Examples when hiring a lawyer is especially advisable for people divorcing in Texas

One of the earliest questions that most people divorcing in Plano face is whether to seek legal representation. To many people, handling the divorce alone may seem like a more efficient and affordable route. Unfortunately, while this might be true in simpler divorce cases, self-representation can have incredibly harmful effects in more legally complex separations. The following situations are just four examples in which divorcing spouses may benefit significantly from working with an attorney.

1. Dividing complex property:

Under the Texas Family Code, all marital property is subject to equitable distribution between spouses at the time of divorce. However, completing an equitable division can be difficult when the character (community property or separate property) or the value of marital property hasn't been correctly evaluated. This is especially a risk when spouses possess highly complex marital assets, such as retirement savings, fringe benefits, stock options and business assets.

An attorney with experience in complex property division may be able to help a spouse create a full inventory of marital property and accurately assess its worth. An attorney should also be able to help you evaluate the reasonableness of any proposed divisions of this property.

2. Working with prenups:

People who signed prenuptial agreements or postnuptial agreements may think they don't need legal assistance to handle the aspects of the divorce that are addressed in these agreements. However, an attorney can play an invaluable role in assessing the impact of such an agreement for several reasons. First, prenuptial agreements cannot stipulate certain aspects of a divorce settlement, such as child custody arrangements. Second, these agreements may not always hold up in court.

Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements can be challenged for multiple reasons. An agreement may be found invalid if it was signed under duress, based on false information or without legal representation. An "unconscionable" agreement that overly favors one spouse may be challenged, as may an agreement that wasn't correctly executed. Additionally, spouses may question the interpretation of an agreement that contains any ambiguous wording or provisions.

3. Searching for hidden assets:

It's not uncommon for spouses to attempt to hide assets during divorce in order to keep a greater share of property or avoid financial obligations such as alimony. Daily Finance notes that spouses may try hiding marital assets in all of the following ways:

  • Delaying or deferring the receipt of income that qualifies as marital property, such as raises, promotions, commissions and tax returns
  • Moving marital assets to hidden accounts or temporarily transferring them to friends
  • Accumulating cash and easily overlooked high-value items, such as furniture or collectibles
  • Pre-paying tax obligations on separate property or community income

People who suspect that a spouse is engaging in any of these tactics might benefit from seeking professional assistance for a few reasons. An attorney should be able to help a person assess the available financial information and look for common signs of asset concealment. A lawyer may also be able to take other steps to uncover hidden assets, such as subpoenaing financial records or deposing the other spouse.

4. Protecting the best interests of the children:

The relative rights, duties, and obligations of parents and conservators in Texas in regard to the children are subject to court orders and are often the source of conflict in divorce. One spouse or both spouses may attempt to tie concessions in the division of assets and liabilities to concessions regarding the children, which may not be in the best interest of any child of the parties. An experienced family attorney, especially an attorney certified as an expert in family law by the Texas Board of Legal Specification (TBLS) can help a concerned parent protect the best interests of the children while also protecting the parent's financial interests.

Assessing the need for representation

People who face any of these situations during divorce should consider at least consulting with an attorney experienced in family law prior to proceeding further in the settlement process. Such an attorney may be able to help a person review the applicable laws, the complications that may arise during divorce and the potential risks of handling this process alone.