Educating Yourself For The Unexpected

Educating Yourself For The Unexpected

by Steve Gamel

Local lawyer Charla Bradshaw has a message every married couple should hear.

Charla Bradshaw is a human encyclopedia of family law, and her knowledge of divorce-related matters, in particular, is unmatched. In a matter of 10 minutes, the Denton native and well-known attorney of 24 years can rattle off every nuance of the divorce process, from what temporary orders are, to the many motions that can be filed on your behalf or against you. And she can do it all in a way that truly makes you believe she’ll have your back every step of the way.

While Bradshaw doesn’t expect her clients at KoonsFuller Family Law to know all the ins and outs of the legal process, she is amazed and concerned how woefully unprepared many spouses are when it comes to their household finances.

“I see it every day,” said Bradshaw, managing shareholder of the Denton office of KoonsFuller Family Law. “They don’t have that basic knowledge of their accounts, where those accounts are located, or the account numbers, or even what bills need to be paid. Usually, it’s because most couples have one spouse in charge of the finances, and in the case of a divorce or death, the other spouse is placed at an extreme disadvantage as they are forced to get up to speed in an already stressful situation.

“Because they don’t know about their finances, assets or debts, they have no idea what is being done to them.”

According to a survey by TD Ameritrade, two-thirds of married Americans don’t have a financial plan in place and often overlook the possibility of divorce or losing a loved one in their financial planning. Per that same report, approximately four in ten marriages eventually end in divorce and about a quarter of Americans age 65 and older are widowed.

Bradshaw believes it is her responsibility as a local lawyer to educate citizens so they are as prepared as they can be before they walk into her office, or in the case of a spouse’s death. That alone has helped her and KoonsFuller stand out in a world where clients have plenty of options. KoonsFuller has five offices in Denton, Plano, Houston, Dallas, and Southlake. Bradshaw is at the center of it all and has gained a state-wide reputation while litigating some of the most difficult cases, both locally and internationally. Her vast experience in family law has made her a clear choice as an expert for speeches and appearances, with regard to family law-related matters.

Oh, and by the way, she even contemplated going into marriage and family therapy before becoming an attorney. She completed all of her masters, but the thesis, at Texas Woman’s University in marriage and family therapy. That family-first mindset is proof that she cares about her clients more than the mighty dollar.

“I want my clients to know that they were represented to the fullest, and when it’s over, that we have resources to help them,” Bradshaw said.

Bradshaw said the first step in the process — above everything else — is getting educated on your finances.

“Usually it’s the spouse that doesn’t have access to the household money, or doesn’t have knowledge of the finances, who has a lot more attorney fees involved in the divorce process. That’s because you’re asking the attorney to go get information from the other spouse — who knows everything,” she said. “You need to know where all the money is and what accounts you have. You need to read your tax return, too. I can’t tell you how many people out there just sign their tax return, or not, and move on. Then, when divorce happens, or their spouse passes away unexpectedly, they are left completely in the dark. This is such a huge pocket of stress that can be 100 percent avoided.”

Furthermore, if you are in a relationship where your spouse manages the money and does not want you to know anything about the finances, that is a major red flag that needs to be identified and changed quickly. Bradshaw suggested that both spouses annually sit down together and go over their finances, share responsibilities in paying bills, and share passwords to bank accounts and other financial information, including income tax returns.

With that type of education and knowledge, you can be far more prepared if you find yourself getting divorced, or your spouse passes away. Some other tips Bradshaw shared include, but are not limited to:

• Know your finances and protect that money before you or your spouse files for divorce.
• Assess what retainer will be necessary to hire an attorney.
• Know that the less knowledge you have about your finances, the more expensive your divorce may be.
• Find a lawyer who is willing to walk you through the process and answer all your questions.
• Provide as much of the information your attorney asks for, so they don’t have to spend time doing it for you and charging you to do so.

“If more couples would simply put themselves in a position where both are educated on the household finances, they’d be better prepared in the event of divorce or death. It’s far less of a burden in an already stressful situation,” Bradshaw said. “At the end of the day, I want to be there for as many people as I can. That includes people who are going through a divorce, are thinking about it, or couples who are completely happy but unsure about their finances. I want to help in any way I can to get the message out. But at the end of the day, it takes a spouse who does not have the knowledge to step up and obtain the information.”

Charla Bradshaw has been practicing family law for more than 24 years and is co-author of the book Protecting Your Assets from a Texas Divorce.
To learn more, visit her page at

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