Articles Posted in Divorce

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If you have a final decree or final order in a family law case with an obvious mistake from what the trial court ordered or the parties agreed, you can get it fixed through what is called a Nunc Pro Tunc.  The key is that this mistake has to be a clerical error—did it mix up the judgment of the court.  It cannot be one that requires “judicial reasoning and determination” or in other words any thought process on the judge’s part.  If it is in fact a clerical error, then under Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, the trial court can fix this clerical error at any time.

What is an Example of a Clerical Error?

In Bernardo Reyes v. Olga Reyes, the Amarillo Seventh District Court of Appeals had to address this issue.  In that case, the trial court made an initial order on the record divorcing the parties and making appropriate orders regarding conservatorship and child support.  Most importantly, the trial court ordered that mother be the parent who has the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the children and father to pay child support. The trial court rendered the orders on the record but the final decree was never actually signed by the court until three years later.  The problem was that the actual decree ordered mother to pay child support.  Mom filed a nunc pro tunc to fix this obvious error.  The trial court entered the nunc pro tunc, correcting the error that it was actually father who was supposed to be paying child support.  Father challenged that.  In reviewing the trial court’s record, the appellate court was able to determine that this was in fact a clerical error and affirmed the trial court’s ruling.

What do I do if my Orders are wrong?

Make sure that the error in the orders is due to someone’s name being incorrectly used or incorrect numbers, etc.  Child support is a typical area where nunc pro tunc orders are used.  If you find an error, file a nunc pro tunc as soon as possible.  It is always better to correct the error when you find it.  If you are facing this situation, contact a family law attorney at Guest & Gray for a free consultation.

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Your spouse has filed for divorce but tells you that you guys can agree on everything and that you do not need an attorney.  They also tell you that you do not even have to be served by process server but instead that you can sign a “waiver”.  This means that you sign the document, accept the petition informally from your spouse, and you will not be formally served by a process server or constable.  Many people just sign the waiver without even knowing what it means or consulting with an attorney.  The reality is you probably do not want to sign this.  Reason being, when you sign this document you waive citation, filing an answer, and further notice in your divorce.  Thus, if your spouse wanted to they could proceed forward with whatever final orders that they wanted to present to the court giving you absolutely none of the property and/or no rights to your children.

An example of just how bad a waiver of service could be is found in Garduza v. Castillo from the 5th District Dallas County Court of Appeals.   In that case, the husband appealed a Dallas trial court’s opinion to allow a default judgment order against husband and in favor of wife.  The wife initially filed a pro se (not represented by an attorney) petition for divorce and represented to the trial court that she and her husband would agree on everything.  Husband then filed a waiver of service that waived everything—future notice of any hearings, citation, filing an answer, being a part of the case.  After that, the wife hired an attorney (because apparently she could not get that agreement) and they filed a couple of amended petitions seeking primary of the children, back child support, and other issues.  The wife and her attorney then proceeded forward to the default docket and presented an order to the trial court which was signed because the husband filed a waiver.  However, once the husband received a copy of the decree he was not very happy.  All of the orders were completely against what he and his wife had initially discussed and he was not in agreement with the trial court’s determinations.  Thus, he proceeded forward with an appeal.  He still did not get an attorney and filed the appeal himself.  The appeal was not properly filed; however, because the appellate court determined that husband was never “served” properly with the amended petitions this was sufficient to grant the appeal.  That is, the appellate court did recognize that husband filed a waiver of service.  However, the appellate court determined that wife filed two amended petitions and they were never “served” on the husband as required by Texas Rules of Procedure Rule 21a.  That is, once you sign a waiver or even if you are served by a process server, if the other party files any additional affirmative pleadings they must give you proper notice of this.  This is accomplished through sending the additional affirmative pleadings via certified mail return receipt requested.  The appellate court found that the wife did not do this and thus they could overrule the trial court’s orders.

Chances are you will not be as lucky as Mr. Garduza.  He genuinely skated by and got another bite at the apple from the sheer fact that his spouse filed amended petitions and failed to serve him those by mail.  If they had not filed amended petitions and just proceeded forward with what the wife wanted in the orders, this would not have been a successful appeal.   There are actually three morals to this story—always get an attorney to protect your rights and interests; do not sign a waiver unless you are absolutely certain of the orders that will be presented to the court AND you attend all hearings; and you have to be served by a process server with the initial pleading unless you sign a waiver of service and then all future notice goes to you by certified mail.  If you are facing this situation, contact an attorney at Guest & Gray today.

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Are you facing a divorce with your spouse and you are concerned that you are not the father of your child?  You have probably always had that feeling (given your spouse’s cheating history) that you are not the child’s biological father but you just have never acted on that feeling.  However, now that you are facing a divorce you feel that it is important to raise this as an issue and deny your paternity.  Absent addressing all of the issues that can arise with a denial of paternity, you need to know what can happen in the interim while the case is pending.  You may not be the biological father, but you still may be the presumed father.

What is a presumed father?

You are the presumed father for all legal purposes if one of the following is true: you are married to the mother and the child was born during the marriage; you married the mother before the birth of the child even if the marriage could be invalid; you married the mother before the birth of the child and your name is on the birth certificate.  This means, even if you are not the biological father of the child you are the father in the eyes of the law.  Therefore, the judge can make orders according to that legal fact and most likely will do so.

Presumed fathers can be made to pay child support, even if they are not the biological father

If you have a temporary orders hearing coming up and the issue of denial of paternity is not on the court’s docket then the court can make orders with respect to visitation and even child support. Yes, you read that correctly—even child support.  You could be ordered to pay child support on the child until the denial of paternity is set for a hearing and granted by the court.  In fact, Texas Family Code Section 160.309 commands that the court must do so.  Reason being—it is not the child’s fault that you have decided to question your paternity now at this point and most courts will not leave a child without support.  You are the presumed father and therefore the Family Code allows the court to make appropriate orders in line with such.

Therefore, the suggestion would be that if you are in fact going to question your paternity you need to do so in the beginning and make sure the appropriate pleadings/requests are on file and a hearing over this issue should be heard before any other.  That may eliminate any interim orders of child support, or it may not. It will depend upon the court and the facts of your case.

It is essential that if you have any question of paternity that it must be raised at the time that you have this question.  You cannot wait in an attempt to avoid payment of child support or any other duty that a presumed father has because a court would not be too keen on someone trying to dodge their obligations.  If you are facing this issue, you sh0uld meet with a family law attorney who can advise you along the way.  Schedule a free consultation today.

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You have been served with a petition for divorce and it states you have to file an answer by 10:00 a.m. on the Monday next after the expiration of 20 days.  However, you have been working things out with your soon-to-be-ex spouse and you guys have agreed upon everything. Your spouse tells you that the service part is just part of the legal process and you do not have to do anything because you have already signed the agreed decree.  However, once everything is said and done the district clerk’s office mails you a copy of the decree and it is not the one you signed.  In fact, it contains terms that are the complete opposite as to what you agreed.  You are shocked and you have no idea what to do; according to the final decree mailed to you, your ex-spouse is taking the children, the home, and the car.

You contact an attorney and find out that your ex-spouse actually waited for your answer period to expire and then went before the judge and asked for a “default” divorce on the basis of you not answering or making an appearance.  The judge, not knowing the background of the case and relying upon the ex-spouse’s allegations, granted the default divorce and now you must work to get that reversed.

The good news is you do have a form of recourse.  You can file a motion to set aside the default judgment and a motion for new trial.  In order to be successful on this type of motion, it is important that you know the grounds for doing so.  Luckily, several appellate courts have discussed this test, also known as the Craddock elements.  It was recently discussed again by the Texarkana 6th District Court of Appeals in In the Matter of the Marriage of Lucas Woods and Jessica Woods and In the Interest of L.K.L.W. and S.B.L.W., Children.  This Court held that to analyze whether a motion for new trial should be granted and to set aside a default judgment, the trial courts must look at the following factors: “(1) the failure of the defendant to answer before judgment was not intentional, or the result of conscious indifference on his part, but was due to a mistake or accident; (2) the motion for a new trial sets up a meritorious defense; and (3) granting the motion will occasion no delay or otherwise work an injury to the plaintiff.”

In determining the first element, the Court basically said that if a person is sued and they just do not file an answer because they do not care then that person cannot claim that they were not being intentionally indifferent.  But, if you do not file an answer because of representations of your spouse, then that obviously is a legitimate reason (at least for this appellate court).  In this particular case, the wife did not file an answer because she and her husband had worked out an agreement prior to even filing the divorce and were actually already living out that agreement with their children.  Therefore, the Court held that she did not intentionally fail to file an answer and that she did not ignore the petition.  She was legitimately relying upon her spouse’s representations that she did not need to answer.

For the second factor, the Court was looking to determine if she had a defense in her affidavit (attached to her motions) that would have led the trial court to make a different decision or reach a different outcome on the final divorce.  So, the Court is asking the question: do you have any information that if given to the court would have completely changed the court’s mind and would have caused them to do something different than what was decided in the decree?  If so, this is a meritorious defense. In the case at hand, as stated before the parties had an agreement and the case involved children.  The spouses had agreed (or so the wife thought) that she would have the exclusive right to determine the primary residence of the children and that the father would have standard possession and they had been exercising this agreement for about a year or more.  The wife was specific in her affidavit as to why the decree was wrong (agreement, children were suffering due to switch, etc.).  The Court concluded that all of this information was sufficient to meet the second element because the final decree did in fact “modify the living arrangements of the children and raise concerns regarding their best interest.”

Finally, on the third factor, it is one that you must plead and then the other side has the burden of proving otherwise.  Therefore, the Court held that once you state that you would not injure the Plaintiff in having the default judgment set aside and granting the motion for new trial, the burden shifts to the Plaintiff to prove that they would in fact suffer some sort of injury (time, money, etc.).   In this case, the Court held that the husband failed to produce any proof to this effect and the wife was very timely with her filings in that it was on file within four days after the trial court entered the decree.

Thus, the wife met all three elements and the appellate Court reversed the trial court’s denial of the motion for new trial and remanded back to the trial court.

If this has happened to you, it is important that you not delay and get your pleadings on file for a motion to set aside and motion for new trial as soon as possible.  The appellate courts are very analytic in reviewing the pleadings to determine if the elements were met. Do not think that you are without any way to “fix” this problem—you have a solution but there is a time sensitive deadline.  Consult with an attorney to discuss your case in detail.

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You have just finished a long bench trial in your divorce and you do not feel that the trial court was correct in its division of your assets and liabilities.  In fact, you feel that the judge was completely wrong and you got the short end of the stick.  So, you wonder what you can do about it.  You absolutely can appeal, but you have a short window frame in order to do so and it is imperative you take certain steps in appealing.

The 7th District Court of Appeals in Amarillo makes this fact abundantly clear in Kenneth Dale Rodgers, Appellant vs. Mary Elaine Rodgers, Appellee in determining whether or not (a) “the trial court abused its discretion in the division of the property” which (b) “materially affected a just and right division of the marital estate.”   In that case, the husband was very unhappy with the property division and he appealed.  However, the husband failed to request findings of fact and conclusions of law from the trial court within the required amount of time. Therefore, the appellate court had no idea what the basis of the trial court’s ruling was and was forced to go along with it.  This is because, as the Court of Appeals held, you must request findings of fact and conclusions of law from the trial court and the trial court must then file those within a certain period of time. This allows the Court of Appeals to determine why the trial court held what it held.  The record sometimes helps, but findings of fact and conclusions of law are obviously more solid and preferred by the appellate courts.

When you have a bench trial (trial before judge, not jury), Texas Rules of Civil Procedure Rules 296 and 297 mandate that you must file your request for findings of fact and conclusions of law from the trial court “within twenty days after the judgment is signed” and then the trial court must “file its findings of fact and conclusions of law within twenty days after a timely request has been made.”  If you fail to do this, then “the trial court is presumed to have made all findings of fact necessary to support its judgment, and it must be affirmed on any legal theory that is supported by the evidence.” Rodgers v. Rodgers.

The moral of the story—you need an attorney at all times.  There are specific deadlines that must be met when preparing to appeal a trial court’s decision.  In addition to the findings of fact and conclusions of law, you also must have your appeal on file by a certain date.   There are too many deadlines to delay, contact an attorney as soon as your divorce is finalized and if there is any doubt in your mind regarding the trial court’s order.

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You have a final decree of divorce and you were either ordered to surrender a certain asset to your ex-spouse and you have not or you are the ex-spouse who is the recipient of the asset and have not received it yet.  Regardless of which situation you are in, one can be pretty certain that an enforcement action is in your near future.  The question becomes what type of relief can be sought on this type of case.  This question is answered clearly as a big “no” in In re Cherilyn Ann Kinney, Relator by the Fifth District Court of Appeals in Dallas.

In some suits for enforcement (most commonly in suits to enforce child support), one means of relief sought is jail time–confinement of up to 60 days in county jail to be exact.  However, in suits for enforcement of property division where one spouse was ordered a certain amount of money in the decree for a debt, lien, retirement division, etc. then jail time is not appropriate.  In this particular case, the wife was awarded one of the homes and to compensate the husband he was awarded$40,000.00 secured by an owelty lien on the residence awarded to wife which the wife had to pay within six months of signing the decree.   Needless to say, she did not pay the $40,000.00 within the time ordered and so her ex-husband filed an enforcement to make her do so.  Unfortunately, they asked for jail time and the trial judge did just that and the wife was arrested on the spot and placed in the county jail.

On appeal, the Court of Appeals held that the “Texas Constitution provides, ‘No person shall ever be imprisoned for a debt’.” Tex. Const. art. 1, §18.  In fact, the Texas Family Code is specific as to what property divisions are enforceable by contempt and that contempt does not mean imprisonment.  Specifically, Texas Family Code Section 9.012(b) states “A court may not, enforce by contempt an award in a decree of divorce or annulment of a sum of money payable in a lump sum or in future installments payments in the nature of debt, except for (1) a sum of money in existence at the time the decree was rendered; or (2) a matured right to future payments.  Therefore, the Court of Appeals did a legal analysis and concluded that the only way to determine if contempt is an option in an enforcement action, the decree must be specific enough—“the divorce decree must indicate the funds existed at the time the decree was rendered or specify particular community funds from which the amount is to be paid.”

Therefore, the Court of Appeals issued a bright line rule as to what remedy is available to the trial court in an enforcement action of this nature.  Specifically, the Court held that “A trial court may invoke its contempt power only to enforce delivery of specific property or an award of a right to future property or the delivery of a sum of money in existence at the time the decree was rendered or a matured right to future payments.”   Basically, the Court can order that the property be delivered or the payments be made and possibly award some attorneys’ fees.  But, in order to seek contempt you must fit within this rule the Court issued recently.

If you have a piece of property or sum of money that is owed to you from your divorce decree, do not wait to contact an attorney.  There is a 2 year statute of limitations and you need to know the options you have. Contact a family law attorney at Guest & Gray today for a free consultation.

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You are divorced and in your final orders you were awarded spousal maintenance on the basis of your disability and inability to earn sufficient income.  So, you went through all of the stages of proving your disability and proving that you could not earn the money that you need to meet your minimum reasonable needs and the judge ordered that your ex-spouse a certain amount per month to you for a certain period of time.  As you know, spousal maintenance is governed by Chapter 8 of the Family Code and with respect to a disabled spouse, it does state that maintenance can be ordered for as long as the disability persists (longer than the statutorily limited period of time).  If it is nearing the ending date of your receipt of the monthly spousal support payments, you are becoming worried because you do not know what you are going to do at this point.  Can you seek further maintenance from the Court because you are still disabled and need the money to survive?

This question was directly addressed in Stephanie Ann Novick v. Andrew A. Shervin by the Fifth District Court of Appeals in Dallas.  There, the trial court held that the wife was “presently disabled” and ordered that the husband should pay her “$2000 per month for 24 months.”  When the time was drawing near for the husband’s payments to cease, the wife filed a motion to modify to continue the support payments and the trial court dismissed that claim to which the wife appealed.  Therefore, the Dallas Court of Appeals had to determine whether or not the trial court erred in failing to honor the wife’s request in continuing the spousal support payments.  In doing do, the Court reviewed a few other appellate cases involving this particular issue to seek guidance which led the Court to render a bright line rule to determine whether or not the support payments could be continued.

The Court held, “An award of spousal maintenance in a divorce decree is properly the subject of a motion for continuance only if the decree indicates the trial judge intended to make the award pursuant to section 8.054(b) rather than 8.054(a).”  Section 8.054(b) allows a trial court to find the spouse disabled (giving guidance as to how and what it means) and in finding the spouse to be disabled, the trial court will make an award of maintenance.  This award can be made subject to periodic request based upon the request of either party and also subject to a motion to modify.  However, Section 8.504(a)  places a duration limit on how long the court can award the maintenance for (5 years) and states that a trial court must render the shortest period possible unless the spouse’s ability to earn income is totally diminished by physical or mental disability.    The key for this Court was that you can seek continuance of the maintenance if the award was under Section 8.054(b).  An example of this type of award would be where a spouse is found to be permanently disabled, awarded spousal maintenance for longer than 5 years, and the Court also order that the spouse receiving support can seek continuance beyond the court-ordered termination date.

Therefore, based upon these sections, the Court held that they have to look to final decrees in each case to determine how the trial court awarded the maintenance.   If this test outlined is not met, then the continuation cannot be granted.   In the present case, the Court denied the wife’s appeal stating that the trial court held she was “presently disabled” and limited the duration to 24 months which was less than the maximum amount of time of duration and did not expressly provide a provision that would allow for the wife to file a motion to seek continuance of the maintenance.

Appellate cases are important because they provide looking glasses into the future as to what would happen if you do not take care of your case while still in the trial court phase.  Thus, as you determine from this article, it is imperative to ensure that your rights are protected in the final order that is rendered by the trial judge—it is imperative that you ensure that the correct language is used so that you are not completely limited in the future.  If you believe that you might have a spousal maintenance claim or have already been awarded spousal maintenance and need assistance in determining whether you can seek a continuation, contact Guest & Gray for a free consult.

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You have a pending case involving a child (divorce, SAPCR, modification) and child support has been established.  However, like most parents you are concerned about the future—what happens when the children go to college, how will I afford their expenses then?  Most people say that you can “save the child support” but that is not ideal.  Children are expensive and it is highly likely that you will spend all of the child support and then some with all of the things that come up throughout their lives until they turn 18 or graduate from high school.  Child support ends on “removal of the child’s disabilities for general purposes, the marriage or death of a child, or a finding by the court that the child is 18 years of age or older and is no longer enrolled in high school or a high-school equivalent program.”  In the Interest of W.R.B. and B.K.B., Children.  So, what are your options to ensure that your children can get a college education and have support from the other parent?

This issue is addressed in In the Interest of W.R.B. and B.K.B., Children from the 5th District Court of Appeals in Dallas.     There, the Dallas Court of Appeals addressed the issue of post-majority support which is defined as applying “only to a non-disabled child who is 18 years of age or older and is no longer enrolled in high school or a high-school equivalent program” Tex. Fam. Code Section 154.001(a).  Therefore, this creates or allows for a specific scenario in which the other parent would still be required to make support payments.  In this case, the Court held that the trial court cannot order post-majority support on its own volition but the parties can agree to post-majority support in writing.  In the agreed modification orders, the parties had done just that.  Therefore, the Court of Appeals held that it was proper for the trial court to render the order of post-majority support.  However, the issue then became that the obligor parent stopped paying the post-majority expenses and so the recipient or obligee parent filed an enforcement action seeking reimbursement of all of the expenses, attorneys’ fees and interest.

The Dallas Court of Appeals held that for post-majority support, this is after the child ages out and was based purely upon the parties’ agreement and so therefore it is not enforceable in a family law court under the Texas Family Code.  Rather, the proper avenue is breach of contract.  This is because the agreed orders, with respect to the post-majority support, are considered a contract because it is an agreement of the parties not based upon legal authority.   This is unlike the issue of child support that was ordered which remains enforceable even post-aging out of the children because the Court still maintains jurisdiction over that issue as it was awarded under the family code.

With respect to consequences of breaching the contract, the Court held that it would be ideal if the parties not only agreed to the post-majority support but also agreed to the consequences if said support was not paid.  This would distinctly provide a source of remedies for a court to look to on the breach of contract claim.  In this particular case, the parties failed to do so and therefore it was difficult for the Court to ascertain what the proper remedies should be—this case is not like a typical enforcement case where, if in fact found to be in arrears, the conduct is punishable by contempt which could be confinement or suspension of confinement, confirmation of arrears, and award of attorneys’ fees.  Therefore, it is clear that this Court made a suggestion for future cases involving post-majority support—create a bright line rule in your orders as to what happens if either party violates that agreement.

Also, the Court offered guidance for future cases involving reimbursement claims of this nature where there are actual child support arrears and post-majority support arrears.  If you have a case of this nature, for the child support your avenue is enforcement. However, for the post-majority arrears you must separate that into a separate breach of contract cause of action and also distinctly separate the expenses out for the court.  You want the court to be able to look at your itemized spreadsheets and be clear on all expenses and totals being claimed; otherwise, you might have your entire case thrown out and not recover the funds.

Clearly, this is a unique issue that should not be taken lightly.  It is one that you have to ensure you get the language in the court order just right to ensure that you can in fact have a remedy if the order is violated.  If you are facing a case in which you think you would require post-majority support OR a case in which you need to sue for arrears on post-majority support, please call us today at Guest & Gray for your free consult.

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Chapter 8 of the Texas Family Code governs spousal maintenance, Texas’ own form of “alimony”.   Spousal maintenance is not easily obtained by divorcing parties; in fact, the legislature has created a pretty high threshold.  But, the issue becomes what if you have an out of state decree that speaks to spousal support and then you have the spouse ordered to pay subsequently wanting to get out of that arrangement?  This is the exact issue that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals addressed in In the Interest of L.T.H., R.R.H., and A.W.H., Minor Children.

In that case, the wife appealed a trial court’s ruling to refuse to enforce a California divorce decree modification and the husband’s obligation to pay spousal support.   In California, husband and wife were divorced, subsequently modified the divorce decree in California with a settlement agreement, and entered a reformed decree.  Then, everyone subsequently moved to Texas.  Later, the wife sought to enforce against the husband several times due to his nonpayment of the spousal support and child support.  After the first enforcement, the parties signed a mediated settlement agreement agreeing to certain terms regarding the spousal support (payment was definitely one of those terms) and then an order was subsequently entered.   The wife had to seek a subsequent enforcement due to the husband not paying again pursuant to the orders and in that case, the trial court ordered that they could not enforce the modification of the California decree and ordered that wife take-nothing.  However, the Court of Appeals thought differently and reversed and remanded ruling that they would strictly comply with the parties’ MSA, uphold the MSA and the parties’ agreement.

The Court of Appeals reviewed this case under contract law, which is sometimes unusual when discussing family law cases.  However, most people forget that every agreement entered into (when the proper elements are present), create a contract between the parties that can be enforceable as such.  The Court of Appeals looked to previous appellate decisions to reach this decision such as Schwartz v. Schwartz which held that “When such an agreement is executed by the parties and incorporated into the judgment of a divorce, it is binding upon the parties, and is interpreted under general contract law.”  Schwartz v. Schwartz, 247 S.W.3d 804, 806 (Tex. App.—Dallas 2008, no pet.).   Therefore, the Court would not review the MSA under Chapter 8 of the Texas Family Code stating that this was a contract turned into a court order which did not effectively create court ordered maintenance under the Texas Family Code.

When reviewing an agreement of the parties under contract law, this Court of Appeals held that you have to look to the parties’ intent and looked back to the Reformed California Divorce Decree which contained certain provisions regarding how the parties could in fact modify the terms of the decree.  One of the terms, as you might have guessed, was that the “parties could modify the contractual obligation of spousal support by signing a written agreement”.  Therefore, the subsequent MSA, the Court held, was a valid modification of the terms of the decree.

The Court then reviewed the husband’s arguments and found that he did not have a defense to the contract being enforced.  He tried to argue that the Texas trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to modify/enforce the California decree and said that it was a mistake of fact.  However, the Court held that this is a mistake of law, which is not a defense under contract law.  The husband also tried to argue that the wife did not pay any consideration as a part of the agreement (one of the elements to create a contract).  However, the Court overruled that argument as well stating that the wife did in fact “pay consideration” when she agreed to reduce the husband’s arrears down as a part of the MSA.

The Court further held that the trial court erred in trying to modify the parties’ MSA in not granting the wife a judgment against the husband adjudicating that, “Because of the Reformed California Decree and the MSA were founded upon settlement agreements reached by the parties, the trial court had no power to supply terms, provisions, or conditions not previously agreed upon by the parties.”  Ammann v. Ammann, No. 03-09-00177-CV, 2010 WL 4260955, at *3 (Tex. App.—Austin Oct. 28, 2010, no pet.) (mem. op).    Therefore, the Court concluded that the MSA/enforcement was proper due to its allowance by the previous California orders.  Also, the Court concluded that it would strictly comply with the settlement terms and if there was not a particular term within that agreement the trial courts cannot simply just add what they want to make their ruling work.

As a practicing family law attorney, I have had several cases dealing with spousal maintenance issues.  It is one not to be taken lightly and one that everyone deserves to know their rights on.  If you are in the midst of a divorce and need legal guidance, contact Guest & Gray today.

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You may not think that this distinction is important, but in the world of family law it is imperative that you understand the difference.  It could be the difference between you actually being the father of a child in the eyes of the law as well as differing burdens of how to overcome that label if you are not the child’s biological father.  In fact, if you are in the middle of a divorce or a suit affecting the parent child relationship, knowing your definitions is crucial when it comes to duties to support children and your rights to visiting those children.

Texas Family Code Section 101.0015 defines alleged father as a man who “alleges himself to be, or is alleged to be, the genetic father or a possible genetic father of a child, but whose paternity has not been determined.”  So, if you think that you are the father of a child but it has not been concluded by court ordered genetic testing—then you are an alleged father.  We see this type of scenario come up in situations such as cases involving the Attorney General’s Office of Texas.  If a woman petitions the Attorney General’s Office for child support, then that agency will file a lawsuit and have all of the alleged fathers served.  It is then your duty to ask for genetic testing if there is any doubt in your mind about whether or not you are the father.  Once genetic testing is completed and paternity is established, you then become an adjudicated father.   Adjudicated father is defined in Texas Family Code Section 160.102(1) as a man who is determined to be the father of a child by the Court.  Therefore, once your paternity is established by results of genetic testing then the Court will name you as the father and proceed forward with child support, visitation, etc.

In contrast, Texas Family Code Section 160.204 defines a presumed father as follows:

(a) A man is presumed to be the father of a child if:

(1) he is married to the mother of the child and the child is born during the marriage;

(2) he is married to the mother of the child and the child is born before the 301st day after the date the marriage is terminated by death, annulment, declaration of invalidity, or divorce;

(3) he married the mother of the child before the birth of the child in apparent compliance with law, even if the attempted marriage is or could be declared invalid, and the child is born during the invalid marriage or before the 301st day after the date the marriage is terminated by death, annulment, declaration of invalidity, or divorce;

(4) he married the mother of the child after the birth of the child in apparent compliance with law, regardless of whether the marriage is or could be declared invalid, he voluntarily asserted his paternity of the child, and:

(A) the assertion is in a record filed with the bureau of vital statistics;

(B) he is voluntarily named as the child’s father on the child’s birth certificate; or

(C) he promised in a record to support the child as his own; or

(5) during the first two years of the child’s life, he continuously resided in the household in which the child resided and he represented to others that the child was his own.

(b) A presumption of paternity established under this section may be rebutted only by:

(1) an adjudication under Subchapter G1; or

(2) the filing of a valid denial of paternity by a presumed father in conjunction with the filing by another person of a valid acknowledgment of paternity as provided by Section 160.305

As you can imagine, we see this type of scenario in a divorce situation.  It becomes a contested issue when the wife has an affair and becomes pregnant—many men fall into the trap of thinking that they do not have to do anything because the child is clearly not their biological child.  However, that is an unfortunate misconception per the Family Code Section listed above.   You must ensure that you are not adjudicated the father of the child. Also, you cannot get divorced while your wife is pregnant with the other child.  This is because you must go through the genetic testing to prove you are not the child’s father.

Determining which type of father you are is only one of the tasks of our family law team here at Guest & Gray.  Contact us to schedule your free consultation today.  We look forward to helping you in your family law case.