Articles Posted in Family law

Most people assume that if you are awarded primary custody, and you have a child living with you the majority of the time, then the other parent will pay you child support. The Dallas Court of Appeals recently heard a case in which Father was ordered to pay child support, even though Father had the child 70% of the time and was considered the custodial parent with primary custody.

How did this happen? Let’s look at In the Interest of ARW, No. 05-18-00201-CV from the Dallas Court of Appeals.

What happened in ARW?

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.

Taking the time to decide what changes will need to be made because of the realities of the divorce is an important step in the divorce process. Many people enter into divorce without taking into consideration the changes that are going to need to be made after the divorce and without having a realistic idea of how much divorce costs. This blog post is going to address 5 financial issues that that should be considered when planning for your divorce.

  1. Where are you going to get your insurance from? One of the largest costs in most people’s budgets is the cost of insurance and healthcare. While people are married the cost of insurance may be coming from one employer and if you are planning on divorcing it is important to factor in how you will be covered for insurance after the divorce.
  2. How much is the divorce going to cost? Consulting with an attorney when contemplating divorce can be helpful in gauging how much money is going to be spent on the actual divorce and how that is going to impact your bottom-line for your divorce year. Costs of attorney’s fees can add up quickly in a divorce and it is important to factor them into your planning for your divorce. Attorneys can explain how much money will be spent on getting the divorce process started and the possible ways that the costs of divorce can be covered and how they may be changed throughout the process.

Pre-nuptial agreements, called premarital agreements under Texas law, are frequently in the news and even in pop culture references (shout-out to Kanye West).  You may think that living in Dallas, Kaufman, or Rockwall County that you don’t need to worry about a premarital agreement, but they can be a very valuable tool. No one likes to think about divorce at the beginning of their marriage, but with the amount of marriages that end in divorce it can be extremely helpful to get an agreement in writing ahead of time to make sure that a divorce can be as painless as possible.

What are the requirements for a premarital agreement in Texas?

In Texas, a premarital agreement must be in writing and signed by both parties. It is pretty much that simple. There are many things that may be contracted for in a premarital agreement but one major thing that is NOT allowed to be modified in certain ways in a premarital agreement is child support. You can’t completely get rid of (the statute says, “adversely affect”) child support. It makes sense because it seems like bad policy to have a child suffer because of an agreement of the parties that was possibly made before they were even born.

What is a Mediated Settlement Agreement?

If you reach an agreement in a mediation, more precisely called a Mediated settlement agreement or MSA for short, the agreement is binding on you and all other parties you are agreeing with in a family law case as long as the MSA is drafted in the way that is required under the Texas Family Code. The agreement must be the result of a mediation, hence the name, which is basically just the meeting of both parties with a neutral third person facilitating the conversation so that the parties can come to an agreement. Texas law encourages mediation as a cost-efficient and time-efficient way of settling disputes. One of the benefits of mediation is that instead of a judge who has only a glimpse into the lives of parties based on evidence presented to him or her, during a mediation the parties who know their situation and family the best get to come to an agreement that works for them and is custom to their situation.

One downside to a mediation could be that as opposed to a judge who should know what the consequences of their decision could potentially be, parties could be making agreements in a mediated settlement agreement using language that will have consequences after the agreement is entered that they did not intend. One of the reasons that we trust judges to make decisions for us in legal matters is that in general they have years of experience dealing with similar matters and they should understand what all of the legal jargon that goes into an order actually means.

Can I ask a Texas Court for visitation rights for my grandchild?

Texas allows grandparents to gain court-ordered visitation of grandchildren in very limited circumstances. The reason that the statute allowing grandparent visitation is so limited is because the United States Supreme Court has decided that parents having the ability to make decisions about raising their children is a fundamental right that should not be interfered with by courts. Basically, in the United States we want parents to be able to decide whether their kids get to see their grandparents or not even if the parents don’t seem to have a great reason for keeping their kids away from their grandparents. A parent’s right to decide how their kids are raised is more important under the law than a grandparent’s desire to see their grandchildren.

How does Grandparent visitation work in Texas?

Can I appeal my divorce while still accepting benefits from the parts of the judgment that work in my favor?

As with most questions asked about the law, the answer to whether you can appeal a part of your divorce while accepting benefits from the parts of the divorce you do like is, it depends.  More accurately, the answer is, probably not. This is because of a legal concept called estoppel.

What is estoppel?

The Texas Family Code requires that a child in the conservatorship of DFPS attend all permanency hearings. This section also requires that if the court determines it is in the best interest of the child, and the child is older than four, that the court must consult with the child in a developmentally appropriate manner regarding the permanency plan. However, Texas courts do not consistently require children to attend permanency hearings.

Why aren’t children attending the hearings? 

The code has an exception that states that judges can make an individual determination that excuses a child from attending a specific hearing. Apparently,  many judges are deciding that it is not necessary for the children to be at the hearings. Of course, issues with school attendance and actually getting children to court are factors that contribute to children not being able to attend permanency hearings, but options like video conferencing and the fact that a child attending court while in foster care is an excused absence should help to alleviate any of these problems.

Family Law Discovery Issues:

If there is one aspect of practicing law that a consensus of attorneys will agree is a mental beat-down, it would be the discovery process. Since discovery is a necessary evil, discovery is a tool that attorneys must effectively wield in order to adequately represent their client.

Very often, we have men and women who are attempting to battle through a divorce on their own, and once they are served with discovery requests they come looking for help. That is the smart move. An experienced family law attorney will know exactly what needs to be done and will get your case on track.

The Texas Family Code has a lot to say on what it means to be a father, what rights fathers have in regards to their children, and what obligations come along for the ride.

So first off, who is considered to be the father?

It is “a man legally determined to be the father, a man who has been adjudicated to be the father by a court of competent jurisdiction, a man who has acknowledged his paternity under applicable law, or an adoptive … father.” TFC § 101.024.