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League City Family Law Blog

Co-parenting post-divorce vs. parallel parenting

Most parents untying the knot in Texas are likely to have some type of arrangement that allows both parents to spend time with the children. There are times when concerns about a child's safety and well-being warrant sole custody. However, courts often prefer to keep children involved in both parents' lives post-divorce whenever possible.

Decisions made involving a joint child custody agreement are typically based, in part, on former spouses' ability to co-parent effectively. Essentially, this means parents are able to put aside lingering bitterness and animosity so they can both be involved in their child's life. Another approach to co-parenting is what's termed "parallel parenting," which is basically an arrangement where parents remain engaged with their children but disengaged with one another.

Why some parents choose nesting after divorce

Parents in Texas who are going through a divorce and choose what is sometimes called "birdnesting" or "nesting" as a child custody arrangement might wonder how long they should keep the schedule in place. Nesting refers to when the children live full time in the family home while their parents take turns staying with them there. The rest of the time, parents live elsewhere, usually in a shared apartment. Most experts say this setup should not last more than three to six months.

Nesting can be a good way to offer children stability as they adjust to their parents' divorce. However, as it goes on, they might start to think the arrangement means a reconciliation is likely. Sharing homes can also be difficult for parents even if the divorce is relatively amicable and could start to create conflict.

Common financial errors that people make in a divorce

Texas couples who are going through a divorce may be able to avoid financial errors if they are aware of some of the most common ones. For example, some people may be tempted to spend a lot of money just after the divorce, but they may regret this when the bills are due.

It may also be a mistake to try to pay those bills by liquidating assets because there may be taxes associated with it. This is the case with a 401(k), and if a couple must take a distribution to divide it during a divorce, they will need a document called a qualified domestic relations order. The distribution should be rolled into an IRA. This will prevent the imposition of taxes and penalties.

Preconceptions about prenuptial agreements are often false

The simple mention of a prenuptial agreement to a soon-to-be-married individual or his or her family is likely to bring a charged reaction. For many in Texas, it seems inappropriate, at the very least, to initiate a discussion regarding the potential for the failure of a marriage before it has had the opportunity to begin. At worst, it signals the inevitable doom of the union. However, understanding exactly what a prenup is and isn't can provide some perspective.

According to most legal relationship experts, the most common myth about prenups is that they exist solely to protect one spouse's existing wealth. While that issue is certainly a common one, a prenup can address all marital assets. Many times where couples have had a prior marriage with children, the prenup addresses the care of the existing family. Generally speaking, a prenup can address almost any issue, but it cannot circumvent issues of public policy, such as child support.

Tax law changes could make divorce more expensive

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, or TCJA, may mean lower federal tax rates and a higher limit for the Alternative Minimum Tax for some individuals in Texas, but it could also make divorce more expensive for soon-to-be-exes. This is especially true if children are involved since the TCJA eliminates the value associated with personal and dependent exemptions. Alimony payments will also be considered a simple property transfer without tax consequences for either party.

The TCJA also increases standard deductions among all tax statuses, including single filers and Head of Household. It's HOH, in particular, that may now be a significant settlement issue in any divorce that takes place after the TCJA takes full effect in 2019. The HOH parent will be able to claim an expanded $2,000 Child Tax Credit for each qualifying dependent child. This includes $1,400 that's refundable for HOH filers who owe income tax.

Health concerns after later-in-life divorce

An increasing number of older couples in Texas and across the country are choosing to divorce. While the divorce rate remains twice as high among younger couples, it has doubled since 1990 for people age 50 and older. At the same time, the rate has remained steady or even slightly declined for younger couples. People at any age can divorce successfully and move on to a happy single life, but it can be particularly important for people who divorce later in life to take care of their health.

The Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory is a tool that measures the likelihood of a stress-induced health breakdown in relation to significant life events; divorce ranks second on that scale. While stress can affect people at any age, it can be a particular concern for seniors who are already dealing with other medical issues. When people over 50 decide to divorce, especially those who have already entered retirement age, there can be some particular physical and psychological health concerns to monitor. Depression, anxiety and chronic stress are common responses to divorce. These can also affect other physical conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure or Type 2 diabetes.

Hopelessness can be a predictor of divorce

There are a number of factors that could affect whether or not a Texas couple is likely to divorce, and one of the most significant could be when one partner feels a sense of hopelessness. When people in happy relationships come home after a hard day, they can take solace and support from their partners. One couples therapist said that she looks at the level of hopelessness in a relationship to determine whether a couple is more likely to split. When people are hopeless, they feel that nothing more can be done to keep the relationship together.

When this is the case, it is important that each person be able to come to terms with the future and make important decisions about divorce. In 1992, University of Washington researchers said that disappointment and disillusionment in the marriage were the most important predictors of a split. When couples began the study without hope, they were more likely to be living separately three years after.

Divorce could be contagious

Researchers have discovered a surprising and alarming trend that is happening in Texas and around the country. Those who have close friends who get a divorce are 75 percent more likely to get divorced themselves. The study conducted by Brown University, Harvard and the University of California at San Diego found that even the divorce of a friend of a friend can have an impact on the likelihood of separation.

The basis of the family law study is that when one friend gets a divorce, other friends begin to imagine the possibilities of a life without their spouse. They take account of their lives and begin to believe if their friend could successfully go through the process of a divorce, they could as well. Researchers concluded that for many, this is simply a case of the grass looking greener on the other side.

Divorced households may struggle during retirement

Going through a divorce can cast a long financial shadow, and a study released by the Center for Retirement Research reveals that the net worth of divorced households in Texas and around the country is about 30 percent lower than married households. The Boston College-based group also says that divorced spouses are 7 percent more likely to struggle financially during their retirement years. The study, which was published in June 2018, used figures from the Federal Reserve's latest Survey of Consumer Data.

Researchers from the National Regulatory Research Institute have also been looking into the impact that the end of a marriage has on retirement, and they found that more than half of the nation's divorced men and women lack the funds needed to enjoy their golden years in comfort. While spouses who divorce early in life may still have time to prepare financially for retirement, those who end their marriages in their 50s or 60s often face uncertain futures.

How to successfully co-parent after divorce

Texas couples divorce because they no longer wish to spend their lives with each other. However, parents can't simply sign divorce papers and expect to never speak with their ex again. Instead, they must learn to co-parent together for the sake of their child. There are some steps parents can take to help the process go more smoothly.

First of all, parents should always act out of their child's best interests. This means that they should never put down their ex in front of their child or try to use the child to get back at their former spouse. These behaviors only harm the child. Second, parents should establish the same rules for both households. This helps give a child a sense of stability and consistency. Third, parents need to effectively communicate with each other about their child's needs and schedule. This can be done by creating an annual calendar and sending messages via an online co-parenting messaging system.