In Richmond, Texas, the divorce statutes are the same for everyone. When you have significantly more assets than a typical divorcing couple, however, the rules don’t necessarily work the same way. When a high net worth couple has children, child custody usually remains a contentious issue, but community assets often become the focus of the more protracted battles.
Divorce court judges have flexibility and discretion when dividing community estates. They guide judges toward a community property division process that’s just and right, having due regard for the rights of each party and any children of the marriage. Taken at face value, this sounds reasonable and fair. It’s of little consolation to the spouse who feels victimized when the other spouse walks away with what they believe is a disproportionate share. The same financial resources that allow families a rich, full life, often become the focus of acrimony and discord.
At The Vendt Law Firm, P.L.L.C., Frank J. Vendt Jr. has worked with petitioners and respondents where substantial wealth becomes the primary focus. We understand the complications that arise when divorcing spouses must reach an equitable property settlement. We’ve worked to resolve these issues in compliance with Texas statutes and tried to prevent marital assets from becoming obstacles to the divorce process. Our attorneys have used our firm’s resources and our experience to sort through the complex issues. We’ve focused on resolution methods that support our clients’ best interests and work to prevent the divorce process from draining valuable assets.
Whether you are a petitioner or a respondent, your divorce involves emotional and legal challenges. As divorcing parties begin to realize that they can’t repair their marriages, community property often becomes a proxy focus for their grief. Our attorneys understand how an energetic battle over assets often depletes funds and drains value from embattled property. We’ve eliminated this wasteful dynamic for our clients by working toward productive negotiations and early resolution of all divorce issues. When possible we’ve negotiated our clients’ cases or resolved them through mediation. When an adverse party won’t cooperate, we’ve recommended litigation as our client’s best option.
Each divorce is unique, so we can’t promise a specific outcome. We can, however, explain how we’ve moved divorce cases toward early resolutions and saved our clients time, energy, and financial resources. We’re proud of our successful track record. We don’t share our results because we keep our clients’ information confidential; that’s why we’re so appreciative when our clients share their experiences through our numerous positive online reviews.
In Fort Bend County, a spouse initiates a divorce proceeding by filing a petition naming the other spouse as the respondent. The filing follows statutes outlined under Texas Family Codes, Title 1, Subtitle C, Chapter 6, Suit for Dissolution of Marriage.
When a process server delivers a copy of the petition to the respondent, he or she has 21 days from the service date to answer the petitioner’s allegations. The respondent often files a counterpetition with separate allegations against the petitioner.
In an uncontested divorce, a couple typically works out the settlement details before filing a petition. it’s a cooperative resolution process and therefore less complicated, less time-consuming, and less costly. The uncontested divorce process gives a couple a no-fault divorce that’s based on insupportability. These neutral grounds simply acknowledge that the marriage has become insupportable because of discord or conflict of personalities.
A divorce petition lays the foundation for the bitter confrontations to come. A petitioner seeking to possess and control community assets often cites grounds such as adultery, cruelty, or abandonment. If the respondent cites additional grounds in their counter petition, the cumulative allegations may trigger and sustain a long, bitter struggle that minimizes the chances of an early resolution.
Eventually, both petitioners must produce evidence to prove the grounds they assert. Before our clients commit to proving their chosen grounds, we caution them of future divorce proceedings where they must present evidence documenting adultery or cruelty, or other faults in open court. Also, if a petitioner or respondent proves their allegations, the results often affect the court’s findings on property disposition, child custody, spousal maintenance, and other issues.
When petition allegations, documentation, petitioner’s motions, and Subtitle C, Sections 6.501 and 6.502 guidelines suggest immediate action, judges may issue temporary orders, protective orders, or injunctions. Courts usually schedule hearings to address these critical orders. However, a judge’s authority allows order implementation without prior notice to an adverse spouse.
Temporary orders provide legal restraint and enforcement procedures that prevent a petitioner’s or respondent’s harmful behavior. They provide protection from violent acts and intimidation via digital communication, phone, or other methods. Judges also use temporary orders to establish child support and spousal maintenance arrangements.
When asset preservation is a concern, temporary orders address deliberate attempts to reduce, destroy, alter, or dispose of real or personal property, financial accounts, and other items subject to community property divisions. Orders won’t prevent a spouse’s actions, but Section 6.506 Contempt provides legal recourse for punishment.
Texas Family Code Subtitle C, Chapter 6 Section 6.406 outlines protective and related order hearings and procedures which address child custody, child support, protective orders, and other issues.
If one or both spouses have wealth or future wealth from trusts or inheritances coming in the future, they often opt to sign a prenuptial agreement prior to getting married. These agreements can govern how many different issues are settled in the event the marriage fails.
While you may think that a prenuptial agreement will automatically protect or limit your rights, arguments can be made that a particular agreement is not enforceable or valid. Such arguments can lead to lengthy hearings involving evidence of coercion, fraud, and other allegations.
Child custody and support concerns often become interconnected with community property issues. When courts set temporary custody and support arrangements, it requires immediate payments from the non-custodial spouse. This obligation often seems like the beginning of an impending financial drain. The required payments often trigger custody issues that didn’t exist before.
The court’s final divorce order establishes permanent custody and support. It usually requires one or both parents to pay support until a child is 18 or graduates from high school. Subtitle B, Section 154.01, Support of a Child outlines parental support duties for disabled children for whom financial obligations extend beyond age 18.
Divorce judges have flexibility when deciding child custody arrangements. They follow a standard that considers the best interest of the child. Final custody decisions follow statutes outlined by Title 5, Subtitle B, Chapter 153, Conservatorship, Possession, and Access. When custody decisions must demonstrate uniformity across all states, Texas courts comply with Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act provisions.
Family Code, Subtitle C, Chapter 8 outlines spousal support eligibility requirements. As many spouses are gainfully employed, they rarely qualify for spousal support. Circumstances are often different for spouses in high net worth marriages. When one spouse generates a high income, the other spouse often leaves the job market or never enters. As a full-time parent, volunteer, or housewife, a spouse’s status changes significantly when the primary earner leaves the marriage.
Spouses in a high net worth marriage often fit the very narrow circumstances under which one spouse receives support from another.
Once the spouse seeking support proves they’re unable to earn enough income to meet reasonable needs, the judge exercises discretion in establishing the support amount. Given the financial situation inherent to high net worth marriages, minimum reasonable needs are usually defined by their assets. Once granted, spousal support often increases the anxiety over post-divorce financial losses.
Dividing property in a high net worth divorce can be challenging because of the amount and variety of property that may be at stake. Simply identifying all of the marital and separate property can be difficult, as one spouse may have better knowledge of the finances than the other. In some cases, one spouse may try to conceal certain funds from the other through secret accounts, gifts to other family members or friends, withdrawals, and other tactics. An experienced high net worth divorce attorney will have resources to identify all of the assets and property to which you are entitled.
The variety of property can make taking inventory and deciding on a fair division settlement agreement taxing and time-consuming. It is important to have a divorce lawyer who understands complex finances to ensure the best property settlement for you.
When a petitioner or respondent demands a community assets settlement, the request itself is often considered divisive. As with many legal disputes, the parties call on the court system to resolve their domestic issues. If they can’t agree on an equitable arrangement, a judge decides property division issues at trial.
Title 1, Subtitle C, Chapter 7 outlines the property division statutes that guide a judge’s decision-making process. The just and right standard gives courts flexibility in deciding community property issues based on judicial discretion.
When a judge finalizes a property distribution, Section 7.008 (Consideration of Taxes) requires that they review community asset tax issues. Also, if a spouse’s fraudulent acts reduced the value of community assets, the judge must include the value in calculating the distribution.
Mediation requires a spirit of cooperation that rarely exists in high net worth divorce cases. As the petition pends in the courts, petitioners and respondents have ample opportunities to negotiate child custody and support, spousal support, and community property division issues. Mediation provides a negotiation alternative. In Fort Bend County, it is often mandated by the court before moving forward with a trial.
It’s a facilitated process that requires spouses and their legal representatives meet in a neutral setting to review their positions. A mediator is a trained, neutral third party with no stake in the proceeding. They give petitioners and respondents an opportunity to share their evidence. Mediators listen to each party’s position separately and in a group setting. They encourage listening, sharing, and negotiating among the adverse parties and their attorneys.
The process doesn’t always end in a negotiated settlement. It does, however, often help ease tension and promote communication among parties who often refuse to discuss the issues. If the parties negotiate a settlement, the mediator creates a document called a Mediation Settlement Agreement. The parties sign it and the mediator presents it to the court for final approval.
When there is a lot at stake, financial issues often derail negotiation attempts and the courts decide the unresolved issues. Texas guidelines give the court flexibility and discretion to decide custody, support, and property division issues.
Going to battle in court over every issue in a high net worth divorce can deplete your assets and cause you time and stress. Our attorney understands that there are other means to settle these complicated issues including negotiation and mediation. Through these means, we can often facilitate agreements between spouses in a high net worth divorce outside of court, which can avoid airing all of your financial and personal information in the courtroom and can achieve a more efficient result for you.
Getting divorced does not have to mean financial ruin or an adversarial battle in court. At The Vendt Law Firm, P.L.L.C., we explore every possible option to efficiently resolve any contested matters in your divorce while preserving your rights to your assets and financial support. Whether you are trying to protect your own property or obtain your fair share of marital property, we have the experience to help you achieve your goals whenever possible.
If you have a high net worth and believe divorce is in your future, time is of the essence. You want to discuss certain actions as soon as possible to avoid any unnecessary complications and ensure your spouse is not taking any wrongful actions to deprive you of funds you deserve.