Dallas high-net-worth divorce attorney, Mark Scroggins, discusses what clients can expect in high-stakes family law litigation.
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You know, high stakes can really cover a lot of different things. Sometimes you’re talking about high stakes with child custody issues, and sometimes you’re talking high stakes as far as property division. So let’s kind of break those into two. When you’re talking about high stakes with child custody it can be where you’ve got an all out child custody war going on. Both parents think that they ought to have the kids, and typically it’s because they are going to be alleging that there is some type of problem with the other spouse. Let’s say that there has been alcohol or drug addiction, or gambling addiction, or a sex addiction. Or the one spouse isn’t around very often. They travel on business.
And so you can have a whole lot of things that go on there, plus you’re seeing more and more situations where kids start acting out. So you’ve got mental health issues with the kids. You know, how are they doing in school? Let’s say that you’ve got someone who wants to home school the kids and the other is saying absolutely don’t want to do that. You know, we want to make sure the kids are properly socialized and they have these other opportunities that they don’t have as much in a home schooling situation, so it really runs the gamut of what can happen there.
Now high stakes litigation over on the property division side runs the gamut, as well. I mean so typically in that situation, you’re going to see a combination of things. One, you’re going to have one or both of the spouses alleging that certain assets that they own are separate property rather than community property. Well why is that so important? Simple, because the courts in Texas do not have the authority to divide any separate property by the other party. Okay. So that’s incredibly important in establishing what’s separate and what’s community.
So once you get over that hurdle and you determine okay, here is what the pie is. Here is what the community pie looks like, then we’ve got to go about dividing it. Well all less assets are not created equally, especially depending on what your needs are. Let’s say that I’ve been a stay at home spouse for 30 years. Okay. Do I want to take a $2 million house, or do I want to take a $2 million liquid trading account?
Well I’m going to want the liquid account, right? Because cash flexibility is going to be what’s most important to me in that situation. If I am a titan in the business community and I’m making $2 million a year or $5 million a year, you know, maybe I want to keep that $2 million house and I’m not concerned about what my cash flow is, because I’m making, you know, $200,000.00 a month, so that’s immaterial for me.
So it really is going to depend on what your needs are. Then you’ve got a lot of other issues. I mean you can get into, let’s say oil and gas royalties, which are huge in the State of Texas. I mean is the well producing? What is the life expectancy of the well? How long is this going to go on? How are you going to have this paid out? Are you going to have it paid out individually? Do you have trusts set up? What other assets do you have? Do you have intellectual property rights?
So as you can see, there just, there is so many different things. It’s not just as simple as we own this house and we have this vacation house and we have two cars. So it can really be all over the place depending what your asset picture really looks like.