Can my ex change custody arrangements because I am living with someone else or if my new partner gets arrested?
Once a Custody Order is in place, there are specific criteria which must be met before the Court will change it. The party asking for a change must either 1) show the Court a negative change in the child's living situation or 2) prove to the Court that all of the parties involved have agreed to the proposed change. Often times, a parent will ask the Court for a modification due to the other parent's dating habits. Keep this, as well as your children's happiness and safety, in mind before any adult moves in with you and your children. Also, make sure that you are aware of any criminal or CPS history your new partner has as this may become a significant issue in any modification you or your children's other parent may ask for. If you are concerned about your children's living situation, contact your Family Law Attorney as soon as possible.
What is the difference between an uncontested divorce, a default divorce, and a contested divorce?
An uncontested (or waiver) divorce is the simplest type of divorce and takes place when the parties have reached agreements in all issues. The responding party signs a document indicating that service of the divorce papers by a sheriff, constable, or process server is not necessary and usually signs the Final Decree of Divorce at that time as well.
A default divorce is when although duly cited, the responding party fails to file an answer to the Petition for Divorce and no written agreement is in place. Your ex-partner can not stop the divorce from happening by not responding. A final hearing will still be held and the result will be a default divorce.
A contested divorce is the most common type of divorce and occurs when the parties have not reached agreements regarding their children, property division, or other separation issues.
Whether your divorce is simple or complex, begin the process by calling your Family Law Attorney as soon as possible so that the matter can be resolved in a timely manner.
What is joint custody and does it mean the children will spend equal time with each parent?
Joint Custody refers to a Joint Managing Conservatorship (JMC) which is a legal term that means both parents are awarded almost all of the rights, duties, and privileges of a parent over their children. One parent is awarded the right to determine where the children live and is given the right to receive Child Support. This parent is often referred to as the "primary" joint managing conservator. JMC does not necessarily mean that there will be an exact, even split of the children's time between the parents. The Courts in Texas typically order either a Standard Possession Order, which allows for every other weekend visits, or an "Expanded" Standard Possession Order, which increases the length of the visits allowed. If you are a Joint Managing Conservator of your children and feel as though you are not being allowed enough access to them, contact your Family Law Attorney as soon as possible so they may begin the process of either enforcing the Order in place or modifying the Order to allow for more time with your children.
Can Family Law issues be decided upon without going to Court?
Yes, there are several ways that Family Law issues can be settled outside of Court. If the parties can come to an agreement on their own, they can have their Family Law Attorney present the agreement to the Court as a proposed order. If the parties can not come to an agreement, most Courts will order that the parties attend mediation before trying the case in Court. Mediation is a meeting between the parties that is hosted by a mediator, who is impartial and appointed by the Court. The mediator does not "take sides" and will help the parties reach an agreement, which is then presented to the Court as a proposed order. Mediation is almost always successful and can save both parties time and money as it does away with the need to take the case to Trial. Whether you have reached an agreement on your own or are seeking to reach an agreement, your Family Law Attorney will be able to help you finalize the matter.
I heard the laws for alimony have changed. If so, what changes were made?
Yes, effective September 1, 2011, the rules did change regarding the amount and duration of alimony a person can receive after a divorce (called "spousal maintenance" in Texas). Previously, if a person had been married for at least ten years they could be eligible to receive spousal support of up to$2,500 per month or 20% of the other spouse's gross monthly income (whichever was less) for a duration of up to three years. Now, the maximum amount a person can receive is $5,000 per month or 20% of the other spouse's gross monthly income (whichever is less) and the duration of the payments can be up to 5 years if you were married between 10 and 20 years, up to 7 years if you were married between 20 and 30 years, and up to 10 years of maintenance if the marriage is longer than 30 years. Other changes to the law were also made regarding the facts and circumstances that are required to obtain spousal maintenance. Consult your local family law attorney for more information.
If I were to lose my job or my income decreased, what do I do about my Child Support Obligation?
Child Support is an Order of the Court and remains in effect until the Court's Order changes. To change the amount of Child Support you pay, you must ask the Court to modify its prior Order. A Motion to Modify the Child Support Obligation will have to be filed with the Court, the other parent must be given notice of the request for modification, and a Hearing must be held. This process can take several months, so contact your Family Law Attorney as soon as you become aware that there is, or will be, a change in your income.
Can a step-parent adopt their step-child?
Yes, a step-parent can adopt their step-child, once the parent not married to the step-parent relinquishes their parental rights. For example, a step-mother could adopt her step-children once their biological mother's parental rights have been terminated. Termination of parental rights can be either voluntary or involuntary and has to be ordered by the Court. In a voluntary relinquishment, a document is signed by the parent giving up their rights and they no longer have to participate in the adoption process. If the parent does not agree to terminate their rights, grounds for termination must be presented to the Court, which would then decide on whether or not to terminate the rights of the other parent involuntarily. If you or your spouse is interested in adoption, contact your Family Law Attorney as soon as possible to begin the process.
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