Articles Posted in Family law

In a recent case, the Texas Supreme Court heard a case involving the termination of a mother’s parental rights. The trial court found sufficient evidence to terminate her rights, but the appeals court reversed. Ultimately, the high court reversed the appeal court’s ruling, finding sufficient circumstantial evidence and crediting a nurse’s testimony, which the court of appeals had excluded. The case demonstrates the deferential standard applied to reviewing a trial judge or jury’s decision.

Facts of the Case

According to the facts discussed in the opinion, this case arose after an infant arrived at the hospital with a fractured skull, brain bleed, and retinal hemorrhaging. The nurse treating the infant concluded that the injury would have required significant and intentional force, so the hospital notified local law enforcement and the Department of Family and Protective Services. Both parents blamed each other for their child’s injuries. While investigators initially focused on the Father, they concluded it was likely the Mother who caused the injuries. After the nurse testified at trial, the court terminated the Mother’s parental rights. The appeals court reversed, finding insufficient evidence to terminate her rights. The court was principally concerned that someone else could have caused the injury and cast doubt on the nurse’s testimony as to the timing of the injury. The Father and the Department filed petitions for review to the Texas Supreme Court.

The Decision

Ultimately, the high court reversed the appeals court. First, it found that the appeals court erred in excluding the nurse’s opinion testimony about causation because the Mother failed to object to the testimony at trial or on appeal. Then, it concluded that sufficient evidence existed to terminate the Mother’s parental rights. It disagreed with the appeals court, which reversed the trial court’s finding because it found insufficient evidence that the Mother directly caused the child’s injuries or endangered him due to her mental health. Applying Texas family law, the court explained that a showing of child endangerment does not require evidence that the Mother directly harmed the child.

Continue Reading ›

Going through a divorce is a challenging and emotionally charged experience. When seeking legal guidance, it’s essential to make the most of your initial meeting with a Forney divorce attorney. Adequate preparation ensures that you can maximize your time together, gain clarity on the process, and set realistic expectations.

At the Forney, TX, divorce law firm of Guest & Gray, we help clients through the process of getting a divorce. Like many divorce attorneys, we provide free consultations to all prospective clients and want our initial meeting to provide you with all the information you need. So, in this blog post, we will provide you with valuable tips on how to prepare for your first meeting with one of our divorce lawyers, that way, we can provide you with meaningful advice to guide your decision-making.

Compile Essential Documents

Divorce is often portrayed as an acrimonious and bitter process, but what if you and your spouse have managed to maintain a cordial relationship throughout your separation? While it’s commendable that you can still get along, it doesn’t mean that you don’t need a Forney divorce lawyer to ensure that your interests remain protected.

At Guest & Gray, we’ve seen many situations where couples start off the divorce process on fairly good terms but end up in a contentious situation due to the emotional challenges of navigating the process without legal representation. In this blog post, we’ll explore why enlisting an attorney’s help is essential, even in amicable divorces.

Objective Guidance and Advice

A Forney divorce lawyer serves as an impartial professional who can provide objective guidance and advice. At Guest & Gray, our attorneys possess a deep understanding of divorce laws, ensuring that you are aware of your rights, entitlements, and responsibilities. We can help you navigate complex legal processes, including property division, child custody arrangements, and spousal support. Their expertise ensures that you make informed decisions that protect your long-term interests, even if the separation remains amicable.

Continue Reading ›

When a marriage ends, one of the most pressing concerns is the financial well-being of both spouses. In Texas, spousal support, also known as alimony, can play a crucial role in providing economic stability during and after a divorce. In this blog post, our Forney divorce lawyers will delve into the key aspects of spousal support laws in Texas, shedding light on eligibility, the factors a court will consider, and the different types of spousal support.

Eligibility for Spousal Support

In Texas, eligibility for spousal support depends on various factors. The court may award spousal support if the spouse seeking support lacks enough property or income to provide for their reasonable needs after the divorce. Additionally, the court considers several other aspects, including the length of the marriage, the age and health of the spouses, the earning capacity of each spouse, and any marital misconduct that may have occurred.

Factors Considered by the Court

When determining the amount and duration of spousal support, the court takes several factors into account. These factors include the financial resources available to both spouses, the education and employment skills of each spouse, the time needed for the spouse seeking support to acquire sufficient education or training, and the contribution of each spouse to the marriage, both financially and as a homemaker. The court also considers the separate property owned by each spouse and any child custody arrangements.

Continue Reading ›

Establishing paternity is a significant step for both men and women, providing numerous benefits and legal protections. In this blog post, we will explore why individuals may choose to go through the process of establishing paternity. From securing parental rights to fostering emotional connections, understanding the importance of paternity determination can positively impact the lives of children, parents, and families.

Legal Parental Rights and Responsibilities

Establishing paternity is crucial for men who want to assert their legal rights and responsibilities as fathers. It grants them the opportunity to participate in important decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, including matters such as education, healthcare, and religious upbringing. It also enables fathers to seek custody or visitation rights, ensuring a meaningful and ongoing relationship with their child. For mothers, establishing paternity can provide access to child support, helping to ensure financial stability for the child’s well-being.

Divorce is often associated with conflict and contentious legal battles. However, not all divorces need to follow that narrative. In Forney, Texas, couples have the option of pursuing an uncontested divorce, which offers a more amicable and streamlined process. At guest & Gray, our uncontested divorce lawyers have extensive experience helping couples through an amicable divorce. While this process doesn’t work for every couple, when it’s possible, it is often the best option.

In this blog post, we will explore the circumstances in which an uncontested divorce is possible and how it can be obtained.

Mutual Agreement and Cooperation

When a marriage reaches an irreconcilable point, couples have legal options to end their union. Divorce and annulment are two distinct approaches, each with its own implications. At Guest & Gray, we have extensive experience helping our clients end their marriages through both divorce and annulment. We can help explain the difference, the benefits and potential drawbacks of each, and help you effectively pursue your desired outcome.

In this blog post, we will explore the differences between divorce and annulment, shedding light on the grounds, legal consequences, and procedural aspects of each process.

Definition and Purpose

Divorce is a legal termination of a valid marriage, while annulment declares a marriage null and void, as if it never occurred. Divorce acknowledges that a valid marriage existed but has irretrievably broken down, providing a legal dissolution of the marital relationship. Annulment, on the other hand, treats the marriage as if it were invalid from the beginning, essentially erasing it from a legal standpoint.

Grounds for Divorce

Divorce is typically based on “no-fault” or “fault” grounds. “No-fault” divorce grounds, such as irreconcilable differences or insupportability, do not require proving any wrongdoing by either spouse. “Fault” grounds, such as adultery, abandonment, or cruelty, involve proving misconduct by one spouse, which may impact property division, spousal support, and child custody determinations.

Continue Reading ›

At our Forney divorce law firm, we understand the complexities of divorce and the emotional weight it can bear on those involved. We’ve seen clients walk into our office, sometimes making crucial mistakes that could complicate their divorce proceedings and affect their future. We want to take this opportunity to address some common errors and help you navigate your way toward a smoother transition.

The first, and perhaps most common mistake is rushing to file without fully understanding the consequences. Divorce is more than a dissolution of marriage; it encompasses various aspects like property division, child custody, alimony, and more. It’s essential to educate yourself on these matters before taking the plunge. Understanding the process and potential outcomes will allow you to prepare adequately and manage your expectations.

A closely related error is neglecting to gather essential financial documents. Accurate and detailed documentation is vital in divorce proceedings. Inadequate financial information can lead to unfair settlements. You should have a clear picture of your financial situation, including income, assets, debts, and expenses, to ensure a fair distribution of assets and debts.

In legal proceedings to terminate parental rights, the parent may have a different version of events from the caseworkers at the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). When parents and the DFPS present conflicting narratives in court, the judge must reach factual findings by weighing each witness’s credibility. Appellate courts tend to defer to trial court findings because the trial judges directly heard the evidence. However, one party may appeal the trial court’s decision if they believe it relied on insufficient evidence. When the relevant issue is the best interests of the child, courts will more closely scrutinize the evidence the trial court relied on to support a “best interests” finding.

How Do Courts Weigh Conflicting Testimony in Termination Proceedings?

A recent Fifth District Court of Appeals case illustrates how appeals courts examine conflicting testimony between caseworkers and parents in termination proceedings. In this case, the appeals court upheld the trial court’s opinion terminating a mother’s parental rights to two of her children. According to the facts discussed in the opinion, the child’s mother had a history of substance abuse, criminal activity, and lack of stable housing an employment. There were also possible allegations that she was a victim of domestic violence and had physically abused the children, though there was no evidence of the latter. After DFPS placed the children in foster care, the agency created a compliance plan with the mother to reunite her with her children.

The plan included, among other things, submitting proof of stable housing and employment, joining an autism support group to help her child with autism, refraining from criminal activity, and submitting to frequent drug tests. Later, DFPS sought to terminate her parental rights, alleging that the mother failed to follow the plan. DFPS also explained that the children were thriving in their foster home, which led to improved grades and management of their behavioral issues. The mother, however, alleged that she diligently followed the plan, and DFPS had made no effort at reunification. After weighing the evidence, the trial judge found that terminating the mother’s parental rights was in the children’s best interests. The mother appealed, arguing the evidence was factually insufficient to support the trial court’s ruling.

Continue Reading ›

In a recent case before a Texas appeals court, the court affirmed the trial court’s final divorce decree finding that a house and 21 acres were the husband’s separate property. The wife appealed the decree to the appeals court, arguing that the trial court abused its discretion and made a legal error. The appeals court, however, disagreed.

Facts of the Case

As the court’s opinion explained, the husband had purchased a home on 23 acres over a decade before he and his ex-wife married. The husband also paid off the mortgage and sold two acres before their marriage. After the husband and wife married, they later repurchased the two acres and eventually paid off the mortgage. Two years later, the husband sued for divorce.

During the couple’s bench trial, the wife asked the judge to declare the 21 acres and the home as separate property based on a prior quitclaim deed the husband had drafted and signed before their divorce. However, the husband argued that the deed only conferred the two acres the couple later repurchased to the wife, along with a separate mobile home. Confusingly, the deed gave the husband rights to the property located at the 21-acre tract’s address, but it described the property as “2.0 acres.” The trial court confirmed the two acres and mobile home were the wife’s separate property, and the 21 acres and house were the husband’s separate property. Then, in denying the wife’s motion for a new trial, the trial court credited the husband’s testimony that his only intent when signing the deed was to transfer the 2 acres and mobile home to his wife.

Continue Reading ›

Contact Information