Brownsville Family Attorney
The dissolution of a marriage involves the resolution of issues such as the division of property, child custody and support, and spousal maintenance, which can work tremendous changes on an individual’s finances and continue to have an impact for years to come. Ideally, a divorcing couple is able to work out these issues together, but that is not always the case. With a solid background in civil trial practice and family law litigation, the Brownsville family attorneys at Colvin, Saenz, Rodriguez & Kennamer L.L.P. provide strong, focused representation to help clients in divorce and custody disputes meet their needs.
Read on for a description of the most contested issues in a Texas divorce, and how Colvin, Saenz, Rodriguez & Kennamer L.L.P. can help.
The court has wide discretion to divide up the couple’s property in any way the judge determines to be just and right, based on the arguments and evidence presented by the parties’ attorneys. The court’s authority is limited to dividing community property and cannot reach either spouse’s separate property. It is critical, therefore, that every piece of property be located and properly identified as marital or separate property. This issue can become quite complex when dealing with assets such as business goodwill, employee stock options, or the accrual of a pension during marriage. Also, separate property can become marital property, and vice versa, depending upon how it is treated by the parties.
Equally important to the proper characterization of property as marital or separate is the accurate valuation of marital property. Not all property can be equally divided, and the judge may make an award of an asset to one party and then look for another asset of comparable value to award to the other party. Our family law attorneys can aid in the valuation of complex property, including business valuations or the imputation of income to an unemployed or self-employed spouse.
In deciding custody, the court will determine not only possession (physical custody) but also managing conservatorship (legal custody). When deciding possession, the court typically designates one parent as the primary residential parent, and grants scheduled visitation with the child and the other parent. Managing conservatorship – the right and responsibility to make legal decisions regarding the child’s education, extracurricular activities, health care, and religious upbringing – can be vested solely in one parent or granted jointly to both parents. We fight for a fair custody determination that is in the best interests of the children and their parents.
Since both parents are legally obligated to support their children financially, the judge in a divorce will generally order the non-custodial parent to pay a monthly amount to the parent with primary custody to help support the children. Texas law provides statutory guidelines to help the judge determine the appropriate amount to award. Depending upon the number of children to be supported, this amount may range from 20% to 40% of the paying spouse’s income. This amount is advisory only, however, and the judge is free to change the amount if convinced a different figure would be more appropriate. If seeking or challenging a deviation from the guidelines amount, knowledgeable and experienced legal representation is essential.
Spousal maintenance, known elsewhere as spousal support or alimony, is not granted in every divorce. In fact, in most cases Texas courts start with the presumption that no award of maintenance is appropriate. It is up to the spouse seeking maintenance to prove an applicable ground for maintenance and justify the need for an award. If granted, a maintenance award may last from five to ten years depending on the length of the marriage, but in any event the judge will order maintenance for the shortest amount of time deemed reasonable to help the receiving spouse become self-supporting. An award of spouse maintenance can be up to $5,000 a month, or 20% of the paying spouse’s average gross monthly income, whichever is less. While the requesting spouse must demonstrate to the judge that an award is appropriate, the other spouse may challenge the request in a courtroom trial.
Serving South Texas in Family Law Divorce and Custody Matters
The Brownsville family law attorneys at Colvin, Saenz, Rodriguez & Kennamer L.L.P. is led by firm partner Alison W. Colvin, who practices extensively in family law litigation throughout the Rio Grande Valley. Contact Alison Colvin or another of the firm’s attorneys at our offices in Brownsville and Edinburg by calling 956-542-7441.