There are some parts of the divorce that end when the divorce ends. For starters, the marriage is over. Once there is a resolution of the marital property issues, the actual transfers normally take just a few weeks or months. For example, the titles to assets such as the home, bank accounts, and vehicles can be quickly prepared, signed, and recorded. QDRO agreements should preserve a spouse’s rights to retirement benefits when those benefits vest.

There are two items though that will remain open for years or even decades after the divorce is finalized. Parents are normally required to pay child support until a child reaches the age of 18. A spouse may be required to pay alimony until he/she dies or until their spouse dies or remarries. A life insurance policy for the benefit of the spouse or child helps to protect those payments if the spouse who is obligated to make the payments dies before all the payments are due.

Life insurance for child support and childcare

A recent case decided by the Ninth Circuit examined the relationship between immigration law and divorce law. The Ninth Circuit began its review of a Nevada case by reviewing the Court’s ruling in a case named Park v. Barr that the Court had just ruled on a few months earlier. The prior case involved a woman who was in the United States even though she had overstayed her visa.

The woman, Woul Park, married Byung Gug Choi in Korea in 1988. Both spouses were Korean. Ms. Park entered American in 2003 on a B-2 tourist visa. She overstayed her visa. Ms. Park has lived in California since 2003. In 2009, the couple divorced under Koran law. After the divorce, Ms. Park married James Young Park – who is a US citizen. Ms. Park then filed and was granted legal permanent residency (LPR) based on the second marriage.

Ms. Park applied to become a naturalized citizen in 2014. That petition was denied because the USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) determined that her divorce from Choi wasn’t valid under California law – which, in turn, invalidated her second marriage. USCIS based its finding that the divorce was invalid on California Family Code § 2091, which bars California from recognizing a foreign divorce if both spouses are domiciliaries of California.

We understand that our family law clients are concerned about how much their divorce is going to cost. Divorces, especially contested divorces, are more costly than most people expect. With some planning and communication, there are ways that spouses and parents can manage some control over how much their divorce is going to cost.

The cost of a divorce varies depending on the lawyer who is handling your case. At Lyttle Law Firm, we do more than explain the court costs. We provide a written agreement that sets forth our rates, including hourly rates and/or rates that depend on the types of divorce claims we pursue on your behalf.

The initial consultation

The initial consultation you have with your lawyer sets that foundation for all your divorce issues. At our firm, we call initial consultations Strategy Sessions. And that is exactly what it is. We custom prepare a roadmap for you and a path to resolution of issues that concern you. Your lawyer needs to understand all your concerns. She needs to know all your faults, all your debts, and anything that might negatively impact your concern. Many of the items you fear disclosing, your spouse probably already knows. You lived with your spouse for some time, maybe decades. Most likely, your spouse already knows that you failed to pick your kids up on time. He or she probably knows how much you earn. We need to know what your spouse knows.

Simply put, the more we know about you, the better we can represent you. Nobody expects you to be perfect. If we know your income status, how well or not well you get along with your spouse and his/her relatives, and what your kids think of you – we can make sure we file the correct claims at the right time. We can prepare your case and raise questions about your spouse’s case – so that you get the best results possible.

Whether the initial conference takes place in person or on Zoom, honesty about your difficulties helps us help you.

Attorney Daniella Deseta Lyttle of Lyttle Law Firm, PLLC, was featured in the March 2021 Edition of Women to Watch!
If you are looking for an attorney to handle your family law, immigration law, or your wills & estates matters, contact us at (512) 215-5225. Our attorneys are ready to assist.

Divorce is a difficult decision for everyone. Divorce is an especially hard choice for couples when one or both of the spouses are immigrants. According to Asian Journal, the good news is that there are four ways in which divorce can actually help immigrants obtain their green card.

Married daughters and sons of US Citizens

For immigrants who seek legal permanent resident (LPR) status based on a family-sponsored preference (F3) by a parent who is a US citizen – and based on being a daughter or son who is a married 21-year-or-older daughter or sone – there is normally a long time to wait for approval depending on your country of origin. In some cases, it may take decades before your application is reviewed. Your application’s priority date is typically the date your US citizen parent(s) filed your petition.

For the most part, it doesn’t matter who files a Texas divorce case – you or your spouse. You both have the right to assert your rights and defenses. These rights and defenses include contesting the grounds for divorce, the division of the property, spousal support, child custody, and child support.

The benefits of filing first are mostly psychological and procedural. Each case is different. An experienced Texas family lawyer will explain the pros and cons of being the person who files the divorce case.

The psychological benefits of filing first

People with a 401 (k) may consider taking money from their accounts for many reasons. Struggling to make ends meets during the COVID-19 pandemic is one reason. Another reason is that they’ve separated from their spouse and need the funds to survive.

A 401 (k) is a defined contribution plan where employees contribute funds each year to a retirement plan. The employer may provide matching amounts. The advantage of a 401 (k) is that you don’t have to pay taxes on the income until you withdraw the money. Often, withdrawing money later in life means you’re in a lower tax bracket than when you contributed, so you save on federal taxes by postponing the withdrawal.

In Texas, all property acquired during the marriage is considered marital property unless there is a pre-nuptial agreement or a post-nuptial agreement. Marital property does not include property either spouse owned before the marriage. Marital property does not include property acquired during the marriage if the parcel was obtained – by a gift, through a will or estate when someone dies. Marital property doesn’t include a personal injury recovery unless the recovery is for loss or earnings (while the accident victim was married).

The pandemic is affecting the desire for a divorce, the ability to obtain a divorce, and the issues that need to be resolved – in many different ways. A recent article in D Magazine analyzed the many different ways the pandemic is changing divorce in America.

Divorces in Texas are still being filed and resolved during the pandemic. Mediators and collaborators are still working to settle cases. It takes more time to obtain hearing dates in Texas as criminal trials have priority, and safety precautions need to be taken before cases can be heard. Many cases are being heard virtually instead of in-person.

The Texas Supreme Court states that current possession orders in divorce cases should be followed. Lawyers are being asked to keep the status quo as much as possible.

The laws on divorce, property division, child custody, alimony, and child supports haven’t changed due to the pandemic – but the needs of spouses, parents, and children have changed dramatically. A lot of the need for modifications of existing orders and the new requests for divorce depend a lot on the financial ability of Texans to weather the storm and the comfort levels of each spouse.

Courts are generally hesitant to change existing orders if the pandemic is likely to end within a year.

Some of the ways the pandemic is directly affecting family law issues are:

  • Grounds for divorce. One example of a practical change is that living apart for three years, one of the grounds for divorce, is more difficult because people are hesitant to move due to finances and the need to interact with movers and other people – to change locations.
  • Child support. It’s harder to enforce child support payments by holding parents who don’t pay in contempt. Contempt means time in jail, and jails are having some of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks.
  • Child custody/conservatorship. The parent with primary conservatorship is being required to make more decisions than usual.

The Pros and Cons of Virtual Divorces

Practically, most divorce hearings and negotiations are being handled virtually. Zoom is the primary technical medium.

In Texas, according to a Texas family lawyer, “It’s not uncommon now for me to have a three-day trial or several hearings in one day all on Zoom.” With Zoom, lawyers and clients don’t need to wait their turn to be heard. Mediators and judges have been able to adapt reasonably well.

Other lawyers appreciate how well Zoom works – but still think face-to-face hearings are better. In-person, the closeness and stress of a hearing can help forge settlements and help confront spouses who aren’t credible. Virtual trials can make it difficult to see the people testifying for or against a client and to ask them credibility questions and cross-examine them. With Zoom, you can’t see if a client is being coached through text messages or in some other technical way.

Some aspects of remote divorce proceedings may continue even after the pandemic because remote communications help cut down on legal and court costs.

How the COVID-19 Health Crisis is Affecting the Resolution of Divorce Issues – Such as Child Custody, and Child Support

The pandemic is forcing more decisions to be made about child custody and support. Deciding when to divorce and how to divide property often can generally wait longer because they don’t affect life on a daily basis.

Some of the Texas conservatorship issues that are affected by COVID-19 include:

Child custody and visitation. Many schedules do need to be modified – either amicably or through the court process. Modifications are necessary because children are staying home more (during school hours and after school hours). Some of the pros and cons of raising children during the pandemic are:

  1. Parents are finding it challenging to obtain daycare services during the pandemic.
  2. It simply isn’t as easy for the parents to exchange their children due to safety concerns.
  3. Many parents need to stay home to monitor their child’s remote learning.
  4. On the plus side, many parents are getting closer to their children because they’re spending so much time with them.

Child support. Some parents have lost their jobs due to the pandemic crisis. Losing a job is a proper reason for seeking a modification of a child support order.

Some couples are fighting more because of the pandemic for different reasons:

  1. Sometimes being in the same home 24/7 makes it hard to find escape valves for releasing tensions.
  2. Spouses may discover that the other parent isn’t willing to take care of the children.
  3. Spouses may discover that the husband or wife can’t handle stress well.
  4. For some spouses, the close quarters only makes clear that the marriage isn’t working.
  5. Different parents may have different ideas on their children’s education and social activities during the pandemic.
  6. Marriage counseling is continuing online.

How Lawyers are Trying to Help Spouses and Parents During the Divorce

Lawyers are trying to help couples with marital difficulties by clarifying what their lives will look like during and after a divorce – so they can better decide whether to work through the pandemic issues or seek a divorce. Family lawyer help spouses and parents by explaining:

  • How the divorce process works;
  • What issues need to be resolved;
  • How the resolution process works;

Some of the mechanisms family lawyers are using during the pandemic are:

  • Informal settlements;
  • Encouraging more flexibility;
  • Reducing the number of exchanges of children;
  • Collaborative divorces (which use a team approach with financial and mental health professionals), are working well during the pandemic – because the core idea behind the collaboration is to work out solutions instead of focusing on confrontation. Mediation is also a valuable divorce resolution tool.

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