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Fort Worth Family Law Blog

Statistics reveal noteworthy trend in divorce rates

Many Texas readers may think that it is common knowledge that half of all marriages in the United States end in divorce. However, according to recent media reports, there are statistical indications that the divorce rate has been declining for several years.

Some authorities believe that the high divorce rates of the late 1970s and early 1980s may be attributed to the feminist movement and the changing roles of women, especially in the workplace and at home. Data on marriage and divorce indicates that this high rate of divorce might not have been a trend but was instead an historical anomaly, authorities say.

Determining paternity important to best interests of child

Paternity is not an issue for most Texas couples. It may become an issue, however, if a couple splits up and the man has reason to doubt he is the child's father. A child born to a married couple is presumed to be the husband's unless medical evidence indicates otherwise.

Establishing paternity becomes important as it determines who is responsible for child support and shares in the child's upbringing. Should the couple decide to divorce, the husband may contest paternity if he believes his wife was not faithful to him during their marriage. It also is important for a woman to know definitively who her baby's father is as this entitles her to his medical and genetic information to help determine any medical problems the child may have inherited.

The importance of paternity in child custody matters

Establishing a father's paternity in Texas is very important when child custody matters are involved. Texas law states that when the biological parents of a child are not married, the biological father is not automatically considered the legal father. In fact, the parents must formally establish paternity by filing an Acknowledgment of Paternity form with the Bureau of Vital Statistics. This form secures the legal rights of the father and at the same time makes it possible to hold the father responsible for child support in the event of a dispute.

Paternity must be established before a court can order a father to pay child support. It must also be established before a father can demand his right to visitation or to petition a court for child custody. Even if unmarried parents get along and the father is helping to support the child, it is important to establish paternity as early as possible in the child's life to protect the child in case of the father's death later on.

Opting for a collaborative approach to family law

Collaborative family law in Texas is designed to facilitate peaceable management of disputes in divorce situations. Using a voluntary settlement process, couples may be able to arrive at mutually agreeable terms without the need for adjudication by the court system. A collaborative process begins with the parties involved signing a collaborative participation agreement that states their intent to seek resolutions by this method.

A collaborative family law agreement should clearly describe the matter under consideration, identifying each party's lawyer to be involved in the process. Provisions should be made to suspend court activity while the collaborative process is active.

What to expect at the final divorce hearing

Couples in Texas who are going through a divorce for the first time may wonder what to expect on the day their divorce will be granted. The answer depends on several things, including whether they have been able to reach agreements regarding such things as property division, support and custody matters or whether they will be going through a contested divorce hearing.

Most of the time when a divorcing couple has been able to reach a full agreement, judges will grant the request and issue the decree. The court will review the proposed agreement and will inquire of each party whether they believe it is fair for both. If the court is satisfied that agreement is fair, then it will be granted.

Can you adopt your same-sex partner's biological child?

Same-sex couples in Texas that wish to adopt a child may desire more information about second-parent adoption. In a second-parent adoption, both parties to a same-sex relationship are allowed to acquire parenting rights over the biological child of one partner. Although there remain some legal hurdles for same-sex couples to overcome, any adult in the state is allowed to adopt a child.

While same-sex parents are not denied the right to adopt a child in Texas, they may not enjoy full equality in all aspects. For instance, the court will not issue a supplemental birth certificate to the parents of an adoptive child who are of the same sex. As you may be aware, these supplemental birth certificates are very important for attaining benefits from insurance companies, allowing a child to enroll in school and receiving certain government benefits. As such, a second-parent adoption may encounter complications in this respect.

Married Texans governed by specific dissolution rules

Texans who find it necessary to enforce the terms of their divorce decrees and annulments may be able to rely on litigation. These lawsuits usually adhere to similar structures as civil lawsuits, for instance, courts may find parties in contempt or award attorney's fees; the difference lies in the fact that the orders issued in such proceedings generally pertain to domestic relations and prior agreements.

According to the state's Family Code, the power to enforce annulments and divorce decrees resides with the courts that originally issued them. It should be noted that these courts are legally limited in the types of actions they can take in pursuit of resolution; making alterations and changes to original decree terms, such as property division, is expressly forbidden. Former spouses do retain the right, however, to file division lawsuits over property that wasn't split in an earlier agreement.

Texas child support orders

In Texas, the law provides that the custodial parent is generally owed child support from the non-custodial parent for the support of their child or children. While the legislature has statutory guidelines in place for the courts to use when determining child support amounts, there are factors that can affect the final owed amounts.

Generally, a non-custodial parent will be required to pay the custodial parent 20 percent of his or her monthly net income for the support of one child. If the couple shares two children, the payer will owe 25 percent. For three children, the owed amount will be 30 percent. For each additional child, the support amount will increase by 5 percent.

What are the requirements to adopt a child?

Adopting a child in Texas requires prospective parents to follow state-specific guidelines. The state has enacted requirements for who can adopt and who can be adopted. The state also maintains distinct requirements for children who are residents of the state versus those who live in another state or country.

Children in the state may be adopted if the child's relationship with each living parent has been terminated. A stepparent may also petition the court for adoption. A child of at least 2 years of age with one parent who has terminated rights and who has been in the care of a former stepparent may also be adopted. Parents may sign an affidavit of relinquishment of parental rights, which allows the state's Department of Protective and Regulatory Services or a licensed child placement agency to place the child up for adoption.

Protecting rights of domestic partners

While the battle for marriage equality continues across the country, Texas does not currently permit marriage between individuals of the same sex. Currently, Travis County is the only county in Texas that provides benefits to domestic partners. However, same-sex couples who decide to cohabit may benefit from entering into a cohabitation agreement.

A cohabitation agreement can help establish rules regarding property division in case the couple later breaks up. Rather than focusing on their constitutional rights, these agreements operate more as a roommate agreement and general contract. Such an agreement may list the property that each person brought into the shared home and what property will be given to each party upon separation.

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1201 East Belknap Street
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Fort Worth, TX 76102
Phone: 817-984-4610
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Fax: 817-334-0394
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