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Complex Divorce or “Contested Divorce”

Complex Divorce or “Contested Divorce”

 A.       What is a Contested Divorce

Frequently, divorcing spouses require Court intervention in order to finalize the divorce. If parties do not agree and assistance is necessary, you need a law firm that understands litigation and is comfortable in the courtroom. Furthermore, you need a team that has working relationships with expert witnesses to help prepare your divorce case for trial.

Anderson Legal Group is very familiar with complex litigation and is prepared to protect your rights. Board Certified Family Law Attorneys, Andrew J. Anderson and Paul G. Daly, spend a large portion of their day either in Court or preparing for Court. We work diligently to present creative solutions for clients so that litigation expenses can be limited. Specifically, we use every opportunity to attempt to resolve the case, or at least narrow the issues prior to trial. This results in cost savings to the client and increased control of the eventual outcome of the client’s case. These benefits are expected by our clients and we pride ourselves on providing these options to our clients.

If you are looking for an attorney that you can communicate with without the feeling of being judged—let Anderson Legal Group listen to and address your specific goals. Please contact us today to get started.

     1.  About Divorce Cases

Complex divorces are unlike any other court case. While other types of litigation may involve business dealings or accidents, divorces involve the two most important aspects of peoples’ lives: their family and their money.  Both of these aspects are fraught with emotion. Additionally, because these two areas are so broad, the family law practitioner must have a working knowledge of a wide variety of different areas of the law in addition to understanding relationships and parenting issues. Moreover, judges have much broader discretion in family law cases than they do in most other areas of the law because the Court shall consider the best interests of the specific children involved in the divorce action.

Another major distinction between divorce cases and most other areas of litigation is that there is virtually never a clear-cut “winner” or “loser” in a divorce case. Truth be known, all parties in a divorce case lose. Both divorcing parties are usually asking for the same thing: a fair division of the assets and debts and a proper amount of time with the children. The problem is that each spouse has a completely different view of “fair” and “proper.” Because judges have broad discretion in family law cases and because each judge brings his or her own set of values to the bench, the results in a divorce case are sometimes different in virtually identical cases.

At Anderson Legal Group, we are here to assist you in navigating your divorce litigation. We will offer suggestions to you and provide advice to assist you through the process. Contact our office to schedule your initial consultation so that we can begin working together to meet your goals and needs.

     2.  Children in a Divorce

Determining complex divorce issues related to children is often the most emotionally charged and contested topic of a divorce. It is important for you to have a thorough understanding of your rights as a parent as well as the various topics the Court will want to be addressed. For an overview of related issues that will need to be addressed in your divorce if you have children, please review the tab titled “Child Custody Issues.

When children issues are contested, it is important to have an attorney on your side with a thorough understanding of the law and your rights. Please contact us at Anderson Legal Group so that we can work to meet your goals regarding your children.

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Specific questions about child custody law in Texas?  Click here.

     3.  Property Issues in a Divorce

The starting point of property analysis in a divorce case is to assume that everything owned by the spouses is ‘Community Property’.  This means it is subject to division by the Court during a Divorce matter.  This is true unless a spouse can prove that a particular item is his/her ‘Separate Property’.

Generally, ‘Separate Property’ is: 1) property one spouse had prior to marriage, 2) property received during the marriage through a gift or inheritance, or 3) property received through certain types of personal injury recoveries.  The importance of Separate Property is that once the proponent proves it is, in fact, Separate Property it then cannot be awarded to the other spouse.  It is “off the table” and not subject to division by the Court.

Characterizing property as Community or Separate can be very complex. It is important that you work with an attorney with a thorough understanding of the statutes and case law surrounding Texas Marital Property.  At Anderson Legal Group, we are here to assist you with this aspect of your complex divorce.

      4.  “Just and Right” Division

Community Property is the property that is divided in a divorce case. The division made by the Court must be one that is “just and right” (or “fair”) given the circumstances of the parties and their children. A Court has broad discretion in determining what is a “just and right” division of the community property.

Each Judge is different. When you are going before the Court to ask that your community property be divided, it is important to have an attorney representing you who has had other divorce cases in your specific Court so that you can be properly advised. At Anderson Legal Group, we have extensive experience in the family law Courts in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, specifically Tarrant County, Denton County, and Dallas County, and we are ready to assist you.

     5.  Financial Information Sheet (FIS)

A Financial Information Sheet (FIS) is much like a monthly budget. The Court typically requires that each party prepare a FIS in a divorce case, especially when Temporary Spousal Support, Interim Attorney’s Fees and/or Child Support are at issue in the case. The FIS is an important tool throughout your case as it shows the Court the monthly expenses and monthly income of the parties so that the Court has more information about the assets of the parties.

      6.  Inventory & Appraisement and Spreadsheets

An Inventory and Appraisement is a detailed inventory of all of the property owned by the parties, including community and separate property. The Inventory and Appraisement is prepared by each party and is sworn to just as if they were testifying to its accuracy in Court. Judges typically have parties exchange Inventory and Appraisements, along with supporting documents to verify the types of assets and debts and the values of each item.  This allows the attorneys to have a full picture of the assets and liabilities of the parties.

From the Inventory and Appraisement, we build a spreadsheet in order to evaluate potential divisions of the estate. The spreadsheet is an invaluable tool in your case and will be used for potential settlement negotiations as well as preparation for the final trial. The spreadsheet is also helpful for the Judge when he/she makes a ruling on the property division in your case.

The Inventory and Appraisement is a highly detailed and complex document that is essential to your case. You want an attorney working with you that understands the intricacies of your estate in order to assist you with your case and Inventory and Appraisement. At Anderson Legal Group, we are ready to assist you with this portion of your contested complex divorce. Please call our office to schedule a consultation.

      7.  Business Entities

Business interests can include corporations, partnerships, sole proprietorships, LLCs, and even network/direct marketing companies. If you or your spouse have any ownership interest in any business, it is imperative that the business is included on the Inventory and Appraisement. It is important that business interests be characterized and valued in such a way that it does not diminish your rights. Further, aside from the actual ownership of a business, other items such as distributions, characterization, wages, contributions, and earnings are at issue when a business is involved in a divorce matter.

At Anderson Legal Group, we often work with business owners seeking a divorce. Business owners have a lot at stake when getting a divorce and it is crucial that your interests are protected. We work to understand your business and work to minimize the effects of the divorce upon it.  Please call our office to schedule a consultation so that we can begin to address the specific needs and advocate protecting your interests.

      8.  Stock Options

Stock Options are sometimes provided to employees as part of their compensation package. As such, they need to be divided in the divorce.  Often, Stock Options are particularly tricky because of how and when the Options are granted and vest.  Sometimes, an expert (usually a forensic CPA) is needed to calculate the character and value of the Options.

If you or your spouse has Stock Options, it is important to work with an attorney that can correctly characterize the stocks and fight to protect your interest. At Anderson Legal Group, we frequently work with divorce cases where Stock Options are involved.  If you work for one of the several large companies in the DFW area, it is likely that we have actually divided the Options awarded to your family.

      9.  Discovery

Discovery is a tool that is used to gather information from the other party in a divorce case. The information could be needed for a potential settlement proposal, mediation and/or trial preparation.

There are four types of discovery that you may see in your divorce case:

  1. Requests for Production and Inspection of Documents allows a party to see another party’s bank statements, credit card statements, medical bills, etc.

  2. Requests for Interrogatories are written questions from the other party. They require “essay” styled responses from you. They usually revolve around the important issues in the case and can sometimes be about sensitive topics that you might feel uncomfortable discussing.

  3. Rule 194 Requests for Disclosure are used to learn about the other party’s character witnesses, expert witnesses, legal theories, and evidence. In short, they are a tool for gathering intelligence about the other party’s “plan of attack” for trial.

  4. Requests for Admissions are specific statements that will ask the party to admit or deny a particular fact or a particular opinion of yours. Thus, they are much like “true” or “false” questions from school. For example: “Admit you took the child to Whataburger at 7 p.m. on March 15, 2013.”

When you receive a request for discovery, it is imperative that you act quickly because you have a very limited time to respond to the requests. If you do not yet have an attorney, and you have received discovery requests, please contact our office as soon as possible to schedule a consultation so that we may begin to assist you.

      10.  Experts

Depending on the facts of your case, it may be necessary to hire an expert witness to prepare to testify as to your interests at Court. If there is a complex property issue in your case, an expert may become necessary. For certain types of property, there are multiple arguments to make to the Court regarding how the property should be characterized and divided. Therefore, a financial expert can be helpful in determining and calculating the best method to protect your interest as well as assist in preparing to argue against the methods likely to be utilized by your spouse.

If you have a complex property case that needs the assistance of a financial expert, it is helpful to have an attorney who has a working relationship with various local financial experts. At Anderson Legal Group, we have worked with countless local financial experts in the past and are able to assist you in selecting the best fit for your case.

      11.  Depositions

Each party to a lawsuit has the right to take the deposition of the opposing party. Thus, when you become a party in a Family Law matter, your spouse may require you to appear at a specified time and place and give your oral testimony under oath. Your testimony at the deposition is critical to your case, as this testimony may be used against you in future hearings and/or trial in your case.

In its simplest form, a deposition is the oral testimony of a witness taken under oath outside of the Courtroom. The opposing attorney will ask you several questions in order to gather information for his/her case. It is incredibly important to always remember that your answers are under oath and may be used against you if you contradict them when testifying in future hearings and/or trial in your case.

The deposition is the opposing attorney’s chance to gather the information that will help him/her build their case. It is also a great opportunity for the opposing attorney to see what type of witness you will be at trial. Do not be surprised if the opposing attorney tries to get you upset. This is an intentional strategy to see how you react under pressure.

Much like attending Court, attending a Deposition can feel overwhelming and frightening. It is important to have an attorney on your side to assist you in preparing for the types of questions you may face at a deposition. At Anderson Legal Group, we are here to assist you with this stressful process. Please call our office to schedule a consultation so that we may begin assisting you.