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Texas Divorce Lawyer: Finding Hidden Assets in Divorce

Posted on | April 22, 2013 | No Comments

iStock_000009420618SmallAmong the most important undertakings of any divorce case is determining the size of the community estate. An accurate valuation of all marital property and assets is essential to establish a fair property settlement for you. The marital estate can sometimes be compared to a pie.  Before you and your attorney can determine how big of a slice to cut anyone, you must first determine the boundaries and limits of the pie you are about to divide.  A bigger pie means a bigger piece for you.

 Regardless of how financial responsibility is divided in a marriage, if one spouse has been hiding income or engaging in fraud, the other spouse will be financially affected by this at the end of the case.

 A spouse may attempt to hide assets in many different ways. He or she could:

  • Transfer (or “loan”) funds to friends or family members
  • Make overseas investments that are difficult to trace
  • Purchase large gifts for themselves or others
  • Alter business or corporate records to minimize their earnings
  • Squander large amounts of cash on gambling, drugs, or other activities
  • Misrepresent financial statements and net worth
  • Literally hide cash in safety deposit boxes or other locations
  • Take out and pay off loans without the knowledge of the other spouse
  • Use tax shelters to hide income
  • Lie to their partner about the nature of their property

In most divorce cases, both spouses must disclose all assets and debts under oath. This is usually in the form of a sworn Inventory and Appraisal. The exchange of Inventories assists in drawing the size and determining the value of the community estate. If there are any gaps or discrepancies, parties may engage in the formal discovery process to further determine the nature of the community estate.

If one spouse lies about the community assets, what is the other spouse to do? An experienced family lawyer will be able to recognize if your spouse has engaged in sophisticated forms of community fraud like some of those listed above. A spouse who proves fraud on the community to the Court may be entitled to a disproportionate share (more than 50%) of the community estate. If necessary, you and your attorney can hire an investigator or forensic accountant to help prove that your spouse is hiding assets and attempting to defraud you out of your fair share of the community estate.

If you are considering a divorce and/or suspect that your spouse may be hiding assets, start a paper trail. Accumulate as many documents as possible to evidence your spouse’s financial worth and spending habits. Cash, unfortunately, can be hidden. However, a careful eye is the best resource to determine where it is going and how it is being used.

Our goal at the Wright Firm is to determine that, as much as possible, our clients receive their fair share of assets in the divorce settlement or courtroom. Lindsey Obenhaus is proud to advocate on behalf of spouses to ensure that they walk away with what is rightfully theirs.  Do you still have questions about your financial future in divorce? Contact Lindsey at Lindsey@thewrightlawyers.com to set up an initial consultation or check us out on the web at  www.thewrightlawyers.com. Can you also reach us at 972-353-4600.

9-1-1 Divorce Blog

Posted on | April 17, 2013 | No Comments

Calling 9-1-1 to ask for a divorce seems like an extreme step and a confusion of iStock_000002828624XSmallcivil and criminal law. But over this past weekend a Pennsylvanian woman did just that.

AP article here: http://hosted2.ap.org/TXDAM/66bc2f9a3d2c4fefb75ef3e307414255/Article_2013-04-15-Emergency%20Divorce%20Request/id-744a354bd0514669a4019f40b31c70b8.

The unnamed woman apparently wanted her husband removed from their home (there was no report of violence, abuse or cause for removal) and wanted the police to issue a divorce for her and her husband.

A petition for divorce is a civil matter where law enforcement is not involved. If domestic violence or criminal activities are involved there may be other criminal proceedings at the same time as a divorce petition but, different judges, courts and attorneys will be involved.

Instead of achieving her goal of removing her husband from their home, the woman ended up being cited and fined for misuse of the 9-1-1 emergency system and for disorderly conduct.  At least neither the husband nor wife can be surprised if the other actually sues for divorce.

Are you in the Dallas area and feel your divorce require immediate emergency attention? Debating who to call if 9-1-1 isn’t an option? Contact us! The Wright Firm- Dallas area law firm practicing in family law and criminal law. Pick up the phone, don’t dial 9-1-1 but (972) 353-4600 or visit our website at thewrightlawyers.com.

DALLAS RECENT BUS CRASH – WHO’S LIABLE, ANYWAY??!

Posted on | April 11, 2013 | No Comments

DALLAS RECENT BUS CRASH – WHO’S LIABLE, ANYWAY??!

iStock_000006187263XSmallOfficials with the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) have confirmed that two people died around 9:00 a.m. while traveling on a bus in the northbound lanes of the President George Bush Turnpike (State Highway 161). No other vehicles were involved in the crash. According to State Trooper Kyle Bradford, more than 30 people were on the bus when it crashed and the passengers ranged in ages from 66-80.

According to this article; http://dfw.cbslocal.com/2013/04/11/people-trapped-in-overturned-bus-in-irving/, Sgt. Lonnie Haschel with the Texas Department of Public Safety, stated that “[f]or an undetermined reason, that motorcoach traveled off the right-hand side of the roadway and struck what’s called an impact attenuator, those big rubber things that are on the side of the road,” he went on the explain that, “[a]fter it struck the impact attenuator, it went back across the lanes of traffic into a grassy area and struck the concrete median. It rode up on top of that concrete barrier and it rolled on its right-hand side, where it came to a rest.”

If you reread Sgt. Lonnie Haschel’s statement, you will notice that he cites, as the reason for the crash, an “undetermined reason”. “Undetermined”, what does that mean?!?!? Immediately everyone wants to know what happened? Was it an accident? Did the driver fall asleep? Did another driver swerve in the bus’ lane of traffic? Well, as stated by Sgt. Haschel, we don’t know yet. It’s too soon to know all the facts that are necessary to make a determination of fault/accident/negligence/etc.

There have been reports that a tire blew on the bus. While this has not been confirmed; what if a tire did blow? Does that mean that the bus company is responsible? Was it negligent of the bus company to not ensure that the tires on the bus were properly maintained before it took off this morning? Or, is a tire blow just an accident with no fault attributable to any one person (or company) but rather just that; an “accident.” The words “accident” and “death” do not go well together, however. In fact, this is where lawsuits are born; when those two words intersect, accident and death.

When you have what we term “accidental deaths” there is at least usually some source (i.e., an individual or company) that is (at the very least) considered to acted negligently, making them (*gasp*) liable. Without getting into all the ins and outs of liability and what is required to prove negligence, which is required to prove liability, we’ll leave you with this….

If you have been in a bus accident, car accident, or any type of accident, YOU HAVE RIGHTS and you at the very least owe it to yourself, and your loved ones, to speak with a knowledgeable attorney. 

Here at the Wright Firm, LLP, we will be able to educate you on your rights and options and inform you of any important steps that you need to take.  If you’ve been the victim of an “accident” — which, remember, is usually caused by someone else’s negligence, make sure you know you’re rights and make sure you’re protected! Give us a call today at 972-353-4600 to speak immediately to an attorney.

A Parenting Style and CPS

Posted on | April 10, 2013 | No Comments

Hannah Child ProtectionHave you seen a parent spank their child in public? Not talking about abuse, endangerment, or neglect of a child but the simple disciplinary “swat”, “pop” or “spank” that is not hard enough to bruise, but that the older generations considered as reasonable use of corporal punishment by a parent to a child. Public mindset on corporal punishment by parents has drastically changed from the age of “Go pick a switch” or “let me get my belt”. Now, if a parent spanks a child in public, that parent may receive a visit from Child Protective Services (CPS).

A physical punishment in public opens a parent up to witness’s view of reasonable punishment and those witnesses may have concern for the safety of the child and contact CPS. The Texas Family Code, states that a parent may administer corporal punishment for “reasonable discipline” of a child. However, reasonable discipline can be broadly viewed. While one person may see a spank as a consequence for the child not holding the parents’ hand to walk across a busy parking lot, as reasonable and fair discipline, another may see that spank as unreasonable and abusive.

When CPS receives a call or report of abuse the incident will be investigated within 24 -72 hours depending on the severity and imminent concern for the child’s safety. Once a report is filed there is a record. If the report is investigated there will be a final decision by a field agent ranging from whether pursuit and prosecution are required or if there is no cause for concern.

All reports to CPS are kept on record. Even the reports where no abuse was found after investigation or there was deemed to be no threat and therefore no investigation made, they are still on record.

Why is this important? This is not advocating physical punishment, different parenting styles work for different people. It is important to know that if there is ever an allegation or report of abuse it is saved and will forever be on record. This process protects children especially if multiple reports are filed. Unfounded reports can affect you and your family and can cause undue stress to your family. If corporal punishment is part of your parenting style, realize and know many people do not agree with your style and there can potentially be serious consequences for disciplining your child in public.

The Wright Firm does not condone abuse, endangerment or neglect of a child, if you know of child abuse, call 1-800-252-5400 to speak with the Texas Abuse Hotline.

If you have questions about family law or are concerned about the safety of your children, please contact us. The Wright Firm- a Dallas area law firm practicing family law, we are happy to help! Give us a call at (972)353-4600 or visit our website at thewrightlawyers.com.

 

 

 

The Pecan is King in Texas!

Posted on | April 10, 2013 | No Comments

The Pecan is King in Texas

Pecan PieThe Pecan has the trifecta here in the Lone Star State. Not only is the Pecan the State Tree and the State Nut, but it is now officially the State Pie.

On April 5, 2013 the Texas House, in a ceremonial resolution, named the Pecan Pie the official pie of the State of Texas. http://www.dallasnews.com/lifestyles/food-wine/food-wine-headlines/20130405-texas-house-names-pecan-pie-state-s-official-pie.ece.

In a good year, the total Texas pecan harvest ranges from 60 million to 80 million pounds! No wonder there was a proposed amendment to require any pecan pie made in Texas be made with only Texas Pecans. Naturally, it is guessed that Texas Pecan farmers fully supported such an amendment.

The pecan purists proposed that it be illegal to add chocolate to any pecan pie. It is unclear how much support that proposed amendment received. But outlawing chocolate would signal the death of a bourbon chocolate chip pecan pie. Which to some Texans would be the same as saying Texas was actually Southern Oklahoma, something that is just unimaginable.

Have you had more than your fill of pecan pie or something else has turned into too much of a good thing? Are you worried about who will inherit your secret famous pecan pie recipe?  Or is your business going nuts right now in growth? If you have these or other legal questions feel free to give The Wright Firm a call, we work in family, criminal, wills & estates and business law! We are happy to help with your legal needs. Please give us a call at (972) 353-4600 or visit us online at thewrightlawyers.com.

 

No Fault v. Fault Divorce in Texas

Posted on | March 25, 2013 | No Comments

iStock_000009420618SmallDivorce isn’t easy. Going through a divorce you need a support team. Family, friends and your lawyer to help you through the different aspects and new life you will face. A Dallas area woman recently wrote about the reception she has received from friends since she has filed for divorce. Read the full article here:http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/local-voices/headlines/20130308-darcy-debok-dont-worry–divorce-isnt-contagious.ece

People divorce for many reasons, whether the relationship is unhealthy, unsafe, or things simple fell apart, each divorce is different. Texas is a no-fault divorce state, meaning a spouse doesn’t have to blame the other spouse for any action or inaction to file for divorce.

No-Fault divorce is called insupportability. The Texas Family Code, defines it as, “[marriage has become] insupportable because of discord or conflict of personalities that destroys the legitimate ends of the material relationship and prevents any reasonable expectations of reconciliation.” Basically, you and your spouse no longer see eye-to-eye on anything, cannot agree on anything, and your personalities have grown to be incompatible with each other.

The opposite of no-fault is at-fault divorce. In an at-fault state there must be allegations and/or proof of cruelty, adultery, abandonment or a felony conviction during the marriage in order to file for divorce. The definitions and limits on the faults are varying and depend on the specific facts of your divorce. For example, cruelty can include physical abuse, emotional abuse, and repeated and continuous acts of adultery.  While abandonment requires that one spouse left with the intention of abandoning and remained gone for at least a year. Texas does not require a fault reason to file for divorce, but it is important to notify your lawyer if there is a potential at-fault claim.

Whether you are considering filing for a no-fault divorce or have an at-fault claim, filing for divorce is a personal and important decision. If you live in the Dallas area and are considering a divorce please give us a call! We know it is a difficult decision and understand the challenges a divorce brings. Call The Wright Firm at (972) 353-4600 or visit our website and email us www.thewrightlawyers.com

The Wright Firm does not represent Ms. DeBok or have any association with the case.

Staying Lucky in Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day

Posted on | March 10, 2013 | No Comments

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStaying Lucky in Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day

It’s that time of year once again, time for everyone to claim that .08% of a drop of blood that we are all Irish. St. Patrick’s Day is next Sunday and if last year’s statistics from the lower Greenville Block Party are any indication, it should be a cracking good time.

According to Dallas Police Department the Greenville Block Party resulted in 70 arrests: 37 DWI, 22 Public Intoxication, 3 aggravated assaults, 1 assault on public servant, 1 felony theft, 1 outstanding warrant arrest and 5 misdemeanor arrests.

The Greenville Block Party is scheduled for Saturday March 16, so how do you keep from joining the party in the back of a paddy wagon?

1) Don’t Drink and Drive- Dallas Police Department generally has a “No Refusal Weekend” running from 6pm Friday night until 6am Sunday morning. This means if you are suspected of drunk driving, you will be required to submit to a blood or breathe test. If you refuse, a warrant will be issued and you will have to provide a blood sample.

Best option: Call a taxi and don’t risk it. A blood-sample determining blood-alcohol level will be introduced in court if you are arrested for DWI. Driving While Intoxicated is a Class B Misdemeanor, if it’s your first.  You can be charged with a DWI at any age if 1) You are operating a motor vehicle; and 2) Have a BAC of .08 or higher.  A DWI is a serious offense which is punishable by jail time. 2) Don’t be “That Guy or Girl” – A public intoxication ticket is nothing to laugh about. Holidays and celebrations (St. Patrick’s, 4th July, Cowboys winning the Superbowl etc.) create essentially a zero tolerance zone for police officers. Under the Texas Penal Code a person may be arrested for public intoxication if: “the person appears in a public place while intoxicated to the degree that the person may endanger the person or another.”  Best option: Have fun, but keep the horseplay with friends and wild debauchery in check. The entire parade route is considered a public place, just because you are inside a bar doesn’t mean you cannot be ticketed or arrested. Public Intoxication is a Class C Misdemeanor and carries a fine up to $500. 3) Enjoy your open container for a day – last year Dallas Police Department waived the open container law for the Greenville Parade, and don’t quote us yet, but apparently that maybe repeated this year.  The open container law prohibits public consumption of alcoholic beverages in public places.  This means you can safely wander down Greenville with a drink in your hand. However, the waiver can disappear on a person to person basis if your actions are deemed overly intoxicated and/or you get a public intoxication ticket.

 

Best option: Dallas Police Department will officially decide if the open container law will be waived at some point the week before the parade. Check and double check your information before going to the parade.

Worried that your luck of the Irish may not be enough? Did you enjoy too much green beer? While celebrations and parades are fun you can end up with legal trouble if your leprechaun let you down. The Wright Firm-Dallas DWI Attorney is here to help!  Give us a call at (972) 353-4600 or check us out on the web at www.thewrightlawyers.com.  And please – Always drink and celebrate responsibly!

“FREE DIVORCE ON VALENTINE’S DAY!!” Really?

Posted on | February 13, 2013 | No Comments

iStock_000018395036XSmallFree Divorce?!?!! Sounds romantic, right?!?! Well, it might not be romantic per se but it sure is logical if you find yourself more in need of a divorce, rather than a box of chocolates, this Valentine’s Day…

According to this article, http://news.msn.com/pop-culture/lawyer-offers-free-divorce-for-valentines-day, posted on MSN.com this morning; Michigan attorney, Walter H. Bentley, got an overwhelming response by the public when he decided to run a contest offering a “Free Divorce” to the most compelling case. All of this in honor of, you guessed it, the most lovely day of the year; Valentine’s Day!

Mr. Bentley’s contest is limited to an uncontested divorce with no or minimum child custody issues. He opened the contest up to Michigan residents only and to enter the contest all you have to do is submit a story explaining why you need a divorce. The deadline for submissions is Tuesday and after that date, Mr. Bentley will choose one winner “based on the most compelling and convincing story”. According to Mr. Bentley, he expected about 40 or 50 entries and as of Monday night he had 500!!

Mr. Bentley has received mostly positive feedback about his contest. Some critics, however, argue that it is distasteful for him to run a contest for a free divorce on a day meant to symbolize lasting love. Mr. Bentley is not deterred by these critics, however, because he believes he has a chance to help someone who wants a divorce but can’t afford it.

While we’re not running a “Free Divorce” contest this Valentine’s Day, we do offer competitive rates yearlong! If you’re looking for help with a Family Law matter this Valentine’s Day contact The Wright Firm immediately. We have attorneys ready to assist you! Give us a call at (972) 353-4600 or check us out on the web at www.TheWrightLawyers.com or www.NoFrillsTexasDivorce.com.

 

Texas Divorce Forms: “You can’t feed hungry people by passing out recipes…”

Posted on | February 11, 2013 | No Comments

Texas Divorce Forms:

iStock_000009420618Small“You can’t feed hungry people by passing out recipes…”

The above-referenced quote is paraphrased from Dallas family court Judge Dennise Garcia in the following article: http://www.chron.com/opinion/outlook/article/Divorce-forms-will-burden-lower-courts-with-4264531.php.

Her quote is in response to whether the Texas Supreme Court, by approving forms last year that encourage do-it-yourself divorces, is helping or hurting the indigent population of the state. The full quote, from Texas Lawyer was: “I think trying to solve the pro se problem with forms is a little bit like trying to solve hunger by distributing recipes. We have lots of forms in the law library, and those become train wrecks. … It just doesn’t make any sense without having the education or the knowledge.”

Judge Dennise Garcia shares the thinking of one side; while others, the proponents of the “do-it-yourself” forms argue that it’s really greedy divorce lawyers not wanting to cut off a potential source of business. Proponents of the forms further argue that the DIY forms have actually been available from a variety of sources for many years, but the Texas Supreme Court has never officially sanctioned forms before.

In reality, both sides; for and against the DIY forms, cannot deny the fact that the forms can provide (sometimes, at least) indigent people with just enough rope to hang themselves. For example, consider this story from the above-cited article:

“A recent incident in a Houston civil court serves as a glaring example of the danger faced by indigent Texans when they attempt a DIY divorce.

The judge thought there was something familiar about the woman representing herself to prove up her divorce. The judge remembered her from a Child Protective Services case, and that she had children, but the woman checked a box on the form indicating no kids.

“Yes, I have three children,” responded the woman. “But the form says how many children are involved, and I’ve been careful not to involve any of them in this divorce.”

Only the judge’s good memory kept the woman from a mistake that might have required her to come back to court to assure her child-custody rights. The judge in this case had to stop proceedings to explain the problem and set the record straight. In many urban areas, the courts have nearly ground to a halt under the pressure of nonlawyers trying to handle their own cases. Explaining the legal system to pro se litigants inevitably falls on judges and their clerks. And it slows the civil system down for everyone.”

It is undeniable that indigent people need lawyers, not just forms. However, how do you connect indigent people (who clearly cannot afford attorneys) with attorneys?

Well, one solution, as proposed in the above-cited article, is a project called Family Law Cares, which is working to provide pro bono legal services to that indigent population.

In Texas, 58,000 people qualified for pro bono legal services in 2011, and a majority of those were for divorce or family law cases. Texas Access to Justice Commission.  The Family Law Cares project is working to have the family lawyers train as many attorneys as possible from other practice areas to handle rudimentary family cases. The project will also use the thousands of law school graduates who need courtroom experience to help them get a job to assist with the pro bono efforts.

We know that bringing pro bono attorneys together with indigent clients is the combination that works. Even the Texas Supreme Court, in approving the use of forms, said, “… the Court recognizes that obtaining legal representation, pro bono or otherwise, for every pro se litigant would be ideal …”

While the forms may be useful to some, it is a shared concern among the legal community that the forms will be the predominant method of divorce for the poor, and everyone will suffer because of this. “If we decide that people deserve real, live attorneys, some may still use forms. But the predominant method will be real legal work that can avert disaster.”

Any and all quotes contained within the blog post are from the following article:  http://www.chron.com/opinion/outlook/article/Divorce-forms-will-burden-lower-courts-with-4264531.php.

 

If you want to avoid finding yourself in a legal mess because you tried to save money by doing it yourself, contact The Wright Firm immediately. We offer competitive rights and have attorneys ready to assist you! Give us a call at (972) 353-4600 or check us out on the web at www.TheWrightLawyers.com or www.NoFrillsTexasDivorce.com.

Dallas Divorce Attorney: Dividing Retirement Accounts in Divorce

Posted on | October 7, 2012 | No Comments

It is extremely important for anyone considering a divorce in Texas to know how a divorce can affect their entitlements to retirement or investment accounts. When two parties decide to divorce, Texas law requires courts to consider certain property acquired during the marriage as community property. Unlike separate property which is given to the spouse who acquired it, community property is divided in a “just and right” manner by the divorce court. It can be divided regardless of which spouse acquired it, including investment accounts, retirement and savings plans. In many cases, these retirement and investment accounts are the most valuable assets that that a court will consider in a divorce.­­

 

There are many common forms of retirement and investment accounts, such as annuities, individual retirement accounts (IRAs), 401(k) plans, and pensions. All money accumulated in these accounts during the marriage is subject to division by the divorce court. The most common mistake made by parties and their attorneys in divorce is lack of knowledge about the plan being divided. There are many details to be addressed, from what plan the employer reports to the IRS each year, to whether a government regulation or code mandates unique treatment for a spouse’s plan. Among the most important questions to be answered is whether a party has a defined contribution plan or a defined benefit plan. Knowing this information can help a Dallas Divorce client and his or her Dallas Divorce Attorney calculate the present value, or potential value, of an account that may be subject to division in the divorce. Experienced divorce attorneys also know that tax consequences are of great importance when dividing a retirement or investment account. The timing of tax consequences needs to be calculated into the division of property, especially if one spouse is a much higher wage earner than the other.

 

The most popular tool that family law courts apply to the division of retirement accounts is a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO). QDROs allow the beneficiary of an investment or retirement account to change the payout for the plan. Without one in place, the plan administrator (usually, an employer or bank) has no legal obligation to direct payment to anyone but the owner of the plan. QDROs are beneficial because they incur no early withdrawal fees from the IRS. Without a QDRO, the transfer of money from a retirement account can incur strict fines or penalties. Additionally, a QDRO can define either the exact sum or percentage of the total savings amount a spouse is entitled to receive upon the date of divorce. While QDRO’s are invaluably useful in divorce cases, they are not simple or quick documents to prepare. Each QDRO must conform to specific rules set by the administrator of the plan, so a spouse may need a separate QDRO for each plan to be divided or transferred.

 

It is vital that a spouse considering divorce consult with a divorce attorney about the retirement, savings or investment accounts used during the marriage. In many cases, non-employee spouses are at a tremendous disadvantage of ever receiving their share of benefits which would otherwise be divisible because they did not consult an attorney, or because they wrongly believed they were not entitled to any funds from an account. On the other hand, employee spouses are at risk to award too much of their accounts to their spouse because they lacked knowledge about dividing a complex financial asset.

 

Assessing how your retirement or investment accounts will hold up in a divorce can be a daunting process on your own. Contact the Wright Firm, L.L.P. at (972) 353-4600 to answer your questions about valuating or splitting investment and retirement accounts to ensure that you receive all of the marital property to which you are entitled. You may also find us on the web at www.thewrightlawyers.com

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