Who Claims the Kids on Taxes in Texas After a Divorce? 

Inevitably, you’ve already heard the saying that nothing in life is certain except for death and taxes. If taxes are a certainty, why aren’t they easier to file? Navigating tax law and IRS regulations is challenging. One wrong move or even one misplaced number or decimal point is enough to get you in hot water with the IRS. Doing your taxes is hard enough. Now try doing your taxes with the added complications from a recent divorce. The process can be downright stressful.

One of the most common questions we get at BB Law Group PLLC is, “who gets to claim the children on their taxes after a divorce in Texas?” The answer may not always be as clear-cut as you think. That is why we are committed to helping you navigate the challenges that a divorce can pose, especially during tax season.

Who Can Claim the Kids on Their Taxes After a Divorce?

The answer is not straightforward. In general, the Internal Revenue Service stipulates that the parent who has primary custody of the child has the right to claim that child as a dependent on their tax return.

claim children on taxesWhat does this mean for your situation? First, let’s review custody arrangements. In Texas, parents can be granted legal custody and physical custody of a child. These are two distinct types of arrangements. Legal custody is a parent’s ability to make crucial life decisions for the child. These decisions can impact the child’s education, medical care, and overall well-being. Physical custody refers to a child’s living situation. A parent could have joint legal custody but only sole physical custody. There are multiple different ways that custody arrangements can be made. These arrangements will make a difference in who can claim the child on their taxes.

For tax purposes, the custodial parent has the right to claim the child as a dependent. The custodial parent is the one who has primary physical custody of the child. However, in a true 50-50 physical custody arrangement, the IRS has introduced a sort of tie-breaker rule. According to the agency, the parent with the higher taxable income should claim the child. This is generally because the parent with the higher income will gain a larger tax benefit from claiming the child as a dependent.

Can a Non-Custodial Parent Ever Claim a Child as a Dependent?

Again, technically, yes. However, this is where things can get murky. The IRS says that a custodial parent has the right to claim a child as a dependent. That doesn’t mean that the custodial parent must claim the child on their taxes. A custodial parent can agree to allow the non-custodial parent to claim the child as a dependent. Ideally, this needs to be clearly spelled out in the divorce or child custody agreement. In some cases, it may be more advantageous for the non-custodial parent to claim the child on their tax paperwork.

How an Attorney Can Help

The process of divorce can be overwhelming. You may focus on the well-being of your children and how your assets are divided. Rarely are you thinking of the potential implications of divorce come tax time. Unfortunately, a divorce can impact your tax situation when April finally rolls around. You need an attorney on your side who understands how your custody arrangement and the IRS can impact you, your family, and your financial situation.

divorce attorney

Your divorce and custody arrangements should include an agreement about which parent gets to claim the child on their taxes. Overlooking this detail can spell trouble during tax season. Only one parent can claim a child as a dependent. Without clear instructions and communication, both parties could inadvertently file tax paperwork claiming a child as a dependent. The last thing you want to do after going through a divorce is to trigger an IRS tax audit or investigation.

If you and your ex-partner need to make changes to the tax arrangements, talk to an experienced family law attorney. Do not orally agree to alter your tax agreement. These changes should be spelled out in writing to protect you and your child.

Contact BB Law Group PLLC For More Information

Do you need help understanding your tax agreement? Are you contemplating divorce and have questions about the process? Talk to an experienced family law attorney in The Woodlands with BB Law Group PLLC today. We can review your situation and help you process what divorce means for you and your family.

With BB Law Group PLLC on your side, you don’t have to go through this challenging time alone. Reach out to our office for support and legal advice today. Call (832) 534-2589 to set up a confidential consultation.


Five Tips for Winning Your Divorce Case

Winning your divorce case is not the same as winning any other legal case. Winning your divorce means that both you and your former spouse reached an equitable resolution on the division of property, custody and visitation for your children, and an amicable parting of ways. If you plan carefully, you can reach a successful conclusion to your divorce with a minimum of pain for all involved.

If you have come to a point where you and your spouse believe your marriage cannot be saved, here are some suggestions for a positive outcome for both of you.

Consult an attorney. At BB Law Group PLLC, we recommend discussing things with a lawyer before beginning any legal action, including divorce. Your attorney can advise you about your rights regarding property division, child custody and support, possible alimony, and other legal matters. An attorney will also advise you about the Texas statutes regarding waiting periods, notice, and other issues.

Even if you choose to continue with your divorce on your own, it is a good idea to have the paperwork reviewed by an attorney before submitting it. This will avoid costly errors later. If you are unsure about what needs to be done, getting a consultation is worth the time.

Talk to your spouse. The best way to have an amicable divorce is to talk it over with the other party involved. Many of the most common problems facing divorcing spouses can be resolved by discussing them rather than having a judge make a declaration. At the least, you will know what your spouse expects and what you want from the divorce before you begin.

A word of caution: If your spouse has already retained an attorney, you should only communicate with the attorney. This is when you will need a lawyer of your own.

Consider mediation. Before taking things to trial, your attorney may recommend mediation, especially when the parties mostly agree about things. Mediation is a system where the parties sit down with a neutral third party and negotiate their differences. Unlike a trial, mediation is informal, and allows the parties to set their own terms and make their own arrangements for support or visitation.

Be honest with your partner, your attorney, and yourself. The best way to lose a divorce is to be caught hiding assets or failing to tell your attorney about an affair. Tell the truth about everything you have and anything you did. Your attorney cannot represent your best interests without knowing everything. The court will not look kindly on you for trying to defraud your partner.

Take care of yourself. Even the most amicable divorce is no fun for anyone. Anger, sorrow, joy, and other emotions will surface at the most inopportune times. At BB Law Group PLLC, we suggest a support group or therapist if you find yourself feeling out of your depth. Avoid the common mistake of trying to get through it alone.

Other Things to Consider

If you have children, be honest with them about what is going on. Children tend to internalize divorce and blame themselves for their parents’ separation. Secrecy and misdirection only confuse them. Never disparage your spouse in front of your children, even if you believe your spouse has done something wrong, and never use the children to spy on, carry messages to or from, or otherwise fight with your spouse.

A sure way to prejudice a family court judge against you is “alienation of affection” between your children and your spouse, and courts take it very seriously. No matter how angry you may be with your spouse, leave the children out of it.

How We Can Help

No matter how amicable the divorce may be, it’s usually best for each party to have their own attorney. This avoids conflict of interest, where an attorney is forced to pick between one party’s best interest and another’s. For instance, one party may want spousal support, but the other party may not wish to pay it. It is difficult for a responsible attorney to advocate for both parties in that case.

Contact Us

If you and your spouse have reached a point where you cannot remain in your marriage, you should consult a knowledgeable family attorney such as those at BB Law Group PLLC. We can help you negotiate the legal processes and work through the many issues facing you and your family in this trying time.

For a consultation with an attorney about your options in divorce, call BB Law Group PLLC today at (832) 534-2589 or contact us online to get started with your initial consultation.

Can I Text My Child When They Are With My Ex?

If you’re sharing the parenting duties for your child with their other parent after a divorce or separation, you may be curious about your ability to text your child when they’re with your ex. In Texas, the answers to your question will depend on your rights as outlined in court-ordered “conservatorship” or “possession and access” arrangements. Texas courts use the term “conservatorship” in place of “custody” and the term “possession and access” in place of visitation.

The bottom line is, either the custodial or the noncustodial parent can ask the court to grant them specific time periods for electronic communication with the child. However, if these rights are not formally described in a court order, you may want to think twice before you text.

When Are Parents Entitled to Electronic Communication?

Under § 153.015 of the Texas Family Code, electronic communication is defined as a type of access to a child. Electronic communication can include communication with a child through phone conversations, emails, instant messages, texts, and video chats.

A conservator of a child in Texas has the right to ask the court to order the other parent to provide the conservator with reasonable periods of electronic communication with the child. Court-ordered electronic communication periods are intended to supplement, not replace, in-person possession and access of the child.

When Texas family courts decide whether to award electronic communication rights, they typically consider:

  • Whether electronic communication with the requesting parent would be in the best interests of the child
  • What “reasonable” electronic communication would look like, including what is reasonable for the child’s maturity, schedule, and needs
  • Whether all parties involved have reasonable access to the equipment needed to facilitate the electronic communication
  • Any other factors the court decides are relevant

How Do I Know If I Can Text My Child When They Are With My Ex?

To determine whether you have the right to text your child when they are with your ex, your first step should be to review your court-ordered conservatorship and possession and access documents. If you are uncertain about what the documents say, your attorney can read through them with you and explain how they affect your rights.

Every court order is different. If your court order does not say anything about when or how you can communicate with your child, your ex is under no obligation to allow it. If the order says you can talk to your child when they are not physically with you, it’s safe to assume you can text away. However, make sure you abide by the terms of the court order when you do.

If you do text your child while they’re with the other parent, be careful of what you say. Although parents should generally respect their children’s privacy when it comes to communication with other parents, keep in mind that your ex could read anything you send to your child’s phone and use it against you.

Is My Ex Required to Share My Child’s Contact Information?

If a Texas family court orders electronic communication rights, any conservator subject to the order is required to:

  • Provide the other conservator with the child’s relevant electronic contact information, such as phone numbers, screen names, or email addresses
  • Notify the other conservator within 24 hours if the child’s electronic contact information changes in any way
  • Facilitate reasonable electronic communication between the child and the other parent, assuming the necessary equipment is available,
  • Accommodate the electronic communication with “the same privacy, respect, and dignity” granted in all other forms of access
  • Facilitate the electronic communication at reasonable hours and for reasonable durations, within the scope of any limitations outlined in the court order

Any parent who violates a court order by refusing to allow electronic communication or withholding a child’s contact information may suffer legal consequences. One potential consequence of violating a court order is being held in contempt of court. A conviction on charges of contempt could result in arrest and possible jail time.

Contact a Texas Family Law Attorney Today

If you want to ensure your court order allows you to text your child any time they are with your ex, you have the right to file a modification lawsuit with the help of a knowledgeable lawyer. At BB Law Group PLLC, our Texas child custody and visitation attorneys can help you review the details of your conservatorship or possession and access order and propose modifications that work for you.

To learn more about your legal options as a parent, call us today at (832) 534-2589 or contact us online to get started with your initial consultation.

How Are 401(k)s Divided in Divorce?

Divorce is overwhelming for anyone to handle. Agreeing on matters like child custody and property division is often a challenge. Even if this is an amicable divorce, you and your spouse could face contention while determining how to split your retirement accounts.

Dividing a 401(k) is one of the most complex issues involved in asset division. You spent a large portion of your life building the account so you can retire comfortably one day. However, now that your marriage is ending, you could lose some of it to your spouse.

Most people think they should walk away with the assets they entered the marriage with and equally divide the property they own with their spouse. Unfortunately, equitable division of assets doesn’t always mean a court will order you to split your property down the middle. When it comes to a 401(k), a range of factors can determine whether you deserve all or part of the funds.

Your 401(k) Might Be Community Property

Typically, state law considers a 401(k) community property. Community property is property acquired during marriage by one or both spouses. Texas is a community property state, so both parties have rights to these assets when going through a divorce.

However, it might be possible to keep the total funds in your 401(k) account if you can prove that it should be considered separate property.

Separate property is property a person acquires before marriage or as an inheritance or gift while married. If you have evidence to show that your 401(k) is separate property, you could avoid splitting it with your partner once the divorce becomes final.

According to Texas Family Code 7.002, the court must divide a divorcing couple’s assets in a just and right manner. That means the judge can use their discretion and consider any contributing factors to decide the best way to split all real and personal property between the spouses.

Just and right doesn’t necessarily mean a 50/50 split or keeping every penny in your hard-earned 401(k) plan. The judge could decide it’s just and right to distribute most of the funds to your spouse because you earn a significantly higher income. It will depend on the circumstances associated with your marriage.

Factors Contributing to 401(k) Division

Multiple factors can influence a judge’s decision regarding the division of a 401(k) account. The most common factors include:

  • Whether the 401(k) is considered community property or there’s evidence of it being separate property
  • Length of the marriage
  • Age of each party
  • Total income earned by both spouses
  • Employment, education, and earning potential
  • The total amount of debt each person owns
  • Which person is the custodial parent if the couple shares children
  • Tax penalties due to 401(k) division
  • Whether the divorce is fault-based, meaning specific circumstances caused the marriage to end, such as adultery
  • Each spouse’s ability to support themselves after finalizing the divorce
  • The physical and mental health of each party
  • Whether either spouse is entitled to a reimbursement claim.

Why You Should Consider Mediation

Divorce proceedings can be time-consuming and costly. Between paying your attorney, filing fees, and court costs, the expenses you rack up can be significant and cause financial strain. It might be best to resolve the division of the 401(k) plan through mediation.

Mediation involves a mediator acting as a go-between for opposing parties to resolve a dispute. You and your spouse will meet with the mediator and your attorneys to try to agree on how to split the funds in the retirement account.

You or your spouse can begin the meeting by proposing an idea to settle the disagreement. Negotiations occur until you work out a plan you’re both happy with and that meets each person’s needs.

If you reach an agreement regarding the division of your 401(k), you won’t have to take the case to court. Mediating this part of your divorce allows you to have some control over the result. However, you could find yourself walking away with nothing if a judge must make the decision for you and your spouse.

Contact an Experienced Woodlands Property Division Lawyer

BB Law Group PLLC understands the uphill battle you face. Dividing a 401(k) plan might seem like a daunting task, but our legal team knows how to make this process go smoothly.

You can depend on us to review the circumstances of your divorce and create a strategy to try to reach your goals. We will fight to protect your rights, so you walk away from your marriage with your fair share of the retirement account.

If you’re considering filing for a divorce and need assistance with a 401(k) division, do not hesitate to contact BB Law Group PLLC. We will provide you with the representation and guidance necessary to get through this challenging time in your life.

Call us at (832) 534-2589 for your confidential consultation.

How Is Child Custody Decided in Texas?

When you’re thinking of divorce and you have children, the hardest thing to contemplate is what happens to the kids. In the state of Texas, courts determine what the post-divorce child custody arrangements will be. The courts prefer that the parents begin the custody determination process through mediation.

child custodyA court will consider many different factors in making the custody determination, which may take the form of either joint custody or sole custody.

Courts in Texas consider two different categories of child custody. These are “possession and access” and “conservatorship.” Possession and access is essentially a schedule of visitation or physical custody of the child. This determines when each parent will have time with the child. Conservatorship refers to the rights and duties to make decisions for the child as the parent. This includes decisions for major decisions, such as medical treatment and where the child will attend school.

The court determines possession and access based on its determination of what arrangement is in the child’s best interest. In doing so, the court will examine many different components of the child’s life and potential living arrangements. This may include consideration of an agreement for possession and access reached by the parents if they are able to agree.

The court determines possession and access on a temporary basis (by court order or by agreement while the divorce is pending) and on a permanent basis (in the final divorce decree). In some cases, the court may order supervised visitation if one of the parents is able to prove that there is a risk to the child’s well-being, either physically or emotionally.

Similar to possession and access, the court determines the rights and duties of conservatorship by considering what it determines to be in the child’s best interest. This may take the form of a joint arrangement between both parents or a sole conservatorship where one parent will make all of the decisions regarding the child.

When the court considers the child’s best interest, the court will not specifically favor either parent based on their gender or role as father or mother. The court will instead base this determination on its examination of many different factors, which may include:

  • Avoiding splitting up siblings
  • The child’s safety and needs, both physically and emotionally
  • Each parent’s cooperation or lack thereof
  • How fit the court determines each of the adults to function as parents
  • Home stability
  • If one parent was predominantly the main caregiver of the child
  • The child’s relationship with each parent
  • The finances of each parent
  • If the child is at least 12 years old, the child’s wishes or preferences may be considered
  • Where the children would live geographically and what their proximity to the rest of the family would be
  • Any history of abuse or violence

The court may determine that one parent must pay child support to the other parent if that parent is awarded possession and access the greater percentage of the time. It may also relate to this parent being the one whose home is the child’s primary residence. While child support may be awarded by the court, whether or not child support is paid does not affect either parent’s visitation rights.

A divorce that involves one or more children requires a parenting plan that specifically describes the rights and duties that each parent will have. In addition to the factors previously mentioned, these may also include child support requirements and which parent is responsible for providing health insurance for the child.

Once the court determines child custody, modifications may be made based on several factors. Generally, one or both of the parents must prove that the modification is in the child’s best interest and that the circumstances around the existing custody arrangement have changed significantly.

Determination of child custody in Texas is a complex process that involves a large number of different factors and considerations. The role of the court is significant in its determination of what it considers to be in the child’s best interest.

If you or someone you know is going through a divorce with children, you need an experienced attorney to advocate for your family and ensure your child’s best interest is legally preserved. Call BB Law Group PLLC today to discuss your options for child custody with one of our expert divorce lawyers who will fight for your family so you can move on with your life after the divorce. Don’t wait. Call us at (832) 534-2589 now.

How is Property Division Determined in Texas?

If you’re contemplating divorce, you’re no doubt thinking about what happens with all the things you own, the property you’ve acquired while you were married. The state of Texas is a community property state, which influences how property ownership is determined in a divorce. In Texas, the property that the couple owns generally belongs equally to both partners.

property divisionCommunity property includes both spouses’ wages and any items purchased using income earned by either spouse during the marriage. Debts acquired by either spouse during the marriage are also community property. Even if one spouse acquires property individually during the marriage, this is usually still considered community property in Texas.

There may be exceptions to what is considered community property if one spouse can prove they own property on their own. If they can do so, that property is then called “separate property.” This may be the case if one spouse individually owned property prior to the marriage. Separate property may also originate from an inheritance received just by one spouse or a gift of property received by just one spouse. Any income from separate property may itself also be considered separate property.

Monetary compensation from a personal injury settlement or lawsuit received by only one spouse would also be considered separate property. The exception is if the money includes a portion as compensation for lost wages. That money would be considered community property. If a property is proven to be separate, then it will remain the property of that spouse, and the court will not be able to consider it community property.

If separate property was combined with the other spouse’s property rather than kept separate, it would be considered community property. Property may be considered community property regardless of whether or not both spouses are listed on an ownership document such as a deed or title. Even if only one spouse is listed on the ownership document, it may still be considered as owned by both parties. Ownership may also be influenced by a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, which may specify whether particular property is considered community or separate.

Retirement accounts such as IRAs and 401(k) accounts are considered to be community property. The exception is that contributions made only by one spouse before the marriage may be considered separate property. The court will determine which portion of the accounts are considered community and which are separate.

Community property will be divided either by the court or by the couple if they reach an agreement. In that case, the court will typically let the agreement stand. If the couple is unable to reach an agreement, then the court will split the property. Generally, it will be split equally, meaning that each individual receives half.

division of propertyThere may be situations in which the court does not split the community property equally and instead divides the property at their discretion based on specific circumstances. In cases like these, the court will consider relevant factors to decide what it considers to be a fair division. These may include considering whether one spouse is the primary caregiver for any children from the marriage, each spouse’s earning capacity, and how much separate property each partner owns.

Once the property division is determined, the court may, in some cases, award one spouse periodic payments from the other spouse. This is called alimony or spousal maintenance, and specific conditions must be met for a court to award alimony. These generally include:

  • One spouse’s inability to earn enough wages to support themselves (in a marriage that had a duration of at least ten years)
  • One spouse suffering from a disability that prevents them from supporting themselves
  • One spouse being the primary caregiver for a child who has a disability
  • One spouse being convicted of domestic violence toward children or toward the other spouse

Other factors apply, and a key consideration by the court will be whether the spouse who is requesting alimony has made documented unsuccessful attempts to support themselves.

If you are in the process of getting a divorce, you need an attorney who will advocate for you and make sure that you get all the property you are legally entitled to receive. Call (832) 534-2589 today to speak with a Texas divorce lawyer from BB Law Group PLLC who will help you understand the process and your options as you navigate this challenging time. We will fight for you so that you can move on from the divorce and begin the next chapter of your life with the property that is legally yours.

South Carolina state legislator accused of domestic violence

A 36-year-old state legislator had been charged with domestic violence following an argument with his wife at their Graniteville home in Aiken County on Monday, December 26.

At around 10:00 p.m., Chris Corley was reportedly having a disagreement with his wife when he punched and pushed her. When he noticed that he injured his wife and their children were screaming, Corley went to his car to get a gun and aimed it at his wife. He threatened to kill himself last, before going to their bedroom.

Corley’s wife left the house with their children and went to her mother’s after reporting the incident. According to Aiken County Jail, Corley is facing multiple charges, including first-degree domestic violence and pointing a firearm at a person. He was given a $20,000 bond and was prohibited from getting in touch with the victim. He posted bond one day later and will appear in court in February next year.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of domestic violence, our lawyers at BB Law Group PLLC can help you. Get in touch with us at (832) 534-2589 to learn more about your legal options.

Missing woman could be a victim of domestic violence

Authorities are searching for a League City woman after she went missing last week.

According to the police, the missing woman was identified as a 32-year-old Anne-Christine Johnson. She is a mother of two and a cocktail waitress at the Legends in League City. Initial reports say that Johnson was last seen a week ago wearing an overcoat and pink scarf. She was reportedly in a white sedan traveling along Chesterfield Lane with a male companion. The identity of the man was not determined.

On December 8, her father filed a missing report after Johnson did not show up to meet him for dinner. Preliminary investigations show clues that the disappearance of Johnson seems suspicious, suggesting the victim may have been a victim of domestic violence.

If you suspect that a friend, colleague, or relative is experiencing domestic violence, we can help you. Our lawyers at the BB Law Group PLLC practice domestic violence law and are more than willing to provide assistance. Get in touch with us at (832) 534-2589 to learn more about your legal options.

Abandonment as a fault ground in Texas divorce

There are several reasons that a divorce in Texas law can be considered under a fault ground, though such a process can be unappealing if there is a waiting period. One of them is abandonment.

To begin, a court will not consider abandonment as such a reason if your spouse has not been gone for a year with the intent to leave, which you must prove. Many people, especially in the cases that the spouse’s money supplemented their own income, this can feel like an extraordinarily long time. Many of these people have children that they cannot support without their spouse and, in such cases, a suit can be filed for an affected Parent-Child relationship, granting custody and support.

In the case that marital misconduct occurred, which judges will not always grant, the normal equal division of property may be adjusted. In a case that involves abandonment, the abandoning spouse is not allowed to ask for support, while the filing spouse does have that option if they had been married for 10 years. Often, this support will last for less than three years and will not exceed a fifth of the spouse’s income.

Divorces tend to be messy and confusing and it’s always a good idea to hire an attorney to represent your needs and wants in the face of your dissolving marriage. Contact one of our attorneys at BB Law Group PLLC by calling (832) 534-2589 today.

The Steps of Filing Divorce in Texas

If a couple is considering filing for a divorce in Texas, the residency requirement of at least six months in-state and 90 days in-county must be satisfied by at least one spouse. Texas is one of the states that can be described as “mixed” in terms of divorce—both fault-based and no-fault divorces are allowed. Generally, fault-based divorces tend to be the less common of the two and are used in cases of domestic violence, infidelity, conviction of a felony, among others.

In Preparation: Though Texas boasts a universal form available to all counties, some places will generally prefer their own forms. You can contact the courts in those counties to find out which. In all cases, however, the forms used are an Original Petition for Divorce (includes Summons), Citation (or waiver), Notice of Service of Process, and Decree of Divorce.

For Filing: After the forms are completely filled out, you can file them at your specific county. In conjunction with this, a temporary restraining order can be requested from the court, preventing either spouse from undercutting the other in regards to finances and assets.

In Serving: Serving the documents to your spouse, also known as Service of Process, is required by the state of Texas. You can do this by a number of means, including via waiver, a sheriff or constable service, process server, or service by publication.

Divorce can be a messy and extensive process, which is why many people choose to have some sort of representation when going through the dissolution of a marriage. Contact one of our divorce attorneys at BB Law Group PLLC by calling (832) 534-2589 and we’d be happy to discuss your options in regards to your divorce.

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