Dallas Mayor's Rally Against Domestic Violence This Saturday

As divorce attorneys in the Dallas area, we are unfortunately familiar with the harsh reality of domestic violence.  We have stared into the eyes of the victims, watched them garner the strength to face their abuser and take the hard-fought steps toward regaining a life where they are in control.  Domestic violence often hides in plain sight across all economic backgrounds, religions and races. The more light that we can shine on this issue, the better.

 Now, Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings is speaking out against domestic violence and is calling on men to help end domestic abuse. To raise awareness and further this initiative, Mayor Rawlings has organized a rally against domestic violence this Saturday, March 23, 2013.  The rally is scheduled to take place at City Hall and will include an impressive roster of political and sports-celebrity speakers and attendees. Emmitt Smith, Roger Staubach, Don McPherson, Brandon Carr, and possibly Dirk Nowitzki will be in attendance.  State Representative Rafael Anchia will be the emcee for the Saturday event. Other speakers include: former soccer player Daniel Hernández, Bishop of Dallas Kevin Farrell, sportscaster Dale Hansen and State Rep. Jason Villalba, who will talk about four bills that would help combat domestic violence.

 The rally will be this Saturday, March 23, 2013, beginning at 10 a.m. at City Hall at 1500 Marilla Street.  For more information on the event click here: http://www.dallasmenagainstabuse.com/event/

 

Insupportability deciphered: the plain English of "no fault" divorce in Texas

What is “insupportabilty”? We often encounter this question from new or prospective clients. According to the Texas Family Code: "the court may grant a divorce without regard to fault if the marriage has become insupportable because of discord or conflict of personalities that destroys the legitimate ends of the marital relationship and prevents any reasonable expectation of reconciliation.” Tex. Fam. Code §6.001. But what does this really mean?

Simply put, insupportability means unendurable, insufferable, and intolerable. Insupportability is a “no-fault” ground for divorce in Texas (meaning that a divorce can be granted without proof that one spouse was at fault for the breakup of the marriage). Insupportability is the basis upon which courts grant the vast majority of the divorces in this State. 

While the spouse seeking the divorce must prove that the marriage is insupportable, mere conclusory testimony by one spouse (usually in the form of yes / no response to questions from the attorney) that the marriage has become insupportable and there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation is sufficient to support the divorce. There is no requirement to establish the source or nature of the conflict, how long it has lasted, your efforts to fix it, or who is at fault.

There is no legal duty to reconcile in Texas. While there is a provision for counseling in the Family Code, plainly stated, there is really no defense to a petition for divorce based on insupportability – if one person wants to be divorced, there will be a divorce. No matter how much one spouse protests, Texas will not force you to stay married indefinitely against your will.

No Alienation of Affection Claims In Texas

Recently there has been quite a bit of media exposure over alienation of affection claims arising out of a North Carolina Court.  Under the case in North Carolina, the mistress who was allegedly responsible for breaking up a 30 year marriage was sued by her lover's ex-wife and awarded $9M in damages!  North Carolina is one of seven states to recognize alienation of affection claims, in which spouses can sue third parties that they allege interfered in their marriages.   Texas, however, does not recognize alienation of affection claims in divorce cases

Although Texas doesn't recognize alienation of affection claims, fault in the break up of the marriage can play a role in dividing the community estate.  For example, adultery is commonly a factor judges consider when making the just and right division of the community estate. 

For a more in depth look at the facts behind the $9M award, click here.

A Divorce Lawyer's Take on Tiger's Texting Troubles

 

Recent media coverage of the Tiger Woods scandal illustrates the speed with which a text message can go from a seemingly “private” communication, for the intended recipient’s eyes only, to Wednesday’s Access Hollywood, David Letterman's Top 10 Tiger Woods Texts List on Thursday , and just about every celebrity gossip website and magazine out there. While Woods’ extramarital affairs would no doubt be at the center of a media frenzy regardless, the text messages provided by Woods’ lovers provides concrete evidence supporting what might otherwise just be speculation. With the text messages circulating the web, delving into the depths of what Woods mistakenly believed to be private communications can be as easy as typing “Tiger Woods text messages” into Google. Various verbatim exchanges between Woods and his alleged paramours are open to the public to read and analyze at their leisure. Unfortunately for Woods, text message exchanges with the subjects of his extramarital affairs are also accessible to his wife, and to the attorney she hires in the event of a divorce.

 

While it might not make the late night talk shows or celebrity gossip sites, texting frequently leads to big trouble for people who are not Tiger Woods. A text message with a paramour can reveal an extramarital affair to the unsuspecting spouse who accidently comes across it, or confirm the suspicions of a suspecting spouse who looks through their cheating spouse’s phone. After a divorce is filed, text messages provide powerful and often embarrassing evidence of infidelity by the cheating spouse during the marriage.

 

In today’s world it is easy to be seduced by the ease and immediacy of text messaging. Texting can be particularly appealing to those involved in extramarital affairs due to the illusion of privacy this method of communication offers. People text things that they may not feel comfortable saying in person or over the phone (for example, “sexting”).  But they often don’t realize the extent to which text messages are accessible by people other than the intended recipient. Texting, like e-mail, credit cards, and phone bills, leaves a trail. Telephone companies keep records that can be subpoenaed and used as evidence of infidelity in a divorce proceeding. Also, there is nothing to prevent a scorned or opportunistic lover from saving the messages, sending them to the cheating spouse’s husband or wife, or in Wood’s case, leaking them to popular media outlets for publication.

 

For the cheating spouse, the moral of Wood’s texting indiscretions is that texting can spell big trouble for you, in your marriage and in your divorce. For the spouse who is cheated on and his or her attorney, use the cheater’s texting troubles to your advantage as great evidence for your adultery claim.

Sex, lies and infidelity.

Infidelity is a frequent topic brought up by our clients.  Texas is a no-fault divorce state which means if a spouse wants a divorce, the other spouse is not required to have committed a "bad act."  See Tex. Fam. Code Sect. 6.002-.007.  Lately there have been several public figures that have revealed their extramarital affairs.  Coupling this with the frequency adultery is brought up by our clients, a primer on adultery as a ground for divorce is appropriate. 

Under Section 6.003 of the Texas Family Code, adultery is a ground for divorce.  As a Dallas divorce lawyer, my experience is that adultery usually is not the cause of divorce.  Although infidelity is is commonly reported as a cause of divorce, several studies show that the majority of couples who discover infidelity remain married to the unfaithful spouse for several years following their discovery.  Additional studies at the University of Washington and University of North Carolina report that occurrences of adultery are declining and that the strongest risk factor for adultery is one occurring outside of the marital relationship - opportunity. 

Under the adultery fault ground found in the Texas Family Code, one spouse is required to show that the other engaged in sexual intercourse with one not their husband or wife.  Without diving into semantics, Texas courts take a literal approach in construing the term intercourse.  As a result, proving adultery is very difficult to do. 

Assuming a party to a divorce is able to prove adultery occurred, courts take different approaches in deciding what impact that conduct will have in dividing the marital estate.  It comes as a shock to most people that a lot of courts take a "so what" approach - meaning adultery has little, if any, impact on the remainder of the divorce proceeding.  This is especially true if the couple's status quo prior to filing for divorce was one of marital discord.  Courts do, however, examine adulterous conduct very closely when it was committed in front of children of the marriage; the timing of the affair prior to filing for divorce; and where the adulterous conduct occurred.  The minority of courts consider adultery an atrocious act, hate what it does to the marriage relationship, and divide the marital estate disproportionately as a result. 

Although a fault ground for divorce, adultery is also an act of betrayal against your spouse.  Committing adultery causes an untold pain which rapidly turns into anger.  This anger will cause the innocent spouse to inflict the most amount of pain and burden on the other spouse during the divorce proceeding.

If you suspect that your spouse is having an affair, and you are considering ending the marriage, you should understand that proving adultery is very difficult, and if the offensive conduct did not occur in front of the children of marriage, adultery generally does not cause a court to deviate a significant amount from a 50/50 split of the community property.  Finally, remember that you do not have to navigate the divorce process on your own.  Contact a competent Dallas divorce attorney to help guide you through the maze. 

 

 

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