Blog on Divorce and Family Law
Learning some basic information about divorce and family law can help prepare you for the legal issues you face. Our attorneys believe that honest advice, straight talk and some basic legal knowledge can make a big difference. A legal issue is a two-sided coin ─ your side versus the other side. Our job is to apply our knowledge, skills and experience to help you get the results you want. However, that doesn’t mean there is no participation on your part. You have important decisions to make that affect your future. The better you understand, the better you are at making smart decisions.
We hope you find our blog useful. Of course, forming a client-attorney relationship is the only way to receive legal advice, and these posts are not intended as legal advice nor the establishment of a client-attorney relationship.
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A bill pending before the Texas Legislature right now could change divorce in Texas.
Fathers in the Lone Star State are rallying in support of a new law to be passed that would change the child custody law. Texas House Bill 453, authored by State Rep. James White, R-Woodville, would create a presumption of equality between mothers and fathers in spending parenting time with their children after they separate.
How It Works in Texas Family Court
In a Texas divorce, child custody is referred to as a “conservatorship”, which is the word used to describe the legal rights and responsibilities of a parent. Texas courts name a child’s custodian parent as a “conservator.” The most important concern for the court in deciding on a conservatorship plan is what is in best interest of the child.
Texas Child Custody
A family law judge will decide the terms of a “conservatorship” unless both parents reach a custody agreement prior to arriving in a family court. In that case, the court would just need to approve it. According to House Bill 453, the courts must enter a possession schedule that divides the time equally.
Texas Child Conservatorships
- Joint managing conservatorship (JMC) In a joint managing conservatorship both parties share the rights and duties of a parent. Even in this situation, the exclusive right to make certain decisions may be awarded to one parent only. Remember, the court uses the legal standard of “what is in the best interests of the child. The challenge of a JMC is that when a judge makes both parents JMCs it may not mean that both parents are going to have equal possession and access to the child. Custody and visitation are decided in a separate visitation schedule known as a standard possession order (SPO). When both parents are made conservators, the judge will specify the responsibilities each parent has separately and jointly.
- Sole managing conservatorship (SMC) Sole managing conservatorship (SMC) means the court grants only one parent the legal right to make certain decisions concerning the child. There are several reasons why a court could grant one parent an SMC. Perhaps one parent doesn’t want joint managing conservatorship (custody) responsibilities.
Child Support and Visitation Schedule
The judge will create a visitation schedule, called a standard possession order, using certain guidelines. Visitation is called possession of and access to a child. A parent can get possession and access, unless the judge determines it is not in the best interests of the child and will endanger the physical or emotional well-being of the child. Parents can either agree on a visitation schedule or the judge will order a schedule he or she thinks is in the best interest of the child. When a Texas court judge makes a decision about child custody, the orders almost always include child support to be paid by the parent that the child doesn’t live with, the “non-custodial parent”.
Texas child support laws can sometimes get complicated. It is a smart decision to consult an experienced Texas family law attorney if you have questions about your specific situation.
GET LEGAL HELP WITH CHILD CUSTODY ARRANGEMENTS
Our attorneys at C.E. Borman & Associates can help you make important decisions about child custody and also help with negotiating a fair settlement.
Raising happy, healthy children in separate households starts with a parenting agreement
Children benefit from a detailed co-parenting agreement
It can be hard to know exactly how to move forward in raising your children together after having just separated from the other person that your kids depend on the most. Most divorcing parents quickly realize that the weight, worry and time spent on the divorce process may have prevented the reality of the situation from sinking in. It’s a big change when one of the parents moves out and the entire family and each parent begins a new life that includes co-parenting with a former spouse.
Divorce Changes the Whole Family
Co-parenting isn’t something that will be easy for every parent immediately after a divorce. It can be difficult to know how to transition and move forward raising your children together. Divorce creates big shifts in relationships within the family dynamics and with close friends. Even before the divorce is final, parents are figuring out how to parent the children from two households.
What will it mean to the family?
Life does not stop after a divorce, and children need some structure in their lives to be able to move forward. No matter how parents go about this, the children’s best interests are at the heart of every decision and they need to work to find compromise in the new normal. It is very important to keep the children safe and minimize the stress of living in two homes.
When raising children in separate households, parents should communicate in such a way that not only keeps them informed but also helps them both be able to keep the rules and standards that they have agreed on in their agreement.
For a successful transition to co-parenting, each parent should write down a list of rules and expectations going forward. Then they can compare the lists of what each parent thinks and believes to be the most important for their children. These lists will be a good starting point to begin drafting a parental agreement.
5 steps to begin a parenting agreement that works best for your family:
- Parents should agree on a set of rules and standards for their children
- Parents should discuss what the main standards are and how they will be upheld in both homes
- Parents should always keep the children’s best interest as the focus and work to compromise when needed
- Parents should work to be consistent between the two households to maintain a balanced, structured and healthy life for the children in each home
- Parents should communicate in such a way that keeps them informed
A co-parenting plan like this reduces the likelihood of misunderstandings and conflicts between the parents. Plus, there are usually lower legal fees and attorney’s costs, and it is beneficial to the children.
Getting a divorce impacts all the family members and more than likely that includes a very special pet of one kind or another – furry, feathery, or scaly. No matter if they live in the house or outside, it’s important to know what to expect as you make plans for a new life.
Texas law takes the position that pets are property, not family members. Even though your pet might sometimes feel like a child, decisions about what is to become of domestic animals after a divorce are very different from child custody determinations.
Texas is a Community Property State
Because community property laws affect property and other valuable assets, they can have a profound effect on a spouse’s future when they are forced to part with an asset which was thought to be separate property. Absent a prenuptial agreement between the couple, the state law in which the couple was married will dictate how property will be distributed.
In property division, debts and assets of the divorcing partners are split up. If you and your spouse are arguing over custody of the dog, the judge will treat Bruno as just another asset. That means the court will put a price tag on Bruno — particularly if he’s a purebred or otherwise valuable breed — if you acquired the dog during your marriage. If you had him before you married, or if someone gave him to you as a gift or inheritance, he’s your separate property and the court won’t get involved.
If Bruno the dog is treated as community property, and if you get the dog in the divorce, your spouse must receive a different asset of comparable value. If you don’t have sufficient assets to balance this, it’s possible that the court might order that the dog be sold so you can share the proceeds. Whatever the outcome, the ruling should be included in your decree. It is possible to co-own a pet on an ongoing basis with your ex-partner by providing provisions related to care expenses for the animal and developing a custody schedule.
Protection for Family Pets
In addition to prenups and post-nups, you and your spouse can have a “pet nups” to specifically provide for the rights and responsibilities each will have in regard to the pet in the event they are no longer living under the same roof.
If there are dire circumstances, under the Texas Family Code, a protective order can include a provision prohibiting a person found to have committed family violence from harming, threatening, or interfering with the care, custody, or control of a pet, companion animal, or assistance animal in the care of a person, family, or household member protected by the order. Many counties in Texas have included this protective language in their “standing orders”.
With society’s changing attitude that pets are not property but family, this is an emerging area of family law. Pets can help you through a divorce, and a lawyer can help you keep your pets.
To help get the best out come possible for you and your pet, get in touch with a Texas family law attorney and start planning for your future. Our attorneys at C.E. Borman & Associates, can provide you with trusted legal advice.
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