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Areas of Expertise

The attorneys of Raggio & Raggio are nationally recognized leaders in divorce and family law, providing quality legal services in Dallas, Texas and throughout North Texas, as well as influencing law-making at the highest policy levels. Select any of our areas of expertise below to read more information.

Divorce

In Texas, we have "no fault" divorce or "insupportability." A divorce will be granted if one, or both, parties, asserts that the marriage has become insupportable because of discord or conflict of personalities that destroys the legitimate ends of the marriage relationship, and there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation.

 

Texas has retained several "fault" grounds. Although it is not necessary to allege one of these grounds to obtain a divorce, the Court can consider fault in dividing the community estate. The factors that may be considered fault may also be relevant to child custody and visitation provisions. If applicable, you need to discuss this situation with your attorney in detail.

 

If either spouse has engaged in abusive conduct towards the other spouse that has resulted in psychological or physical injuries, tort claims may also exist. A tort claim could result in a judgment against the offending spouse.

 

But the divorce itself is usally just one facet of thecase; the division of the marital estate must take place at the same time of the granting of the divorce.  And also orders about where the children will live and how they will be supported.

 

The entire divorce process  is explained in much greater depth other places on the website, starting with "How a Texas Divorce Case Works."

Child Custody

In Texas, there is a rebutable presumption that parents should serve as the Joint Managing Conservators of their children. In Texas, "Conservatorship" is "Custody" of the children, and the entire regime about the child(ren) is now called a "Parenting Plan."

 

Since 2005, the divorce decrees and other final orders concerning children now have terms such as parenting plans and parenting coordinators. Such terms designate procedures and persons that will assist in promoting the interest of children and in helping litigants resolve their issues relating to parenting. Section 153.601 et seq. are intended to assist parties in minimizing conflicts in their post-divorce parenting through (1) creating a "parenting plan" which establishes the parents' rights and duties with respect to the children and which provides procedures for resolution of future disputes and (2) by court-appointment of "an impartial third party" to assist the parents in developing and implementing their "parenting plan". The court may appoint this "parenting coordinator" over a parent's objection in a "high conflict case." The parenting coordinator is paid by the parties, like a mediator, except for hardship exceptions. She/he has no power to impose a solution and may not testify in Court. But a parenting facilator CAN testify in Court.  Both parenting coodinators and facilitators have to have extensive minimum qualifications to serve in such capacity.

 

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Complex Property Settlement

How property is divided in a divorce action is simple...in theory.

 

There are two major categories of property in the State of Texas:  community property and separate property.  The community property is to be divided in a divorce in a just and right manner.

 

Separate property is:

  • property owned prior to marriage;
  • property acquired at any time by gift or inheritance;
  • recoveries for personal injuries sustained by a spouse during marriage (except for loss of earnings); and
  • property exchanged for above items 1 - 3.

Community property consists of the property, other than separate property, acquired by either spouse during marriage. This is true even if only one spouse has possession of the property. Just because one spouse is named on the title, deed, or account; one person receives the asset as payment for personal services (ie: salary); or the asset will not be paid until a future date (ie: retirement) do not make it separate property. There is a presumption that all property possessed by either spouse is community property. Separate property ownership must be proven by clear and convincing evidence. The most common way of proof is by tracing the asset from the date of acquisition to present date. If the asset is money, and has been deposited into a joint account, or into an account with monies which would be considered community property (ie: salary) has been deposited, the separate property may become commingled to the point that it is not possible or cost-effective to prove its continued existence.

 

Any divorce proceeding must divide the community property and confirm the separate property to its owner.  That's the simple explanation.  But in many cases, simplicity fades fom the case and concepts such as commingled property, tracing, reimbursement, and disproportionate division come into play.

 

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Premarital and Marital Agreements

Many couples--those about to marry and those who have already married-- often choose to change the law of Texas as to how it will apply to their marriage.  For couples about to marry, this is done by means of a Premarital Agreement, also called a Prenuptual Agreement.  In the right circumstances, almost any property or income right that would arise during the marriage can be modified, lessened, or increased, and in some cases, completely eliminated.  Married couples can accomplish much of the same customizing-the-law for their situation with a Marital Agreement.

 

Both Premarital and Marital Agreements should only be made after extensive disclosure of assets, liabilities, income, and other pertinent information, and should be done in a way where there is no question that the parties meant what they agreed to do.

 

Sometimes a Premarital Agreement was executed under conditions that allow for the challenge of that agreement under Texas law.  But in most cases, the Agreement is presumed to be enforcable.

 

Complex Business Valuation

Many divorces have small businesses involved. The business may be the primary producer of income and wealth for the family during the marriage.  How the business is to be handled in the divorce is often the major challenge in the divorce.  Concepts such as capitalization of earnings, adjusted net asset value, double dip, personal goodwill, reasonable compensation, and discounts to value often must be solved before getting to the bottom line of  who should take the business and under what terms.  Getting the factual information to put numbers on these concepts is a process that should be done by the client and an experienced team.  We have assisted many families in a divorce--sometimes for the party who "runs" the business, and sometimes for the spouse--in resolving their situation either  in settlement or in trial. The attorneys at Raggio Family Law have had many divorce cases over the years with these type of businesses involved, and know how to handle a case from either side--either the driven spouse who runs the business or the spouse who may have only limited involvment or knowledge abut the business. And many other variations thereof, including both spouses and other family members being in the business.

Post-Divorce Modifications

The Court's Orders dealing with the children can  be enforced and can be modified after the divorce ( or other final order) dealng the child or children.  The "big three"  of changes to a divorce decree or prior order affecting the children are child support, custody, and time/place of child possession. 

Tracing Hidden Assets

With the advent of no-fault divorce nationwide, couples no longer have to place blame for marital failure, publicly proclaiming tales of infidelity, mental cruelty, or desertion. A more practical topic now dominates divorce proceedings -- the division of marital wealth. Yet the battle here can be just as painful, demoralizing, and debilitating as public faultfinding, and in most cases the more money a couple has, the more they fight over how to divide it.

 

Marital property consists of material possessions of the  dollars and the property that the couple, together or as individuals, acquired after they were married. Separate property, by contrast, is that which is brought into the marriage by each spouse and kept distinct from all marital property. Any inheritance after marriage also belongs to the individual who receives the bequest, making it separate property, too.  It's hard to properly divide assets if some assets are hidden or not disclosed.  Sometimes a spouse "forgets" about an asset, like an unvested pension benefit.  There are several methods to ensure that ALL of the assets are on the table.

 

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Paternity

There are more couples who are delaying marriage but not delaying children.  There are children born out of what may have been a less than perfect relationship.  But a child born out of wedlock has the same rights to love and support as a child born into a stable marriage.  However, a child born out of wedlock can't receive formal court ordered child support until the child's paternity has been established.

Collaborative Law

Collaborative Divorce is a different process of burying a dead marriage that is often less painful and scarring both to the spouses and to their children. Fighting in divorce court about property, custody, and support is emotionally draining, expensive and makes post-divorce communication more difficult. The Texas legislature, whatever its other faults may be, has made Texas the first state to recognize a new way of divorcing called collaborative law, and such is in full bloom in Dallas and surrounding areas.

 

Under Texas' collaborative law statute, the husband and the wife agree to an open, transparent process of negotiating the terms to end their marriage. Rather than public hearings in divorce court to settle their differences, the parties sit together with their two lawyers in a series of private conferences. The overall goal is to settle property, custody and support questions in a way that recognizes and honors the interests of each spouse and gives the two families that result from the divorce maximum chances of success and happiness.

 

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