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Why Marriages Fail

All marriages fail because Husband and Wife live in separate realities. They can do a lot of nasty stupid stuff as a result of that which goes in as evidence, but it all starts from two people in separate realities who don’t understand that. Even cheating comes from someone inventing a reality that justifies it who then blames the innocent person when caught.

Abusive situations and marriages where one or both spouses are sociopaths are a bigger problem. In those cases the couples have realities are too screwed up to ever make it work and the marriages need to fail. However, a lot of times just recognizing that what you are seeing or hearing in your reality is not the same thing that is happening in the other reality can make a big difference. You can learn to communicate without judging if you accept that people’s realities are different.

Contact us if you want a referral to a couple’s therapist who can help you and your spouse deal with your separate realities. 📞 214-272-0312

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What to do when your divorced parents only care about hurting each other.

My divorced parents care more about hurting each other than they do about me and my sibling. How could I get them to stop this behavior and focus on us instead?

Use Brain Hacks

You can hack your divorced parents’ brains to alter their behavior. Humans are social creatures and we love to feel needed. That’s why the first thing you should do when you move somewhere is to ask your new neighbor for a favor.

So, start with the nuclear option. Use variations of, “Could you please not fuss about Dad today; I’ve had a hectic week and I just need a little peace right now.” It’s super effective because our brains are hard-wired to assist people who need help–especially kids. Since this is the nuclear option, don’t use it every time or it could lose its effectiveness.

Otherwise, stay positive, always agree, ask questions, appeal to nobler motives, and stay positive.

Adjust the following example to fit your situation and personality:

Dad: Your mom is a shoe.

Kid: Yes, she can be hard to deal with sometimes (agreeing). She knows how to cheer me up. (Going positive.) Last week she made me a cake. (No transition words even though it feels awkward. You started out agreeing with him which flips the “agreeable” switch in his brain. Then you suddenly go positive while that switch is on and his brain is stuck in agree mode. If you use a transition word (but, however, although) then you flip the switch back to argue mode. That’s bad. Practice with a friend before trying it on a parent.)

Dad: Rabble rabble rabble.

Kid: What do you like about being a parent? (A question to get his brain to turn on the parenting mode.)

Dad: Blah blah blah.

Kid: Do you know I really love both you and Mom and it’s stressful when you guys try to hurt each other? (Appealing to nobler motives while his brain is in parenting mode.)

Dad: Rabble rabble rabble.

It’s not rocket science. It’s super easy to train your divorced parents to behave, but you have to be very patient and very consistent and trust that it will work. You want to gradually move them over to the light side by nudging them ever so slightly every day. Always stay positive and have high expectations, then go nuclear when it feels like the best option.

Good luck!


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What should I do if the parent with primary custody tells me not to post pictures or videos of our children on Facebook?

Understand Your Rights

First, you should carefully read your orders. In general, you have a First Amendment right to post videos of your children. Absent special circumstances a court can’t order you not to.

Communicate Appropriately

The general advice I give is that a parent should give the legally required responses in a friendly way. For example, if your ex sends you an irate long-winded email asking why your son is in the hospital, you would simply respond along the lines of, “Jason sprained his ankle playing football. nothing is broken. The doctors expect him to be able to play again in 4–6 weeks.”

On the other hand, if your ex sends you an email demanding you refrain from posting pictures of your children, then no response should be sent because no response is legally required — assuming nothing in the orders or your local laws suggests it is.

Get Help

Understanding how to communicate with your ex is as important as knowing what your rights are. Call my office to get help. 972-454-9743.


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How Easy is it to Get an Agreed Divorce in Texas?

How Easy is it to Get a Divorce in Texas if Both Parties are in Agreement?

Sometimes people come to me wanting to get a divorce where they think they are already agreed. Couples don’t necessarily know the consequences of their agreements and how they could affect their futures. Here are some issues you should consider when you are seeking an agreed divorce.

Problem 1: Do you have Children?

If there are children involved, who is going to have primary custody, what is going to be the visitation schedule, who is going to make decisions regarding the children’s physical and mental health, education, and religious upbringing? Have you truly thought through what could lead to disagreements in these areas and how they will be resolved? Once the other parent gets a boyfriend or girlfriend, attitudes in these areas are likely to change.

What is child support going to be? Do you have proof of income to determine the amount based on your state’s guidelines? Is the obligor going to pay guidelines child support? Is the reason the obligor paying under guidelines because it is honestly in the best interest of the child, or is it in the best interest of the obligor?

Have you come into an agreement on all of these issues because you are putting the convenience of an agreement above the best interest of the children? How can you be sure? Have you had a neutral third party evaluate and confirm that your decisions are in the best interest of the children?

Problem 2: Do you have a home or other assets?

Will the parties sell the home or let one keep it? If one party is going to keep it, are both going to stay on the mortgage and title? How are you going to ensure that the party out of possession’s credit and interest in avoiding waste are protected? Have you talked to a divorce lender about an equity buy-out? For example, you should know how to pre-qualify and what language needs to go into the divorce decree to protect everyone’s interests.

Do you have any other assets? Do you have bank accounts, brokerage accounts, bonds, life insurance, or any other financial assets? Are you sure know about all of the financial assets of both spouses? What if you find out later divorce that an asset has not been disclosed?

Do you have any retirement accounts? Have you accounted for the value of your retirement assets? Is there enough other property to divide with enough value to avoid splitting the retirement accounts? If not, do you have language for the decree and QDROs to ensure that the division complies with ERISA and the specific requirements of the plan administrators?

Problem 3: Do you have any personal property, collectibles, motor vehicles, etc.?

Have you created sworn inventories of all of the property and how much it is worth? Are you in agreement over how much everything is worth? Have divided the property evenly and added up all of the agreed values to determine if it is a fair division. Are you sure all property has been accounted for?

Is there any separate property? Has one party used community funds to improve or maintain separate property? Are there community assets that one party has used separate property funds towards the purchase, improvement or maintenance of? Does it matter?

Problem 4: Do you have any debts?

Does either party have any debts that the other will still be liable for after the divorce is finalized? Have you talked to a credit management expert to make sure your credit is protected during and after your divorce?

What are you going to do about tax liability? Who was responsible for filing tax returns during the marriage? What if they were under or over-paid? Will the IRS be coming after you if your spouse took deductions that are later disqualified?

Problem 5: How will you live after your divorce?

Have you talked to a financial planner to determine how to reach your financial goals after divorce? Is it better to take a big cash payout, an interest in the retirement account, or spousal maintenance secured with a lien? Do you want to go back to school, save for your children’s college, or retire? Do you know how exactly how you can accomplish any of the things you want?

Divorce is extremely traumatic.

Agreement doesn’t make the divorce less traumatic, it just reallocates the trauma–either in a way that either one party bears the brunt of it or in a way that is fair. Getting an agreed divorce that works best for you and your goals is extremely difficult unless you have no children and no community property.

You are getting a divorce for some reason. You are going to have competing interests with the person you are divorcing. It can be extremely easy for one side in an agreed divorce if the other side rolls over. That doesn’t reduce the difficulty it only pushes it all onto the loser. A fair divorce is hard, but very doable by agreement.

If you get along well enough to work out an agreed divorce, consider deciding not to get divorced. Sometimes you can’t avoid it because of abuse, infidelity, or other serious issues. However, if it’s a difficult decision, decide not to. Once you make a decision, your subconscious can start working on ways to make things work.


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What are the ten steps of a divorce in Texas?

What are the ten steps of a divorce in Texas?

1. The Decision.

First, you must decide whether you need a divorce. This isn’t always as easy as it sounds. You think that a divorce will solve some problem that you have. If your spouse is abusive or cheating on you, then divorce is likely to be the better option in dealing with it. But if the problems are financial, emotional, or something else, you may have better ways to solve your problem. Even if you think you have “tried everything,” chances are you haven’t tried anything half as emotionally and financially draining as a divorce.

2. Preparation.

How are you going to survive for the first seven years after your divorce? You may not have thought that far ahead. Do you have a budget and a plan for how you are going to meet your needs post-divorce? How are you going to pay child support, rent, insurance, and all the other expenses in a divided household? Do you want to try Collaborative Law? Who are you going to hire to be your attorney? How are you going to pay attorney fees? Where will you live while the divorce is pending?

3. The Petition.

The first legal step in a divorce is to file the Original Petition for Divorce and paying the filing fee. The petition states the grounds for the divorce and the relief that the petitioner is requesting from the court.

4. Service of Citation.

After the petition is filed, it along with a citation must be served on the respondent. The citation is a document prepared by the clerk under the seal of the court that has information that the respondent needs to know in order to respond to the divorce suit. The citation and petition must be served on the respondent by a sheriff, constable, or licensed process server. The respondent can sign a waiver of service of the citation to avoid this expense.

5. The Answer.

The respondent has until the Monday following twenty days of receipt of citation to file an answer. The answer can contain a general denial, denials of specific allegations, and counterclaims. A typical answer contains a general denial and a request for attorney fees.

6. The Counter-petition.

Counter-petitions are optional. A counter-petition is a petition filed by the respondent of the original petition. Counter-petitions are filed when the respondent has claims to make against the petitioner. They can also be filed to keep the suit alive in case the petitioner dismisses his own case.

7. Temporary Orders.

Temporary orders are also optional. Parties request them to preserve assets while the divorce is pending, or to make orders regarding the children until the divorce is final. They may include a temporary restraining order or temporary injunction to make sure the parties behave themselves during the divorce process and may include an order to mediate. Temporary orders can be agreed, or a judge can decide on temporary orders after a hearing.

8. Discovery.

The discovery process is where the parties exchange information necessary to determine what will go into the final order. Discovery can start as soon as the divorce is filed and can be informal or formal. Informal discovery consists of requests between the parties or between their attorneys for information that they think they will need to finalize the divorce. It is usually cheaper than formal discovery. In formal discovery, the parties serve each other requests to produce documents, disclose certain information about the lawsuit, answer interrogatories, answer depositions, and make admissions or denials. Third parties can also be subpoenaed and deposed during the discovery process.

9. The Final Trial.

Almost every divorce ends in a final trial. If the divorce is agreed, only the petitioner typically shows up for the trial, gives evidence, and asks the judge to sign the order. Some courts allow the petitioner to file an affidavit with the final order so that no one must go to court and there is no trial. If the parties can’t agree on the terms for the final order, then either the judge or a jury will decide after a contested hearing.

10. Motion to Enter.

Unfortunately, even after the final trial is held and the judge or jury rules, sometimes parties still can’t agree on language for the final order. When that happens, the parties must appear before the judge at least one more time to have the judge rule on the language and sign the order.


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Sample Visitation Procedure

Sample Visitation Procedure

This is just an example and may not be right or your specific case. See also, What do I do when I go to pick up my child and my child isn’t there?

Visitation Kit

  1. Visitation Diary
  2. Two Pens
  3. Twenty Dollar Bill
  4. Stress ball
  5. A copy of your possession order or parenting plan
  6. Camera Phone

Visitation Procedure

  1. 7:00 am: Put my Visitation Kit minus the phone into the glovebox.
  2. 7:30 am: Go to work
  3. 4:45 pm: Start shutting down my workspace
  4. 5:00 pm: Check fuel gauge. Top off if the fuel level is below a half tank, then drive home.
  5. 5:20 pm: Change clothes and relax.
  6. 5:40 pm: Drive to exchange location.
  7. 5:55 pm: Arrive. Write arrival time in Visitation diary.
  8. 6:00 pm: Take a selfie and write down the pickup time.
  9. Leave with the children.
  10. If unable to leave with the children at 6:00 pm, perform the Unexpected Missed Visitation Checklist.

Unexpected Missed Visitation Checklist

  • 6:00 pm: Don’t get emotional.
  • 6:00 pm: Take a selfie without the children.
  • 6:05 pm: Begin reviewing the order. Check common sources of confusion:
    • Is school in session for the district?
    • Is it a child’s birthday?
    • Is it Mother’s Day or Father’s Day?
    • Look for “notwithstanding any other provisions of this order” language
  • 6:15 pm: Begin trying to solve your problem using the BIFF Response® method:
    • Text: “It’s 6:15 pm. I’m here waiting for the children; are they ok?”
    • Call the other parent.
    • Call a friend or relative of the other parent to find out if they are ok.
  • 6:20 pm: Get into the car.
  • Take another selfie.
  • Write the time and what you did to try and solve the problem in your visitation diary.
  • Leave.
  • 12:00 pm: Following day. Notify the other parent. “I attempted to pick up the children yesterday at 6:00 p.m. I waited until 6:15 pm and then tried to contact you and your family to find out what was wrong. I left at 6:20 pm without the children. I will reach out to you to arrange makeup visitation at a later date.”

Expected Missed Visitation Procedure

  1. If there is a good reason, such as a child is sick, agree in writing to skip visitation with makeup time specified in the agreement.
  2. If there is not a good reason, agree if you want to with makeup time specified in the agreement.
  3. If the other parent refuses to specify makeup visitation, do not agree in either case unless you don’t want makeup time.
  4. If there is no agreement to miss visitation, follow the regular Visitation Procedure and Unexpected MIssed Visitation Checklist.

See also, What do I do when I go to pick up my child and my child isn’t there?

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In Defense of the Pro Se

In Defense of the Pro Se.

How Censorship Hurts the Poor

Today I will talk about Google’s brand of diversity and how it can harm you. In a previous post, I discussed how politicization of colleges can affect your rights. In this post, I will discuss how politicization of your access to information can affect your rights in as neutral of a way as I can.

It is important to consider what will happen when this hostility seeps into search results.

 

A man was fired to end a discussion.

In case you are unaware, Google recently fired an engineer for writing a paper. The paper questioned whether more freedom to speak freely and exchange ideas could help Google achieve diversity goals. The theme of the paper does not seem to be controversial and it was quite well researched. The engineer claims he offered it to begin a discussion. You can read the paper for yourself and come to your own conclusions about it.

I picked this particular scenario because I have seen the correct advice deleted from a social media website after people complained.

 

Google showed much hostility toward information on topics that some people find uncomfortable. It is important to consider what will happen when this hostility seeps into search results. We already know Google has initiatives on YouTube to flag what it deems objectionable content. Many users are having their content blocked or demonetized for what the users claim are political reasons.

Even people who only watch cat videos need to know their rights-especially custody rights.

The decision to get a paternity test is often controversial to people who do not know the law or who have a political agenda.

 

If I only watch videos of cats, how does this affect my rights? Let’s start with the example of a Suit to Adjudicate Paternity which is a fairly common type of lawsuit in Texas. Generally, the best way to answer this type of suit is with a General Denial (maybe not in your case, but generally). You should get a paternity test even if you are sure the child is yours. Before that you have no guarantees unless you had a camera on the egg to witness the conception. You don’t want to pay twenty percent of your income for someone elses child for eighteen years. Moreover, the child’s real father could return to the child’s life leaving you left out of everything except the child support obligation. These things happen. A general denial is your ticket to a paternity test.

However, the decision to get a paternity test is often controversial to people who do not know the law or who have a political agenda. Some may even find it “triggering”. The type of advice above gets flagged as inappropriate. In fact, I picked this particular scenario because I have seen the correct advice deleted from a social media website after people complained.

Private meets public censorship.

Internet safety filters in schools and libraries block information flagged as inappropriate. What happens when someone who cannot afford an attorney goes to a public library to do research? Or how about when a child or teacher tries to help a parent from a school library with even stricter filters? The filter hides critical information for the party’s own “safety.” That doesn’t sound safe at all.

Rights you do not know about are often rights waived.

 

If you think this gives you an advantage because you are a woman, you are sadly mistaken. That flagged content – not only did it tell the man how to fight a paternity claim, it also included limitations that would torpedo his case. Paternity generally cannot be questioned after four years for example. Sorry, that important nugget is in the same content hidden behind the filter.

It’s even worse than that though. What happens when a valuable authority makes one controversial post and gets banned or blacklisted? Suddenly, access to a treasure-trove of useful knowledge is lost to everyone who might benefit from it. Rights you do not know about are often rights waived. As a result, whichever party can afford an attorney has an even greater advantage over a pro se (unrepresented party) who relies on a censored internet.

The people making these decisions can afford to hire their own attorneys.

Consorship is the great and terrible equalizer.

Censorship hurts almost everybody equally. Men, women, black, white, citizens, and immigrants all need access to all the information to defend their rights. The divide is between the rich and poor. The poor have to rely on access to information on the internet while the rich hire attorneys. The people making these decisions can afford to hire their own attorneys.

I’m not saying that search engines have gone this far yet, but they appear to be on their way. I find it terrifying and so should you.

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Jail for Overpaying Child Support?

Jail for Overpaying Child Support?

In this post I will explain why a Houston man really went to jail for failing to obey possession and child support orders and what it means to you.

News stories are often a source of misinformation. Misinformation from news sources can feed our perceptions of unfairness. Our perceptions of unfairness can get us into trouble. It is not that journalists want to deceive you, but sometimes we all hear the story we want to hear and get stuck in a cycle of confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is the tendency to disregard evidence that contradicts truths we firmly believe or want to believe.

Watch the video below from Fox News Houston. It purports to tell the tale of a father sent to jail for the crimes of paying too much child support and visiting his son too much.

Confirmation bias is the tendency to disregard evidence that contradicts truths we firmly believe or want to believe.

No, You Won’t Be Thrown in Jail for Paying Too Much Child Support.

It is an error for you to be jailed for overpaying child support. Fox News Houston left out that the father owed $2,743.09 in back child support arrears when the mother filed her enforcement. While the case was reset at least once and the father did make his child support current, that was not enough to correct the contempt.

As of June 14, 2013 you can no longer avoid jail simply by showing your child support is up to date at the enforcement hearing.1 The original hearing was set for June 10, 2013, before the repeal went into effect; however, it was reset by agreement to give the father time to pay. Unfortunately, the father had erroneously believed he was up to date before the June 10 hearing and needed time to make one more payment. By the time of the new hearing, the repealed law could no longer help him escape jail.

As of June 14, 2013 you can no longer avoid jail simply by showing your child support is up to date at the enforcement hearing.

The father also tried to argue that the missing child support was the fault of his employer. He claimed that an employee incorrectly entered the withholding amounts from his paycheck. The problem with that argument is that you, not your employer, are responsible for ensuring child support is paid correctly. Your order probably even says this. You do not get to enjoy the benefits of your employer’s mistakes at the expense of your children.

In fairness to Fox News Houston, Snopes also got this story wrong. The Houston Court of Appeals did overturn one violation where the trial court found the father guilty of paying too much child support.2 Unfortunately for the father, the appeals court was able to overturn only this part of the order and leave the remaining violations and the father’s sentence intact.

Yes, You Can be Jailed for Visiting Your Children Too Much.

Visiting your child too much is probably a violation of your order. It is another way of saying you have your child when the other parent has the right of possession. A court ordered parenting plan is written to give children fair access to both parents. Either parent deciding that he should have more time with the children without the other’s permission is deciding that the Court was wrong. Judge’s don’t like that. They also don’t like it if you disrespect the Court by disobeying the Court’s order. If one parent can prove beyond a reasonable doubt the other is visiting his children against orders without permission, a Judge can and often will put him in jail.

How Stories Like this Hurt You.

In my previous post, “When Cultures Clash”, I explain a little bit about cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias in the context of mixed-culture divorce and remarriage. Briefly, our cultures largely define our belief systems. When someone acts outside of our belief system we often see that as bad. Once we define a person as bad, we start to discount everything positive we hear about them and emphasize the negative. Because of this confirmation bias feedback loop, the bad person keeps looking worse and worse in our minds until he becomes the worst thing since Prince Humperdinck.

DILBERT © 2017 Scott Adams. Used By permission of ANDREWS MCMEEL SYNDICATION. All rights reserved.

There is already a perception that fathers do not get a fair shake in courts overall. The thing to remember is that no matter how true this might be, it says absolutely nothing about your individual case. At least in Texas, the law is that mothers and fathers are treated equally. There is a standard parenting plan. There are guidelines for child support. There is a presumption against spousal support. Texas’ public policy is to maximize the time children spend with both parents, and judges generally follow the law.

A bad attitude feedback loop can adversely affect how the Court rules for you, but it probably won’t!

If you go to court believing stories like this, and believing you are not going to get a fair hearing, you won’t–at least not in your mind. You will already be emotional because of whatever brought you into court. Because of confirmation bias, every ruling against you is going to feel unfair. The Judge will see your attitude and probably won’t like it. The judge’s attitude might show through, further feeding into your confirmation bias. A bad attitude feedback loop can adversely affect how the Court rules for you, but it probably won’t! Once you ratchet up that attitude, though, it is going to be harder to follow the final orders.

What Should I do?

Always go into Court in professional attire with a professional attitude. Maintain that professional attitude no matter what. Pre-trial, you are auditioning for the trial court. In trial, you are auditioning for the appeals court. Expect the Judge to be fair. A judge can be fair but wrong. Sometimes the judge is wrong because of a mistake that can be appealed, but most of the time it is because your evidence did not support the “correct” ruling. However, because of cognitive dissonance, the losing parent often rationalizes the judge’s decision by believing he is corrupt or has a bias against one sex. This is usually counter-productive.

A judge can be fair but wrong. Sometimes the judge is wrong because of a mistake that can be appealed, but most of the time it is because your evidence did not support the “correct” ruling.

If you are ordered to appear for an enforcement, get an attorney. The judge should give you the option to reset so you can find one at the first hearing but don’t count on it. Get an attorney even if you think you can work out an agreement with the other side. Once you are in front of a judge and facing large fines and a jail sentence, the other side has a huge amount of leverage to get a very unfavorable settlement from you.


1See Act of May 23,2007, 80th Leg., R.S., ch. 1189, § 1, 2007 Tex. Gen. Laws 4054, 4054, repealed by Act of May 22, 2013, 83d Leg., R.S., ch. 649, § 2, 2013 Tex. Sess. Law Serv. 1735, 1735 (West) (effective date June 14, 2013)

2In re Hall, 433 S.W.3d 203, 208, 2014 Tex. App. LEXIS 5704, *8, 2014 WL 2420972

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