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Variations on child exchanges for co-parents

If you and your co-parent will be sharing custody of your children, you may be more focused on working out a custody schedule than the details of how the kids will get back and forth between your homes. However, these exchanges can be some of the most conflict-ridden parts of shared custody.

Even if you and your co-parent agree not to use these exchanges as a time to rehash your differences and deal with ongoing issues, just working out the logistics can be challenging. That's why it may be worthwhile to detail in your custody agreement how these exchanges will occur. This can prevent confusion and conflict later on.

Do doctors have to follow your health care directive?

A health care directive is a crucial part of an estate plan. In it, you designate your wishes for how you want medical providers to proceed if you become ill or incapacitated and are unable to make those wishes known.

A health care directive allows people, among other things, to designate under what circumstances they want life-prolonging measures to be stopped. A living will may also be used to make these wishes known.

Is it time to formally adopt your stepchildren?

Falling in love with someone who already has children is something a lot of people try to avoid. Many dating sites allow people to screen potential matches based on whether they have or even want children.

Many times, those who fall in love with the parent of minor children also eventually fall in love with the kids. After all, they are part of and raised by the person you care about more than anyone else. It's natural to have loving and protective feelings toward stepchildren.

How will Jeff Bezos' divorce impact Amazon?

Most people believe they have little in common with Jeff Bezos and his estranged wife MacKenzie, who recently announced that they're divorcing. The couple is reportedly worth $140 billion. Jeff Bezos is considered the wealthiest man in the world. After the divorce is final, MacKenzie could well be the wealthiest woman on the planet.

However, like any divorcing couple with a business, the Bezos' split is worrying Amazon shareholders and employees -- many of whom are here in Texas. Amazon has nine fulfillment centers in our state, as well as a wind farm. As one business law professor says, "How strong Amazon is as a company will determine how big an impact this has."

Why parents who remarry need an up-to-date estate plan

If you're getting remarried and have children from a previous marriage or relationship, most family law attorneys will recommend that you put a prenuptial agreement in place before you tie the knot. This will help protect your children's financial future -- not to mention your own.

However, if you don't already have an estate plan -- at least a will -- now is the time to get one. Otherwise, you could be disinheriting your children without realizing it.

Divorcing with kids: Know the limits on child support

If you're divorcing and have children, then you know that the potential for paying child support is there. If you know you'll be the one paying, it can be daunting, to say the least. You don't want to pay too much, but you also want to guarantee that your children are getting what they need.

Depending on the number of children you have, support needs can add up quickly. Fortunately, there is a cap on payments in Texas. For example, if you have just one child, you'll pay 20 percent of your monthly net resources toward their care. For four children, the amount you'd pay is 35 percent. However, when you have six or more children, you could max out at 40 percent.

What should you know about disinheriting a loved one

Family relationships -- even those between parents and children -- become seemingly irreparably damaged for many reasons. When you're developing your estate plan, you may decide to disinherit a loved one -- leave them nothing. Sometimes, this is done for someone's own good. Money left to a child or other family member mired in addiction could end up killing them.

There are alternatives to disinheritance that would protect your loved one, especially if you hold out hope that they'll turn their life around. It's wise to discuss those alternatives, such as a "spendthrift trust," with your attorney.

You can help avoid family battles over your estate

By taking the important step of creating an estate plan, you're ensuring that your assets will go to the family members and other beneficiaries you choose. You're also helping minimize the stress and expense for your family when it comes time to put your affairs in order.

However, many people unwittingly create a situation that will lead to family battles. You may think that would never happen to your family. However, money and other assets combined with feelings of unfair treatment can be a toxic mix that sometimes plays out in ugly court fights and leads to family estrangement. As one attorney notes, "People want to think everybody will be nice and do right. Human nature is not always that way."

Texas law prohibits child custody interference

You have a custody and visitation agreement in place with your co-parent. However, when you go to pick up your child for his or hers weekend visit, you find that your co-parent has taken him on a weekend trip. Your co-parent is supposed to drop off your child with you for a visit over the holidays but doesn't make it back from a visit to the grandparents until the next day -- cutting short your time with your child. These are just two examples of custody interference. It is not just frustrating and sometimes heartbreaking. It's illegal.

One Texas sheriff, Javier Salazar of Bexar County, is reminding his deputies in their daily bulletin of the specific law that prohibits custody interference. He says he wants his deputies to "know the law and then follow it." He says that it's important both for parents and kids to have the time together that's been designated.

Helping your adopted child through divorce

When you and your spouse adopted, you didn't think that you'd go through a divorce. However, the strain of your relationship has become so negative that you believe it's time to divorce.

Now, you have an additional issue at play. You have an adopted child. You know they lost their parents once already, so you don't want them to go through that kind of loss again. You aren't willing to stay together with your spouse, so you need to consider your next steps carefully.

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