Who gets the engagement rings in a divorce? (VIDEO)

We recently published a blog entitled, “Give me my RING back! (Who gets the wedding rings in a divorce?).” We suggest that anyone asking this question consider reading it to learn our perspective on this common challenge.

Some of the items that we discussed in that blog are hilariously featured in this video from YourTango … enjoy!

Business Leader Spotlight Show profiles Natalie Gregg

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We are grateful that Rich Spalding from the Business Leader Spotlight Show chose to profile our managing partner, Natalie Gregg, for the show. You can listen to it below or click here.

C’est la vie, y’all: Does Texas or France Get Divorce Right?

c'est la vie y'all

C’est la vie, y’all!

In Texas, we do everything big, so why not divorce? In the land of McMansions, over-sized SUV’s and ten gallon cowboy hats, divorce proves to be as big and colorful as our very state. While I am familiar with other American states’ divorce law statutes and case law, I had never ventured past the continental US.

Recently, I had the privilege to visit Paris, France to interview international lawyer, Jonathon Wise Polier, who practices, among other disciplines, divorce law there. Mr. Polier hails from New York and has resided in Paris, France since 1991, when he went into private practice. His resume boasts a Ph.D. from Institut d’Etudes Politiques in Paris, and a JD from Columbia Law School. Mr. Polier’s quiet, Parisian office, located just off of the posh Champs Elysseus was the setting of our fascinating conversation about just how different French divorce is from divorce here in the U.S.

In a nutshell, there is no smut, drama or Matlock maneuvering in French divorce court. Likewise, instead of surprise hearings and sensational trials, French divorce is fairly vanilla compared to its US counterpart. Since French divorce forbids cross examination, deposition, and sworn testimony, the trial court does not entertain trial antics in the same way that we do here in the States. This leads to lower attorneys’ fees, faster trials, and less “War of the Roses” vitriol between the parties.

  1. Procedure- In France, once a party files, the judge requests to speak with both parties (not in the presence of their attorneys) individually for ten minutes a person to determine whether the party can reconcile their differences. In Texas, the judges never meet parties alone and play no role in attempting to reconcile the parties’ relationship. Lawyers are always present for testimony in Texas divorces.
  2. Cost- In France, the cost of divorce is much lower. Because there are no contested hearing, no depositions, no cross-examination, there is less rhetoric about rabbit trials (i.e., cheating, addiction, mental health problems). Thus, less client funds are expended in French divorce. Across the ocean, and down south where we trade baguettes for nachos, Texas divorce can mean big money. Mr. Polier quoted that a large sum of money spent in divorce may be in the range of tens of thousands (of Euros) as a “big budget” case. However, commonly, a Texas divorce budget can average a cost of $30,000 even prior to going to trial, and by trial phase can rise to the level of over $100,000 US dollars.
  3. Timeline- In France, because much of the process is administrative, and not a witch hunt for the worst traits in a party, divorces are quicker. In Texas, with our contested hearings, depositions, discovery process, and other smut-gathering ventures, often the party who finds the most mud wins. Also, if a Texas divorce litigant has a large wallet, she can out-litigate the other side. While Texas boasts a divorce as quick as 61 days from filing, I would venture to say that if one takes a divorce with children and property with contested issues and compares the two side-by-side, the French divorce would more likely be complete prior to the Texas one simply because of the streamlined procedures.
  4. Evidence- France does not take a transcript of any of the lower court proceedings. Therefore, there are no court reporters at trial or hearing, and so if you want to appeal to a higher court, everything is tried de novo- or “start all over again.” In Texas, we have transcripts of all proceedings in district court, court reporters at depositions and at hearings if you request them, so that you do not have to reinvent the wheel upon appeal should you disagree with lower courts. Because there are no transcripts, there is no case law. That may seem like legal jargon, but case law provides fact-specific examples on how other lower courts should apply the law and it governs the gaps in the Texas Family Code. Without case law, our jobs as litigators would be difficult and the jobs of the judges would be highly discretionary with no record of what previous court precedent holds for guidance on how to apply to their cases.
  5. Parenting Plans- France’s default parenting plan looks and feels the same as Texas Standard Possession Order. The parenting plan is the most similar as we share alternating weekend access, division of holidays and breaks.
  6. Child Support- Guidelines are golden in Texas. We have a chart. We rarely if ever deviate from guideline child support unless dad is in the NFL or is the CEO of Coke. There is a specific list enumerated for why to deviate from guidelines such as disability of a child or special needs of children. Our French friends look at guidelines as mere suggestions and often deviate from them on a regular basis.
  7. Alimony- The French do not believe in alimony. It’s not like the tooth fairy. They understand it exists. However, alimony or spousal maintenance, as it exists in Texas, is nonexistent in France. Instead, the French provide a one-time lump sum property settlement that is supposed to take the place of alimony. Texas provides spousal maintenance according to many factors some of which include length in the marriage, difference in earning potential, and ability to cover the spouse’s minimum, reasonable needs in the future.
  8. Abandonment- In France, if I had a divorce law website, it would have a flashing 32-point font banner warning, “Do not leave your marital home.” The French take abandonment pretty seriously and this can color a divorce settlement based on whether husband leaves wife high and dry. This archaic rule sometimes forces French couples to cohabitate during the divorce despite high levels of acrimony and conflict. In Texas, the judge does not care whether husband leaves wife in the marital residence. The focus is for ongoing support, ensuring that wife or husband- can afford to reside and maintain the marital residence during the pendency of the divorce until the home can be sold or divided accordingly.
  9. Venue- The French Napoleonic Rule for where to bring a suit is much like the US Native American Rule: if you can claim a remote percentage of lineage as a Frenchman, you may bring a suit in France. This can result is some bizarre scenarios where the son of a Frenchman residing in New York and living his entire married live in New York may make an argument to sue for divorce in France and may rightly do so. In Texas, if you reside here for six months in a county for 60 days, you can sue for divorce. You could never be hailed into a foreign state where you owned no property or have never resided against your will.

In short – my French divorce education taught me that all of the aspects of the Texas divorce that make my job so interesting are bereft from the French divorce model. The legal maneuverings that we are afforded in Texas allow us to make discoveries about finances, lifestyle, and personal idiosyncrasies that may become public. These very things add fuel to the fire and burn through so much of the litigation dollars; by contrast, French divorce is a low-drama transaction.

Is this a better way?

On some levels, I believe that we can learn from the French. By far, it seems that Paris – the City of Love and Light – does not support the soul-crushing, aggressive model of litigation model that leaves no stone unturned on a hunt for dollars and custody.

 

Natalie Gregg named one of Top 10 Family Lawyers under the age of 40!

Natalie Gregg award from National Academy of Family Law AttorneysThank you to the National Academy of Family Law Attorneys for naming our managing partner, Natalie Gregg, one of the Top 10 family lawyers under the age of 40!

Dust to Dust: Will Disappearing Text Apps Revolutionize Divorce?

This article originally appeared in The Huffington Post, as Mark Cuban shared on Twitter


As a family lawyer, I have seen everything under the sun when it comes to the scandalous and scathing texts that people send each other. But now, thanks to the invention of “ephemeral technology,” these indiscretions may disappear from the light of day.

A number of new technologies now allow users to send instantly disappearing messages and photographs to others, in some cases with no record of being sent.

The ramifications to those involved in family law cases are significant, since texts and emails can provide vital evidence to proving your case. I have frequently seen text messages, emails and social media influence outcomes in court.

Now, thanks to apps like Snapchat and Cyber Dust, despicable texts from your ex-spouse can seemingly evaporate into the ether. And all evidence of their late-night sexting with their lover can potentially be erased.

(If Tiger Woods had such technology, maybe he would still be married…)

Then again, Snapchat has proven to be more vulnerable than it initially appeared.

Snapchat logo via Snapchat Twitter pageSnapchat

Currently the dominant app in this space, Snapchat is a mobile messaging app that has become insanely popular with teens and young adults. It is estimated that the app’s 100 million users send 400 million “Snaps” to each other per day — more photos than are sent on Facebook and Instagram combined.

According to the Snapchat website, “you control how long your friends can view your message — simply set the timer up to 10 seconds and send. They’ll have that long to view your message and then it disappears forever.”

User beware: There is no guarantee of security with Snapchat.

Despite the perceptions of its users, it seems that Snaps are actually saved (they are just hidden.) Thus, if the content gets steamy and you want to claim that it is confidential, good luck in protecting your messages or photos from the court. And since there are ways to take screenshots before an image disappears, chances are that your sexy, late-night selfie that you accidentally sent to your husband instead of your boyfriend may be on its way to the court or even circulated on the Internet.

Snapchat was also recently hacked and 4.6 million users had their accounts compromised. A quick Google search of Snapchat can reveal a laundry list of embarrassing leaked photos and messages. (NOTE: Content is likely NSFW, so Google with caution).

In the divorce context, with a few hundred dollars and a forensic expert, you might be able to unveil those allegedly erased Snaps. According to Kashmir Hill from Forbes, forensics experts have cracked the code retrieving these “disappeared” photos and messages from smartphones.

Richard Hickman, of Decipher Forensics, found that it’s possible to pull Snapchat photos from Android phones simply by downloading data from the phone using forensics software and removing a “.NoMedia” file extension that was keeping the photos from being viewed on the device. He published his findings online and local TV station KSL has a video showing how it’s done.

None of your Snaps are confidential or NSA protected.

Currently, the Federal Trade Commission has not done anything to stop Snapchat for deceptive or misleading trade practices as it has with counterparts such as Path, who was recently fined $800,000 for its missteps surrounding customer privacy issues. However, because this is evolving technology, stay tuned to see what happens with Snapchat and beware of what you send.

Cyber DustCYBER DUST

Which brings us to the most revolutionary technology so far — fittingly, backed by a true “Maverick.”

As billionaire investor Mark Cuban learned during hissuccessful battle against the SEC, we now live in a world where texts, tweets and emails can potentially be used against you. Mr. Cuban faced insider trading allegations by the SEC and had his texts messages used against him. Ultimately, Mr. Cuban was exonerated.

Like a true entrepreneur, Mr. Cuban saw this challenge as an opportunity.

As Mr. Cuban explained via email: “When you send a traditional text, the minute you hit send you lose ownership of the text but you do not lose responsibility. (The recipient can then) post it on Facebook, Twitter, wherever can make even the most harmless text seem scandalous. Your texts may live forever. You have no idea.”

He leveraged his experience to develop Cyber Dust, an app for disappearing text messages and photos that is similar in some ways to Snapchat. Cyber Dust allows you to send a text message to another person that dissolves into the ether within 30 seconds.

However, Cyber Dust leapfrogs Snapchat’s technology in terms of protecting its users’ privacy.

Once the recipient views the Cyber Dust note, it vanishes permanently in 30 seconds. Unlike Snapchat, Cyber Dust does not actually cache anything on the mobile device. As reported in Upstart, the data is stored entirely in random access memory (“RAM”) and does not touch a hard drive, ensuring that there is no risk the data could be recreated.

So, unlike Snapchat, you have no record for the courts to see. While users are notified when the recipient takes a screenshot, Mr. Cuban stated that Cyber Dust is working to prevent this. Currently, he writes, “Apple does not allow us to prevent ScreenShots, (but) we can prevent ScreenShots on Android… If (that) is important to your business, you can communicate Android to Android and avoid them.”

“Cyber Dust allows you to take greater control of your digital footprint in your personal and professional life,” writes Cuban.

My recommendation:

If your “disappearing ink” can suddenly reappear, you may be in for a world of hurt. The best practice is to refrain from sending incriminating, lascivious, crazy photos, tweets and videos on ANY service.

I have never seen any such communication deliver a positive outcome. But, we are all human, and as technology enables us to be more impulsive and reactionary, we need to install the right app so that our private chats stay private.

As a divorce lawyer, my recommendation to my clients who cannot resist the texting urge is to use Cyber Dust.

A word to those who will criticize this app for enabling cheaters to have undetected affairs:

This app also protects clients from the damage of over-heated text arguments with their ex-spouse, which are a common occurrence in divorce but which can become court evidence when conducted via text.

How many times have you said something in the heat of the moment that you later regretted? Something that did not accurately represent you, but which you said out of passion and anger?

In the same way that Mark Cuban had his prior communications taken out of context by the SEC, your ex-spouse could easily use a single text message to mischaracterize your behavior. The resolution of your could significantly change because of one impulse decision.

The best protection is probably to just get rid of your cell phone.


Natalie Gregg
The Law Office of Natalie Gregg
(972) 829 – 3923

 NOTE: None of the information in this blog constitutes or is intended to be legal advice. These rates above are no guarantee of what you can expect to receive/pay. If you would like to know about your individual situation or if need legal counsel, you should consult an attorney regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. When you contact the Law Office of Natalie Gregg, this does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.

A Message for Engaged Couples or Second Marriage Romantics

checklist

Image by AJ Cann (CC).

Why do we spend more time agonizing over buying a house than we do preparing to get married?

Often at the first divorce consult when I ask, ”What was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” I wonder, could we have prevented this catastrophe.

Now, I don’t want to put myself out of business, but I think that if couples thought a little bit more about the checklist of their ideal mate prior to taking the plunge, incompatibility may just jump out and scream from the tippy tops from the churches and town halls where these couples are married.

Among the shocking top 10 list of reasons clients report wanting to drop the “D” bomb include:

  1. The sex is not good anymore.  We are glorified roommates.
  2. My partner is bad with money.  We are swimming in debt.
  3. We argue too much- about everything. Marriage counseling to many is a bad joke.
  4. He/she travels too much. The commuter relationship. Easier to cheat, easier to leave.
  5. He wants kids, but I don’t. Deal breaker.  The desire to procreate is primordial.
  6. I don’t feel important anymore. Did you ever? Backseat to golf and boys night? Boo.
  7. We’ve grown apart. Marriage is work. You have to fight to stay together.
  8. My partner is crazy- Diagnosable, get meds/therapy, but not every condition is treatable.
  9. My wife won’t stop popping pills or alcohol. If you’re on rehab round 3, run for the hills.
  10. We got married because we were pregnant, and big surprise, after kid 4, we still feel trapped.

Being the closet romantic, Catholic, married-for-life divorce lawyer, I genuinely want marriages to succeed.  However, I cannot fix years of resentment, lack of working on the relationship, outright neglect of this living, breathing thing we call marriage.

So, I call out to you engaged couples, divorced singles looking for a new mate: consider your core goals before you buy the dress, arrange the honeymoon and mentally drift off into the sunset.


Natalie Gregg
The Law Office of Natalie Gregg
(972) 829 – 3923

 NOTE: None of the information in this blog constitutes or is intended to be legal advice. If you would like to know about your individual situation or if need legal counsel, you should consult an attorney regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. When you contact the Law Office of Natalie Gregg, this does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.

Meet our team

The Team at the Law Office of Natalie Gregg

Thank you to our friends at Allen Image for profiling our firm in their upcoming issue. We are proud to introduce the community to the full team here at the Law Office of Natalie Gregg (from left to right):

Should have Hired the Law Office of Natalie Gregg

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Sleeping With the Enemy: Saving Your Family After an Affair

The following blog was originally published by Natalie Gregg on The Huffington Post – Divorce.


cheating

Licensed via Creative Commons.

Your spouse was the person who completed you, who finished your sentences and who was the first you told of any major change. For so long, your cocoon of love protected you, inspired you and was enough.

But everything is different today.

Today, you woke up bleary eyed and sad after another knock-down, drag-out, late-night argument. You probably can’t even remember what the fight was about.

These fights just keep happening like a daily habit. They have become more frequent and more heated. Yet, you never see them coming, and for this reason, these spats seem inevitable and tortuous. If only you could change things back to the way you were before.

Yet, your blood-shot eyes and puffy face tell the story. Even your friends at work know something is not right. You hear your children whispering, commiserating with one another asking why “mom and daddy scream a lot… at each other.”

Before you got married, you vowed “in sickness and in health.” You pointed out old couples hobbling hand in hand at the park or in church, and you both collectively admired their fidelity. Sweetly, your spouse shared with you that your eyes would never stop sparkling despite how you may change through the years.

You never intended this to end. You were going to be different from those statistics. But today your spouse dropped the D word: “I want a divorce.”

Your spouse said that they “haven’t been happy in years.” Come to think of it, the sexhas stopped — and date night is a distant memory. In your effort to buy the stuff to make the kids happy and to “check the good parenting boxes,” you have neglected the marriage box one time too many.

Your spouse continues, “I love you. I am just not in love with you anymore.”

This is impossible — a bad nightmare. But it is happening to you. You try to tell yourself,
“Everyone goes through these phases; eventually we will get out of it, right?”

Then your spouse starts to tell you their plans. They have found a new place and already paid a down payment. “Don’t worry, it’s close to the family home. Things will be the same. The kids will just live in two different homes.”

Your spouse wants to tell the children. But how can you? You heard your spouse’s words and hope that their madness will subside and a divorce won’t be necessary. But the presentation continues.

“Baby, I’ve even found a family lawyer who said that we can do this all by agreement.” The words are too polished and rehearsed — they are too damn happy about it.

It becomes clear that your spouse was or is cheating. You know it. Those business trips when they always left early on Sunday “to get prepared for the week” now seem suspicious; they probably weren’t alone. Anger overtakes sadness, and now you want to find out who their lover is… the person who ruined your life.

You try to tell yourself that it doesn’t matter — your spouse doesn’t deserve you. But you cling to that marriage that you thought you had yesterday.

It’s okay to be sad. Divorce is a death, of sorts. And it’s hard to accept that this relationship in which you have invested so many years is now over.

Unfortunately, in my 11 years of experience as a family lawyer, I have almost never seen a couple reconcile once a cheater has met with an attorney. They already have one foot out the door and their heads are filled with visions of the greener grass on the other side.

If you know someone whose spouse has asked for a divorce, encourage them to seek legal counsel immediately. Don’t let them wallow and fret, particularly if they believe their spouse has talked to an attorney.

At this point, they need to protect their children.

I have seen many dirty tricks — particularly from cheaters. One of the most common that I have seen is where the cheating spouse will have initial consultations with all of the best lawyers in town. By sharing just enough information with these lawyers to create an attorney-client relationship, they effectively “conflict out” these attorneys so that they cannot represent the spouse.

You make yourself vulnerable to this tactic the longer that you take. You also create more opportunities for your spouse to hide assets, funnel money out of the estate and create other challenges for you.

Please understand, I am not selling divorce. You are not abandoning your marriage: That was your spouse’s choice.

You are not to blame for the death of your marriage. But if you delay, you could spend the rest of your life blaming yourself for the disaster of your divorce.

I empower you to act quickly and to seek the right professional counsel. You are now responsible for saving what remains of your family.


Natalie Gregg
The Law Office of Natalie Gregg
(972) 829 – 3923

 NOTE: None of the information in this blog constitutes or is intended to be legal advice.  If you would like to know about your individual situation or if need legal counsel, you should consult an attorney regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. When you contact the Law Office of Natalie Gregg, this does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.

Super Lawyers Honors Natalie Gregg as 2014 Rising Star

Super Lawyers

Super Lawyers is a registered trademark of Thomson Reuters.

For the third year in a row, Natalie Gregg has been honored by her peers with selection to the list of Texas Super Lawyers – 2014 Rising Stars. Natalie Gregg is the managing partner of The Law Office of Natalie Gregg, a firm based in Allen, Texas that is exclusively focused on the practice of family law.

About Super Lawyers
Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The selection process is multi-phased and includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations.

About Rising Stars
Lawyers are asked to nominate the best attorneys who are 40 or under, or who have been practicing for 10 years or less. They are instructed to nominate lawyers they have personally observed in action — whether as opposing counsel or co-counsel, or through other firsthand courtroom observation.

No more than 2.5 percent of the lawyers in the state are named to the list.