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Fort Worth Family Law Blog

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.

Grounds for divorce in Texas

Like many states, Texas still allows divorce to be based on the fault of one of the parties in addition to granting no-fault divorces. Of the seven grounds recognized for a Texas divorce, only insupportability is the basis for obtaining a no-fault divorce in which the court assigns no blame to either party for causing the split. Insupportability is when the couple is unable to remain married due to conflicts or disagreements and reconciliation is unlikely to occur.

The Texas Family Code provides six at-fault divorce grounds. Courts will grant an at-fault divorce if a husband or wife is able to prove any of them. If one spouse is so cruel the other can no longer remain in the marriage, courts will grant a divorce.

What is the difference between an open and closed adoption?

In Texas, an adoption may be classified as open or closed, but the majority of cases will exhibit elements of both. In an entirely open adoption, the birth parents meet with the adoptive parents and initiate post-placement visits. While the adoptive parents will raise the child in this type of adoption, the child's biological parents will still play an active role in his or her life.

In a closed adoption, on the other hand, the birth parents do not play a direct role in the child's life. Often conducted by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, closed adoptions require that the birth parents and the adoptive parents do not meet before, during or after the process. Additionally, the birth parents will not receive any information about the child as it gets older.

Understanding eligibility requirements for adoption

The Texas Family Code outlines certain limitations regarding the adoption process. Except under certain circumstances, any adult is legally able to pursue an adoption. However, a number of restrictions limits if a child is eligible for adoption.

In order for a child in the sat to be adopted legally, the relationship with the child and the current parents must be terminated. Generally, if the relationship has not ended, the suit for termination may be combined with the petition for adoption.

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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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