “divorce coach” and a Financial Professional. The divorce coach is the one who moderates the meetings and helps create the custom possession schedule and parenting plan for the parties. The financial planner does the hard work of putting together a complete financial picture for the parties and assisting in brainstorming about how to divide the parties’ estate.  By working with these professionals outside of your time with your individual lawyer, you end up saving money. Typically, the most expensive person on your collaborative team is your lawyer. So, if you use the other professionals in conjunction with your lawyer, you can more effectively control the costs of your divorce.

Divorcing with a Child Under the Age of 3

Going through a divorce is one of the hardest things most people will ever do in their life. Combine that with raising a child under the age of 3, and it is even harder. Parents of toddlers during a divorce face unique problems that parents of older children may not otherwise encounter. Because of these issues, it is important to hire the best San Antonio divorce lawyer to represent you if you are divorcing with young children.

Divorcing with a child under the age of 3?

The Texas Legislature recognizes the unique issues that infants and toddlers have in separating families. Because of this, they have  created 153.254 of the Texas Family Code. This statute lists the factors that a judge should consider when deciding a visitation and custody plan for your baby. These factors include, but are not limited to, the following:

(1)  the caregiving provided to the child before and during the current suit;

(2)  the effect on the child that may result from separation from either party;

(3)  the availability of the parties as caregivers and the willingness of the parties to personally care for the child;

(4)  the physical, medical, behavioral, and developmental needs of the child;

(5)  the physical, medical, emotional, economic, and social conditions of the parties;

(6)  the impact and influence of individuals, other than the parties, who will be present during periods of possession;

(7)  the presence of siblings during periods of possession;

(8)  the child’s need to develop healthy attachments to both parents;

(9)  the child’s need for continuity of routine; and

(10)  the location and proximity of the residences of the parties.

As one of the best San Antonio Divorce lawyers, Rebecca finds that it is also important to emphasize the needs of your child for a routine. Sleeping times, eating times, and whether your baby is breastfeeding are critically important to the Bexar County judges. It is also important to establish what you do with your baby. For example, are you the parent changing diapers, making doctor’s appointments, administering medications, and reading bedtime stories?   All these types of factors are considered by the judge when they are creating a possession schedule for your child. If there are other aspects of your child’s life that you think a judge should consider, you should discuss that with your lawyer. Children under the age of 3 don’t have a default possession schedule to defer to, so the more information you give to your lawyer, the better.

 

 

Why choose a Board Certified Attorney?

Board Certification is a mark of excellence and a distinguishing accomplishment – one that roughly 10% of Texas attorneys claim.

In 2016, Rebecca J. Carrillo became Board Certified in Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. By earning this achievement, Rebecca has gained the right to call herself an expert in Family Law.

Board certification means that the attorney has substantial relevant experience in a select field of law, as well as demonstrated and tested special competence in that area of the law.

Board certification in Texas is a voluntary designation program for attorneys. To become board certified in family law, an attorney must have been licensed to practice law for at least 5 years and have devoted a substantial percentage of his or her practice to family law for the last three years. In addition, he or she must have devoted a required percentage of practice to the area of family law, attended continuing education in the area of family law, passed an evaluation by fellow lawyers and judges and then pass a 6 hour written exam.

As a Board Certified Attorney, Rebecca Carrillo is dedicated to being the best San Antonio divorce lawyer for your case. You can be assured that you have hired an expert in Family Law when you retain the services of Rebecca Carrillo.

To learn more about Board Certification, please check out www.tbls.org.

Adultery in Texas

As a San Antonio divorce lawyer, I deal with divorce cases involving adultery on a daily basis. So, what is adultery, and how does it affect your divorce? First, adultery is defined as the voluntary sexual intercourse with a person who is not your spouse during the marriage. During the marriage includes the time period after separation, but before the divorce is entered. Adultery can be proved to the court by circumstantial evidence. It cannot be proved by innuendo or just a mere suspicion. If you prove that your spouse committed adultery, you can seek more than 50% of the estate.  This means, that if you add up all the assets subject to division by a court, instead of taking half, you could argue that you deserve more than that, say a 55% or 65%  award to you instead of just a 50/50.

You are not guaranteed more than 50%, but you can seek it.  As a San Antonio divorce attorney, I rarely see HUGE variations from the 50/50 split.  Each case is different. Therefore, the allegation of adultery should be discussed in depth with the San Antonio divorce attorney you hire, so he or she can asses how to deal with it in your divorce case. How much more you get depends on a variety of factors that the court can consider such as your acts that caused the marriage to dissolve, family violence, cruel treatment, or other bad acts you committed against your spouse who committed the adultery. Before encouraging my clients to include adultery as a grounds for divorce in their petition, I evaluate with each client how it could benefit them and if it is worth proving the adultery…considering the potential increase in attorneys fees, private investigator fees, or other expenses that may become involved to prove the adultery.

Adultery can cost you money in your divorce

Adultery can cost you money in your divorce

Adultery is not necessarily relevant to a custody battle. If you are a bad spouse, that doesn’t always mean that you are bad parent. Adultery can become relevant to a custody battle if it is affecting the child. Therefore, when I meet with my clients, as a San Antonio divorce lawyer, I examine all aspects of how it could be affecting the family, including the children.

Credit Card Debt in Divorce-San Antonio Divorce Attorney Gives You the Scoop

Here's the scoop on credit card debt during a divorce

Credit Card debt in a Texas Divorce

If you are like most families, you have credit card debt. According to most recent data from the Survey of Consumer Finances by the U.S. Federal Reserve, the average American family has about $5,700 in credit card debt. (http://www.valuepenguin.com/average-credit-card-debt) So, what does this mean for a divorce?  Quite frankly, this is an area of the law in Texas where you may get some bad advice. Even some of the smartest attorneys I know get this area of the law wrong.

In Texas, the divorce courts divide your assets and liabilities.  A lot of times, attorneys refer to “community debt”. A community debt is just a way of saying that during the marriage, at some time, either spouse entered into a contract and became indebted.  Does that always mean that you are responsible for the debt with your spouse? Maybe, maybe not. The best way to explain this is to give some examples.

EXAMPLE 1

Credit Card Debt in Divorce

Susan is spending away at Macy’s, what is the husband liable for in the divorce?

Let’s pretend that wife, Susan, loves to shop and takes out a card at Macys. She doesn’t put her husband on the credit card. Husband, Edgar, never uses the card. He doesn’t shop at Macys and only gets his clothes from Bass Pro Shops.  In this example, the Texas courts would tend to put that debt in Mary’s column alone. That means that if she divorced, there is a strong argument for Mary to be solely responsible for this credit card debt, since it would be unfair for Edgar to have to assume that debt since he never contracted to have that debt.

EXAMPLE 2

But, let’s change the example a little bit. Let’s pretend that Edgar makes good money, but keeps Susan on an allowance. Edgar spends as much as he wants and eats steak dinners every weekend with his golf friends, but he won’t let Susan spend more than $100/month out of their joint account.  So, now Susan has to use credit cards to buy her basic necessities like food, groceries, her clothes, pay the electric bill, and buy school supplies for their kids.   If Susan needed to shop at Macy’s and charge the card up because she couldn’t clothe herself on her allowance, then I believe there is an argument to try to make Edgar responsible for some of that Macy’s debt. He probably wouldn’t end up directly liable for the debt, meaning he probably won’t end up paying Macy’s out of his pocket, but he might end up having to pay Susan directly to compensate her.  Certainly, it wasn’t fair for Susan to get a $100/month allowance while Edgar ate steak dinners and golfed with his buddies every weekend.

EXAMPLE 3

Now, let’s pretend that wife, Susan, and husband, Edgar,  each take out a joint MasterCard. They use it for everything, groceries, vacations, toys for their dogs, daycare for their kids.  Obviously, these are joint debts, used for the benefit of both parties. Here, most Texas courts are going to say that this is a joint debt and try to divide it evenly between the parties.

BOTTOM LINE?

Essentially, the bottom line from these scenarios is that if you have credit card debt, in either your name alone, or with your spouse, then you need to look at what the debts were for. If they were for necessary items like groceries, utility bills, joint vacations, or daycare, then obviously both spouses benefited from the debt and both should be liable. If one spouse had nothing to do with the debt, and the debt was not for necessary items,  then it can be argued that the spouse that was charging up the credit cards should be the one solely responsible. That scenario is the rarest. And, I am certainly not advocating to go into the credit card statements and itemize which item was for which spouse….I have seen a couple do that one time in court and it did NOT go well.  So, before you get excited about trying to get out of credit card debt, talk to your San Antonio divorce lawyer about this issue.

As an experienced San Antonio divorce attorney, I tend to see more of the third example.  Most of the time, I see spouses using credit cards for basic items and some luxury items.  Typically, the judges split the debts between the spouses, even if one of the spouses has more debt than the other.

As you can see, there is no easy answer to this question, but using these basic guidelines and talking to one of the best San Antonio divorce attorneys around, you can find out what your rights will be in the divorce. Each case is different, so make sure that you have a San Antonio divorce attorney evaluate your case.

 

Paternity Cases in Texas

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As a San Antonio divorce attorney, I am very familiar with the strains that a pregnancy can put on a divorce case.  If you are thinking about divorce, it is best not to get pregnant. If you do get pregnant, you won’t be allowed to divorce in Texas until your child is born.  This sounds like an antiquated and perhaps sexist law, however, when you think about it, there is some reasoning behind it. Primarily, by preventing the divorce, the State of Texas is ensuring that you don’t have to open up 2 cases: one for divorce and the other for paternity. Second, Texas is ensuring that paternity will be figured out, so that both Husband and Wife will know their rights with respect to the newborn child when he/she arrives.

If you are not married, and you or your partner are breaking up and simultaneously expecting the birth of your child, you typically file suit whenever the baby is born. Once the baby is born, then a lawsuit is held to determine paternity and then set up custody, visitation, and child support. For Dads, setting up paternity is important to establish parental rights over the child.

While I am a strong believer that you should always have a lawyer assisting in any type of family law case,  you can use the services of the Texas Attorney General to establish paternity, child support, custody, and visitation. Below is a link to their website about paternity. https://texasattorneygeneral.gov/cs/establishing-paternity

 

My Spouse Says I will Never See My Kids Again

As a San Antonio divorce attorney, I have heard of all sorts of threats made between spouses. One of the most common threats I hear being made is one parent threatening that they will make sure the leaving spouse will never see their kids again.  Is this a valid threat? Typically, in Texas, the answer is NO.  In Texas, if you are a parent, you typically have rights and those rights are presumed to be yours. What this means, is that your spouse would have to prove that you are undeserving of those rights.  In Texas, courts look at kids in two aspects: visitation and decision making.

unhappy couple

With the first aspect of parenting (decision making) we are talking about your rights to make decisions over:

  1. The right to consent to medical, dental and surgical treatment involving invasive procedures;
  2. The right to consent to psychiatric and psychological procedures;
  3. The right to represent the child in legal action and to make other decisions of substantial legal significance concerning the child;
  4. The right to consent to marriage and to enlistment in the armed forces of the United States;
  5. The right to make decisions concerning the child’s education;
  6. The right to the services and earnings of a child’s education;
  7. The right except when a guardian of the child’s estate or a guardian ad litem has been appointed for the child, the right to act as an agent of the child in relation to the child’s estate if the child’s action is required by a state, the United States, or a foreign government;
  8. The right to receive information from the other conservator of the child concerning the health education and welfare of the child;
  9. The right to confer with the other parent to the extent possible before making a decision concerning the health, education and welfare of the child;
  10. The right of access to medical, dental , psychological, and educational records of the child;
  11. The right to consult with school officials concerning the child’s welfare and educational status, including school activities;
  12. The right to attend school activities;
  13. The right to be designated on the child’s records as a person to be contacted in the event of an emergency;
  14. The right to consent to medical, dental, and surgical treatment during an emergency involving a

In order for you to lose your rights to make decisions regarding your child, your spouse would have to prove that you are unfit and unable to make those decisions. That is really hard to prove. The presumption when you walk into court, is that you should share those decision making rights equally and independently. For example, as a San Antonio divorce attorney, one of my examples I use with my clients is that on your time, you can take them to the dentist. Then, when it is the other parents time with your child, if they want to take them to the dentist, they can as well. Your time, your decision.

Now, with the second aspect of parenting…visitation time. It would be an extreme case if you never got to see your kids.  Even parents that are guilty of neglect, drug usage, or even family violence will get some form of visitation (typically supervised). So, to say that you will never see your kids is typically a big threat with no real merit.  Only in extreme cases would there be no visitation. And frankly, I have only seen that happen one time and the case was one of the most horrific I have had to deal with as a San Antonio Divorce Attorney.

Visitation time is always focused around what is best for your child.  My blog that discusses custody cases goes into more detail about what courts look at when deciding custody. These same factors are used to decide on visitation. Speaking as a San Antonio divorce attorney, if you are being threatened that you will never see your kids again, you need a good lawyer to represent you to protect you and your kids. Make sure you get in touch with a lawyer immediately if you are being threatened. Nothing is more important than protecting your kids in the divorce process.

Child Custody Case in San Antonio

divorce

If you have a child custody case, the best thing you could do is get a lawyer and develop a specialized plan specifically to your child’s needs and the facts of your case. That being said, below are some general issues to consider if you are going through a child custody case. As one of the best San Antonio divorce lawyers, Rebecca Carrillo has significant experience tailoring your case to fit what a judge or jury is looking for when deciding custody.

Generally, most Dads worry that Mom will always get custody no matter what. That is not true. We have represented a number of fathers who wanted primary, for a variety of reasons.  The law in TX doesn’t prefer one sex over the other. However, it is true that our Texas judges decide cases based on a number of factors, one being their own past experiences. So, if you are male seeking custody from a female mother, then you do need to prepare yourself for a lot of work in proving your case. This doesn’t mean your case is impossible, but rather that you need to be diligent in proving your case.

When deciding custody, the best interest of your child is always paramount. What does that mean? That means that the judge looks into a lot of factors such as:

  1. Who takes the child to their medical appointments?
  2. Who interacts with the child’s teachers?
  3. The emotional and physical needs of the child
  4. The emotional and physical dangers to the child now and in the future;
  5. The parental ability of each parent
  6. Who attends school functions?
  7. Who attends practices and games?
  8. Who helps with homework?
  9. Who makes dinner?
  10. Who gets the child ready for school or for bed at night?
  11. Who makes sure the child brushes their teeth?
  12. The plans each parent has for the child
  13. The stability of the home or proposed placement
  14. Who buys the child clothes, equipment for their activities?
  15. What work schedule do the parents have?
  16. What flexibility does a parent have to leave work to care for the child?
  17. What kind of support system do the parents have to assist in caring for their child?
  18. Are there any negative issues surrounding a parent (drugs, alcohol, family violence, theft, untreated mental illness)?
  19. Is one parent constantly pawning the child off on other people to care for the child?
  20. Is one parent constantly alienating the child from the other parent?
  21. Criminal backgrounds of the parents
  22. What are the desires of the child?

These are just a handful of factors that our Texas judges consider. These factors are viewed as a whole, meaning that only rarely would proving one of these factors get you a victory in court. Each case is unique and should be evaluated on a very detailed basis. As a San Antonio divorce lawyer, Rebecca Carrillo takes the time to learn the details of your case and works with you to develop a plan that best suits your needs and works to protect your child.

Can I get rid of evidence in my divorce case?

As a San Antonio divorce attorney, I understand that most people have at least a few skeletons in their closet. And, the best San Antonio divorce attorneys in town will tell you that sometimes trying to hide those skeletons can hurt you more than the actual skeleton itself.  If you are considering divorce and wondering if you can somehow hide evidence,  they most frequent answer is no.  Once you file for divorce, certain rules come down on you that did not otherwise exist before. The penalties for hiding evidence can be very severe. So, before you do anything, call the best San Antonio divorce attorney you know and ask them about your specific situation. You do not want to get in trouble with the court for destroying something you should have kept. You also don’t want to look like a liar in court or that you have something to hide. This is a very complicated issue, so make sure you discuss this in detail with your divorce attorney.

How Fast can I be Divorced in Texas?

In Texas, there is a 60 day waiting period for a divorce.  The waiting period begins from the date that the petition for divorce is filed.  The earliest you can be divorced is on the 61st day after the waiting period has expired. If there has been family violence, the waiting period may be modified to allow for the divorce to happen more quickly.  As a San Antonio divorce attorney, I know that the only people who get divorced on that 61st day are typically couples who have agreed on everything and have an uncontested divorce. The more couples fight, especially over custody, the longer their divorce case lasts.  Each case is different and unique, so it is best to discuss your individual timeline for divorce with a San Antonio Divorce Attorney.

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