Peace and Puppies


Texas Attorneys Named the Main Texas Matrimonial Law Trends

Half of the current year has passed, and Texas lawyers have already analyzed the main trends and expectations concerning the matrimonial law trends. Divorce law is a legal sphere which must regularly change, reflecting all the social (and we can even say “personal”) tendencies.

Unfortunately, things are not so quick as we wish. Nevertheless, step by step, Texas activists try to draw attention to the need for new laws and changes to some procedures, while lawyers – to adapt to new conditions to offer the best service.

So, what are the main divorce tendencies of the future years, and how they fit in with current Texas divorce laws?

Who Gets Buddy?
One of the most acute Texas divorce problems is… pets custody.

Onlinedivorce claims a significant increase in pet custody lawsuits in recent years. Now, the most disputed pets are dogs with 88% of such cases. Cats get 5%. Rest of percents include horses and more exotic animals. The courts allow contesting pet custody, but in Texas, pets are still treated as property by the state law.

This means that under community property state law, the pet acquired during the official marriage is considered as any other asset – the judge is to determine the value of your dog, and that who will not get the pet will receive a different piece of property of the same cost. But we talk about pets who often become full-fledged and beloved family members! No matter how much your dog costs. Will you regret and cry the same about a toaster or fancy washing machine as about your fur friend? And can such monetary compensation comfort you?

On the other hand, if either spouse acquired the dog or cat before the marriage, it is considered as separate property of the party, and the court cannot change the owner. But the pets issue is full of emotional complications. It can happen that the one bought the dog, but that the other partner who became its real caring owner.

Moreover, in theory, under these community property laws, the judge is eligible even to order to sell the pet and share the profit between the spouses. Admittedly, this is not how it usually works in Texas, but the thing is that the property division rules obviously suit poorly to pets disputes.

Meanwhile, in the several US states have already adopted new pet custody laws. Alabama was the first state which entered pet custody legislation. Illinois, California, Alaska have updated their property laws too. Many other states currently consider a similar decision.

New divorce laws are aimed to ease the process of deciding who gets the common pet after a divorce and to minimize the spouses’ stress and fights over the four-legged friends.

These new regulations imply that the court should consider the best interests of pets in determining the owner, and provide several opportunities to have sole or joint custody of an animal, to have visitation rights, and so on. In other words, these new divorce laws treat pets more like children than assets, without ignoring important emotional and personal factors.

The passing of “pets custody” laws does not depend on whether the state is the community property or equitable distribution one, so Texas has all chances to update its law according to the people’s needs and interests in the near future.

Nowadays, if you are worried about your pet’s fate after your divorce, you may include the particular conditions and rules regarding its wellbeing into your prenup, cohabitation agreement, or marital settlement agreement. For that, your divorce should be uncontested, and you and your ex-partner should be ready to negotiate and agree upon the specific terms of the pet’s location or, for example, visitation hours for the “non-custodial” owner, plans for possible emergencies, and so on. The judge cannot assign such orders, but there are a lot of Texas divorce attorneys who have already caught the trend and offer their assistance in creating a well-working pet custody agreement.

Tired of Fights
More and more Texans refuse to participate in court battles to get a divorce. Negotiation, arbitration, mediation, collaborative process, and other alternative dispute resolutions replace litigation step by step.

People prefer an uncontested divorce now, because, in theory, it requires much less time and expenses. However, Texas rules concerning such a “simplified” form of a divorce proceeding are still rather strict. If divorcing spouses have a common property or underage children, or either spouse wants to receive alimony, an uncontested divorce remains to be not so simple. Although they are eligible for uncontested divorce now (so, since 2005, Texas legislature includes Parenting Plan in the Final Divorce Decree), they still need legal counsel. There is more complicated paperwork, and waiting period (so-called “cooling off period”) is yet required even if the spouses agreed on all the crucial issues of their dissolution.

At the same time, there is an example of many states which provide really simplified marriage dissolution procedure, which does not require any waiting period if all the terms are agreed between the parties and the court finds the agreement fair. Most legal professionals lean towards the opinion that complicated divorce procedure cannot restrain divorce rate increase anymore, but just make people (both spouses and court stuff) waste their time and resources. In the time of sudden changes and modern technologies, such a procedure is entirely outdated. Such serious things as the legal proceedings do not stop being serious if they do not take a lot of time, papers, and nerves. And available methods such as e-filing, online-counseling, mediation, online divorce, etc. can ensure the complete divorce process according to the letter of the law, but make the process more straightforward for the high amount of divorcing couples. As for increasing divorce rate, it is a psychological issue, not bureaucratic. A lot of Texas legals and activists realize that and stand for simplifying of the process of divorce at the legislative level.

Among the other notable trends is increasing rate of a “gray divorce,” which are associated with certain difficulties regarding retirement payments, insurance, health care, and so on.

At the same time, the younger generation gets married in later years than their parents, which also creates additional issues with separate property (which they have time to acquire before the marriage), education loans, etc.

All the types of divorce above lead to the increasing interest in prenuptial contracts and other forms of marital agreements. Each case is unique. Collaborative law having the negotiation as its core becomes more and more relevant under the outlined circumstances. So we can hope all these trends and assumptions will prompt more significant changes in the state family law in the near future.

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