Most people know that you can change your name as an adult. One of the most common times that adults change their name is when they get married or divorced. When you get married you can change your last name by using your marriage license and when you get divorced you can request the judge to order a name change in the final divorce decree. But, many people do not know what the process is like to get your name changed as an adult outside of that situation. This blog post is going to attempt to summarize the basic requirements and process of getting a name change as an adult in Texas unrelated to marriage or divorce.

Who Can Request a Name Change?

Any adult can request a name change in the county that they live in. The adult simply needs to file a verified petition that meets all of the requirements in the family code. The petition must include the reason that the person wants to change their name along with certain other specific information, including certain information about the person’s criminal history.

Prior to the Supreme Court of Texas Opinion in In the Interest of H.S., on June 15, 2018, many family law attorneys would have told you that in order for a non-parent to have standing under Texas Family Code § 102.003(a)(9), the person would have had to have had “exclusive” care, control, and possession, of a child for six months. That is, the person would have had to have care, control, and possession of the child without any help or interruption from the legal parent. This would mean that the child would be living with the non-parent and the non-parent would be making all decisions for the child. The court made clear in In the Interest of H.S., that section 102.003(a)(9) is broader than that and that there is no “exclusive” requirement.

Texas Family Code § 102.003(a)(9) and Standing

 
To fully understand section 102.003(a)(9) you have to first understand what standing is. Standing is basically the ability of a person to get in front of a judge in a case and request an order. If someone does not have standing, they don’t get to bring their case to court at all. It is very difficult for a non-parent to bring a case regarding a child under the Texas Family Code because of a United States Supreme Court Case and a strong parental presumption policy in Texas. Section 102.003(a)(9) of the Texas Family Code gives a non-parent a way to have standing. It says that a person, other than a foster parent, who has had actual care, control, and possession of the child for at least six months ending not more than 90 days preceding the date of the filing of the petition can have standing.

A question we get asked frequently is whether a client or potential client can get “joint custody” of a child. The term “joint custody” is NOT a term that has legal significance under the Texas Family Code. The language in the family code that does use the word “joint” is “joint managing conservator,” and that doesn’t mean what most people think it means. This blog post is going to explain the difference in the two terms.

What is Joint Custody?

            In Texas, we don’t use the term “custody” to describe the time parents spend with their children. We use “possession and access” to describe what most people think of when they use the word custody. When people use the term joint custody they typically are speaking of a 50/50 possession and access schedule. For more information on what that may look like and what that means look here: What Does 50/50 Custody Mean. The long and short of that blog post is that there is no 50/50 possession and access schedule listed in the Texas Family Code and that there are multiple “equal” possession schedules that courts use.

There is no way that anyone can give you an exact timeline of how long your divorce will take. Each case is different. However, there are a few things that can be known for sure and this blog post is going to go through some of the things to keep in mind when trying to figure out how long your divorce is going to take.

  1. There is a Mandatory Waiting Period

 
In Texas, divorces cannot be finalized before 60 days have elapsed since the date of filing. This is almost always the case, unless a judge waives the waiting period. Typically, judges think the 60-day waiting period is a good thing and they do not waive this requirement. However, under a few extreme circumstances, such as deployment or an imminent birth that is not of the marriage, judges have been known to waive the waiting period.

One of the most common concerns people have in a divorce is who is going to keep the house they have been living in during their marriage. The answer to that question can vary in each case depending on the facts of that particular case. This blog post is going to address some of the things that could happen to your house in your divorce.

If it is your Separate Property, you Keep it.

The concept of separate and community property is sometimes difficult. In Texas, the distinction on property is made based on the date the home is purchased, something referred to as “inception of title.” If the house is purchased in one person’s name before the date of marriage, it is their separate property. If it is purchased after the date of marriage, it does not matter whose name is or isn’t on the deed or purchase documents, it is community property. That means that if the home is purchased before marriage by one party the court doesn’t get to divide the house in the divorce because it is separate property. This doesn’t mean that the other party may not have the right to be reimbursed for value added to the house during the marriage, but it does mean that if it is your separate property, you keep your ownership interest in the house.

There are a lot of changes that happen because of a divorce. One that may not be at the top of people’s minds when going through a divorce is the impact their divorce is going to have on their property when they pass away. Divorce can change the way property is treated with respect to certain deeds, life insurance policies, wills, and other estate planning documents.

What Impact Does a Divorce Have on a Will?

In general, Texas law takes into account that people don’t want to leave things to their ex-spouse after a divorce. Without express language that says otherwise written into a will, anything left to a spouse will be treated as if the spouse is essentially dead at the time the will is probated under Texas law. This means that anything that was meant to go to an ex-spouse will now go to whoever is next in line. This could mean that an alternate beneficiary was designated and the property will go to that next person listed or it could mean that the property now will pass as if no will was drafted because no alternate beneficiaries were named.

Can I Make a Marital Property Agreement?

There has been a lot of discussion about pre-marital agreements in media and it is something most people are probably somewhat aware of. Follow this link: Premarital Agreements in Texas for more information on premarital agreements. So, what about after you are married, are you stuck with all of your property acquired after marriage becoming community property if you didn’t execute a pre-marital agreement? Of course not! I probably wouldn’t have dedicated an entire blog post to this subject if that was the case.

Why Does it Matter?

Many people are familiar with the standard possession schedule that is written in the Texas Family Code. It basically involves first, third, and fifth weekend possession with rotating holidays and extra time during the summer. Less people are familiar with section 153.015 of the family code that provides a way for judges to order electronic communication with a child as a way to supplement the time a parent has to spend away from their child under a possession order.

What does section 153.015 say?

The court may award a party reasonable periods of electronic communication with a child upon request of the party.  In determining whether to award electronic communication, the court will consider whether electronic communication is in the best interest of the child, whether equipment necessary to facilitate the electronic communication (phone/ipad/computer) is reasonably available to all parties subject to the order, and any other factor the court considers appropriate.

There are lots of things associated with Super Bowl Sunday. Snack food and memorable commercials are two that come to mind. Some other things associated with Super Bowl Sunday might not be such a good idea when it comes to your case that involves family law. This blog is going to discuss five of those things that you may want to keep in mind on Super Bowl Sunday.

  1. Lay off the obnoxious posts on social media. You may think you’re being funny by posting a mildly offensive meme about Tom Brady this Sunday, but as the saying goes, treat everything you put in writing as if it is going to be read aloud in open court. Your best option is to avoid posting at all in order to prevent anything being used against you in your family law case. If you must post, keep it positive and definitely don’t post any pictures that involve alcohol or drugs.
  2. Don’t drink around your kids. Many allegations get thrown around when parents are fighting over their children. One of the more common ones involve accusations of drinking or even doing drugs around kids. This can really hurt your case. Don’t give the other side any more mud to sling at you just because you wanted to let loose on Super Bowl Sunday. Also, it should go without saying, but never drink and drive.

Can you Modify a Judgment that is Currently Being Appealed in a Family Law Case?

 
What is an appeal?

Generally, in legal actions an appeal is an action you take when you think the judge you are in front of got it wrong. For the most part there must be a final order for a judgment to be appealable. Usually, an appeal means that the lower court holds off on taking any further action while a higher court reviews the case and reviews that everything was done correctly. Family law cases are unique for a lot of reasons, one of them being that they have a continuous nature when children are involved. When children are involved courts have what is called continuing, exclusive jurisdiction after a case involving a child is in their court. This makes the issue of appealing a case involving a child more complicated than a normal civil case in which the final judgment is going to be final and the last word that a judge has to say on the matter.