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Houston Legal Blog

Study says pot holiday means more fatal accidents

With legal recreational marijuana use spreading across the U.S., people in Texas might be interested in a report that links the drug to fatal car accidents. An analysis of data going back to 1992 shows that fatal car crashes tend to be higher on the April 20 pot holiday.

Researchers did not uncover evidence that marijuana was actually involved in any April 20 crashes between 1992, when the pot holiday was proposed in a magazine, and 2016. However, they found a definite increase in traffic fatalities on that day compared to a day the week prior and a day the week after. They concluded that there was an overall 12 percent rise in the chance of deadly crashes on April 20.

Divorce and a place to live

One of the issues addressed during a divorce is where to live once it is finalized. To make the right choice, Texas divorcees have to consider how they will be impacted financially, emotionally and practically.

Remaining in the family home is one option that may have particular appeal to people who have minor children. It allows the children and the parent to have a sense of constancy during a time in which many other aspects of their lives are changing. However, if this is the choice, people should carefully consider all of the costs associated with the home and whether they will be manageable with the adjusted income they expect to have. In many cases, staying in the home can be less expensive than becoming a renter or purchasing a new home.

After the accident – what next?

If you’ve had a car accident on one of our busy roads, there’s a good chance that you wanted nothing more than to get on your way again. That is what the police advise most of the time in order to keep traffic moving. But that doesn’t mean that the event is over.

There are some steps you need to take immediately after any accident. Some of them are required by law and some are to make sure you aren’t held liable for something that isn’t your fault. But if you have been injured you need to be sure that you have the resources you need to make a full recovery.

The tax rules dealing with alimony are changing

Spousal support is often an important part of divorce negotiations in community property states like Texas, but recent changes to the nation's tax laws could make negotiating alimony more challenging. Under the current federal tax code, people who pay spousal support are able to deduct these payments on their income tax returns, and the individuals who receive alimony must pay the tax on this income. However, those rules will no longer apply after Dec. 31, 2018 under the provisions of the recently passed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

The issue is even more complicated when couples are unable to reach a divorce settlement, and the courts are called upon to determine how much alimony should be awarded. The formulas and software used by family law judges to make these calculations are heavily dependent on tax codes, and this may lead to a period of uncertainty unless new guidelines are drawn up before the rule change.

Health insurance coverage can be affected by divorce

For Texas couples who are considering a divorce, financial and practical concerns can be some of the major worries that they have. Ending a marriage has a major impact on finances, and that impact can extend beyond the obvious issues of asset division and child and spousal support. Health insurance coverage can also be affected.

Many people believe that they can leave their insurance alone until the following calendar year, but there are federal laws that regulate the impact of divorce on healthcare. Once the divorce is finalized, spousal health insurance ends immediately. In general, state laws tend to put a freeze on economic matters while the divorce is pending, preventing insurance changes until the process is complete.

Running a business together after a divorce

Texas couples who are getting a divorce may have an additional complication to deal with if they own a business together. While they have the option of selling the business or having one person buy out the other, another possibility is for the two to continue running it together. There are a few guidelines couples should keep in mind if they decide on this route.

It is important to separate emotional issues from other aspects of the business, including the financial and legal elements. People should think about their priorities and goals in each of these areas. They may find it helpful to work with a mediator on some of the practical aspects. Individually, people might also want to look into counseling for support.

What happens to our family business in divorce?

Question: My wife and I ran our own restaurant near Houston for the past twelve years. We’ve had our ups and downs, but ultimately our arguments over our relationship have leaked into our business. Our disagreements over every little decision have cost our restaurant thousands. I’m ready to go through with a divorce, but I don’t know what’s going to happen to my business. How can we go through a divorce without destroying it?

Answer: When your main source of income is tied to your relationship, divorce takes on a whole new level of stress. Your spouse could become angry and may fight to obtain the biggest share of the business – if not all of it. This can create an intense legal battle over how to split the family business, which could eventually prevent either of you from keeping it.

What to be mindful of during divorce negotiations

For Texas residents and others, it may be worthwhile to negotiate a divorce settlement with the help of a mediator. Doing so may help to settle the divorce in a timely manner while also keeping costs to a reasonable level. When negotiating a settlement, it is important for individuals to understand their finances. This may make it easier to craft a reasonable offer as it relates to child support or alimony.

It may also help a person during the property division process. This is because a person may have a better understanding of what will be necessary to live after the marriage officially ends. During negotiations, it may be a good idea to consider what the other person needs from a divorce settlement. This may allow an individual to act in an empathetic and cooperative manner, which may help to craft an acceptable agreement in less time.

Car crash: Do you really need a lawyer?

We’ve all heard the news stories. There’s a major crash on I-45 with two people killed and three sent to the hospital with life-threatening injuries. Imagine for a moment if you were married to one of those people. They’ve got spinal cord injuries and through no fault of their own, now they may never walk again. With a long road to recovery that will include multiple surgeries and hospital stays, medical bills will mount. Hiring an attorney in this case is a no-brainer.

But what about when the injuries are not so extensive? Maybe the accident resulted in soft tissue injuries, broken fingers, whiplash or herniated discs? Do you call a lawyer then?

How divorce may hurt a person's credit rating

People in Texas who get a divorce may also find that their credit rating is lower afterward. This could happen for a variety of reasons, some of which could be intentionally created by an ex-spouse.

For example, some individuals may simply struggle on a single income and fall into debt. Creditors might review people's records after divorce and lower their credit limits because of a decreased income. If one spouse keeps the home, that person may need to refinance, and the resulting larger debt burden could hurt his or her credit rating. After assets and debts are divided, one person may have a larger debt burden than the other individual. Both spouses' credit ratings could be affected if they start paying bills late due to the chaos of divorce.

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