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Social media isn't always your 'friend' during break-ups

Divorce in the Digital Age

Image courtesy of McCurley Orsinger

Technology has changed the way most of us do business, communicate with friends and family, and conduct our social lives. It’s also changed the face of divorce.

Divorcing couples face two kinds of digital peril: high-tech sleuthing and social media — both of which are now easier than ever to access, use and misuse.

Spy vs. Spy
“Lots of people think that because the technology is available to spy on their husband or wife that they should spy on them,” says Mike McCurley, name partner in the Dallas family law boutique McCurley Orsinger McCurley Nelson & Downing, L.L.P. “Trouble is, many of those little gadgets you can buy online are flat-out illegal to use in the state of Texas.”

​“Bright, educated professionals can become like scorned teenagers during a divorce,” says McCurley Orsinger name partner Keith Nelson.

McCurley notes that not all spying is illegal, but the difference between the permissible use of a monitoring device and an illegal invasion of privacy is a fine line that is being redefined by the courts on a regular basis.

Is it okay to read a spouse’s emails? Can one spouse install a program that records keystrokes on a shared computer? Can you install hidden cameras in the living room? What about the bedroom? What about GPS tracking devices on cars?

In each of those cases, says McCurley Orsinger name partner Keith Nelson, it may be illegal to use those devices, or it may be perfectly legal. It all depends on the particular circumstances.

“That’s why if a client comes to me with information he or she may have obtained in a questionable manner, we confirm that it was legally obtained before we use it as evidence,” he says. “My best recommendation is to talk to your lawyer before you do any high-tech snooping on your spouse.

“The last thing you want is an invasion of privacy lawsuit or, worse, criminal charges at the same time you’re dealing with divorce.”

Think Twice Before That Status Update
Even more common than amateur spies, however, are indiscreet users of social media. Family lawyers have a love-hate relationship with websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. They love it when their client’s ex uses poor judgment and drops a smoking gun in their laps, but they hate it when their own clients perform that service for their opponents.

“Bright, educated professionals can become like scorned teenagers during a divorce,” says McCurley Orsinger name partner Scott Downing. “I’ve seen Facebook posts that all but admit to infidelity and Instagram photos of deadbeat dads standing next to piles of cash they just won at the casino.

“Good judgment sometimes goes out the window during divorce.”

Mary Jo McCurley, Mike’s law partner and wife of 30 years, advises divorcing spouses to stop using their social media sites altogether during divorce and to change their privacy settings to disable others from being able to “tag” them at events and in photos.

“Nobody needs a photo of them at a party while they’re fighting for custody of their children,” she says. “It might not make a difference to the judge, but you truly never know. Why risk it?”

The Upside of Technology in Divorce
Technology may offer plenty of downsides to divorcing couples, but as we all know, there can be benefits as well. Skype and FaceTime can help non-custodial parents maintain their ties with their children between visits by making “face-to-face” visits part of their nightly routine. Facebook and other networking sites can also help fractured families stay in touch long after the divorce is final.

But the key is good judgment and discretion, Mike McCurley says.

“Most parents tell their kids not to post anything to social media they don’t want their grandmothers to see,” he says. “I tell my clients not to post anything you don’t want seen by the judge or your ex’s lawyer. They’re much, much scarier than Grandma.”

Image courtesy of McCurley Orsinger

Thinking about divorce? Educate yourself first

Divorce Education

If someone is in the market for a divorce lawyer, chances are they have bigger things on their mind than doing a full background check on the lawyer they’re considering hiring. At McCurley Orsinger McCurley Nelson & Downing, we believe that the best relationships are built on honesty and communication, so in the interest of full disclosure, here are eight things most divorce lawyers won’t tell their clients (but we will):

1. Family law isn’t a hobby.
Lots of lawyers advertise that they handle divorces. And bankruptcies. And write wills. And defend DWIs. And anything else that requires a law degree. If you’re getting a divorce, hire a lawyer who just does divorce. They will be more efficient, proficient and cost-effective.

2. You’re more financially complex than you think you are (so you need a divorce lawyer with money smarts).
These days, just about everybody has investments, a mortgage and some debt. Ensuring that those assets and liabilities are handled equitably requires a lawyer with more than basic math skills. Make sure the lawyer you hire can read a spreadsheet as well as they can argue in court.

3. Life after divorce isn’t always financially rosy.
For many divorcees, divorce means living on less money. That can be difficult, but for many people, it’s an acceptable trade-off. However, a skillful divorce lawyer can help mitigate that by securing an equitable share of the marital assets and so you can start the next chapter of your life in the black.

4. There are no guarantees.
Any lawyer who promises you a particular outcome — whether it’s a particular division of the assets, custody or some other result — is skating on thin ice, ethically and legally. We can do our best to achieve a successful outcome, but just like a doctor can’t promise you’ll be cured, no lawyer can or should promise a particular result.

5. Consider hiring a therapist.
Divorce is unquestionably a tough time for all involved. Although a good lawyer can also be a good sounding board, if you find yourself spending more time with her talking about your feelings than your legal issues, it’s time to enlist the aid of a qualified therapist. Most experienced lawyers can refer you to a good one.

6. There is no such thing as a “discount divorce.”
When we see ads for divorce lawyers who claim to complete a divorce for a ridiculously low sum of money, we just shake our heads and sigh. Either the lawyer is doing a bait and switch or is doing poor work. Even a relatively simple divorce needs to be handled with care. That doesn’t have to break the bank, but it’s definitely going to cost more than a week’s worth of groceries.

7. Beware the “franchise office” approach to family law.
Some big-name law firms claim to have an array of offices in the DFW area, giving clients the illusion that they have top-drawer family lawyers as close as their neighborhood coffee house. Unfortunately, those offices are only minimally staffed, and their clients miss out on the teamwork and collaboration that clients in the “home office” get. The collective expertise of seasoned family lawyers is an invaluable asset that shouldn’t be underestimated.

8. Not every divorce requires a lawyer.
It’s true. Where there are no conflicts, no children, no shared assets or debts, and no issues of continuing financial support, it’s feasible that a divorcing couple could handle their case on their own. Granted, that’s an exceedingly rare scenario, but if that describes your situation, you may not need to hire a lawyer.

If you’re about to hire a divorce lawyer, take the time to interview him or her and make sure you’re hiring someone who has both your best interests at heart and the skills to handle your case exceptionally well. Your lawyer is going to be your advocate during a difficult time, so it’s not a choice to be taken lightly.

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For more information about the experienced attorneys at McCurley Orsinger, visit the firm’s website.

Image courtesy of McCurley Orsinger

What's unique about divorce in Dallas?

Dallas Divorce Advice

Divorce among the rich and famous, contentious custody fights between high-profile parents, palimony disputes involving same-sex couples, even international custody cases — we’ve all read the headlines and followed the stories. For more than 40 years, the lawyers of Dallas’ McCurley Orsinger McCurley Nelson & Downing have handled a wide array of trailblazing family law cases in Dallas and across the country.

Famously protective of their clients’ privacy, attorneys Mike McCurley and Scott Downing discreetly shared with us some of their insights on divorce in Big D.

“Dallas is still a land of opportunity”

The system is better here. “We have some of the best divorce judges in the country, and I practice divorce law all over the United States,” says McCurley. “Unlike most cities, Dallas has specialized family law courts, which makes all the difference in the world in the quality, education and knowledge of a judge.”

Downing agrees. “Dallas judges are used to dealing with divorce every day of the week,” he says. “In most other cities, the last thing a judge wants to deal with is divorce. The Dallas family law judges typically come from a family law background and have a lot of experience in these cases. As a lawyer, a lot of what you advise your client depends on what court you’re in, so it’s important to choose an attorney who knows these judges’ likes and dislikes.”

Dallas’ can-do spirit also makes a difference, McCurley says. “Dallas is still a land of opportunity, which includes economic opportunity, the availability of therapeutic care for children and the opportunity for remarriage. So there’s a sense of optimism in Dallas, even when facing something like divorce.”

What really matters?

Putting children first: “The one thing that Dallas lawyers come together on is making sure that children are taken care of,” McCurley says. “That is also demanded by our judiciary. Over the years, it has evolved into an atmosphere where actions harmful to children are not only inappropriate, but they are also unacceptable.”

It’s not about revenge: “Divorce is absolutely as nasty and contentious as you see on TV, sometimes even worse,” Downing says. “I’ve had wives fighting over sports memorabilia because they know it means a lot to their husbands, and I’ve had husbands argue that a piece of jewelry he bought for his wife was really an investment, not a gift. But you have to pick your battles. It doesn’t make sense to spend $30,000 fighting over a $5,000 asset.”

Are all divorce lawyers the same?

Choose your lawyer wisely. “If you hire a lawyer who only practices one of the methods of divorce — be it collaborative law, mediation, arbitration or traditional divorce — they’re going to fit your case into that method, whether it should be or not,” McCurley says. “That’s not to say that any of those methods are bad. They’re not. They can be very useful.

“But divorce is a serious situation. It impacts your children for the rest of their lives. Not necessarily negatively, but have no doubt, it impacts them. Economically, it is the single biggest financial transaction most people ever make. If there’s one piece of advice I can give you, it’s pick your lawyer carefully. Don’t hire an assembly-line lawyer.”

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For more information about the experienced attorneys at McCurley Orsinger, visit the firm’s website.

Image courtesy of McCurley Orsinger

Well-known Dallas divorce lawyers dispel myths about gender, power and custody

Family Law Facts

Dallas has a style all its own, and Dallas divorce is no different. Our city’s family law courts are some of the finest in the nation, but there nevertheless remain some myths and misconceptions about Dallas divorce.

We polled the family law attorneys at McCurley Orsinger McCurley Nelson & Downing, L.L.P., to see what they think are some of the more persistent misconceptions about Dallas divorce. Here’s what they said:

1. Women are not treated fairly.
“It’s 2014. Thankfully we don’t see that anymore.”

2. Only the high wage earner is going to have justice.
“In our experience, the courts go to great lengths to be fair to both parties, regardless of earnings history — or capacity.”

3. Having political power affects justice.
“Political prominence or economic power is not going to get you anything.”

4. There’s a quick fix.
“Each case needs to be considered and a specific strategy developed.”

5. Fathers can’t get custody.
“Not true. Men who want custody now have an equal chance of getting it.”

6. A demanding career means you won’t get custody.
“The courts have long been accustomed to parents with hard-charging jobs and recognize that it doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t also great parents.”

7. All divorce lawyers are the same.
“They’re not — not by a long shot.”

Every McCurley Orsinger partner is board certified in family law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, which means they must comply with a higher standard of continuing education and specialization than non-board certified attorneys.

For more information about the experienced attorneys at McCurley Orsinger, visit the firm’s website.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Spring galas glam up this week's 5 most popular Dallas stories

This week's hot headlines

Editor's note: A lot happened this week, so here's your chance to get caught up. Read on for the week's most popular headlines. Looking for the best things to do this weekend? Find that list here.

1. Save the date for these 13 must-attend Dallas galas and luncheons of spring 2023. With the busy holiday season behind us, it's time to start looking forward to all the bounties of spring. And in Dallas, that means the glitzy galas and lavish luncheons that benefit beloved nonprofits. Here are the dates and events to circle in your social calendar. (Young professionals, your list of top parties is here.)

2. 'Yellowstone' stars to greet fans at Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo. There was exciting news for Yellowstone fans this week: Cole Hauser a.k.a. "Rip Wheeler," and Taylor Sheridan, the show's co-creator, executive producer, and director of the series, were coming the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo to meet fans and sign autographs.

3. Legendary Longhorn Ballroom reveals first acts to perform at restored North Texas venue. The big acts are coming out for Dallas' famed Longhorn Ballroom, slated for a comeback in spring 2023. The historic venue, currently in the final throes of a renovation, is anticipated to softly reopen at the end of March, and already has shows on the books by epic performers including Emmylou Harris.

4. Event celebrating Dallas' Braniff Airways a must for fashion & flying buffs. Dallas' original hometown airline is having a moment: Braniff International will celebrate its 95th anniversary with an event that promises to be a must for fashion and airline buffs alike. Called The Braniff Style Tour & Fashion Show, it'll take place on March 11 at the Alexander Mansion.

5. Black Sheep Coffee from the U.K. comes to U.S. with debut in Dallas. A coffee shop from the U.K. with celebrity ties is opening its first U.S. location in Dallas. Called Black Sheep Coffee, it's a growing chain based in London with a renegade stance: to champion the robusta coffee bean, one overlooked by most coffee snobs.

A peek inside the $20 million Southlake mansion going wild on social media

WALKING ON SUNSHINE LANE

One of the most expensive homes in Texas is on the market for $20 million in Southlake - and it's drawing more than a little attention on social media.

And, no wonder: The opulent 31,000-square-foot mansion, at 1469 Sunshine Ln., features such over-the-top amenities as a full-size basketball court, bowling alley, batting cage, movie theater, and "indoor glass-enclosed" trampoline.

The transitional Mediterranean estate hit the market in December for a whopping $19.99 million. A January 30 post on the Zillow Gone Wild Facebook page called it "the most Southlake, TX home we’ve ever seen," and made it instantly social media-famous. Thousands of people have chimed in to comment.

Seated on 3.6 acres and boasting 31,234 square feet, the home was built in 2016 and features - at first glance - all the "normal" nice things that a nice mansion has: seven bedrooms, six full bathrooms and four half-baths, an open floor plan, smart home technology, and plenty of natural light to experience Texas sunsets.

Photo courtesy of Douglas Elliman

The mansion at 1469 Sunshine Ln., Southlake, is on the market for $20 million.

Then the listing gets to the part about it being “an entertainer’s paradise,” and that's where things get wild. The home can accommodate multiple athletic activities, has designated yoga and beauty rooms, a spa, wine room, and nine attached garage spaces.

Other features include:

  • Chef’s kitchen
  • Elevator
  • Gym
  • Game room
  • Two guest suites with a private entry
  • Turfed backyard

Elsewhere on the grounds is the perfect solution to enduring the hot Texas summers – two climate-controlled saltwater pools and hot tubs with a hidden waterslide, jumping rock, and diving board. The outdoor space is completed by an enclosed heated terrace, outdoor living area, and kitchen.

Zillow Gone Wild commenters have, predictably, expressed their awe or disdain for the extravagant manse. One commenter said they could imagine fictional mafia boss Tony Soprano “walking down that driveway in his bathrobe to get the paper,” after looking through the listing’s photos.

“This is the first mansion where I’m like, yep. I’d buy this if I was rich,” another admirer said.

A more sarcastic commenter wrote, “I’m sorry, but only one lane for bowling? I’m out.”

Critics were quick to call out the home’s opulence while others in the state struggle with homelessness or financial stability. “This kind of wealth actually makes me sick to my stomach. There’s so much better that could’ve been done with all this money,” one critic commented.

Others focused on guessing who the mansion belonged to. Southlake, after all, is home to plenty of celebrities and professional athletes.

Some guesses landed on a former baseball player’s home. “Serious question, is this A-Rod’s former house? It looks familiar, and he did play for the Rangers,” asked a curious viewer.

Other commenters believed the home belonged to a former Los Angeles Lakers player, after witnessing the signature gold and purple colors decorating the walls of the basketball court.

While Douglas Elliman listing agent Breah Brown said the owners wish to remain private (one might imagine the security concerns when a house goes viral on social media), she revealed they constructed the home themselves and are behind all aspects of the design and customization.

As for the next owners ... they can brag that they live in one of the top 10 most expensive homes in Texas in the richest city in the state.

These Mardi Gras pastries in Dallas beat regular King Cake by a mile

Pastry News

Mardi Gras in 2023 is February 21, and that means king cake, the flashy seasonal treat that has been a New Orleans tradition since 1870.

With its proximity to Louisiana, Dallas has always had a bounty of king cake options from which to choose, everywhere from supermarkets to local bakeries. Whether any of those king cake options are any good is another topic.

The baby is a cute schtick. King Cakes come with a little toy plastic baby that gets baked into the dough; whoever gets it and doesn't choke on it supposedly has good luck. There's that.

But the cake itself .... NewOrleans.com says that a prototypical king cake is somewhere between cinnamon roll and coffeecake, and is "frequently packed with fruit fillings and decadent cream cheeses."

Hm. That might be true in New Orleans — but Dallas king cakes always seem dry and bready, with the only distraction being the signature garishly colored sugar, so crunchy, it hurts your teeth.

It's almost as awful as kolaches.

Fortunately, Dallas has some creative king cake spinoffs that celebrate the spirit of king cake without forcing you to actually eat king cake.

Here are five:

la madeleine king cake danish King Cake Danish from La MadeleineLa Madeleine

Mardi Gras Danish at La Madeleine. The French bakery chain first introduced this seasonal pastry in 2019. It's described as a flaky Danish with a strawberry & cream cheese filling, topped with a fondant glaze and dusted with purple, yellow, & green sugar. It's basically croissant dough, fashioned into a Danish-like round shape, similar to their other Danish offerings such as lemon-blueberry Danish and ham & Swiss cheese Danish. $3.99, and it'll be available through March 7.

Overeasy king cake cupcakes King Cake cupcakes from Overeasy, festively iced.Overeasy

King Cake Cupcakes at Overeasy. The breakfast-and-lunch spot at the Statler Dallas hotel is doing special, house-made King Cake Cupcakes, featuring a vanilla cupcake topped with a colorful vanilla creme swirl rendered in the signature colors, and topped with a plastic baby. But you'll have to be quick because these are available for one day and one day only: on Mardi Gras day itself, February 21. You can enjoy them at the restaurant or get them to-go. The cupcakes are $2.99 each, $13.99 for a half-dozen, or $22.99 for a dozen. Best to order ahead of time by calling 469-320-8998.

Empire king cake Empire Baking Co King Cake is filled with cinnamon and pecans.Empire Baking Co.

Brioche King Cakes at Empire Baking Co. Dallas' premiere bakery is doing King Cakes for the first time. It being Empire, it's not like the others. They use a brioche dough into which they roll layers of cinnamon, chopped pecans, and a brown-butter glaze — almost (OK, exactly) like a giant cinnamon roll. It's then iced and dusted with sugar, but with a ratio of more icing and less sugar than the usual King Cake. They're selling them at both their Inwood Village and SMU locations on Fridays-Saturdays through February 19, then on Monday, February 20 and Tuesday, February 21. $35.

humble pie king cake It's a pie version of King Cake by Humble Pie.Humble Pie

King Cake Pie at Humble: Simply Good Pies. As this East Dallas pie shop notes, "We are a pie shop, so it made no sense to make a king cake." Instead they do this "Bon Temps" King Cake pie version, filling their flaky pie crust with a sweet-and-tart citrus chess pie with cinnamon swirl, topped with traditional icing and sugar. And of course, a baby in the center. The shop has a special connection to this item: It was the last pie they were forced to pitch after their location caught on fire in March 2022. The pies are $45 and are available for order through February 21.

Dusty Biscuits king cake Dusty Biscuits' beignet version of a king cake.Dusty Biscuits

Mardi Gras beignets at Dusty Biscuit Beignets. Fort Worth beignet shop does one of the most clever New Orleans crossover items, combining two NOLA favorites — King Cake + beignets — into one. Fluffy fried beignets get drizzled with a sweet cream cheese glaze, dusted with cinnamon sugar, then colored powdered sugar. They're such a signature that they do them year-round, and are 3 to an order for $6. During Mardi Gras season, they also do a mini-king-cake version, using their same beignet dough, but in a traditional round, with an iridescent purple plastic baby in the center. The mini-cake is $12 and officially serves 2 to 4.