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What is a Flat Fee Divorce?

Many clients who meet with us ask what is a flat fee divorce?   They also ask what makes a flat fee a good option?  Quite simply, a flat fee is a set fee determined at the beginning of the divorce process.  No hourly fee exists.  A  preset amount covers the legal work, and typically, there is only one attorney.  When you and your spouse agree on the terms of the decree, a flat fee may be right for you.  Often, those seeking a flat fee divorce educate themselves a lot.  When there are children and you agree on where the children will usually reside and you agree on a parenting plan, a flat fee can be the answer.   Parenting plans consist of the amount of child support, who pays child support, when will each parent have the children with them, and who provides health insurance.   Also, there needs to be an agreement relating to who makes important decisions about the children’s health, education, and well-being.  For instance, do you plan to decide on most issues together, or will one parent alone make most decisions.

Flat fee divorce
Amicable, flat fee divorce

Next, property agreements must exist as well.  To be an uncontested divorce with a set fee, you and your spouse must previously reach an understanding regarding the finances and division of assets.  That means that you successfully tackled who will get which bank account, the funds in bank accounts, other assets, retirement funds, the marital residence, and vehicles.  Who pays off the existing marital debts requires agreement too.

At C.E. Schmidt & Associates, PLLC we assist many divorcing families by providing a flat fee option.   We are happy to provide you a free consultation to discuss whether a flat fee is right for your situation.  Call (281) 550-6650 to schedule your consultation today.


Divorce – Will I have to go to Court?

Many people routinely ask, “if I need a divorce – will I have to go to Court?”  Often, the answer to this question is, “it depends”. courtroom and divorceThe divorce process remains often unpredictable, and COVID presents more complications.  However, the Texas Supreme Court issued instructions regarding activity that occurs in the courthouse.  Specifically, the Texas Supreme Court directed that all court proceedings should occur remotely (such as by teleconferencing, videoconferencing, or other means) unless litigants or other court participants are unable to successfully participate in a remote hearing for reasons beyond the court’s control.  This means that the age of Zoom hearings and trials is upon us.

Proper Decorum Matters!

Although courts conduct hearings through technology, decorum still matters!  If you are at home and appearing remotely, dress as if you are actually present in the courtroom.   When dressed in business attire, people usually behave more professionally.   remote proceeding and divorceEnsure that you are in a quiet room in which no interruptions will occur.  It is often best to be in your attorney’s office where family members, pets, and other distractions can’t disrupt your attention from the proceedings.

Other factors govern divorce – will I have to go to Court.  Do you and your spouse agree on all the divorce terms and conditions?   Agreements and amicability lessens the odds that you will have to step foot into a courtroom for a formal hearing or trial.  Also, during COVID, hearings and trials continue remotely.  Some are less nervous in a remote proceeding, but there is no guarantee that you will be one of those types of litigants.  Additionally, it remains uncertain as to when the Texas Supreme Court will open the Courthouse for in person proceedings.  So reaching an agreement with your spouse prior to beginning the divorce proceeding lessens the odds of facing a judge in person.   Since 1980, the attorneys at C.E. Schmidt & Associates, PLLC have assisted families in the divorce transition.  Call 281-550-6650 to schedule your free consultation.



Divorce + Custody – Email or Text?

Firstly, divorce + custody – email or text (?) — The divorce process with custody issues often equals painful communication problems with the other parent – clients often ask if they should email or text?  We typically urge email or text messages to provide a layer of protection and documentation.   Even better, parental communication apps provide superior boundaries.

divorce + custody email message

Email, text, and parental communication apps help to prevent problems with your child’s other parent.  Really, because you have children together, you will most likely have to contact and interact with one another.  Documenting your communication assists your lawyer in handling your case and may provide important evidence in court when necessary.  There is no better way to document than by having a written print out of the exchange.  That is possible with email, text and parental communication tools such as Our Family Wizard or Talking Parents.

No matter how you communicate, important rules should guide your conduct during any communication.   Adopting a businesslike attitude provides a check on any heated emotion that you might experience.  Process your feelings with a support person before you reach out to the other parent.  Doing so may help to prevent any inappropriate language or tone.   Keep your conversations as short as possible focusing your energy on your child.  Look for solutions not conflict.   Try to show respect for the other parent – judges dislike hostilities and recriminations.  The goal must be to transition to a healthy co-parenting relationship.

Since 1980,  we have been assisting couples and families during the divorce process by providing constructive guidance.   We have always worked to avoid inflaming passions – we encourage our clients to process strong feelings in the most constructive way possible.  Angry emails and text messages inflame passions and result in a longer and more expensive process.  Call 218-550-6650 to schedule a free consultation.




COVID = Skyrocketing Divorce Filings

COVID = Skyrocketing Divorce Filings

It turns out that COVID is causing the death of many marriages.   Many strained marital relationships fail to improve when partners lack “space”.   “Space” meaning time away from one another to gain perspective.   Also, COVID has prevented many mental health care professionals to be hard to contact.  Couples barely functioning now hit a major crisis.

COVID Divorce Rates
COVID = Skyrocketing Divorce Rates

The number of people looking for divorces was 34 percent higher from March through June of 2020 as compared to 2019, according to new data collected Legal Templates, a company that provides legal documents.  The lockdown has exposed issues that run deeper and offered ample time for reflection, leaving couples to wonder about their options for pursuing separation during the pandemic.  Couples married less than 5 years are most at risk.  Texas law does not recognize the “separation” status of couples.  You are married until a Judge in a Court of Law declares you divorce.  However, you might consider a Post-marital agreement that would partition assets and set terms and conditions that provide clear boundaries.

If  you have reached the end point in your marriage and need to discuss options, contact us for a consultation – (281) 550-6650

We have Big Money and I want a Divorce!

Divorce Property Settlement houstonMy husband and I have A LOT of money and Assets and I want a Divorce!  If you find yourself in a situation where this is a true statement, preparation and a clear picture of the assets remains crucial.

Having money blesses most families and family situations, but when spouses seek divorce, it may turn into a curse.   Fighting over a divorce financial settlement definitely drives up legal fees, and heartburn results.   A large estate with retirement and brokerage accounts can be a mess.   Add properties and commodities and many attorneys run into trouble.  Family owned business further complicate matters — look out if that is your situation.

Many tools exist that provide invaluable help.  Your attorney should provide you with a spreadsheet that you can complete to give you at least a rough picture of the complete financial circumstance.  The Texas Family Code instructs that marital assets should be divided in a “just and right manner”.  Many courts and judges interpret that to mean a 50/50 split of the community property.  If you are unfamiliar with what is and is NOT community property, you need help.  Attorney Michelle Schmidt worked in the Finance Industry for over 10 years and knows the ins and outs of financial transactions.  Also, our firm offers free consultations to assist you in assessing your circumstance.  Contact us today at (281) 550-6650 to schedule your consultation.



Divorce Common Issues and Mediation

Many times, parties incorrectly think that mediation increases the cost of divorce.   Really, the opposite true.   Court hearings and trials more often run drive up legal fees while mediation reduces fees.  In many instances, the Court requires mediation prior to formal hearings and trials anyway.    Divorce common issues and mediation combine to resolve many cases.  Often, great mediators served as former Judges, and they have a good handle on what a sitting Judge will order.   Parties often fail to realize that formal court proceedings impose limits and restrictions which may impede settlement rather than foster resolution.

Another issue is the Texas Rules of Evidence govern formal Court proceedings such as trials and hearings.  That means that in order to present evidence to the Judge and the jury, possible step hurdles exist.  Mediators review evidence without the Texas Rules of Evidence hurdles.  Also, sitting in a mediators office remains far less intimidating that sitting in a court room.  Important issues that mediators may resolve include dividing up retirement accounts, deciding who should keep the marital residence and whether it is appropriate to order post divorce maintenance.  Mediators are also highly effective in resolving custody issues which include which parent should designate the primary residence of the children and who should pay child support.

Divorce Common Issues and Mediation require experienced guidance from attorneys who understand the importance of mediation.  Contact us today at (281) 550-6650 to set up a consultation to discuss mediation and the divorce process.  We remain ready to guide you through this difficult time!



Dividing Property in a Divorce

Until you face the possibility of a divorce, you may not think too much about the property you own.  We daily meet with individuals who have no idea about Texas marital property laws.   Dividing property in a divorce in Texas can be simple or vastly complicated.  Property falls into two categories in Texas – community and separate.  Community property includes the financial resources such as savings accounts and retirement accounts that accumulated during the marriage.  If you purchased valuable items such as coins and jewelry – that might be community.   The home in which you live with your spouse is quite often community property.     However, if your spouse owned the house prior to marriage, it is most likely separate.   On the other hand, if your earnings contribute to the mortgage payments,  you would, most likely, have a financial interest in the property.

dividing property in divorce

To put it all in the simplest terms, separate property is:

  • what you owned prior to marriage;
  • inheritance or what you receive from a will:
  • personal injury money for pain and suffering:
  • gifts and money received from others.

Community property is just about everything else.  In fact the Texas Family Code tells us that whatever property a person owns when they divorce is “presumed” to be community – that means that it will be divided.   You have to prove that property was and is your separate property with documents or other evidence.    Also the idea that property is split 50/50 isn’t in the Family Code.  “Just and right” is in the code in refence to splitting property.  Sometimes, an item of property is both community and separate.  This circumstance involves complicated rules.  You might hear about “tracing” and “community out”.

Contact us!

In the end, when dividing property in a divorce –  experienced representation matters.   Contact us today at (281) 550-6650

Social Media + Divorce Trouble

Understand that divorce might be a very public display of someone’s issues!  Social media can be poison.   And, privacy flies out the window when friends, family, and neighbors learn about the situation.  Importantly, divorcing parties need to recognize that actions and words matter.   In fact, experts indicate that too much social media can actually lead to divorce!

Social media
Social Media and Divorce are a Bad Mix

During a highly contentious divorce, your spouse may weaponize your social media posts, texts, and tweets.  Clever attorneys search social media websites and social media posts provide powerful ammunition.   Social Media + Divorce = Trouble

Remember that your friends and family may also post, text, and tweet to you or about you.  Beware.  If you and your friends refrain from commenting on your situation, your spouse, and children, nothing is out in the public for another to find.  Deactivating your social media accounts until the case is concluded prevents temptation!   However, understand that if your spouse has filed or you have filed and the court placed injunctions in place, deactivation may not be ok.  Also, removing anything from your social media catalogue may get you into trouble.

Also, remember that Instagram counts too.  The saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words” powerfully applies during the divorce process.   Again, Social Media + Divorce = Trouble.  All of these issues and concerns require guidance by an experienced attorney.  Contact C. E. Schmidt & Associates, PLLC for a consultation at (281) 550-6650.  We will guide you through this difficult process.

Child’s Best Interest and Custody

First, you might not even realize that you are already considering your child’s best interest.  How is that?  Well, you may feel that divorce is scary.  And you might also realize that divorce’s affect on your child might be even scarier.  So, most parents who consider divorce automatically consider their child’s best interest and custody.   They just don’t realize it.   There are many questions to ask?  Initially, how will parents living in two households affect the child?  Second, will my child experience harmful affects growing up with divorced parents?

children playing In fact, almost everything that you do before, during and after a divorce affects the child’s best interests.  Experts report that children do best when parents can learn to peacefully co-parent.  Questions such as where the parties will live after the divorce, how work schedules affect time with the children, what schools the children will attend and who will provide child care affect the child’s best interest.   All these questions reflect a parent’s concern regarding the child’s best interest and custody

The amount of time each parent spends with the child is called a “possession order”.  No – your children are not a “possession”, but when they are physically with you, they are in your possession.  Many families decide that the children should be with each parent for the maximum amount of time possible.  They chose equal “possession” time.   How an equal time affects the child must also be considered.  If your child is young, perhaps, continuous trading of the child may be less than ideal.   Carefully looking at your child’s sensitivities and needs means you are putting your child’s best interests first.    Contact us today for a consultation – (281) 550-6650

Divorce + Face the Music

Is your divorce over, but your ex-spouse fails to keep their promises?  Did you fight hard, spend thousands of dollars, and experience a ton of grief but the decree is now ignored?  Your former spouse may need to be hit with an enforcement action.  Divorce + Face the Music operates to teach wayward former spouses a hard lesson.  Court’s fail to appreciate parties who flout their orders.  Much like a strict Principal, most courts demand compliance or else.  You or your former spouse face serious consequences for failure to follow orders.

Those consequences include substantial money judgments and delivery of property.  Judges also order offenders to pay the other party’s legal fees.  Unpaid child support obligations can get your driver’s license suspended and even land you in jail.  Also, if your spouse refuses to follow a parenting plan, watch out!  Some Judges punish the wayward party by changing the possession schedule or even changing the party who has the child with them more often.  In addition, defiant spouses face “contempt of court” consequences.   No-one should blithely consider staring down an angry Judge who is ready to throw the book at them.  After the divorce + face the music may be very painful.

An experienced divorce attorney, such as those at our firm, remains a key factor under such circumstances.  Whether you want to enforce a previous order or you are on the receiving end, pick an attorney who can handle the pressure. Enforcement actions have a steep learning curve and should not be lightly undertaken or defended.  It remains quasi-criminal – meaning in such a hearing, your rights will be read to you as if you were in a criminal courtroom.  Tread carefully!  Contact our office at (281) 550-6650 for a consultation.  Lastly, take Divorce + Face the Music with care!

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