& Answer Part II
Generally, the custodial parent is entitled to the
tax exemption for the child, unless otherwise agreed to by the
parties. Also, certain child care deductions are available. Discuss
these with your attorney or tax advisor.
There are also a number of other issues which may
not directly relate to the dissolution of your marriage, but which
are available to you at the time of your divorce and which, as a
general rule, must be raised at the time of divorce, or they will
be waived. These issues do not arise in the typical case, but may
be applicable to yours. If so, you should discuss them with your
Causes of Action Against Spouse
Besides the typical causes of action raised in a
divorce, one spouse may have a cause of action back against the
other spouse for acts or omissions which may directly relate to the
dissolution of the marriage. These included, for example, a civil
cause of action for assault (e.g., one spouse hits the other),
false imprisonment (e.g., one spouse locks the other up), one
intentionally defrauds the other of their separate property, one
spouse takes the other's separate property and gives it to another
person, etc. There also may be a cause of action for mental anguish
against a spouse. If anything like these examples seems to apply to
your case, discuss it with your attorney.
Causes of Action Against Third Persons
There are also certain causes of action which one
spouse may have against third persons which may be joined with the
divorce. These include, for example, a request that a third party
transfer back to one spouse property that was wrongfully given to
that third person by the other spouse in an attempt to defraud the
spouse, a suit trustee of a trust being held for the benefit of a
spouse, etc. If any of these or similar matters exist in your case,
let your attorney know.
Note: The action known as "alienation of
affection," which allowed a spouse to sue the lover of the other
spouse has been abolished in Texas.
Attorney's Fees, Costs, & Expenses
Attorney's fee's, costs and expenses related to
litigation are treated as any other debt or liability of the
parties and will be divided by the court in a manner that the court
deems "just and right." The court can sometimes order one spouse to
pay the other spouse's fees, costs and expenses either in whole, or
in part. An order to pay these fees and expenses is within the
discretion of the judge. There is no automatic right to the award
of these fees and expenses.
Caution: One of the reasons a judge might
require a spouse to pay the fees of the other is if that spouse has
been uncooperative and has not followed the law and the rules with
reference to the divorce proceeding.
Steps in Divorce
While these proceedings may be confusing and strange to
you, there are 6 typical phrases which average divorce case may go
1st—Initiating the divorce
3rd—Discovery of evidence
5th—Trial (if no settlement)
divorce case takes on its own unique personality, these basic steps
occur in one form or another in most divorce cases.
Note: The law prohibits a divorce decree from
being entered until at least 60 days have elapsed from the date the
divorce petition was filed. This "cooling off" period is, of
course, just a minimum period of time. Most cases take much longer
Initiating the Divorce
A divorce is initiated by the filing of a divorce
petition by one of the spouses (the petitioner"), the service of
the petition on the other spouse (the "respondent" and the filing
of a written response (and usually a counter-petition) by the
respondent. The manner in which a divorce is initiated can set the
tone for the rest of the divorce case; therefore, how it is
initiated must be carefully considered.
Sometimes emergencies may exist, requiring
immediate action. For example, one spouse may be destroying
property, running up unusual debts, hiding or threatening to run
off with the children, abusing or threatening the other spouse or
the children, etc. In these cases, a Temporary Restraining Order
(discussed in detail below) can be issued.
Petition for Divorce
The first legal step taken by the petitioner's
attorney is the drafting of a Petition for Divorce. It sets out the
basic information required by the Texas Family Code, states the
ground for and requests a divorce, requests a division of community
property and recognition of the petitioner's separate property, and
requests orders concerning the children, etc. (discussed in detail
below), and it may request the court to make temporary orders
A petition can be
amended time again when necessary, provided it is not later than
seven days prior to that trial or some other deadline imposed by
the court. Often the original petition is very mild, without
containing any inflammatory allegation, like adultery. There are
several reasons for this. First, it helps start the process on a
less combative basis, which may help to keep the costs of the
litigation from escalating. Second, your attorney may not want to
reveal all of your legal positions at the beginning, unless to do
so might promote settlement or otherwise benefit you.
The petition will be
filed with the court clerk (for which a filing fee is charges), and
the clerk will assign your case a cause number. The clerk keeps a
file and docket sheet on your case.
Service of Petition
The respondent must receive a copy of the petition.
This may be done in one of two ways. The petition may be formally
served on the respondent by a Sheriff, Constable or private process
server. Or, the petition may be informally given or mailed to the
respondent or his attorney. Formal service is required if a
Temporary Restraining Order is requested, and it may be preferred
in many situations; however, it also can be embarrassing to the
respondent to be served at his place of business and this in turn
starts the case off on a bad footing. While informal service may be
less antagonistic, it has its drawbacks. A respondent is required
to file a formal "response" (discussed below) within a certain
time, but only if formally served. Your attorney will discuss these
options with you before the filing of the petition.
Response & Counter-Petition
If formally served, the respondent must file a
written response to the petition within a stated time from the date
of service, usually 20 days. This response is usually called and
"answer" in which the respondent "denies all of the allegations in
the original petition." This is a standard form which serves to
prevent the petitioner from taking a default judgment against the
respondent. The respondent may file a counter-petition for divorce
against the petitioner. It is usually delivered to the petitioner's
attorney, without formal service on the petitioner.
Between the time of the filing of the petition and
the granting of the divorce, the parties usually enter into
temporary orders, either by agreement or by court order, to govern
the parties, their property, debts and children pending the
Temporary Restraining Order (TRO)
If emergencies exist, requiring immediate action to
protect a spouse, a child, or any property, a Temporary Restraining
Order (TRO) can be signed by the judge and served on the respondent
along with the petition. It immediately restrains the respondent
from the acts described in the order. If you are served with a TRO,
you should be certain to obey all of its terms, failure to do so is
punishable by contempt of court. The TRO expires 14 days after it
is issued; therefore, a hearing on temporary orders must be held
within the 14-day period, so that temporary orders of a more
indefinite duration can be entered.
A temporary order may be entered by agreement of
the parties or by the court after a temporary hearing. If by
agreement, the parties save the expense of a pre-trial hearing. A
temporary order may be entered whether or not a TRO has been
issued. Temporary orders normally stay in effect until the final
decree is granted.
The temporary order
may provide for an injunction against the parties hiding, wasting
or destroying property, prohibiting them from incurring any unusual
debts, and contain orders for temporary custody and support of
children. The court may also order one spouse to pay temporary
alimony to the other spouse. You should be prepared to provide your
attorney with details of your monthly living expenses as well as
payments on debts. This information is essential for determining
amount of temporary support to be paid or received. The temporary
order usually requires the parties to produce documents and/or to
file a formal inventory (discussed below).
Discovery of Evidence
The facts regarding the property, debts, the
parties, and the children from the foundation of any divorce case.
Therefore, information gathering is one of the most important and
time consuming aspects of the divorce. You have more knowledge of
or access to the necessary information and documents, than does
your attorney. The more you can gather, the less time must be spent
on this aspect of your case by the attorney. The more you are
involved in this process, the more you learn about the facts
necessary to make appropriate decisions regarding your own case.
For all of these reasons, you need to be as personally involved as
possible in gathering information.
You will be given detailed information sheets to be
completed. While tedious and time-consuming, it is extremely
important for you to complete these with as much detail as
You may be requested to gather and bring to your
attorney many different documents, such as real estate deeds, bank
statements, insurance policies, etc. If you do not have these in
your possession, try to get them from other sources (except your
spouse). If you cannot, notify your attorney as soon as
In most cases, the parties are required to prepare
and file an "Inventory and Appraisement," which is a listing of all
community and separate real property as well as liabilities of the
parties. Your attorney will assist you with the form of the
inventory. You will be asked to state the value of the property and
the exact amount of any liability. You are required to sign the
inventory, under oath.
This is a very
important part of your case. You must be complete and truthful in
your inventory. If your case is not settled and a trial becomes
necessary, the judge uses the information contained in the
inventory to assist in dividing the property. If you swear to one
thing in your inventory and later, at the trial, attempt to take a
different position, your testimony will be suspect.
Often it is necessary to hire appraisers to help
establish the value of property, including real estate, retirement
benefits, businesses, or other assets. Your attorney will advise
you if this is necessary in your case.
Under Texas law, parties to any suit, including
divorce, are allowed to discover a great deal of information from
the other party by means of formal discovery devices. These include
oral deposition of a party or witness, interrogatories (written
questions which are answered under oath), requests for production
of documents and requests for admissions. One or more of these may
be used in your case. Your attorney will advise you with respect to
Caution: Most forms of formal discovery
require strict compliance deadlines, usually 30 days from the day
they are served on your attorney. There are harsh sanctions for
failure to comply, including payment of fines and/or attorney's
fees. Further failure to supplement your answers 30 days prior to
trial may result in undesirable consequences. For example, failure
to list a witness in answer to an interrogatory will mean that
person is excluded from testifying at the time of trial.
After all the discovery is concluded, the parties
will enter into settlement negotiations. Rest assured that no
settlement offer will be made or accepted by your attorney until
you have fully understood and approved the proposal. Usually,
several offers and counter-offers are made back and forth between
the parties before a settlement is hammered out.
Probably over 90% of
all cases are settled out of court, although this often happens
just prior to trial (e.g., "on the courthouse steps") or,
sometimes, in the middle of trial. Although settlements may appear
to be possible, your attorney cannot ignore trial preparations if
settlement negotiations are not successful and the trial date is
One reason parties
settle is to avoid the expense of trial. Also, neither party nor
their attorneys can predict in advance exactly how particular judge
on a particular day is going to rule in any given case.
The key to any
settlement is compromise. While no settlement can be forced on you
or your spouse, both you and your spouse need to understand that
compromise and a reasonable attitude of "give and take" is
necessary if there is going to be any reasonable chance of a
meaningful settlement. Neither party ever gets all that they
effectively negotiate a settlement, you must try to look at these
settlement negotiations from your spouse's point of view; a good
negotiator always attempts to put himself in the shoes of the
opponent and try to determine what issues are most important to the
opponent, where the opponent will draw the line on what issues,
As can be expected,
attorneys generally advise clients with regard to settlement based
on the number of factors, but the major factor is a determination
by the attorney of what a court would probably do if the case went
to trial. Any settlement offers which are unreasonably out of line
with what a court would probably do are rarely accepted except
under the most extreme and unusual circumstances.
Settlement may be
achieved by way of process known as mediation. The parties may
agree to seek mediation or they may be ordered to mediation by the
court. A neutral third party, usually an experienced lawyer or a
retired judge, is selected to serve as the mediator. The fees for
the mediator are usually shared by the parties. Both spouses and
their attorneys appear before the mediator in efforts to settle the
The mediator is not
an arbitrator. That is, he has no power to "force" a settlement or
otherwise adjudicate the dispute. He does attempt to compromise the
legal differences between the parties and encourage a resolution.
Usually, a portion of the time spent with the mediator is devoted
to the parties 'venting" their grievances against the other.
Following that phase, the mediator will ask each side to express
his or her suggestion for settlement. From there the mediator
discusses, in private with each side, possible compromises to the
differences. If successful, this process eventually results in a
settlement. Most cases are mediated in one day's time. Normally, it
does not occur over days or weeks. Statements made in mediation are
confidential and are subject to the "settlement rule," discussed
below. This allows the parties to freely exchange their views
without fear that they will be admissible at the time of trial.
Your attorney will advise you as to the suitability of mediation
for your particular case.
Finally, there often
comes a time when settlement negotiations reach the point of
negative return, and the attorney's must finally turn their
energies to preparing for trial.
Caution: In Texas, a rule referred to as the
'settlement rule" generally keeps out of evidence any settlement
negotiations going on between attorney's; however, this only
applies to formal settlement negotiations between or conducted by
the attorneys. This rule does not apply to private settlement
discussions between the individual spouses; therefore, anything
that you say to your spouse can (and most likely will) be
admissible into evidence if the case goes to trial. This can be
devastating. For example, in one case, a husband told his wife in a
phone conversation that he really didn't want the children, that he
was only asking for custody of the children in order to try and
help on the property settlement, and that if she would just not ask
for so much property and child support, then he would gladly let
her have custody of the children. As you can expect, all of this
conversation was brought out to the court, and it was quite harmful
to husband's case.
Trial (If No Settlement)
If settlement negotiations fail, then the case must go to
trial. Do not be unduly fearful of trail. Trails in real life are
not what they are on TV or in the movies. Rarely is there anybody
present in the entire courtroom except the two parties and their
attorneys and staff, the judge, a clerk and the court reporter. The
atmosphere is unusually very formal and subdued. No one gets up in
a witness's face and mercilessly grills the witness on
cross-examination until they break down. No judge would allow such
conduct in real life. Your attorney and the staff will prepare you
extensively for any and all roles you will have at trial.
Sometimes only the
parties testify, while in other trials a large number of expert and
fact witnesses will be called to testify. The vast majority of
divorces cases are tried before the judge, not a jury. For one
reason, jury trials are much more expensive and time-consuming than
trial to the court. In some cases, however, jury trials are
appropriate. Your attorney will discuss these 2 options with
All the conclusion
of trial, the judge will enter his or her rulings and orders,
usually right in the courtroom or sometimes, days later by way of a
letter to the attorneys.
After a settlement has been reached or the trail
court has entered its orders, there is a great deal of work to be
If the case has been tried, very often one or both parties
may file various post-trial motions with the court, asking the
court to reconsider its rulings, etc. There are certain deadlines
for the filing of these motions (e.g., 30 days after the divorce
decree is signed). You and your attorney can decide whether or not
you need to file any post-trial motions, but you cannot control
what your spouse and his/her attorney does. In any event, these
post-trial matters can sometimes be quite time-consuming.
Whether your case is settled or tried, there is great deal
of work to be done with respect to drafting of the divorce decree
and other documents. Any agreed or litigated judgment for divorce
is only as good as it is enforceable, and its enforceability
depends in large part on how carefully it is drafted. Many lawyers
have done well for their clients at trial or in settlement, only to
end up losing much of what they had gained because of the of
attorney "outdrafting' them with respect to the decree and/or
agreement (lawyers sometimes refer to this as getting "pencil
whipped"). Therefore, a great deal of time and care must go into
the tedious drafting of your unique decree and the documents
related to your divorce.
Rest assured that
you will approve in advance any and all documents before they are
finalized and signed by the parties and the court.
Decree (Agreement Incident to Divorce)
If your divorce case is settled, it may result in 2
documents—a lengthy Agreement Incident to Divorce, which is signed
by the parties (this is a contract between the parties), and a
short Agreed Final Decree of Divorce, which incorporates and
approves the parties' agreement and signed by the judge (this is a
judgment by the court). Or, your settled divorce may result in only
one document entitled an Agreed Decree of divorce, which is signed
by the parties and the judge and serves, simultaneously, as both a
contract between the parties and judgment of the court. The
consensual decree is enforceable not only as a private contract
between the parties, but also as a decree which is enforceable as
any other judgment entered by court.
If your divorce is
litigated, then only 1 judgment—a Final Decree of Divorce—will
be signed by the judge. It is enforceable as any other civil
judgment, but it is not enforceable as a contract between the
Besides the decree and the agreement discussed above, many
other documents often need to be drafted to implement the terms of
the divorce decree or agreement, such as real estate documents,
etc. Again, your attorney and you will fully review these documents
before they are signed.
Although appeals are extremely difficult to win and can be
very costly, they are available. Your attorney will discuss the
option of an appeal with you should the need arise.
Things to Avoid
There are a number of very important things for you
to carefully avoid throughout your entire divorce case. Despite
what your spouse may do, it is important that you keep a "white
hat" on throughout these proceedings. Violating any of the
following rules can be very detrimental to your case. Although most
of these rules have been discussed above, they bear
Don't Disclose Confidential Information to
Remember, the attorney-client privilege only exists
between you and your attorney and her immediate, in-house staff.
Therefore, in order to keep this type of confidential information
privileged from disclosure, do not discuss it with or give it to
anybody, including your spouse and including any professional hired
to assist you in this case.
Don't Hide/Destroy Property or Documents
Whether or not any temporary orders have been
entered, never destroy, waste, hide, alter, collateralize or
otherwise do anything to affect the title or value of any property,
or destroy or alter any documents. Be sure to consult with your
attorney regarding any question that you have with respect to
dealing with present property and existing documents.
Don't Incur Unusual
Whether or not temporary orders have been entered, never incur
unusual debts or liabilities (e.g., charge an unusual high amount
of clothes, an expensive vacation, etc.). This will generally be
considered against you by the judge and, more often than not, the
judge will first make an overall "just and right" division of the
property and debts and then, thereafter, order that you solely
responsible for any such unusual liabilities.
Don't Discuss the Settlement
As discussed, the rule precluding evidence at trial
of settlement negotiations between attorneys does not apply to
settlement negotiations between spouses. Therefore, do not discuss
settlement with your spouse unless authorized in advance by your
Beware of Telephone Tape
It is not unusual for one spouse to tape record the telephone
conversations he has with the other spouse. These recordings are
admissible into evidence and have been the downfall of many
irrational spouses. Any time you speak to your spouse on the phone,
you should presume that it is being taped. Do not tape a call
unless you discuss this issue with your attorney as there may be
serious criminal liabilities that may apply.
Don't Belittle Your Spouse to Other People,
Especially the Children
Judges and juries do not take kindly to one spouse
belittling the other spouse to third persons, and especially the
children. Everyone realizes that there are certain people with whom
you will confide about your divorce and that some criticism of your
spouse is natural; however, try as hard as you can to keep this to
a minimum, for these people may have to testify under oath as to
all of the negative remarks or hot-headed threats you may have made
against your spouse in a moment of anger. It is not uncommon to
take the deposition of the best friend of one of the spouses, who
will admit that the spouse has stated that "I'm going to take that
so-and-so to the cleaners, and I don't care what it costs, even if
I have to lie to the courts to do it." These remarks will have
extremely undesirable consequences.
Above all else,
never criticize your spouse in front of or to the children. It
cannot be overemphasized how detrimental this will be to your case.
It has literally cost many a parent custody of the children. Judges
and juries are extremely critical of this behavior. Most mental
health professionals will tell you that the children get their own
self-esteem from both parents; therefore, when one parent tells the
child that the other parent is "no good,' this can leave
long-lasting scars on the child's self-image. Also, child
psychologist warn that eventually, this criticism of the other
parent will backfire on the criticizing parent; the child, as he
grows older, starts to know the other parent in a different and
better light and feels that his earlier alienation from that parent
was unjustified and caused by the other parent; they eventually
resent the criticizing parent. In any event, you are strongly
advised against making any criticism of the other parent or taking
any action which could remotely tend to alienate the affections of
the children for the other parent.
Don't Start a Business, Contract, or Purchase
Even if you are separated and the divorce petition
has been filed, you are still legally married, and any property
purchased, even if it is on the day before the divorce, will be
considered community property. If that property is not divided at
the time of the divorce, then it will be considered undivided
community property to which both parties have and interest. Even
years after the divorce, the court can require you to petition that
property or order it sold, so that your spouse can own a share of
the property. The same rule applies to the establishment of a
business. Before you purchase any property or enter into any
contracts while your divorce is pending, consult your
The following are questions frequently asked by
persons at the beginning of divorce litigation. The answers
provided are general. You should ask your attorney to discuss the
specifics of your case.
When Can I Begin to Date?
Not until the divorce is final. Adultery is a
ground for the granting of a divorce based upon fault. Your legal
status as a married person does not change until a divorce is
granted. Although some judges are lenient regarding dating while a
divorce is pending, you should be cautious about taking this risk.
The fact that your spouse may be dating should not be an excuse or
justification for your conduct. You need to wear the "white hat."
If you do decide to date, you should know that it may impact
adversely on a child custody dispute. In no event should you
introduce the children to your dates. No community funds should be
spent for the entertainment of third parties.
How Do I Get a "Legal Separation?"
There is no such thing as a "legal separation"
under Texas law. Even though temporary orders may be entered by the
court, they are not to be construed as a legal separation.
Can I Open My Spouses Mail?
No, if you receive any mail addressed solely to
your spouse, it should be forwarded to him or to her by you or
through your attorney.
Should I Close Bank Accounts and/or Credit
If you have been served with a Temporary
Restraining Order, you will be prohibited from closing accounts. If
you have not, you are free to close the accounts. You should
consider the possible consequences. Closing an account without
notice to your spouse may cause unnecessary embarrassment. It may
also increase hostility and mistrust.
If your spouse is
likely to spend or hide money in an account or run up large
balances on credit cards, it may be a wise decision. If you close
bank accounts, you should not spend the funds. The best plan is to
deposit all the funds from the closed account into a new account,
solely in your name, so that you can fully account for the
Can I Record Telephone Conversations?
Wiretapping is a felony and can subject you to
criminal prosecution. However, it is lawful to tape record a
conversation as long as one party to the conversation consents to
the recording. Therefore, you may record a conversation between
yourself and another person. You may NOT secretly install a
recording device so as to intercept conversations between others.
To do so is a felony. The whole issue of recording telephone
conversations is very sensitive. You should carefully discuss it
with your attorney. You may record a conversation you have with any
other person, so long as you are a party to the conversation. If a
recording you have made is to be used at trial, it is required that
the conversation be recorded from the first ring until the
conversation is concluded, and you have hung up the phone. Partial
recordings are not admissible.
Can a Witness Testify by Affidavit?
No, except in very limited circumstances relating
to business records. Generally, testimony must be given in person
at the time of trial, or by pretrial deposition. This gives each
side the opportunity to examine and cross-examine the
If your case involves domestic violence and/or
child abuse, you should make these matters known to your attorney
If your spouse has a history of violence or threats
of violence toward you or others, you should be aware of the
availability of protective orders which can be issued by the court.
These orders will prohibit your spouse from coming near you, your
residence or place of business. Violation of the order can result
in immediate arrest.
However, if a person
is intent on causing harm to another, no court order will provide
full protection from danger. You may need to consider taking refuge
in a shelter or other secure location. These are serious matters
and you should employ all means to protect yourself from harm. This
also means that you should IMMEDIATELY cease any contract with your
If you have reason to believe that your child has
been abused, you should immediately report it to the local police
or child welfare authority as well as your attorney. However, you
should never make unfounded or capricious allegations of child
abuse. That will adversely impact your position in a child custody
dispute. Understand the discussions that you tell your attorney
regarding child abuse that may involve you may not be covered by
the attorney client privilege. A lawyer like many other
professionals has a duty to report abuse of a child even involving
their own client.
If the allegation is
based upon sound evidence, your attorney will discuss the methods
available to protect the child from further abuse. In most cases,
the child should be seen by a physician and/or mental health
professional as soon as you learn of the abuse.
The Nature of Divorce Cases
Divorce cases are unlike virtually all other civil
litigation. For one thing, they are extremely emotional-charged.
Further, they require a working knowledge of such a wide variety of
different areas of the law. Also, judges have much broader
discretion in family law cases than they do in most other areas of
distinction between divorce cases and most other area of litigation
is that there is virtually never a clear-cut "winner" or "loser" in
a divorce case. Both divorcing parties are usually asking for the
same thing—a "fair" division of the assets and debts and a "proper"
decision that is in the best interest of the children. The problem
is, each has a completely different view of "fair" and "proper."
Because judges have such broad discretion in family law cases and
because each judge brings his or her own set of values to the
bench, the results in a divorce case are frequently unpredictable
in virtually identical cases.
have a tendency to "play Solomon" in divorce cases. They try to be
fair by splitting things down the middle i.e., to give both parties
some, but not all, of what they want. For example, a husband will
say that his business (which he will want to receive in the decree)
is worth only $10,000. Wife's expert will swear it is worth
$50,000, and the judge will determine it is worth $25,000, which
pleases neither party. Unfortunately, this is often the rule rather
than the exception in divorce cases.
convinced that his or her points of view are the only "fair" and
"proper" views, feels that they need to somehow be vindicated for
all of the pain and hurt gone through. They set up false
expectations. They expect courts to "solve" their financial and
other problems. In reality, courts cannot usually "solve" a party's
problems; all a court can do is to divide up what presently exists
and grant a divorce.
Because of all of
the above, it has become an unfortunate but an often-stated saying
among divorce attorneys that, if the court enters an order which is
not satisfactory to either party, it is probably a fair
Also, because of the
above, it is very difficult for any attorney to predict with any
degree of certainty exactly what a judge will do in a particular
case. All attorneys have won some that they should lose and lost
some that they thought they should have won, and while attorneys
can generally give a broad ballpark idea of what a judge will
probably do (if everything falls into place), there is no way for
any lawyer to guarantee what a judge is going to do on a given
case. This is one of the reasons so many cases settle.
Finally, it is very
difficult for any party to come out of a divorce feeling as if he
is the "winner," no matter what the result is. Sometimes this is
because of false expectations, and often it is because there is no
way for either party to be a "winner" or "loser" in the overall
scheme of things.
us in Lewisville,
Texas, to talk to
one of our divorce lawyers about
divorce and family law legal issues.