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Federal Civil Service Divorce

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Federal Employee Death Prior to 10 Years Service and Survivor Annuities

In a Federal Civil Service divorce, will for former spouse who has been awarded a Former Spouse Survivor Annuity always collect on that annuity after the death of the employee?  Not always.

Federal law provides that if the employee completed at least 18 months service, but LESS THAN 10 YEARS SERVICE at time of death, then the former spouse only is entitled to the Basic Employee Death Benefit.  This remains true even if a divorce decree and court order accepted by OPM had ordered a Former Spouse Survivor Annuity. 

The Basic Employee Death Benefit is as follows:

  1. Fifty percent of the final annual rate of basic pay of the employee; plus,
  2. Fifteen thousand dollars (adjusted annually by cost-of-living adjustments for retirees since 12/0/1987; currently in 2017 worth slightly more than $32,423).

Read more . . .


Sunday, November 19, 2017

Not Sure If Your Spouse Has A Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) Account?


TSP can provide a spouse with the plan participants account statements to help the spouse, in divorce, develop a proper court order. The information that TSP will provide includes:

  • Participant's account balance;
  • Participant's outstanding loan balance, if any; and,
  • Annual or Quarterly statements for the period requested.

 A subpoena is not required to obtain the info above.  A proper written request from the spouse, or the spouse's attorney, is sufficient.  A proper request must include:

  • Participant's name and account number OR social security number;
  • The name of the person requesting the info and the relationship of that person to the Participant;
  • A description of the information needed (e.

Read more . . .


Saturday, November 11, 2017

Finishing a Pro Se Divorce, or "Do It Yourself" Divorce Quickly


Just this past month, in October 2017, my firm helped four people finish a pro se (i.e. "do it yourself divorce" within a matter of days or a couple of weeks, depending on where they were in the process.  Each person came to my firm for two reasons: (1) either they got stuck with the paperwork or they'd completed the paperwork and didn't want to wait the 5 or 6 months the Bexar County Staff Attorney's office told them it would take before they'd get them divorced; and, (2) we offer these services at an affordable flat fee, which eliminates the uncertainty for the client.  Our flat fee always includes providing a certified copy of the final decree to the client.


Read more . . .


Sunday, September 3, 2017

Close Attention While Drafting Orders Matters Because Some Mistakes Cannot Later Be Corrected


Attention to detail matters when first drafting a domestic relations order and entering it with the Court.  Sometimes—whether weeks or months later—a former spouse or alternate payee learns that a domestic relations order requires clarification before it can be accepted by the paying organization such as DFAS, OPM or a plan administrator for a private employer’s 401(k). 

In analyzing the task, sometimes it is discovered that certain information or variables in the original order are flat-out wrong (e.


Read more . . .


Monday, July 31, 2017

Divorce and Medical Records: Must I Turn Over My Records if Requested in Discovery?

Must a party to divorce turn over their medical records in response to a "Request for Production" during discovery?  It depends.

In general, production of medical records in a civil proceeding, such as divorce, is prohibited by invoking the "Physician-Patient Privilege" set forth in Texas Rule of Evidence 509.  The rule, as it applies to civil proceedings, provides, in relevant part that:

  1. "Confidential communications between a physician and a patient, relative to or in connection with any professional services rendered by a physician to the patient are privileged and may not be disclosed."

Read more . . .


Monday, July 10, 2017

Suspected Infidelity - Can I Use a Tracking Device on the Spouse's Vehicle?


Generally, the answer is "no."  Texas Penal Code Section 16.06, Unlawful Installation of Tracking Device," makes it an offense to knowingly install an electronic or mechanical tracking device on a motor vehicle owned or leased by another person.

It is an affirmative defense to prosecution that the person installing the device obtained the effective consent of the "owner or lessee" prior to installation.   So what might that mean if the spouses are co-owners of the vehicle?  Can a spouse give consent knowing the other spouse has primary possession of the vehicle?  That would be risky, especially if the parties have temporary orders in place that give each spouse court-ordered "temporary exclusive possession, use, control and enjoyment" of the motor vehicle in question.


Read more . . .


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Visitation Schedules for Children Under 3 Years Old


You may be familiar with the Texas "Standard Possession Order or SPO" with the central features being that the non-custodial parent has visitation on:

  • the 1st, 3rd, 5th weekend of each months;
  • share times on major holidays;
  • mom's always get mother's day weekend;
  • dad's always get father's day weekend; and,
  • the non-custodial parent gets 30 days' extended summer visitation (42 days if the parent live more than 100 miles apart).

The Texas Family Code specifies that the SPO does not apply to children under 3 years of age.  The Code requires the court to craft an order that uniquely suits each youngster.  While the court can consider any factor that it considers relevant, the Code lists prominent factors for the court to consider, including:

  • caregiving provided to the child (by each parent) before and during the suit;
  • the effect on the child of separation from either party;
  • the availability and williingness of the parties as caregivers;
  • physical, behavioral, medical and developmental needs of the child;
  • the impact and influence of individuals, other than a parent, who will be present during periods of possession;
  • the presence of siblings during possession;
  • the child's needs to develop healthy attachments to both parents;
  • the proximity of the parents' separate residences;
  • whether the schedule should incrementally shift toward a SPO-like possession schedule taking into account: (1) the ability of the parents to share in the rights, duties, and responsibilities of parenting; and, (2) inconsistent or minimal contact by a parent; and,
  • any other factors that bear upon the best interest of the child.

If you have a child or children under 3 years of age, discuss with your attorney prior to your initial court hearing your thoughts and feelings about an appropriate custom possession schedule.


Read more . . .


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Agreed Divorce - Questions to think about when discussing divorce with spouse


You and your spouse have agreed to divorce, but are you sure you've agreed on all areas of major concern?

  1. Do you own real property?
  2. Do you have children of the marriage who are under 18 or still in high school who live at home?
  3. Are substantial joint debts involved (e.g. high balance credit card in both names)?
  4. Are the vehicles titled in both names, with the debt in both names too?
  5. Are retirement accounts such as an IRA, 401k, military retirement,

Read more . . .


Friday, May 26, 2017

Federal Civil Service Divorce - Who Pays the Former Spouse Survivor Annuity Premium?

In Federal Civil Service divorce, OPM permits the court to order that the Former Spouse Survivor Annuity premium shall be paid by the Employee or the Former Spouse.  If the court order is silent on the subject, OPM will deduct the premium from the Employee's share of the retirement annuity.  Depending on the level of Former Spouse Survivor Annuity coverage ordered, the premium can be as high as 10% of the Employee's aggregate retirement annuity.  So, who pays the premium is not a trivial matter.

Read more . . .


Monday, May 8, 2017

Purchasing a New Home Prior to the Divorce Becoming Final


When couples divorce, it's not uncommon for one or both spouses to want to take care of important details prior to the divorce becoming final.  One important detail can be purchasing a new home to start your new "post-divorce" life.  Caution is warranted here.

In Texas, title to real property follows a rule called "inception of title."  As a general rule, inception of title occurs when the contract to purchase real estate is signed or a down payment that secures a right to purchase.


Read more . . .


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