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If you and your spouse are considering a divorce you may want to avoid costly litigation and mediate the case. Mediation is the process of asking a third party, a family law mediator, to help you settle the issues regarding property, custody, visitation, child support, etc.

Mediated Settlement Agreements Are Binding-

One reason to settle a case at mediation is that a Mediated Settlement Agreements, or an “MSA”, is almost impossible to change or challenge once signed. If you can reach an agreement and sign an MSA, you can know that those issues are behind you and move forward and enter a decree finalizing the case.  A valid MSA “is binding on the parties and requires the rendition of a divorce decree that adopts the parties’ agreement.” Milner v. Milner, 361 S.W.3d 615, 618 (Tex. 2012); see also Loya v. Loya, 526 S.W.3d 448, 451 (Tex. 2017).

In Texas, grandparents have a limited ability to seek court-ordered access and possession of their grandchildren. Grandparents who are considering filing a lawsuit to obtain possession and access need to understand the requirements, which are found in the family code.

Texas family code section 153.433-

This section allows a court to order reasonable possession of or access to a grandchild by a grandparent if:

Texas allows divorce and family law cases to bet set for a jury trial. Most clients don’t realize this is an option when they begin a family law case, but Texas does allow a jury to decide some issues in divorce and custody cases. If you are considering a jury trial you should talk to your lawyer about the advantages or disadvantages over a bench trial (having the judge decide the issues in your case.) Juries get to make binding decisions on some issues, but other issues are left to the judge to decide, even in a jury trial.

What issues can a jury decide in a Texas family law case?

  1. Grounds for divorce- If you plead for a fault divorce, a jury can decide if those grounds exist.

You are involved in a child custody case and you need to protect your children from the other parent’s dangerous behavior. Perhaps the other parent was arrested for DWI, is abusing drugs/alcohol, or has moved into a home with a dangerous criminal. These are common reasons our family law clients seek temporary restraining orders. Let’s talk about what parents can do to keep their children safe with a restraining order.

What is a temporary restraining order (TRO)?

A temporary restraining order is used to preserve the status quo in a case by restraining a party from doing something or preventing them from doing something. It is common for a parent to ask the court to protect the children in a case, and ask that the other parent be restrained from access or possession to the child in a case. If a TRO involves access or possession of a child, then an affidavit will need to be attached when your lawyer files for the TRO.

What is Discovery

If you’ve ever been in a lawsuit, chances are you have served the other party, or have been served by the other party, discovery requests. Discovery simply put is the exchanging of relevant information about the case that can help parties decide the best course of action to move forward, to come to an early settlement offer, or to help present the case in trial. If you are served Discovery Requests, you are required to respond to them. Not responding to them can lead to Court enforcement. 

Types of Discovery 

Do I need a Will? If so, What’s It All About?

Let’s start with the first question. Do you need a will? The answer is 1,000% YES! No matter what age you are, if you are married, have kids, or you live on a lonely island that you own out in the Bahamas, everyone needs a will. If you don’t have one, who gets the island?!

After a person dies, there are a lot of decisions that need to be made. Decisions ranging from funeral arrangements, what to do with your remains, along with who gets your property. Well, a will can take care of all of these decisions for you and give your family members time to grieve and celebrate your memory rather than making these hard decisions blindly. 

Are there different types of probate? 

When a loved one passes there are different types of applications that can be filed with the court to probate the estate. The type of action that needs to be filed will rely on whether your loved one had a will, how much time has passed, and the value of the estate. 

Muniment of Title 

If you can’t come to an agreement on the division of assets in a family case then you might have a trial. If you have a trial, then a judge might divide the assets in a way you don’t like, or think is unfair. What are your options if the judge awards the spouse assets you believe are separate property? Or awards your spouse a disproportionate share of the community estate?

You can file an appeal, and ask the court of appeals to overturn the judge’s ruling. The law requires that trial courts “order a division of the parties’ estate in a just and right manner considering the rights of each party and any children of the marriage. TEX. FAM. CODE § 7.001. That’s a pretty broad standard, and numerous factors are considered by the trial court, including the disparity of incomes or earning capacities of the parties, “benefits which the party not at fault would have derived from the continuation of the marriage, business opportunities, education, relative physical conditions, relative financial condition, and obligations, the disparity of ages, size of separate estates, and the nature of the property.” Murff v. Murff, 615 S.W.2d 696, 699 (Tex. 1981). That kind of sounds like the judge can do what they want if it reflects those conditions and a consideration of those factors. And that’s kind of right, the trial courts in Texas family cases are only held to an abuse of discretion standard. If you want to overturn a trial court’s ruling in a family case on appeal, you have to show the judge abused her discretion, which is a legal way of saying they really screwed up and didn’t follow the law correctly.

One way to challenge the judge’s ruling is to look at the evidence the judge considered in diving the estate. That is, did the consider any evidence that was “of a substantive and probative character?” If so, then it’s probably not an abuse of discretion on appeal. You’d probably want to argue on appeal there was no evidence on an issue, or if there was, it wasn’t substantive or probative.

In Texas a parent can have their rights terminated. Texas law allows a court to terminate a parent-child relationship only if the court finds clear and convincing evidence for one or more statutory grounds for termination and that termination is in the child’s best interest. TEX. FAM. CODE ANN. § 161.001

How does a court decide if parental termination is in a child’s best interest? 

Texas courts use what are called the Holley factors from this case, Holley v. Adams, 544 S.W.2d 367, 371–72 (Tex. 1976).

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.