We never encourage people to get divorced who aren’t ready. Divorce is not something to go into lightly and it can be a very expensive endeavor. With that being said, putting off an inevitable divorce can be much more expensive in the long run. In Texas, we are a community property state. That means that all property that is acquired during the marriage is considered a part of the “community estate.” All property that is part of the community estate is subject to being divided by the judge when the divorce is finalized. What this means practically is that in Texas once you are married to someone everything you buy and all debt you incur is basically equally the property of both spouses. This can be good or bad depending on where you are situated in a particular relationship. However, the risk with waiting to get a divorce is that your current spouse is incurring a large amount of debt that you can be on the hook for or that anything you buy and any income you get is going to be subject to being divided in your divorce.

Up to one in four couples who choose to divorce choose to do so in January according to some sources. This is often attributed to the fact that people are choosing to stay together during the holidays for the sake of their families, usually their children. Some say that the stress of the holidays is actually what causes the uptick of divorces after the new year. Whatever the cause, if you are thinking of putting off an inevitable divorce it is important to understand that waiting to get a divorce finalized can cost you. Texas has a mandatory sixty day waiting period once a divorce is filed that is rarely waived. So, even if you think you are only waiting until the beginning of the year to get divorced and then everything will be done, the reality is you still have at least sixty days left of being married, with the majority of cases taking much longer than sixty days to actually be finalized.

Additionally, there is nothing that says just because you file for divorce that you cannot still celebrate the holidays together for the sake of the kids. There is no reason to let children in on your adult problems over the holidays unnecessarily. Obviously at some point the children are going to figure out that you are no longer married, but if you are already not cohabitating as spouses, filing a divorce petition is not going to be something that you have to reveal to your children.

With the holidays approaching and many people spending money on gifts for their children some people may be left wondering whether they can count the money they spend on Christmas gifts as part of their child support payment. The short answer is no. The family code states that any order rendered by a judge after 1994 shall order that child support be paid through the state disbursement unit. In addition to the specific provision of where to pay child support each month, most orders include provisions that state that any payments or gifts made outside of the money paid to the state disbursement unit each month shall not count as a credit against any child support that is owed.

 

Child support is supposed to be set in an amount that is in the best interest of the child. The amount is based on the needs of the child every month. Those needs include food, shelter, clothing, and other basic necessities that are required to raise a child. A gift at Christmas does not change the fact that those needs for the child still need to be met that month. Basically, it is very unlikely that a Christmas gift, no matter how practical or expensive, will be counted as a credit toward child support that is due. Child support payments should always be made in the manner that they are ordered to be paid.

 

If you have any questions regarding child support or any family law matter contact Guest and Gray and we can schedule a time to discuss your issue and let you know your options.

Whether you are getting divorced, have previously been divorced, or have had a child with someone you are not in a relationship with, co-parenting can be a struggle. When two people attempt to successfully co-parent for the sake of their child’s well-being, everyone is happier. This blog post is going to discuss nine ways that you can help make your own and your child’s life easier by co-parenting more effectively.

  1. Commit to being positive. Being positive about the child’s other parent and about the unique situation that your family is in can be beneficial for everyone in a co-parenting situation. As tempting as it may be to talk badly about your ex, it is not going to benefit your child in any way to hear you speak about their parent in a negative way.
  2. Try to stay consistent. If you and your ex can agree to follow the same type of structure in your houses your child can benefit greatly. It may be tempting to be the “fun” parent, but research shows that having a consistent routine in both homes is beneficial for a child. Children thrive in structured environments so it is beneficial to have the same or similar rules and schedules in both homes.

The short answer is, probably not. For the most part, the policy of the Texas Family Code is to have the parents of the child make all of the decisions about the way a child is raised and that includes deciding which family members get to see the child. In some circumstances an aunt or uncle may be able to intervene in an existing case regarding their niece or nephew or even be able to open up a case on their own. This would require some specific findings on the part of the judge regarding the health and safety of the child. The aunt or uncle must basically show that their intervention in the case is necessary because without it the physical health or emotional development of the child would be significantly impaired.

There are also ways that can be initiated by other parties that an aunt or uncle may end up involved in a case about their niece or nephew. A child may be placed with an aunt or uncle by CPS or even given over to the aunt or uncle by the biological parents themselves. In these cases, as long as certain timeframes are met, the aunt and uncle can petition the court to grant them custody of the child. However, even in these circumstances the judge still has discretion in deciding what is in the best interest of the child and whether the aunt and uncle should be given a legal right to possession of the child.

If you are an aunt or uncle and you have a question about a family law situation contact Guest and Gray and we can go over your options with you.

More and more people are moving towards more of a 50/50 custody schedule. There is no specific provision that entitles parties to 50/50 possession in Texas as of now, but with the introduction of a bill last legislative session that would have made 50/50 possession a requirement in most cases (see this news story for more information) and with more states moving towards 50/50 possession as their default, it’s no wonder that people have questions about how it works. This blog post is going to attempt to cover some of the most frequently seen 50/50 custody schedules and discuss some pros and cons of each one.

50/50 Custody, equal possession, or whatever else you may have heard it called can mean a lot of different things in Texas. The Texas Family Code does not provide any set 50/50 schedule and it is not presumed to be best for a child. In fact, many judges are hesitant to set a 50/50 possession schedule because it can be a less stable situation for a child and can make things complicated. For more information on this see our previous post: here. Additionally, many people have a misconception that 50/50 custody will mean $0 child support and that is not usually the case. For more information on this misconception see our previous post: here.

Every Other Week

Understanding the standards used to make a decision when a CPS termination has been started can be crucial. Whether you are attempting to adopt through foster care or you are facing a termination hearing yourself, understanding the way the judge is going to make their decision is very important. Many people have misconceptions about the rights a parent has to their children and, for a variety of reasons, many people have a mistrust of the legal system when it comes to deciding where a child should live and who should have the right to see a child.

Depending on who you talk to, some people feel that courts are too quick to take children away and it also seems that an equal amount of people feel that courts take too long to terminate parental rights. The Texas legislature has attempted to strike a balance in the standards used to make decisions in a termination hearing between these two complaints. This blog post is going to attempt to break down the often complicated standards used when a judge is faced with the task of deciding whether or not to terminate parental rights.

What standard is used in a termination hearing?

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.

This may seem crazy to most people, but under current Texas law children under the age of 16 can get married in Texas with consent of one parent and approval from a judge. There has been no floor on the age that a child can get married in Texas meaning that it is entirely up to a judge as to whether it is appropriate for a child to get married. After September 1st of this year that will no longer be true as a result of the signing of Senate Bill 1705 by Governor Abbott. Texas will have an absolute floor of 16 years old for marriage. People under the age of 18 but older than 16 will have to have a judge consent to marry under the new law.

If you are involved in any type of dispute involving child support in Texas you have probably been given advice from well-meaning family and friends about what your options and rights are. Unfortunately, some advice that may have been accurate in the past may not be accurate now and because each family law case presents a unique fact situation even completely accurate statements about something that happened to another person may not matter in your case. So, here are 10 child support misconceptions that we would like to clear up:

  1. The guy is always going to be ordered to pay child support.

The Family Code in Texas is gender-neutral. There is nothing in the code that presumes that the mother should be with the child the majority of the time and there is nothing in the code that says that the father should be the one paying child support. In many cases parties are able to prove that it would be in the child’s best interest to spend the majority of the time with the father and the mother should be the one paying child support. This is obviously a very fact-sensitive issue and it may seem to a lot of people that the dad is always the one ordered to pay child support, but that is not a requirement under Texas law.

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.