Friday, July 22, 2016


1.      TIP: Make sure you are using the correct forms for your situation.  Many websites offer free forms and each websites forms vary.  There are no standardized forms for divorce in Texas although the Texas Supreme Court has issued one set of forms.  However, they will only apply if you have no children and no real property such as a house.

2.      TIP: Do not be misled by the language or headings that are used in forms that may imply certain property or assets belong to one spouse. Unfortunately, many people don’t discover their rights until after the judge has signed their form decree and they have given away property to which they were entitled.  And then it is too late.

3.      TRAP:  form language: “Husband is awarded “All of Husband’s cash and money in any bank or other financial institution listed in Husband’s name alone.” Just because it’s in one spouses name doesn’t mean the other spouse isn’t entitled to a portion of it.  If the funds were deposited during the marriage, the funds are considered community property and subject to division.

4.      TRAP: form language: “Husband’s cars, trucks, motorcycles or other vehicles listed below:” If both spouse’s names are on the title and debt is owed on the vehicle, additional documents may be required for title to be issued solely in husband’s name.  Additionally, if wife’s name is on the financing, awarding the vehicles to husband in the decree will not relieve wife remove wife from the debt.

5.      TRAP:  form language: “Husband will keep the following personal property still held jointly: (For example, a bank account, but not real property such as a house or land.)” The language in a decree is not binding on third parties other than the spouses.  This may award the funds in a jointly held account to the husband, but the bank will not deny wife access to the funds based solely on a divorce a decree.

6.      TRAP: form language: “Husband’s Retirement Funds (For example, pension, profit-sharing, and stock option plans, 401ks, and IRAs). The language in the forms is misleading.  Again, just because the funds are held in husband’s name and just because they are a result of husband’s employment, it does NOT mean they are solely husband’s property. They are presumed to be community property and therefore wife is entitled to a portion of them.

7.      TIP/TRAP: If you do divide the retirement funds, 401(k), and IRA’s, the divorce decree is not sufficient to transfer the funds to wife.  Other documents will be necessary. It could be a simple as a form from the financial institution or as complicated as a federally mandated specialized order depending on the type of plan and the nature of the asset.

8.      TIP/TRAP:  Some forms have sections that awards real property (such as a house) to a spouse.  The transfer of title to real property is complex and requires more than a divorce decree. Additionally, neither the divorce decree, nor the title transfer documents, will remove a spouse from the mortgage. The mortgage company must be involved in that process and consent to the removal.  A common occurrence is one spouse successfully transferring his legal interest in the marital residence to the other spouse, only to discover that the mortgage company will not release him from the mortgage. Now he is responsible for the mortgage on house he does not own.

9.      TRAP:  form language: “The other debts listed below which are not in Husband’s name alone (such as credit cards, student loans, medical bills, income taxes).”  There is this same language for the wife as well. The assumption is that since they are not in either spouse’s name alone, they are in both spouse’s name together.  Debt, especially joint debt, is often the most difficult issue to deal with in a divorce.  Third party creditors are not bound by the terms of your divorce decree so great care should be taken when allocating debts.

10.   TIP/TRAP:  In Texas, a property division may NOT be modified! Once the judge signs the Final Decree of Divorce that contains your property division, there is no going back. Talk to a lawyer to determine your rights before the judge signs a form decree of divorce.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016


It is tragic when  parent dies, even if that parent is your ex-spouse.  Loosing a parent can be very difficult for the children and they will need a lot of support and understanding.  But there are some legal issues that you need to be aware of if you live in Texas:

1.  In Texas if one parent dies, the other parent will be entitled to custody of the child. 
2.  The deceased ex-spouse's parents have the right to file a lawsuit asking that they be allowed visitation with the child.
3.  If the deceased parent died while the child is still entitled to child support, the surviving ex-spouse is entitled to a judgment for all the future child support payments that would be due.  Once  judgment for the unpaid child support has been entered, the surviving ex-spouse can make a claim against the deceased spouse's estate for the entire amount of the judgment.

Hoppes and Cutrer, LLC is ready to take immediate action to help families maintain the well-being of a child and the surviving parent in the face of such a tragic loss.

Friday, July 1, 2016


Showing Contempt for your Spouse is the Number one Predictor that You will end up in a Divorce

The number one predictor of divorce, according to researcher John Gottman, is not money problems or infidelity. It’s contempt for your spouse, or, to be more clear, it is contemptuous behavior toward your spouse. Even if you truly love your spouse and hold no contempt for him or her, you are probably guilty of some of the big behaviors that indicate contempt.

Signs of Contempt That You Might Not Recognize (But Your Spouse Will)

Communication is the key to any relationship, but not all communication is verbal. Sure, it is easy to say something out loud that displays contempt for your spouse (“I HATE YOU,” for a rather on-the-nose example), but there are certain nonverbal cues that can display the type of animosity and contempt that can poison the well of your marriage and lead to a slow spiral into divorce.
  • Nonverbal Contempt Cues: Eye-rolling. Heavy sighs. Smirking when your spouse tries to bring up an issue that you find trivial, but your spouse does not. Walking away. Ignoring your spouse. Condescending looks when you are speaking.
  • Verbal Contempt Cues: Name-calling. Excessive and biting sarcasm (sarcasm can be healthy – but not when it is used to belittle someone). The word “whatever” in response to a point your spouse makes. “You’re overreacting” when he or she is bothered by something you did. Insults (body-shaming, gender-shaming, insert-type-of-shaming-here)
Contempt is something that builds over time, especially when couples do not communicate to one another effectively. Little things that may not bother you at the time begin to build up, day by day, and keeping that sort of thing bottled up can certainly tear a marriage apart.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Financial Infidelity Can Lead to Divorce

It goes without saying that marital infidelity can lead to the breakdown of a marriage. But adultery is not the only type of infidelity you have to worry about – there is also the notion of financial infidelity.
Financial infidelity basically means to lie to your partner about finances. And it’s a growing trend, according to a Harris Poll for the National Endowment for Financial Education. Two out of five Americans admitted to lying to their spouse about financial matters.
Financial infidelity can be anything from a little white lie to full-blown hiding of a significant amount of assets or debt. Sometimes it can be for a good reason, like saving up for a surprise family vacation. But often, the reasons for lying about money are more malicious, and this type of deception, when discovered (when – not if), can lead to enormous trust issues that may culminate in divorce.
What Are Common Types of Financial Infidelity?
  • The most common type of financial infidelity is the act of hiding something. This includes hidden purchases, hidden bank accounts, hidden cash stashes, that type of thing.
  • A less common, but still contentious form of financial infidelity – lying about your debts or income.
In the age of cashless transactions, it is easier than ever to engage in financial infidelity. The practice is widespread throughout all demographics, though more common with younger couples. Usually, the moment of discovery is when a major event happens, such as a big purchase (home, car) or even things like medical emergencies. And when the truth comes out, it can destroy your trust and foster contempt – the leading predictor of divorce.
So what should people do to avoid these problems? Maintain open and honest forms of communications about income, assets and debt. Have a weekly or monthly meeting with your spouse to review finances and pay bills. Couples who argue about money and finances should work with a marital counsellor or a financial advisor (or both) to guide them into a better way of handling their household budget, accounts and debt.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Collaborative Law

The Collaborative Law is where two parties and their lawyers sign a binding agreement stating that the only purpose for the lawyers' representation is to help the parties use creative problem-solving aimed at reaching a negotiated agreement that meet the needs of both parties.  In the collaborative law process, the parties agree that no one will threaten to, or engage in litigation to force compromises.  The parties still have a right to access the court system, but if they do, both lawyers are automatically disqualified from representing either of the parties in the case going forward.

The important points of the collaborative process are:

1.  Full, voluntary, early disclosure of all facts and information necessary to come to an agreement
2.  Both parties voluntarily accept that they have a fiduciary duty to each other
3.  Both parties accept that the goal of the process is settlement with the understanding that each party fully participates and treats each other with respect.
4.  Transparency of the process.  In other words, nobody tries to hide assets or important facts.
5.  If experts are needed, only one joint neutral expert will be hired.
6.  Both parties commit to try to meet the legitimate goals of each party, if at all possible.
7.  No threat of litigation
8.  All lawyers and experts are disqualified from participating in any legal proceeding between the parties outside the collaborative law process.
9.  Using four-way settlement meetings to  communicate goals and needs and to negotiate a settlement.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Who Should get the House in a Divorce?

Deciding who should get the house at the end of a divorce is not only a financial but also a very emotional decision.  On one hand, there are emotional benefits to keeping the house,especially if children are involved.  On the other hand , the house is often the couple's most valuable asset.  If there is equity in the house that equity is community property (assuming the house is community property) and this equity should be divided between the parties.  If you get the house with all the equity, it could mean that you get nothing else.  It could mean giving up retirement, cash and other investment accounts.  This is a decision that should not be made lightly.

Another thing to consider is: can you afford the house?  In other words can you afford the mortgage payments and the cost of the upkeep?  It is important to look at what your monthly income and expenses are going to be after the divorce is final. 

Maybe the best option is to agree to sell the house and split the proceeds.  Or maybe one of the parties might  be able to re-finance the mortgage in a way that he/she is able to get some cash to give the other spouse his/her share of the equity in the house.

There are also times when it is more cost effective to keep the house: for example if the mortgage payments are lower than the cost of paying rent.  Sometimes people find themselves in a situation where the house is not worth as much as the total mortgage debt.  In that situation the parties would have to pay the difference to the bank in the event they sell it.

All of these factor should be considered before deciding whether to try to keep the house.