Dallas Family Law and Business Attorneys
The boutique Texas law firm, Kirker Davis LLP, provides comprehensive and high-end legal services for complex divorce cases, family law matters, estate planning, and business law to serve Dallas / Fort Worth, and greater North Texas. Together, our lawyers have decades of experience handling divorces involving family-owned businesses, complex custody matters, and professional practices. In addition to our robust family law practice group, we also provide trusted advice for all forms of business matters, from entity formation to all varieties of business disputes. Our commitment to client service and fidelity to the practice of law reduces common client pain points and helps reach faster, better solutions to their legal matters.
For most, the divorce process will prove to be a challenging experience. Indeed, the process through which a once lifelong partner becomes an adversary can be jarring. Our in-depth knowledge of the family law systems applied in Dallas County provides a significant benefit to those contemplating divorce in Dallas. Despite the challenging nature of the divorce process, our experienced lawyers are equipped not only to provide on-point legal advice, but also to assist with the legal issues that may not be immediately apparent. Please continue reading below for an overview of a few topics our lawyers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area can help their clients navigate.
In addition to the traditional litigation process, Texas law provides for other forms of dispute resolution. One such Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) method is mediation. In Mediation, the mediator (a disinterested, third-party) helps the parties bridge the gap in their disagreements to arrive at an outcome both can agree on. All DFW-area mediators have specialized conflict resolution training. Mediation may be a good choice for those couples seeking to arrive at a solution without much of the time, stress, and added expense that often accompanies traditional forms of dispute resolution. Though mediators are equipped with dispute resolution strategies, they have no legal authority to decide an outcome that is binding on the parties. In the end, the parties themselves independently agree to the terms of settlement, giving each party the autonomy to craft their proposed solution and the authority to agree to the proposed terms. Of those couples who have chosen mediation, many describe the process as less stressful and more empowering than formal litigation.
Another popular form of ADR in Dallas is Arbitration. Like mediation, the arbitration process is facilitated by a neutral third party (the arbitrator). However, unlike a mediator, the arbitrator is empowered with authority to issue binding decisions. Arbitration shares many of the benefits of mediation, including reduced costs and faster resolution timelines. In arbitration, the arbitrator will hear both parties’ arguments and supporting evidence. After considering the merits of each side, the arbitrator will make a final decision. A Dallas County court will then examine the arbitrator’s decision for a minimum level of fairness and render an order according to the arbitrator’s decision. Just like mediation, the arbitration process is a voluntary one. This means that both parties must consent to the process. However, once the parties agree to arbitration, they cannot back out; they are bound by the arbitrator’s decision. Arbitration is often appropriate when the disputed terms are limited. One of the primary benefits of arbitration is that, in the event parties cannot agree, the arbitrator can get the parties to an outcome more quickly and with less expense required than going to court for a judge’s ruling.
Child custody issues are routinely the most challenging, both emotionally and legally, aspects of any divorce matter. The term “custody” denotes two separate realms: legal custody (the parent or guardian’s right to make decisions that will impact the upbringing of the child) and physical custody (the parent or guardian’s physical possession of the child). Texas law places a special significance on the “best interests” of children. In making determinations concerning child custody, courts are bound to the Texas Family Code, which states, “the best interest of the child shall always be the primary consideration of the court in determining the issues of conservatorship and possession of and access to the child” (Tex. Fam. Code § 153.002). Thus, “best interest of the child” is the North Star in all Texas conservatorship matters. Additionally, this heightened level of scrutiny means that only Texas courts have the authority to issue decisions impacting custody matters (thus, ADR methods like arbitration or mediation are not available for such matters).
Despite a general misunderstanding of “prenups” on the part of the public, a premarital agreement is simply a private contract between a couple. To be effective, a premarital agreement must be signed by two unmarried people in anticipation of marriage. A growing number of Dallas-Fort Worth area residents have turned to premarital agreements due to their ability to bypass some of the terms found within the state’s default marriage contract. North Texas couples routinely include provisions addressing property characterization in their premarital contract to define their property in a manner differently than Texas law would characterize it absent such an agreement. These provisions put the power back into the hands of the couple by allowing them to specify which assets and liabilities are the couple’s shared, or “community” property, and which are the spouses’ separate property.
In contrast to premarital agreements, which are executed in anticipation of marriage, postnuptial agreements are contracts between spouses. Outside of that distinction, postnuptial agreements operate in much the same way as premarital agreements. Like premarital agreements, post-nuptial agreements are routinely used by Dallas-Fort Worth residents to address their desired property characterization and to bypass the state’s default rules.
Estate planning refers to the process in which legally binding instructions are created to govern the disposition of property after death or incapacitation. The estate plans of many of our Dallas clients are composed of several documents and instruments, each drafted to achieve a specific goal. These components include: (1) a Last Will and Testament; (2) a Power of Attorney; (3) Advanced Medical Directives; and, depending on an individual’s circumstances, (4) a trust. Many clients create estate plans to reduce stress and heartache for their loved ones. Additionally, estate plans are not set in stone. If a person or family’s situation changes, an existing estate plan can be updated to address changes to one’s values, goals, or circumstances. Our experienced estate planning lawyers have helped many Dallas County residents provide their loved ones with valuable peace of mind.
Business litigation encompasses a broad field of law that covers a wide range of disputes and transactions relating to business interactions. Business litigation in the DFW area can occur in one of several legal settings; if a traditional litigation route is selected, the most likely court will be a Collin, Dallas, Denton, Tarrant, or other County court. However, if the parties have agreed to forgo traditional litigation in favor of an alternative dispute resolution method, such as arbitration or mediation mentioned above, then the forum could be a number of settings.
For those with any questions relating to family law, estate planning, or business law please feel free to contact one of Kirker | Davis LLP’s experienced Dallas lawyers today at (512) 746-7304.
As the Family Law Partners at their previous firm, Chris M. Kirker and Holly R. Davis oversaw a family law litigation practice of up to fourteen family law attorneys in three offices throughout the State. The success of their business practices, based on creative and innovative approaches to the profession, have changed the way family law firms operate in Central Texas, an impact which will last for years to come.
Prior to forming Kirker Davis LLP, Holly R. Davis and Chris M. Kirker were Partners at a highly successful law firm in Austin, TX. Holly R. Davis joined the firm after graduating from Baylor University School of Law in 2006. Chris M. Kirker joined the firm in 2011, after also graduating from Baylor University School of Law in 2010.
Awards and Accolades
Holly R. Davis
Top 40 Under 40, National
Trial Lawyers, 2015-2018
Chris M. Kirker
National Trial Lawyers: Top 40
Under 40 Trial Lawyer – 2012-2018
Holly R. Davis
Top Ten Ranking, National Academy
of Family Law Attorneys, 2014-2018
Chris M. Kirker
National Trial Lawyers: Top 100 Trial
Lawyer in the State of Texas – 2014-2018
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Frequenly asked questions
In Texas, there is a 60-day minimum waiting period for divorce cases. That means that in between the date that you first file for divorce and the date that you request the Court to sign your Divorce Decree, there must be at least 60 days. On average, most cases take at least four months to resolve. However, there are always exceptions. If you and your husband or wife have an agreement as to the rules about your children and the division of your community estate, it is possible that an attorney at Kirker Davis LLP can help you draft all of the required paperwork, including a Divorce Decree, and assist you in obtaining the Court’s signature on the Decree on the sixty-first date after the filing for divorce. This is the fastest possible outcome.
Finalizing your divorce in that short window of time is possible for some families. But often, it takes time for people to determine what their community estate is and then reach agreements as to how to divide it. Even if you believe your divorce to be relatively simple or easy, it is possible that you have not considered something that could provide a benefit to you or your children. It is a good option to have an attorney at Kirker Davis LLP review any potential agreements that you have reached so that you can consider your options and reduce risk in your divorce before signing on the dotted line of a Divorce Decree.
One of the first things that we ask our clients to do at Kirker Davis LLP is to provide us with information about their vehicles, real property, bank accounts, mortgages, credit card balances, brokerage accounts, inheritances, businesses, business interests, trust accounts, retirement accounts, stock, restricted stock, and other assets. When we have a complete list of what you own, we can then discuss how you’d prefer to divide it up. Providing information to your attorney is the first step in our process. Exchanging that information with your spouse and their attorney is typically the next step in our process. Reaching an agreement between a husband and a wife about how to divide it all up can be the most complicated part of the divorce. Depending on what you and your spouse agree to, it can be an easy task, or it can be drawn out and complicated. If your community estate is valued in the millions of dollars, you will want to have it thoroughly reviewed to examine the implications of its division so as to not put at risk hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars. If husbands and wives cannot agree to the division of their estate after exchanging information between themselves, a court may divide the estate up after notice and a hearing. It is imperative that parties have the assistance of an attorney at those hearings given the thousands of dollars at stake.
While Texas does not recognize a formal legal separation, we work hard at Kirker Davis LLP to help you consider your options when you are not quite ready to file for divorce. Our attorneys believe that speaking with potential clients weeks before they discuss divorce or move forward with any decision is the best course of action so that the potential client is as informed about their options as possible.
At Kirker Davis LLP, we have helped families create rules for their temporary living situations, rules for the payment of temporary liabilities and expenses, rules for temporary possession schedules for children while parents live apart, and a process by which a husband and wife can exchange information about their estate, assets, real estate, liabilities, brokerage accounts, mortgages, stocks, bank accounts, trusts, vehicles, and college savings accounts in the event that they do decide to move forward with a divorce. Because Texas does not recognize a formal legal separation, it is imperative that you discuss a creative legal alternative with an attorney at Kirker Davis LLP by calling (512) 746-7304.
If a business was created before a marriage, there is an argument that the business should not be included in the divorce. If the business was formed after marriage, it may be community property. If it is community property, it could be divided in the divorce process. A community estate is comprised of assets that have accumulated during the marriage. Our goal at Kirker Davis LLP is to provide business owners and their spouses the information they need to proceed with their divorce without impacting the success of the business they worked so hard to build.
At times, people do not quite know whether or not their business is community or separate property. The characterization of the business may be one of the most crucial questions of the entire divorce. It makes sense, then, to speak immediately with an attorney at Kirker Davis LLP to determine what your rights are, and how you can begin to protect your important assets.
You may need the assistance of a business valuation expert to help assign a value to the business interest if it is community property. You may need to speak with an attorney about the value of the rest of the community estate to ensure that the business can be awarded to the business owner and a fair amount of the remainder of the community estate to the business owner’s spouse. Oftentimes, speaking with an attorney weeks before considering the divorce process is beneficial to the business owner or the business owner’s spouse so that you can begin to gather the necessary information that will be needed in the divorce.
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