What is forensic accounting and how can it impact high net worth divorces in Texas?

Merriam Webster defines the term “forensic” as “relating to or dealing with the application of scientific knowledge to legal problems”. A Forensic Accountant is often retained to analyze, interpret, summarize and present complex financial and business related issues. Forensic Accountants can be engaged in public practice or employed by insurance companies, banks, police forces, government agencies and other organizations. Forensic accountants integrate investigative, auditing, and accounting skills. A forensic accountant is used to review data in a critical manner in order to identify patterns of suspicious behavior. An experienced forensic accountant does not solely rely on statistical probabilities but instead turns to experience in similar situations, instinct, and practiced problem solving.

Do you have a significant amount of property and assets at stake in your divorce in Texas?  If so, then you may have more to lose during the divorce.  Clients with a high net worth have more at stake when dividing up property and determining asset splits.  Are you worried about the outcome of the case and your finances?  If so, you should aggressively seek out legal protection in the form of a expert attorney with solid experience advocating for clients in high net worth divorce proceedings.  That ensures that you can obtain a favorable outcome in your case.  One of the priorities in any divorce is to untangle finances.  But be cautious because these types of decisions can affect you all the way to retirement.  Consulting a high net worth divorce attorney who can bring in a knowledgeable forensic accountant to work on your complex case is a huge advantage as you begin your legal battles. There are some tips you can follow to make sure you are prepared in any scenario of a divorce: have access to your own funds, make copies of important documents, understand the basics of property division.

It is highly encouraged for high net worth divorce parties to aggressively seek out and invest in an experienced high net worth attorney who can bring to bear a formidable forensic accountant.  Don’t let your former spouse gain any more time to hide information from you. The sooner you hire your expert divorce attorney, the more money, time, and and sanity you’ll save in the long run. During divorce proceedings, you want a forensic accountant familiar with legal concepts and procedures who will work hand-in-hand with your lawyer.  This forensic accountant will be an experienced hand in assisting with legal proceedings, including testifying in court as an expert witness and preparing visual aids to support trial evidence.

If you or anyone you know is going through a high net worth divorce in or around Houston, Texas, you need to retain the counsel of Houston’s premier divorce attorney, Lacy LaFour. Visit www.lafourlaw.com or call 713-223-7700 to schedule your initial consultation, today!

Determining Community property and Shared property

When assessing the split of property during a divorce, it is important to understand the difference between “community” and “separate” property.

Community Property/Assets

From the beginning of marriage, all money earned is owed by both parties till the separation date. All property acquired using community money is owned equally by husband and wife. Whomever makes the purchase during this time frame does not matter. When looking at debts, all debt accrued during marriage is also split between both parties as community debts. Community debts may include unpaid balances on credit cards, home mortgages and car loan balances. It goes without saying that it is recommended to cancel all bank accounts, credit cards and joint accounts after divorce.

Separate Property/Assets

Separate property is considered anything owned prior to marriage, inherited or received as a gift during marriage, or anything earned after the date of separation. When one party gives up any property to the other party in writing, the property is then classified as separate property. There are instances where separate property can become tied-in with community property.  Either party may have to show evidence that documents payment paid via “separate” money instead of “community” money. Any debt incurred prior to marriage is considered separate debt, meaning it stays only with the original party who accrued it. Examples of separate debt include student loans, job training loans, or even adult education course debts. If one person covers the down payment on a car, and then pays off the car with community money after marriage, the original down payment will be paid back because it is considered separate property.

Dividing the Property

In some states, the parties’ community property has to be divided “equally.” That does not mean that each item of community property has to be divided equally, but the distribution has to be nearly equal division of the total value of the community property. Many community property states, allow the court to make an “equitable” division of community property that is “fair” to both spouses. In these states, the courts will consider various factors when making the division, such as each spouse’s current income and future earning potential. Some states will consider a spouse’s fault in causing the divorce or fraud in dealing with the parties’ property or assets during the marriage lifespan. Sometimes the “community” property tag is automatically put on most assets in the divorce, and each party must provide documented evidence of its “separate” value.

The Bottom Line

If you’re going through a divorce in Houston, Texas, and you have a spider web of properties and assets at stake, you need an experienced Houston Divorce Lawyer from LaFour Law to work directly with you and provide the legal representation that’s necessary to ensure an outcome in line with your best interests. Please call LaFour Law today at 713.223.7700 or reach us at www.lafourlaw.com.


Cohabitation in Texas

While the Texas legislature has not enacted any provision in the family code for a cohabitation agreement, the feeling in the legal community is that agreements are valid and can be upheld to the court.  In general, courts like parties to make clear agreements and spell out their rights.  Cohabitation agreements are important in Texas because of the concept of common law marriage.  Texas law states that if a man and woman agree to be married and, after the agreement, they live in Texas as husband and wife and represent themselves as common law married, they are in fact common law married.  A common law marriage is valid in Texas as a ceremonial marriage that has been performed by a minister.

Problems commonly arise when a man and woman live together and other people think they are husband and wife.  They occasionally check into a hotel as husband and wife or join a gym due to commonly extended retail discounts.  Perception becomes reality, so to speak. Issues arise when the relationship frays and it becomes necessary to enter into divorce proceedings. One of the two parties might believe that what they thought was their property is actually classified under Texas law as community property.

This is why you need a cohabitation agreement. A cohabitation agreement is a marital contract that is entered into by two people who are in a long term relationship and live together.  This agreement specifies how income, property and debt will be divided if the relationship should end.  Additionally, a cohabitation agreement can specify what/if any form of spousal support is expected to be paid and the amount of support and the duration of support payments in the event of a separation or divorce.  Another common feature of cohabitation involves life insurance policies to protect the person who is financially dependent on the other.

Generally speaking, under Texas law, unmarried cohabitants do not get to enjoy the same rights as married couples, particularly with the respect to property acquired during the relationship.  Marital property laws do not apply to unmarried couples, even those are in long term relationships.  The characterization of property acquired by unmarried cohabitants is less clear than married couples whose property is governed by marriage laws.  Some of the property acquired by unmarried couples can be owned jointly, but it may difficult to divide such property when the relationship comes to an end.  There is no financial obligation attached to a couple who cohabits absent a clear written agreement.  If the relationship ends, and there is no cohabitation agreement in place, the aftermath as both parties engage in a veritable free-for-all can be worse than the reasons for the breakup in the first place!

If you’re cohabiting in Texas, you need to consider the ramifications of your relationship, especially in the event of a breakup. It’s time to consult with a premier Houston divorce and family lawyer, Lacy Lafour and her team at LaFour Law.  To reach them today, visit www.lafourlaw.com or call 713.223.7700.

My 10-year old son tells me every time he comes to visit that he wants to live with me, not his mom. I’m not his primary caretaker, but think I should be especially since he tells me he wants to live with me. What can I do to get primary custody here in Texas?

Texas family courts have recognized several situations that would qualify as a material and substantial change in the circumstances of a child or parent affected by a custody or visitation order. Examples include a parent’s remarriage, a medical condition that adversely affects a parent’s ability to function and work on a regular basis, a parent’s criminal acts and convictions, or a parent’s changes in residence that make visitation a hardship for the other parent.

When analyzing what we know about custody, we have to first break it down into two concepts, “conservatorship” and “possession”. “Conservatorship” is defined as the time a parent has decision-making rights a parent has on behalf the child. For example, selecting a school to attend, decisions made on medical, and other major decisions. “Possession” refers to the time when parents have physical possession of the children.

Children over the age of 12 can use the “Child Preference” option to select which parent they want to live with. Usually an interview in the judge’s private quarters will be held with the child. Even when older children ask to switch parental custody, the courts have to determine that it is in the best interest of the child.

If a custodial parent has voluntarily given up care and custody to another person for a least six months, the courts may modify the original custody order. This situation is only invalid if a custodial parent has to relinquish the care of a child during a period of military deployment, mobilization or duty.

When a parent files a motion to modify a child custody order within one year after the original order was made, he or she must also submit an affidavit to the court. The affidavit must include at least one of the following allegations, including support for the parent’s contention:

  • the child’s current environment may endanger the child’s physical health or significantly impair the child’s emotional development
  • the custodial parent is seeking the modification, and the modification would be in the child’s best interests
  • the custodial parent has voluntarily relinquished the custody and care of the child, and the modification would be in the child’s best interests.

Outside of the other parent fully agreeing with your request to modify a child custody or visitation order, you should seek help from an experienced Texas family lawyer. Given the high stakes, you need counsel from Houston, Texas’ premier divorce and family lawyer, Lacy Lafour. Contact her today and ensure the best possible outcome for you and your child.