“TRIM the FAT with TOXIC people, BEFORE your LEFT with only GRISTLE.”

Only you can cut people out of your life. I can’t do it for you. What I can do is insist that you ask questions. Why? Because secrets can and will hurt you.

Some of you may be wondering “what types of secrets?”

Over the past three weeks I’ve had someone contact me about someone I married after she realized that the bride had died in an effort to contact her ex my now grieving groom).

I do not share client information to ANYONE. In fact I’m regularly contacted by journalists or production companies trying to get contact information from me.

Another bride contacted me this morning regarding a paternity suit against her new husband. Shocking I know.

“My now husband was recently served with paternity papers from a child born before we were married. He doesn’t want anything to do with the child, let alone the woman. What are his options?”

He will be forced to undergo a DNA test. If it’s proven that he is the father of the child, he will be ordered to pay child support and medical insurance for the benefit of the child. Whether he “wants anything to do with the child or not” he has a financial responsibility to care for the child if in fact the child is his.

Many parents of children who don’t pay their court ordered child support face severe penalties. In Texas, failure to pay child support can and does result in imprisonment for criminal non support. The ability to renew a drivers license can be taken away. Income tax refunds as well as his wages are also be garnished.

Occasionally the non custodial parent will attempt to sign away parental rights to skirt child support but a judge as well as the custodial parent must agree. The non custodial parent doesn’t make the decisions or “have options.”

Because your husband “doesn’t want to have anything to do with the child,” you should be aware that what he wants to do and what he is legally obligated to do are two different things and educate yourself.

Under the Texas Family Code chapter 161 a parent can file a petition to terminate his or her rights. The most significant result of terminating a parent’s rights is that the parent no longer has rights to access the child through possession or visitation periods and the parent’s support obligation is terminated.

There was a time in Texas where it was NOT difficult for a parent owing child support (an obligor parent) to terminate his or her rights to avoid paying child support after a divorce or other suit affecting the parent-child relationship (SAPCR).

In almost every family court in Texas the judges now decline to permit an obligor parent to terminate his or her rights voluntarily unless there is also another person adopting the child to ensure the child receives the benefit of two supporting parents. The Texas Family Code requires any termination of parental rights to be in the child’s best interest. It is usually not in the best interests of the child to eliminate the financial support of one parent without compelling reason.

Family judges have discretion to determine whether a voluntary termination of parental rights is in the child’s best interests but their discretion almost always falls in favor of maintaining two supporting parents.

You may want to prepare yourself for what lies ahead in terms of your household income. Why? Because his financial responsibilities and obligations will affect your household income whether he takes advantage of court ordered visits regarding this child or not.

I can’t say this enough to people planning to marry…. ASK QUESTIONS.

What you don’t know can and will impact your marriage. Snap out of it. If you don’t ask questions you will never get answers.

Next question. “My husband’s step daughter who he has no legal responsibility to is inviting us to her graduation party. He divorced his ex because she cheated on him. Should we go to the party and subject ourselves to this uncomfortable situation?

I would. The ex cheated on him the step daughter didn’t. While this may feel uncomfortable to you, take the higher road by either attending and if you just can’t bring yourself to do so, send a check. Marriages merge families. The step daughter may have had a good relationship with your husband that compelled her to invite you both to her graduation. It’s a victory and accomplishment that she wanted you to be a part of.

Put your feelings about her mother aside and talk to your husband (civilly without bias or your feelings about his ex) as to whether he would like to attend or send a check. Get his input. Ask what he would like to do and support his decision.

We can’t blame children for the parents actions. What we can do is celebrate their accomplishments with them or congratulate them for their accomplishments.”

I now have a November bride who recently discovered she was pregnant AND that her fiancée was cheating AT THE SAME TIME.

I met her this morning to help her file eviction papers. Why? Her fiancée is living with her and she’s about to give him the boot that’s why.

What is the difference of community property? Do I need a prenuptial agreement?”

A traditional marriage merges both assets and debts of the couple. This merging creates community property. If the couple were to buy a home together, cars together, stocks and bonds together as well as other assets, these become community property as well.

A prenuptial agreement separates one parties assets as separate property and the other parties assets as separate property.

Prenuptial agreements can also separate debt incurred prior to the marriage to the debtor rather than both parties. In essence, prenuptial agreements protect the property of one person who may have significantly more assets than the other person.

A prenup is an agreement made by a couple before they marry concerning the ownership of their respective assets should the marriage fail.

Meaning if the marriage doesn’t fail, the prenup has no bearing.

These types of documents are used specifically in the event of a divorce or dissolution of the marriage.

Important to note is that marriage is the only way to merge debts of your partner legally. Often called sexually transmitted debt, the merging of debt is a very real possibility when marrying without a prenup that specifically separates the debts of one person from the other person.

People are generally uncomfortable regarding prenuptial agreements because they feel their partner doesn’t trust them enough to marry without one.

The truth is that divorce without a prenup is an equal split of assets and debt. The assets are often acquired throughout the marriage in most cases but if one person has far more assets going into a marriage, that person needs to protect their assets with a prenup in the event the marriage doesn’t endure.

No. There’s a reason for this though I’ve been married before. It’s difficult to appreciate a good husband unless you’ve had a bad husband. I have had both. My husband has too.

We are both older. I’m 55 and he’s 68. We have been married for many years. I like structure and order. I’m OCD. He accepts this and we work together to keep our home. We both work a lot and I travel constantly.

Our marriage is solid because we want to grow old together. We respect each other and are thankful for a solid and predictable life ahead of us.

We’ve struggled through my illnesses due to thyroid cancer and we’ve overcome him losing his business in the real estate crisis of 2007–08. We have weathered many storms. Financial and medical issues popped up within one year of our marriage. Many people would have ran. We didn’t. Instead we have learned the value of teamwork.

My husband views me as his hero. I in turn view him as my hero. Our marriage wasn’t easy in the beginning faced with my health issues at the same time we encountered his loss of income but we made it through the storm.

Every marriage will have challenges. How you handle those challenges is going to enrich your marriage or end it. Choose wisely.

Old And Bitter Or Covered In Glitter? Reality Bites Drama, Deception & Divas…

Yesterday while driving from Mercado Event Center to Belltower Chapel, an email from my November client planning a backyard wedding came through that confused me. “Brenda’s having car trouble but I will be available to keep our appointment.” This confused me because I was wondering why my client didn’t go pick Brenda up but, I had two hours before our meeting so I sent a text back that read “I’m on the West side and if you need to change the appointment, please let me know as my schedule is rather tight this weekend from Fort Worth to Shreveport to Winstar Casino and I’m not sure I can reschedule anything this weekend.” I didn’t hear anything back so I went ahead to my next appointment while running to pick up photos for my Wallace Unit, stopping by the post office, going to the cleaners, running into Mercado Event Center to meet my clients for a rehearsal then leaving to fill up my suv and running through a car wash before checking in with my Belltower clients to confirm our evening appointment and running to my clients home. 

What you are about to read will surprise you just as much as it did me. I thought this couple had everything going for them. They had just bought a new home together or so I thought and I had even driven them to the clerks office to get their marriage license. They were both excited about planning their wedding. The bride of course had several things important to her from a photo of the cake to the color of the linen and the groom wanted to be sure that whatever she wanted stayed within the budget. Nothing gave me any indication of any conflict. I saw two happy older people beginning a new life together but looks can be deceiving.

Driving to my destination, I mentally went over my week. As usual, it’s jam packed. The only issue I’ve had to concern myself with regarding this event was the weather. Why? It was outdoors. Texas weather is tricky. 

Arriving on site, I unloaded the champagne toasting glasses, gift card box, guest book and other items I had purchased for this event along with my tape measure. My client greeted me at the door and we went through  everything and I asked for a photo to be provided by the client. We also discussed my decorative ladder with garland blocking the front door and directing guests to the gate instead. We then went outside to check the direction of the sun and discuss where the guest tables, food tables and chairs would be for the reception and ceremony. None of this was unusual. In fact, it was an ordinary day of discussing details two weeks prior to the event. 

Once my client and I were on track regarding the slope in the  yard and where everything would go as well as the timelines, we went back into the house to finish business. My cell phone dinged. I didn’t answer. I never take calls or respond when I’m with a client. My cell phone then rang right after my clients cell phone did. Buckle up for one surprise after the next kids…

The fiancé of my client was calling and texting because she thought our meeting had been canceled. I was confused about this. My client watched me talk to his fiancé warily. I advised her of everything we had discussed and explained that I could not reschedule due to my schedule and apologized. 

Hanging up, my client advised me “Brenda didn’t really have car trouble. Her car was repossessed. This is the second time it’s happened. I’m concerned.” I WAS NOW CONCERNED TOO. Having your car repossessed is alarming. Having financial problems was why my client was getting cold feet too.

Two weeks prior to wedding day? An inkling and unsettling premonition of the dreaded “Sexually Transmitted Debt Due To Marriage?!” What else could be going on? I advised my client of very real possibility of debt lawsuits, tax liens and the fact that marriage merges debt. I also began asking more questions.

They met online a year ago. My client spent twenty years in Texas Prisons. My client had just bought a new custom home. My client had rebuilt his life and my client had FAR MORE to lose. I brought up the need for a Prenup. It’s a touchy subject but a necessary discussion. My role is to protect and advise my client of the need to protect his assets and I did. 

“My role and my experience when it comes to protecting my clients is varied. In certain situations, I’ve advised my client not to marry. In other situations I’ve advised clients of the need for a Prenup. Each client is different. Each set of circumstances is also unique. I have one set of clients marrying inmates, another set so fixed on income that they are bartering services and yet another set with enough income to have whatever they want. As a premarital counselor with an education of debt lawsuits and those affected by them, I spent years in courtrooms understanding how marriage merges debt. To prevent the result of marriage incurring sexually transmitted debts, advising clients to consider Prenuptial Agreements is alarming to other vendors. However, my candor, experience, honesty and integrity are why I’m sought after. I don’t HAVE to work which gives me freedom. I’ve never advertised and I put my clients first. What they don’t know they learn from me. EXPERIENCE MATTERS.”

Wendy Wortham

Should aging and the fear of being lonely lead you to jump into marriage? No. Does the glamour of wedding planning and the glitter of the gaiety blindside couples to problems that need to be addressed prior to  marriage? Absolutely. This couple have gone through not one but two premarital courses together. 

Why wasn’t finances discussed in either class? The number one cause of divorce is money or infidelity. Whoever was teaching those courses certainly should have touched on finances and budgets. I would have. Brenda called me last week minutes before pulling into Wallace Unit to “add on” a wedding arch. My contracts are very specific. There wasn’t anything in our contract for a decorated wedding arch. I also needed to get into the Unit with my client. I advised Brenda that I would have to get bids and revise her contract and that I was on site. 

I juggle 18-29 clients a month. I do not take calls or texts when I’m with another client either. Brenda is blinded by the glitter. Everyone is on Pinterest but no one is researching cost or delivery. I don’t have an inventory fairy. I do have an agreed upon budget. “Add Ons” require a new contract. 

“Love believes all things” or does it? I asked more questions. Two repossessions in one year? Where was her money going? I’ve already paid deposits and made purchases for a wedding that may not happen. My client needs to protect his finances and future. After all, he’s already lost many years of his life to prison. Mrs Right or Mrs Right Now? It was a very important turning point for my client who prior to my discussion with him was wholly and entirely unaware that debt is similar to poison ivy. It spreads to your partner.

This morning between bookings, I went to visit my niece who is currently in a six month treatment program at a church with other women in the same program. My heart was heavy. Will this program work? Will my family ever get Stephaney back? I wiped tears of fear entering the church. I had no idea what to expect. I wondered again why meth had taken nearly 17 years of my niece’s life? Why God had allowed me and my family to be drug through the destruction addiction brings to loved ones? My anxiety was high. 

For a person that regularly plans and marries people, I wondered if my niece would ever find a life partner too? Will Stephaney one day get her life in order and have a husband and her own home? What will happen when I’m dead and gone to my niece? I’m running out of time to get Stephaney on track. Cindy and I will be 55 next month. Stephaney is 34 years old. The twins are 15. I need my niece to realize that none of us can keep getting on the merry go round of “Stephaney being clean then she’s not clean anymore” because we can’t. Drugs destroy families. My mother’s addiction destroyed my childhood. My nieces addiction is destroying my adulthood. I hate addiction. I hate drugs. I don’t understand why weak people allow drugs to affect their decisions? Choose life. It’s not that difficult. Choose your family. You have a choice. 

The church was full. I had no idea where to find Stephaney. I took a seat in the back. I realized directly in front of me stood my niece praising God unaware of me behind her and started crying. I didn’t want her to see my emotion of all the years spent praying for her. I chose to compose myself before touching her back to let her know I was there. Stephaney was wearing clothes that I didn’t recognize. I had taken clothes to the facility as well as shoes and toiletries but didn’t buy the dress she was wearing.

I knew that seeing me alone wouldn’t be as celebratory as seeing me with Cindy and the twins. Steph had wanted her mom (my twin) and her twin daughters to join me but they had declined. I’ve always been the fixer. Re establishing trust between my family and my niece won’t be easy. It will be painfully challenging. 

I’ve lost my faith in God over and over again throughout my life. My path has never been easy. A family member sexually abused my twin sister and I for years until we ran away. We didn’t have a mother to protect us or anyone who cared. Why has my life always been a struggle? Where was God when I needed hope? My struggle and my faith have been tested time and time again. Hardship didn’t define me or my twin. Instead hardship empowered us both. We are warriors.

My mother was a heroin addict until debilitating accident occurred in 1989 that destroyed 60% of her brain that resulted in her forgetting her lifelong heroin addiction. I would never be able to confront her over her choices at tore our family apart. Hours prior to the accident, I had met my mother for the first time in 20 plus years. Why the separation? Our mother sold all four of her children for $50 each to go buy heroin. Hours prior to her accident, I paid her to meet me and answer my questions. The answers weren’t what I had expected. She could have lied and spared my heart but chose not to. That “rent money” she wanted to meet me? It was used to buy drugs that resulted in “the accident.” 

At our meeting, I was too shocked to express my anger. Fifty dollars? I was paying her $1500 to meet me and answer four questions. Cindy refused to go with me to this meeting. I went alone. The fantasy of her worrying or wondering what happened to us was shattered. The truth hurt. In fact it hurt so much that even today the scar remains. Guilt over money I paid her to meet me that resulted in a life altering accident also plagued me for years. Her answers to my questions haunt me. Why didn’t I react? Why didn’t I tell her that because she was such an awful and thoughtless mother that Cindy and I left home and chose homelessness over a broken home? 

Why didn’t I tell her I blamed her? Because my “dreaded dark stranger” a chronic stutter that has haunted me since our mother abandoned us at 6 years old had (as usual) grabbed my tongue. I was speechless. I couldn’t respond. I didn’t cry. I paid her the money with my head hung ashamed that Cindy had been right. 

Indignant that my mother hadn’t bothered to bathe or bother putting any degree of pride into her appearance while having ten full days notice of meeting me. I walked away. My entire childhood was spent fantasizing that my mother cared. That she wondered. That she had tried to find us. That she worried. She hadn’t given us a second thought. “I didn’t want kids and I certainly didn’t want twins.” I couldn’t believe those were her parting words. Driving back to San Clemente from Solvang, I hated my mother. I also hated myself for stupidly convincing myself she had spent years searching for us. I was an idiot. A sap. An easy Mark. 

“The accident” occurred in Santa Maria while I was driving to San Clemente. My mother’s mother called my home to let me know “your mother has been in an accident. She isn’t expected to live. This is your last chance to say goodbye.” I played it over and over again. I then drove to Santa Maria. This time with my sister and my nieces. I wasn’t alone but I felt alone. I didn’t want to talk about my meeting. I drove in silence. 

I could have never anticipated that she would be missing an eye and half of her brain when I saw her again the same night. I was devoid of any emotion after “the accident.” I was empty. Unable to feel pity for someone who had only hours earlier had no remorse whatsoever for her own choices or her actions that had affected an entire family. 

My niece became pregnant at 15 with twins. Maryssa and Makenna would never have the childhood Cindy and I did. We became the mothers we had never had. We took our own childhood and threw that book the trash. Deliberately and with forethought, we became the role models we had never known for the twins and our children. When Stephaney fell, we were there to pick her up. Over and over an over again. Cindy’s arms are weary. My heart is heavy. 

“An addict will find any reason to celebrate even if it’s the grand opening of a pack of cigarettes.”

Cindy Daniel

I understand my nieces twin daughters anger. I understand my twin sisters anger. I also know that unless I can convince my niece to never use drugs again that she will lose her family forever. I’m the only one still standing. Still praying. Still holding out hope. I’m standing alone. But today at a church filled with people singing the praises of God, I wasn’t alone. I was holding my nieces hand. I was listening to the sermon and I was regaining my faith that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle. I’m giving up my despair to God. I have to as my heart pertaining to my niece and my mother are heavy. Will Stephaney choose her family? I pray she does…

Perception isn’t reality. People tell me I’m lucky all the time. It’s untrue. I have never been lucky but I have always been resilient, passionate and perseverant…

Will my client overcome unexpected financial secrets? Will my niece choose her family? Will my family trust my niece again? I have no idea but I do have faith.