Sugar Land High Net Worth Divorce Attorney
In Sugar Land, 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, 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.
Call (832) 276-9474 or email us if you’re preparing to go through a high net worth divorce in Sugar Land or elsewhere in Texas.
Our Firm’s Results
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.
Filing for a Divorce in Sugar Land, Texas
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. A Petitioner can only file in a Texas court if both parties meet state residency requirements.
- You and your spouse must have lived in Texas and resided in the state for at least six months.
- Sugar Land Texas residents must show a minimum three-month residency in Fort Bend County.
- When only one spouse has resided in Texas for six months, a non-resident spouse from another state or country may file a petition in the Texas county where the resident spouse lives
- Section 303 and 6.304 explain special residential requirements for Armed Forces Personnel and those Absent on Public Service.
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.
Contested versus Uncontested Divorce
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.
High net worth divorces rarely qualify as an uncontested divorce. Usually, one or more conditions exist which disqualifies couples from using the less complicated process, such as:
- Divorcing couple has children together younger than 18
- Property or retirement assets subject to division
- A demand for spousal support
- A pending bankruptcy
- One spouse doesn’t agree to the divorce
Grounds in a Contested Divorce
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 counterpetition, 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.
Hearings and Orders
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.
Child Custody and Support
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. Judges consider a variety of resources before making child custody decisions.
- Family counseling
- Judicial interviews
- Joint or sole managing conservator
- Agreed parenting plans
- Parenting classes
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. The spouse seeking support must prove that their post-divorce assets fail to meet minimum reasonable needs and other criteria.
- The paying spouse was criminally convicted of family violence during the marriage or
- The spouse seeking support can’t earn an income because of an incapacitating physical or mental disability or
- The spouse seeking maintenance provides care for a disabled child
- The spouse seeking maintenance can’t earn enough income to meet reasonable needs and the marriage lasted 10 years or more
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.
Determining Community Assets
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. A community property distribution includes these property categories.
- Residences and other real property
- Retirement accounts
- Insurance proceeds
- Business interests
- Bank and other financial accounts
- Fine art and valuable collectibles
- Personal property
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.
How Do Divorcing Parties Try to Avoid Community Property Distribution and Support Orders?
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. Some parties commit fraudulent acts or use legal means to avoid potential financial losses due to court decisions.
- Prenuptial agreements: When one or both spouses have substantial assets, they execute agreements before the marriage to dictate financial outcomes before a divorce becomes an issue.
- Separate property claims: Spouses claim that certain property is separate, owned individually by one spouse and not a part of the community estate.
- Fraudulent disposition of community assets: Judges issue temporary orders to prevent a spouse from hiding or disposing of substantial assets before or during the divorce pendency. This doesn’t always prevent asset fraud, but when a judge finds out about a fraudulent act, they calculate the property division as though the asset were still available.
- Custody battles: Some spouses use custody issues to control financial resources.
- Refusal to negotiate: Spouses refuse to participate in meaningful negotiations. This often forces a lengthy delay pending trial.
Your Day In Court
When some spouses file a petition for dissolution of marriage, they’re thinking about their day in court. As the case moves forward, both sides have many opportunities for settlement negotiations. Often, anger and emotional issues prevent that from happening, but sometimes a spouse just wants an impartial judge to hear what they have to say. That’s what happens at a trial. A judge listens to the evidence and makes the important decisions.
Contact Our Sugar Land, Texas Divorce Attorneys
When you and your spouse have significant assets, it often changes the divorce process into a protracted war. Each financial holding becomes a major point of contest. Easily resolved property issues become weapons. At The Vendt Law Firm, our Sugarland Divorce attorneys work to resolve complex financial, legal, and community property issues. We encourage our clients to move forward. We strive to settle, but we prepare to litigate. Call us at (832) 276-9474 or complete our contact form at The Vendt Law Firm online to schedule your Sugar Land divorce consultation.