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Fort Worth Family Law Blog

Getting a divorce in Texas when uncontested

A divorce usually entails determining a plan for any children a couple might have and dividing property and debts. An individual can get a divorce in Texas if they or their spouse have lived in the state for six months or longer. However, a couple usually cannot finalize a divorce while a wife is pregnant so that information about the baby can be put in a divorce decree. This applies even if the other spouse is not the father of the child.

To receive a divorce, one must download and fill out the proper forms, file and make copies of the divorce petition, give a spouse notice and wait for a response. A divorce is contested if a spouse does not agree to the terms one sent, and a divorce is uncontested if a spouse agrees to sign a divorce decree and waivers or does not answer during the appropriate period.

Grandparents' rights and child custody in Texas

Sometimes, situations will occur in families that make grandparents feel they should try to get custody of a grandchild. Texas does recognize grandparent rights, but in order for a grandparent to receive custody of a child, certain factors must first apply, and the requested custody must be in the best interests of the child.

If a grandparent wants to file an original custody motion, one of several circumstances must first exist. In certain cases, the child must have lived with the grandparent for six or more months. If the child has moved, the motion must be filed within 90 days. Original petitions are also allowed if the grandparent has been named as the child's guardian by the court or if the surviving parent or both of the parents agrees that the child may live with the grandparent. Finally, if the grandparent is able to prove that the child's current living situation endangers the child's health, safety or welfare, courts may grant custody.

Gay marriage ruling may impact Texas family law

Judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit heard arguments on Jan. 9 related to gay marriage bans in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. After the arguments, two of the judges expressed doubt about the legality of the bans. One of the judges questioned why sterile heterosexual couples would be allowed to marry but not same sex couples if states wanted to use marriage to encourage procreation.

While many federal courts have moved to overturn bans on gay marriage, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit had upheld bans in four states in November 2014. This split in opinion is assumed to be the impetus for a formal U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the legality of gay marriage bans. A gay marriage ban was overturned by a Texas district court, but the ruling was put on hold as higher courts debated the matter.

Visitation rights in Texas

When divorcing parents are able to communicate and work together, a judge may order reasonable visitation rights to the non-custodial parent. What this means is that the judge is asking the parents to come up with a visitation plan on their own. While the custodial parent may have more leverage in this situation, it does not mean that he or she can be inflexible toward the other parent.

If a parent is inflexible toward the other parent, it may be harder to get concessions from a judge in the future. It may also not be in the best interest of the child. However, a custodial parent is not bound to accept any visitation plan proposed by the other parent. In the event that a reasonable visitation plan doesn't work out, it may be possible to go back to court to ask for a fixed visitation schedule.

What information can be accessed before an adoption?

Texas residents who are interested in adopting a child may benefit from learning more about the preparation required for successfully completing the process. Unless the adoptive parent is a stepparent, grandparent or uncle or aunt through prior adoption, marriage or birth, there must be a report detailing the child's genetic, education, social and health history. The responsibility of compiling the report lies with the state's Department of Protective and Regulatory Services, the licensed agency placing the child for adoption or the child's guardian.

The history report must be filed before the child is placed for adoption. The report should contain any information about emotional, physical or sexual abuse the child may have experienced in the past. The entity putting the child up for adoption is required to issue the report to prospective parents within a reasonable amount of time before the adoptive parents are to meet with the child.

Modification of a child custody order in Texas

Texas law requires that any alteration in a child custody order be processed through proper court channels and signed by a judge before it can take effect. Although there may be total agreement between the parents and anyone else who has the rights of conservatorship over the child, the existing order is enforced by law and will remain so until it is changed by a judge.

In cases where all relevant parties agree that the child custody order must be changed, the procedure is to file a petition in the office of the clerk of the court that has jurisdiction over the matter. If the original order was filed in another state, then the order must be changed in that state. The court will not alter an order from another state without emergency justification until Texas has become the child's home state. This requires at least six months of residence and a request to transfer the case from the original jurisdiction.

Basic information about domestic partnerships

Domestic partnerships in Texas exist to provide certain unmarried couples with a form of legally recognized status similar to marriage or civil unions. A domestic partnership agreement allows unmarried couples in a long-term relationship and, in certain jurisdictions, same-sex couples, to receive some of the legal benefits of marriage. However, Texas state law does not recognize domestic partnerships between same-sex couples, and the availability and scope of same-sex domestic partnerships are not uniform across all jurisdictions statewide.

In general, where available, the benefits of a domestic partnership agreement for unmarried couples can theoretically include access to health insurance coverage, employee benefits and hospital visitation rights, among others. While Travis County is currently the only jurisdiction in Texas that extends full benefits to domestic partners, several other municipal and county governments have taken steps in recent years to extend coverage and protection to couples with domestic partnership arrangements.

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.

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Phone: 817-984-4610
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