Overview of Texas Family Law Information
Types of Family Law Cases
Family law can encompass any one of a number of possible issues, and The Gonzalez Law Group handles a wide variety of these kinds of cases. Common types of family law cases can include, but are not limited to:
Contested & Uncontested Divorce / Dissolution of Marriage
Tex. Fam. Code §6.001 – §6.007 establishes the reasons for a dissolution of marriage. In Texas, divorce can be either be “no-fault” or “fault-based.” The decision to end a marriage is never easy and can involve complicated decision making for both parties. There may be disputes about property rights, child custody, alimony payments, and various other possible affairs. Due to the fact, there are various important matters, disputes can quickly come up, leading to a contested divorce.
A pre-marital agreement is vital when an individual wants to protect themselves before entering marriage, it can be because the partner has debt or various other reasons. It is best when drafted by an attorney.
- Cohabitation Agreements – If you and your partner are living together but not married, the law does not protect your property rights the same way as if you were married. That is to say, that once the relationship ends, the law does not protect your rights to the property you and your partner have purchased or have acquired during the relationship. A cohabitation contract gives the unmarried couple the financial security options of a married couple without having to be married.
- Post-nuptial – The agreement covers affairs that would and can arise during a divorce proceeding (e.g., alimony, property division, etc.). Furthermore, the agreement is done after a couple is married or enters into a civil union.
- Pre-nuptial – The agreement is between two partials, usually soon to be spouses regarding their financial ownerships and responsibilities in case of a divorce.
Termination of Parental Rights
Whether you want to terminate someone’s parental rights or your own, it is important to retain an experienced attorney. Birth parents can file a claim to terminate their parental rights. The court must determine if granting a voluntary petition of parental rights is in the best interest of the child. If you would like to place your child for adoption and terminate your rights, consulting with an experienced family law attorney can guide you through the process and inform you of the resources available to you.
Tex. Fam. Code § 45.103(a) states that the court must order a change of name for any persons except a person with a final felony conviction or a person who is subjected to the sex offender registration requirements. Tex. Fam. Code § 45.101 establishes that an adult may file to request a name change in the county of the adult’s place of residence.
An annulment is different than a divorce, and when a person annuls his/her marriage, he/she can legally claim that he/she was never married. Tex. Fam. Code § 6.106 applies if either party was permanently impotent at the time of the marriage without the knowledge of the petitioner. Consulting with a legal professional can best advise you on your options and if you can qualify for an annulment based on your specific situation.
- Annulment for Under 18 – Tex. Fam. Code § 6.102 establishes the annulment of a marriage to a person who 16 years of age or older but under 18 years old. Also, the marriage happened without parental consent or a court order. Annulling a marriage on the grounds of a person being under 18 must be done quickly, therefore, it is important to seek legal help.
Division of Property
Under Tex. Fam. Code § 7.001 in the case of a divorce or annulment the court orders the division of property in a “manner that the court deems just and right,” keeping in mind the rights of everyone involve and any children that were a result of the marriage. During a divorce, there might be years of marital assets.
- Separate Property – Tex. Fam. Code § 3.001 establishes what a separate property consists of. It is important to have an experienced lawyer represent you because, during a marriage, separate and community properties co-mingle. Therefore, during a dissolution of marriage, you must prove that the property is solely yours and should not be divided.
- Community Property – Tex. Fam. Code § 3.002 indicates that a community property consists of the property acquired by either spouse during marriage. Texas law requires the court to divide the property in a “just and right” manner. Therefore, the division of property must be equitable, not equal.
- High Net Worth – It is imperative to consult with a legal professional because the divorce process can become more complicated when it involves the division of high-value assets. Dividing high-value community property can cause a lot of tension, these properties include retirement benefits, mutual funds, stocks, real estate, life insurance policies, etc.
Spousal Maintenance / Alimony
Tex. Fam. Code § 8.001(1) defines the term maintenance as an award during a divorce or dissolution of a marriage of “periodic payments from the future income of one spouse for the support of the other spouse.” Tex. Fam. Code § 8.051 establishes the eligibility requirements for spousal maintenance.
- Enforcement of Spousal Maintenance Order – Under Tex. Fam. Code § 8.059 the court has the right to enforce spousal maintenance under the specific situation. For instance, if the court had previously ordered spousal maintenance or if both parties had voluntarily agreed to periodic spousal maintenance payments and it was approved by the court. If you are not receiving your spousal maintenance, despite the court’s order then it is in your best interest to consult with a legal professional.
- Modification of Spousal Support – It is possible to reduce, increase or terminate spousal support. However, the supporting spouse must demonstrate a significant change in circumstances that will cause the court to reconsider. For instance, the paying spouse can file for modification if the receiving spouse has obtained a higher paying job, and their needs are met. If this is recognized by the court, the paying spouse might have their payments reduced or terminated. Tex. Fam. Code § 8.057(b) states when the notice for modification must be submitted.
Parents have a duty to support and provide for their children. Texas State has guidelines that take into consideration the parent’s net resources, other children, and various other factors. Nevertheless, it is important to consult with an experienced professional because not every case and situation is exactly the same. An attorney can help negotiate and calculate the appropriate amount of child support depending on your individual circumstances.
Child Custody / Conservatorship
Tex. Fam. Code § 153.002 the “best interest of the child shall always be the primary consideration of the court in determining the issues of conservatorship and possession of and access to the child.” The court must determine if the child’s parents are willing and able to provide the child with a safe environment.
Modifications of Child Support
Texas state allows for the modification of child support under Tex. Fam. Code § 156.401. Even if you and the other parent of the child have come to an agreement on a modification, it is best to undergo court procedures. If you are a parent or conservator and want the Child Support order changed, it is in your best interest to consult with an attorney. A modification for child support can be made when your circumstances significantly change, for example, having to move out-of-state because of a job opportunity, going overseas for military deployment, losing a job, etc.
Whether you are deciding to adopt a child or put your child for adoption, the decision is life-changing. It included various legal procedures and parents must meet certain requirements. If you are adopting a child, having legal counsel can ensure all the necessary paperwork is filed. If you are placing your child for adoption it is important that you seek legal representation that can adequately represent your rights, inform you of all your legal options, and work with you to make sure that the adoption is structured in a way that suits all parties involved.
Enforcement of Court Order
If you need assistance in enforcing a court order child support, custody, and visitation, protective orders, etc. Texas state holds an individual in contempt for disobeying a court decree.
When an unmarried couple has a child, maternity is typically straightforward and undisputed; however, paternity is not automatically established. If you are in a paternity dispute or would like to establish paternity, consult with a skilled family law attorney.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
According to Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 154.002 states the policy of Texas to encourage a peaceful resolution of disputes, while taking into consideration the “parent-child relationship, including the mediation of issues involving conservatorship, possession, and support of children.” This is an alternative for family affairs that require a legal remedy, yet the individuals involved would like to stay off the court. The process is more casual and can encourage and facilitate early settlement.
- Mediation- It is meant to help the opposing parties come to an agreement on a voluntary settlement and not to resolve disputes. The process is guided by a mediator that was either chosen by the parties or appointed by the judge.
In a family law case, either party may be able to file a motion for a temporary order for specific decisions or actions related to the case. At The Gonzalez Law Group, we assist clients with a wide variety of temporary orders.
- Temporary Restraining Orders (TROs) – A protective order and a temporary restraining order is not the same. Temporary Restraining Orders (TROs) are meant to protect a person’s property after a suit has been filed for the dissolution of marriage. Per Tex. R. Civ. P. § 680 the order cannot exceed 14 days, and no more than one extension can be granted unless subsequent extensions are unopposed.
Texas Family Law Definitions
Many different terms and phrases used in family law cases have very specific meanings. For example, Tex. Fam. Code § 101.0010 defines an acknowledged father as a man who has established a father-child relationship under Chapter 160 of the Texas Family Code, but a man who alleges himself to be, or is alleged to be, the genetic father or a possible genetic father of a child, but whose paternity has not been determined is considered an alleged father under Tex. Fam. Code § 101.0015. An alleged father does not include a presumed father, a man whose parental rights have been terminated or declared to not exist, or a male donor.
If you have been involved in a family law dispute, some terms may be confusing. The following is a list of common terms used in family law and how Texas defines those terms in the Texas Family Code:
- Acknowledged Father — A man who has established a father-child relationship under Chapter 160 of the Texas Family Code.
- Alleged Father — A man who alleges himself to be, or is alleged to be, the genetic father or a possible genetic father of a child, but whose paternity has not been determined. Alleged father does not include a presumed father, a man whose parental rights have been terminated or declared to not exist, or a male donor.
- Attorney Ad Litem — An attorney who provides legal services to a person, including a child, and who owes to the person the duties of undivided loyalty, confidentiality, and competent representation.
- Child or Minor; Adult — Child or minor is defined as a person under 18 years of age who is not and has not been married or who has not had the disabilities of minority removed for general purposes. In the context of child support, “child” includes a person over 18 years of age for whom a person may be obligated to pay child support. An adult is a person who is not a child.
- Child Support Services — Administrative or court actions to establish paternity; establish, modify, or enforce child support, medical support, or dental support obligations; locate absent parents; or cooperate with other states in these actions and any other action authorized or required under Part D of Title IV of the federal Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. Section 651 et seq.) or Chapter 231 of the Texas Family Code.
- Clear and Convincing Evidence— The measure or degree of proof that will produce in the mind of the trier of fact a firm belief or conviction as to the truth of the allegations sought to be established.
- Danger to Physical Health or Safety of Child — Includes exposure of the child to loss or injury that jeopardizes the physical health or safety of the child without regard to whether there has been an actual prior injury to the child.
- Disposable Earnings — The part of the earnings of an individual remaining after the deduction from those earnings of any amount required by law to be withheld, union dues, nondiscretionary retirement contributions, and medical, hospitalization, and disability insurance coverage for the obligor and the obligor’s children.
- Earnings — A payment to or due to an individual, regardless of source and how denominated. The term includes a periodic or lump-sum payment for wages, salary, compensation received as an independent contractor, overtime pay, severance pay, commission, bonus, and interest income; payments made under a pension, an annuity, workers’ compensation, and a disability or retirement program; and unemployment benefits.
- Family Violence — An act by a member of a family or household against another member of the family or household that is intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault or that is a threat that reasonably places the member in fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault, but does not include defensive measures to protect oneself; abuse by a member of a family or household toward a child of the family or household; or dating violence.
- Foster Care — The placement of a child who is in the conservatorship of the Department of Family and Protective Services and in care outside the child’s home in a residential child-care facility, including an agency foster home, specialized child-care home, cottage home operation, general residential operation, or another facility licensed or certified under Chapter 42, Human Resources Code, in which care is provided for 24 hours a day.
- Guardian Ad Litem — A person appointed to represent the best interests of a child, including a volunteer advocate from a charitable organization described by Subchapter C who is appointed by the court as the child’s guardian ad litem; a professional, other than an attorney, who holds a relevant professional license and whose training relates to the determination of a child’s best interests; an adult having the competence, training, and expertise determined by the court to be sufficient to represent the best interests of the child; or an attorney ad litem appointed to serve in the dual role.
- Joint Managing Conservatorship — The sharing of the rights and duties of a parent by two parties, ordinarily the parents, even if the exclusive right to make certain decisions may be awarded to one party.
- Managing Conservatorship — The relationship between a child and a managing conservator appointed by court order.
- Obligee — A person or entity entitled to receive payments of child support, including an agency of this state or of another jurisdiction to which a person has assigned the person’s right to support.
- Parent — The mother, a man presumed to be the father, 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 mother or father. A parent does not include a parent as to whom the parent-child relationship has been terminated unless the person is ordered to pay child support or to provide medical support for a child for purposes of establishing, determining the terms of, modifying, or enforcing an order.
- Parent-Child Relationship — The legal relationship between a child and the child’s parents as provided by Chapter 160 of the Texas Family Code. The term includes the mother and child relationship and the father and child relationship.
- Standard Possession Order — An order that provides a parent with rights of possession of a child in accordance with the terms and conditions of Subchapter F, Chapter 153 of the Texas Family Code.
- Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship — A suit filed as provided by this title in which the appointment of a managing conservator or a possessory conservator, access to or support of a child, or establishment or termination of the parent-child relationship is requested. The following are not suits affecting the parent-child relationship: a habeas corpus proceeding under Chapter 157 of the Texas Family Code; a proceeding filed under Chapter 159 of the Texas Family Code to determine parentage or to establish, enforce, or modify child support, whether this state is acting as the initiating or responding state; and a proceeding under Title 2.
While these terms will give you some context in a family law case, they can only take you so far. It is highly advised you seek out an experienced attorney to guide you through family legal affairs.
Family Law Attorneys in Houston, TX
If you need help with a family law matter in Southeast Texas, it will be in your best interest to retain legal counsel. At The Gonzalez Law Group, our family law department will work tirelessly to help you achieve the most favorable possible outcome to your situation. We take pride in the quality service we provide for our clients from the initial consultation throughout the process and afterward. Family legal affairs are complicated and difficult, they can also be emotionally devastating. By you trusting us with your family legal matters we take the time to develop a strategy that demonstrates your best interest, we are dedicated to protecting your rights, and providing you with the resources and tools you need to be successful.
Our lawyers in Houston assist individuals in the greater Harris County area including Pearland, Baytown, Seabrook, La Porte, Pasadena, Galena Park, Friendswood, and many others. You can have our attorneys review your case and help you understand all of your legal options when you call (832) 530-4070 or submit an online contact form to have our lawyers review your case and discuss all of your legal options during a free, confidential consultation.