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Child Custody Attorney

Child Custody in Texas: Who Can Claim a Child on Their Taxes?

Originally published by stark.

Child Custody AttorneyFollowing a divorce or separation, parents need to determine who will claim their children on their taxes. As the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) explains, only one parent can claim a child on their taxes. If both parents try to claim a child, it will cause problems. In this article, our Texas child custody lawyers explain the most important things separated parents need to know about the rules for who can claim a child.

The Parent Who Has Primary Physical Custody Has the Right to Claim the Child

Under IRS rules, the parent who has primary custody of a child has the first right to claim that child on their tax return. For example, if your child spends 75 percent of their time with you and 25 percent of their time with the other parent, then you have the right to claim your child on your taxes. When primary custody is clear, there is little dispute over who has the right to claim the child.

Tiebreaker: Parent with Higher Income Should Claim the Child

In some cases, parents have a genuine 50-50 custody arrangement in place. The IRS has developed a basic tiebreaker rule to deal with this: The parent who has a higher income for the tax year in question should claim the child. Often, the parent with the higher income will gain a larger tax benefit from claiming a child. This can free up some extra money in tax savings, which can be used to support the family as a whole.                                                                

It May Be Financially Advantageous to Allow the Non-Custodial Parent to Claim a Child

To be clear, a parent with primary custody does not necessarily have to claim their child on their taxes. In some cases, it will be advantageous for both parties to have the non-custodial parent claim the kids. For example, if the custodial parent has relatively little taxable income — at least in comparison to the non-custodial parent — they may not be able to fully utilize the benefits of child tax deduction and child tax credits.

In this situation, both parents can attach Form 8332 to their tax return. By doing so, they will be able to seamlessly allow the non-custodial parent to claim the child. Transferring the right to claim a child will sometimes free up some additional tax savings — which can be split between the parties or used to directly support the child. You do not want to leave money on the table: Make sure you and your former spouse/partner are using tax child deductions/credits in the most effective manner.

Get Help from Our Texas Family Lawyers Today

At Orsinger, Nelson, Downing and Anderson, LLP, our Texas family law attorneys are committed to protecting the financial interests of our clients. Our lawyers are consistently ranked among the best divorce and custody attorneys in the state. To arrange a strictly confidential initial consultation, please contact our legal team at (214) 273-2400. With offices in Dallas, Frisco, Fort Worth, and San Antonio, our family law practice serves clients throughout Texas.

The post Child Custody in Texas: Who Can Claim a Child on Their Taxes? appeared first on ONDA Family Law.

Curated by Texas Bar Today. Follow us on Twitter @texasbartoday.



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Texas Court Grants Grandparents Visitation and Access to Grandchildren

Texas Court Grants Grandparents Visitation and Access to Grandchildren

Originally published by Francesca Blackard.

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Under Texas family law, a court may grant grandparents reasonable possession and access to a grandchild if three conditions are met.  First, at least one of the child’s parents, whether adoptive or biological, must have parental rights to the child.  Second, the grandparent must overcome the presumption the child’s parent is acting in the child’s best interest by showing that denying the grandparent possession or access would result in significant impairment to the child’s health or well-being.  Finally, the grandparent must be the parent of the child’s parent, and that parent must have been incarcerated during the past three months, have been found incompetent, be deceased, or not have possession or access to the child.  TEX. FAM. CODE ANN. § 153.433.

In a recent case, a father challenged an order allowing the maternal grandparents possession and access to his children.  The parents and children stayed with the grandparents while they looked for a house when they moved to Texas from California.  The grandparents supported the family so the parents could save up to buy the home.  After the parents bought a home nearby, the children regularly visited their grandparents, sometimes overnight.  The grandparents would take the children to school and attend school functions.  The grandmother testified she felt she had assumed the role of parent.

The grandmother testified both parents were alcoholics.  The mother’s friend testified the parents had a tense and unhealthy relationship.  There was testimony that the mother sent the children to stay with the grandparents when the situation at home grew tense.  The father’s friend testified the father left the children with the grandparents when he went to bars and nudist colonies.  He also testified the father told him he often argued with the mother, but did not state the arguments ever turned physical.

 

The mother sadly died in 2018.  The children stayed with their grandmother for several days and the oldest child told the grandmother they were going to live with their other grandparents in California.

The grandparents promptly filed suit seeking sole managing conservatorship.  Although they obtained a temporary restraining order to keep the father from moving the children from the county/ the children went to live with their paternal grandparents in California when it expired.

The grandparents amended their petition to seek possession and access to the children under the grandparent access statute.  Following a trial, the court found the grandparents had proved by a preponderance of the evidence that denying them possession or access would significantly impair the health or well-being of the children.  The court granted the grandparents possession for one weekend during the fall and spring semester and seven days during the summer.  The grandparents were also allowed phone, Skype, or FaceTime access.  They were also allowed to send cards, letters, and gifts.

The father appealed.  In this case, the only element at issue was whether the grandparents had overcome the presumption the father was acting in the children’s best interest.  The father argued the grandparents had not submitted evidence of any impairment to the children from denial of access.  He testified the children were doing very well and had not shown any need for psychological treatment or counseling.  They lived with his parents, where the oldest had her own room and the boys shared a room.  They were physically safe and doing well psychologically.

The grandparents argued the father had not provided counseling for the children and planned to deny all access to the grandparents.  The appeals court noted that the leading cases overturning orders granting grandparent access involved evidence that the parent would not deny the grandparent all access to the child.  The father testified he would not allow any access or possession of the children unless ordered to do so by the court.

The appeals court found no evidence denying the grandparents access would significantly impair the physical health of the children, but there was sufficient evidence it would significantly impair their emotional well-being.  The grandmother testified denying them access would not be in the children’s best interest.  The mother’s friend and the father’s friend each testified they did not think the father was acting in the children’s best interest.  The grandmother testified the children had lost their mother, grandmother, and home, and had moved to live with grandparents they had rarely seen.  There was evidence regarding the father’s heavy drinking and potential alcoholism.

The father testified that the children did not exhibit any emotional turmoil.  He said they did not ask about their grandparents.  He testified they were healthy and doing well.

The appeals court found the trial court could have reasonably disbelieved the father’s evidence and found the grandparents overcame the parental presumption by a preponderance of the evidence.  The appeals court affirmed the order.

Although it can be difficult for grandparents to get access and possession of their grandchildren, it is possible under certain circumstances.  This case may have turned on the father’s intent to deny all access to the grandparents.  If you are seeking or fighting grandparents’ rights, a knowledgeable Texas custody attorney can advise you and fight for your rights.  Call McClure Law Group at 214.692.8200 to set up a meeting to talk about your case.

Curated by Texas Bar Today. Follow us on Twitter @texasbartoday.



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State of Texas: Poncho Nevarez’s cocaine controversy

State of Texas: Poncho Nevarez’s cocaine controversy

State of Texas: Poncho Nevarez’s cocaine controversy 1

Poncho Nevarez has a lot of influence at the State Capital. He leads the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee. He is also the vice chair of a select committee looking for solutions t…

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Texas Court Orders Child’s Name Change to Include His Father’s Surname

Texas Court Orders Child’s Name Change to Include His Father’s Surname

Originally published by Robert Epstein.

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Under Texas family law, a court may order a child’s name be changed if doing so is in the child’s best interest.  Neither parent is specifically granted the right to name the child under Texas law, but generally a child’s name will not be changed unless the party seeking the change shows a good reason for it.  In a recent case, a mother challenged a court’s order to change the child’s name to include the father’s last name.

The parties appeared to have a good co-parenting relationship.  According to the appeals court’s opinion, the child lived with the mother, but the father had always been a part of his life and assisted financially with his living expenses.  The father’s family was also significantly involved in the child’s life, helping the mother financially and with child care.

The mother had been adopted as a young child.  She grew up in Virginia and moved to Texas when she was 18.  She did not have any family other than her son in Texas.  Due to the distance, the child did not have the same amount of interaction with his mother’s family that he had with his father’s family.

 

The mother testified her surname was her adoptive family’s name.  She also testified it was important for her son to have her surname because he was the only biological relative she knew.  She also said it could help him be connected to “different pieces of himself and his history.” She did not believe having her surname instead of his father’s would have a negative effect on the child.

The father testified he thought a name change would help avoid confusion at places like doctor’s offices.  He also hoped the child would play sports and wanted the child to use the father’s name.

Both parents agreed the child was too young to know his name.  Each also said they would not change their surnames.

The father testified the mother did not give him a choice regarding the child’s name.  He also indicated he believed he did not have a choice with regard to signing the acknowledgement of paternity.  He testified he thought the child would have trouble when he got older if he did not have his father’s last name.  He said he did not know any children who did not use their father’s last name, though the children he knew had parents who were married to each other.

The father’s father testified to what he and his wife had done for the child and his mother.  He also testified that he was very close to the child.  He testified that they did things for the child and his mother because they loved them both.

The trial court found it was in the child’s best interest to change his name to include his father’s last name.  The mother appealed, arguing the evidence was legally and factually insufficient to support the finding.

In considering whether a name change would be in a child’s best interest, the court considers various nonexclusive factors, including whether it would avoid embarrassment, inconvenience, or confusion for the custodial parent or child, whether the present or potential changed name would be more convenient, how long the current name has been used, how the change affects the child’s bond with the parent or other family members, and whether the parent is trying to alienate the other parent by seeking the change.  Courts do not have to weight each factor equally.

The appeals court found there was little or no evidence that changing the child’s name would have a negative effect on the mother or child.  The appeals court found there was legally and factually sufficient evidence to support a finding the change would be in the child’s best interest.  The child was only 14 months old and therefore did not have meaningful attachment to his mother’s name.  He had not started school or been involved in extracurricular activities under his mother’s name.  The child was on the father’s health insurance, so the court found it could be beneficial for medical appointments and billing for the child to have his father’s name.

The appeals court acknowledged the mother was the primary caretaker, but also noted the father and his family were an important part of the child’s life.  The mother’s family was less involved in the child’s daily life due to distance. The appeals court found the father’s last name would better help identify the child with a family unit.  The mother and her family were not from the area and did not have the type of ties to the local community that the father’s family had.  The appeals court found having the father’s name would strengthen the child’s relationship with the community.

Finally, the appeals court found the father was not seeking the change to alienate the mother from the child. There was evidence that the father and his family cared for the mother and expected to continue doing so.

The appeals court found no abuse of discretion in the trial court’s finding that changing the child’s name to include his father’s surname was in the child’s best interest.  The appeals court affirmed the trial court’s judgment.

Sometimes unusual disputes arise in matters relating to children, even if both parents care for each other and want to work together.  If you are facing a dispute involving child custody or other matters relating to your children, an experienced Texas family law attorney can help.  Call McClure Law Group at 214.692.8200.

Curated by Texas Bar Today. Follow us on Twitter @texasbartoday.



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Texas Parents Tell Lawmakers Of Devastation Of Being Wrongly Accused

Texas Parents Tell Lawmakers Of Devastation Of Being Wrongly Accused

Texas Parents Tell Lawmakers Of Devastation Of Being Wrongly Accused 2

There was gut-wrenching testimony at the State Capitol from Texas parents wrongly separated from their children by the State based on a misdiagnosis by medical professionals leading to child abuse

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Texas parents falsely accused of child abuse seek legislative change in 2021

Texas parents falsely accused of child abuse seek legislative change in 2021

Texas parents falsely accused of child abuse seek legislative change in 2021 3

The committee is discussing the system of checks and balances between DFPS, the judicial system and medical professionals when abuse reports are submitted.

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Court Lifts Texas OAG Suspension of Driver’s License for Failure to Pay Child Support

Court Lifts Texas OAG Suspension of Driver’s License for Failure to Pay Child Support

Originally published by Kelly McClure.

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The Texas Office of the Attorney General (OAG) is responsible for certain child support services, including collecting and enforcing Texas child support orders.  Recipients of certain public assistance programs may automatically qualify for the OAG’s child support services, but others have to apply for the services.  The OAG has a variety of ways to enforce child support, including filing liens, issuing writs of withholdings to the parent’s employer, suspending driver’s licenses, and intercepting tax refunds or other money from state or federal sources.

In a recent case, a father challenged the OAG’s enforcement actions against him.  The father was ordered to pay child support beginning in December 1996.  The court also issued an Order Enforcing Child Support Obligation in October 1999, including a cumulative money judgment for $15,000 plus interest against the father in favor of the Attorney General.

In 2015, the OAG sent a notice of child support lien to the father’s bank and issued administrative writs of withholding to his employers.  The OAG also filed a petition with the State Office of Administrative Hearings for the father’s driver’s license suspension.

 

The father filed a motion alleging the OAG violated provisions of the Texas Family Code because it failed to obtain a cumulative money judgment within 10 years of the child becoming an adult.  The OAG did not appear at the hearing.  The trial court lifted the driver’s license suspension, rescinded the writs of withholding, declared the child support liens void, and ordered no further wage withholding.

The OAG filed a restricted appeal.  The OAG argued the trial court did not have subject matter jurisdiction over the driver’s license suspension because the relevant statute required the father to file his petition for review in Travis County district court.  A proceeding regarding the suspension of a parent’s driver’s license for failure to pay child support is governed by the Administrative Procedure Act.  The Administrative Procedure Act requires a person seeking judicial review of a contested case to file the petition in a Travis County district court unless another statute provides otherwise.  TEX. GOV’T CODE ANN. § 2001.176.

The father did not file his petition in a Travis County district court.  The OAG argued that the trial court did not have subject matter jurisdiction over the issue.  The appeals court, however, found that that the statute did not grant Travis County district court with exclusive jurisdiction, but instead provided a mandatory venue.  Mandatory venue, the court noted, may be waived if a party fails to make a timely objection.  The OAG had not made a timely objection.

The OAG also argued the trial court had exceeded its subject matter jurisdiction in enjoining additional administrative writs of withholding.  Under TEX. GOV’T CODE ANN. § 22.002(c), only the Texas supreme court has the authority to issue a writ of mandamus or injunction against an officer of Texas’s executive departments to order or compel performance of a duty state law authorizes the officer to perform.  The appeals court noted  the OAG is an officer of the executive department and is authorized to enforce and collect child support through administrative writs of withholding.  Thus, only the supreme court could enjoin the OAG from issuing such writs in this case.  The appeals court found that the portion of the order stating that “no further wages be withheld in this cause…” constituted an injunction.

The appeals court vacated the part of the trial court’s order that enjoined the OAG from issuing additional administrative writs of withholding and affirmed the rest of the order.

The OAG will become involved in certain cases involving public assistance.  Although parents in other cases may seek the OAG’s assistance, parents should be aware of what OAG enforcement entails.  Once the OAG is involved, the parents are not able to choose which enforcement actions will be taken.  If you are facing a child support issue, an experienced Texas child support attorney can help you consider your options and protect your rights.  Call McClure Law Group at 214.692.8200 to set up an appointment.

Curated by Texas Bar Today. Follow us on Twitter @texasbartoday.



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Do Stepparents Have Child Custody Rights or Child Visitation Rights After a Texas Divorce?

Do Stepparents Have Child Custody Rights or Child Visitation Rights After a Texas Divorce?

Originally published by stark.

Do Stepparents Have Child Custody Rights or Child Visitation Rights After a Texas Divorce? 4Stepparents play a very important role in a child’s life. According to the most recent report from The Step Family Foundation, over 50 percent of U.S. families are recoupled. As blended families are becoming more and more common, this raises an important question: Do stepparents have any custody or visitation rights to their stepchildren after a divorce? The answer: “sometimes”—but those rights are limited and they are not automatic. Here, our Dallas child custody attorneys provide an overview of the key things that you need to know about step-parent rights after a divorce.

Texas Law: Step-Parents are ‘Interested Third Parties’

 Stepparents are not granted any automatic child custody or child visitation rights. Unlike a child’s biological parents, there is no assumption of parental rights. Instead, state law views stepparents as being “interested third parties.” Practically speaking, this means that a stepparent’s custody or visitation rights are similar to a child’s aunt, uncle, or another semi-close relative.

To be clear, stepparents have the right to petition for visitation with their stepchildren after a divorce. While it is often difficult to get court-ordered visitation rights over the objections of the child’s parent(s), it is legally possible. Should a dispute arise over step-parent visitation/custody, Texas courts will resolve issues under the state’s ‘best interests of the child’ standard (Texas Family Code § 153.002).

 How Our Child Custody Attorneys Can Help

 Stepparent custody and visitation cases are especially complicated. At Orsinger, Nelson, Downing and Anderson, LLP, we have the unique skills, experience, and training needed to help guide parents and stepparents through the legal process. With more than 100,000 attorneys practicing in Texas, there is no other law firm that has as many Top 100 Super Lawyers as we do. When you reach out to our firm, you will get a top-rated Texas child custody lawyer who will:

  • Conduct a confidential, in-depth review of your stepparent custody/visitation case;
  • Listen to your story, answer your questions, and devise a sensible strategy;
  • Look for mutually agreeable solutions that resolve conflict at the lowest possible level; and
  • Take whatever legal action is necessary to protect your rights and your family.

We know that there are no one-size-fits-all solutions in family law—especially when children are involved. Our custody & visitation lawyers provide each and every parent with the fully personalized legal assistance that they deserve. Our goal is to help you find an effective and low conflict resolution that works for you and your family. At the same time, we are trial-tested family law litigators. Our lawyers are always prepared to take aggressive action to protect your parental rights.

 Discuss Your Case with Our Texas Child Custody Lawyers Today

At Orsinger, Nelson, Downing and Anderson, LLP, our compassionate Texas child custody lawyers are experienced, effective advocates for parents. If you have any questions about stepparent rights, we can help. To schedule a strictly confidential initial consultation, please call us at (214) 273-2400 or contact us directly online. From our offices in Dallas, Fort Worth, and Frisco, we represent parents throughout North Texas.

The post Do Stepparents Have Child Custody Rights or Child Visitation Rights After a Texas Divorce? appeared first on ONDA Family Law.

Curated by Texas Bar Today. Follow us on Twitter @texasbartoday.



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Texas Mediated Settlement Agreement May Be Binding Even If Signed Before Divorce Is Filed

Texas Mediated Settlement Agreement May Be Binding Even If Signed Before Divorce Is Filed

Originally published by Francesca Blackard.

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Texas family law allows the parties to a divorce to enter into a binding mediated settlement agreement (MSA).  If the agreement meets certain requirements, a party is entitled to judgment on the agreement.  In some cases, however, one party may wish to challenge a mediated settlement agreement.  In a recent case, a wife challenged the enforceability of a mediated settlement agreement.

The couple was married for about 10 years when the wife decided to end the marriage.  She sought a mediator, and the parties attended mediation without attorneys and executed a written MSA.

The MSA made the parents joint managing conservators, with the husband having the right to designate the kids’ primary residence.  The parties agreed the husband would keep the marital home and the wife would not pay child support.  The MSA required the wife to file the divorce petition within 10 days.  The MSA further provided the case would be finalized any time after May 1, 2015.

The husband filed a divorce petition nine days after the MSA was executed.  He asked the court to approve and render judgment consistent with the MSA.  The wife filed an answer with a general denial.  The husband and his attorney appeared in court, but the wife did not receive notice of the hearing and did not appear.  The trial court rendered oral judgment on the MSA at the hearing.

 

The wife moved to set aside the verdict, and alternatively, for a new trial.  She also moved to revoke the MSA, arguing it did not comply with the Family Code because it was signed before the divorce petition was filed.  She also argued the hearing had violated her due process rights because she had not received the required notice.  Finally, she argued the husband breached the MSA when he filed the divorce petition because the MSA provided she would do so.  The trial court denied the wife’s motions and incorporated the terms of the MSA into its final decree.

The wife appealed, and the appeals court reversed.  The appeals court held there must be a pending suit for divorce for an MSA to be statutorily binding.  The parties had executed the agreement before the divorce petition was filed, so it was just an ordinary contract.  The appeals court also found the wife had been denied due process when she did not receive notice of the hearing.  The appeals court held she was entitled to 45 days’ notice because she had made an appearance by filing the answer.

The husband petitioned for review by the Texas Supreme Court.  Pursuant to Texas Family Code Section 6.602, a mediated settlement agreement is binding if it includes a prominent irrevocability provision, is signed by both parties, and signed by any party’s attorney present.  If the agreement meets these requirements, it is binding on the parties and the court generally must adopt it in the divorce decree.

The wife argued the MSA was not enforceable because there was no divorce suit pending when it was signed.  The appeals court based its decision on language in the statute that a trial court “may refer a suit for dissolution of marriage to mediation.”  The Texas Supreme Court rejected this reasoning, noting that the statute allows a court to refer a divorce suit to mediation, but does not require it.  The Texas Supreme Court also noted that a trial court only has authority to order mediation once suit has been filed.  The statute does not restrict the parties’ right to voluntarily participate in binding mediation.

The Supreme Court of Texas held there was no requirement under the statute that the divorce suit be pending when the MSA was signed.  This MSA met the enumerated requirements of the statute and was therefore binding on the parties.

The Texas Supreme Court then considered whether the wife’s due process rights were violated.  Tex. R. Civ. P. 245 requires at least 45 days’ notice for contested cases, but provides that “[n]oncontested cases may be tried or disposed of at any time whether set or not…” The husband argued the parties had resolved their disputes through the MSA and the case was therefore not contested at the time of the hearing.  The Texas Supreme Court rejected this argument.

The Texas Supreme Court noted the wife had filed a general denial in answer to the petition.  She had made an appearance and put the matters raised in the petition at issue.  The case was therefore contested and the wife was entitled to notice.  The Texas Supreme Court also noted that MSA’s are often challenged and therefore the existence of an MSA does not make a case uncontested. The trial court erred in rendering judgment without the wife having notice of the hearing.

The Texas Supreme Court remanded the case to the trial court, but pointed out the court and parties would be bound by its holding that a pending suit is not required for the MSA to be binding under the statute.

The Texas Supreme Court has now resolved the question of whether a mediated settlement agreement is binding if it is signed before the divorce petition is signed.  If you are facing a divorce, an experienced Texas divorce attorney can guide you through the entire process, including mediation and trial if necessary.  Call McClure Law Group at 214.692.8200 to schedule a consultation.

Curated by Texas Bar Today. Follow us on Twitter @texasbartoday.



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Mediation and its impact on your Texas Child Custody Case

Mediation and its impact on your Texas Child Custody Case

Originally published by The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC Blog.

It has become a trend in recent years for courts in southeast Texas to mandate that parties must attend at least one session of mediation (and likely more) before they ever are able to have their case presented in front of a judge during a trial. As far as alternatives to having to go the “distance” in a contested child custody case, mediation is at the top of the list as far as places to go when you need a resolution to your case.

The benefits of meditation are many. You and your opposing party are able to take an active and participatory role in the process that will determine the outcome of your case. This is the case to an extent in a trial, but keep in mind you are only able to present evidence once you get in front of a judge. It is the judge who will be making the final decision in your trial.

Domestic violence and mediation in Texas

Child custody cases that involve domestic violence can be especially troublesome when taken in the context of mediation. For one, if you are the victim of acts of domestic violence as perpetrated upon you by the opposing party in your child custody case that you may not be able to negotiate to the fullest extent possible. This is often times the case because you are not only fearful of your own well-being during mediation but can also be “under the thumb” of the opposing party due to their role in supporting you economically. If you haven’t worked in a decade or more, how freely can you negotiate in mediation knowing that your well-being is tied up in the other person paying your bills?

It is for this reason that the requirement for you and your opposing party to mediate your case is waived in many southeast Texas courts when family violence is an issue. Furthermore, even if the requirement to mediate your case is not waived automatically due to family violence being involved, it can happen that if you object to having to go that the objection will likely be upheld by the judge.

In cases where there is domestic violence that has occurred between you and your opposing party do not be surprised if the judge takes extraordinary steps to ensure your protection. I have seen judges appoint third parties to attend mediation as an extension of the court in order to help prevent additional acts of violence from occurring. Many judges have “go-to” mediators who have specific experience one expertise in handling cases where there have been acts of domestic violence perpetrated by one party against the other.

If you have been the victim of family violence it is ultimately up to you whether or not you will attend mediation in your case. Some people believe that there are still benefits to be had with the process if, in fact, you feel that you can negotiate freely, considering the circumstances. On the other hand, you may feel constrained for multiple reasons and can choose to opt out of the mediation requirement of your court. Either way, this is a decision that is fact-specific and ought to be discussed at length with your attorney prior to arriving at a final decision.

International divorces- how where you’re from can impact your Texas divorce

In a city like Houston, it is not at all uncommon to encounter families who have one or both parents born internationally or at least have roots in another country. You may be in a position where you are currently living abroad while your spouse lives here in the United States. Or, you both may live here in the United States but you could own property in foreign countries. Your having had children may have created opportunities for you to visit family abroad more often. There are certainly numerous ways that your family could have international ties.

Family law in Texas becomes a tad more complicated when you consider the implications of an international divorce. The more diverse the set of facts and circumstances, the more crucial it becomes for you to be able to sort through them in a logical and clear-headed manner. In today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we will discuss this topic in greater detail.

What are the main issues relevant to an international divorce?

From my experiences, there are basically six topics that we have to discuss that relate in some way to an international divorce. Those issues would be jurisdiction, service of process, choice of law, discovery, property division and then the enforcement of the orders that are arrived at in the child custody or divorce case. While we can say with some confidence what the issues are that we need to discuss, the fact that they are all interconnected can make things more complicated.

Let’s take each of those six issues and discuss them in greater detail.

Jurisdiction- who gets to decide what?

If you are like most people who go through a divorce, you are likely chomping at the bit to have the important questions of your case decided. Who gets what property? How much child support are you going to have to pay? To what extent will you be able to see your children? These are all relevant questions that need to be answered. Unfortunately, they are questions that cannot be answered without first determining whether or not Texas has jurisdiction to hear the case. If, in fact, the state of Texas lacks jurisdiction to hear your case then you are in a position where you need to figure out what venue is appropriate.

Simply put, jurisdiction refers to a court’s authority to make rulings and issue orders in a specific legal matter that is brought before it. These rulings, in a divorce context, are usually tied to property rights and child custody. In an international divorce, you not only have to contend with the questions of whether or not Texas has jurisdiction over your case but whether or not any U.S. state has jurisdiction over your case.

Personal jurisdiction is the first issue that we have to tackle. Ask yourself whether or not you and your spouse have sufficient ties with Texas in the event that it is here that you want your case to be heard.

Next, you will need to determine whether or not a court in Texas has the authority to handle your divorce case and all the issues that are connected to it.

Finally, it could be the case that Texas and another jurisdiction both have equally strong claims to hearing your case. In that event which court should and would your case be heard in?

From the beginning of your case until its end, these are the dominant themes and questions that you will be asking yourself. The difficult part of the process is that determining jurisdiction is not always a straightforward issue. A judge in Texas may have jurisdiction over your case while a judge in another country may have an equally strong claim to having jurisdiction. In those type of situations, you and your attorney will need to determine where your case ought to be filed from a strategic standpoint.

What country’s laws should apply to your international divorce?

Family laws differ significantly from state to state in our country so I’m sure it wouldn’t surprise you to find out that the laws of divorce can vary even more so from country to country. Once you have determined which court will actually be hearing your case the next question that needs to be asked is what set of laws will be determining the contested issues in your case.

First of all, how will you file for divorce? Do you need to assert “fault grounds” for your divorce? Texas allows you to file for divorce for any reason under the sun- including no particular reason at all. However, some foreign countries do not allow you to do so. Will you need to prove adultery or domestic violence in order to get your divorce if you have to file in an international divorce?

Next, does the law of the country that will govern your divorce require that you divide the property up in your divorce along with a 50/50 basis? Texas is a community property state that, absent other circumstances, will usually require a fairly even split of the marital assets (property that came into being during the course of your marriage).

Will prenuptial or postnuptial agreements be honored?

The concept of prenups has become fairly well known through our popular culture in the United States. Coming to an agreement with your spouse-to-be while you are still on good terms regarding certain property related issues is a good idea in the eyes of the State of Texas and property agreements like this are honored in most cases.

This may not be the case for your foreign courts. When considering where you should file your divorce and attempt to establish jurisdiction this is a question you need to ask yourself: whether or not you have come to an agreement on a premarital or post-marital agreement. If you have done so it would be unwise to file for divorce in a jurisdiction that would not honor the agreement.

Spousal maintenance: to pay or not to pay?

If you are in a position where you will need to be requesting spousal maintenance be paid from your spouse to you at the conclusion of your divorce you need to do your homework to determine what laws are most favorable in this regard. Texas only recently began to allow judges to impose orders regarding the payment of spousal maintenance. Even then, these payments are typically only allowed for a relatively short period of time and under limited circumstances. The length of your marriage, for instance, must be at least ten years and you must also show that you cannot provide for your minimal basic needs otherwise.

Service of process issues for international divorces

Typically, when you file for divorce in Texas you will have a constable or private process server pick up the divorce paperwork from the courthouse, drive out to your spouse’s residence or business and have him or she served personally with notice of your lawsuit having been filed. The process can take a few days but it is typically a low-key and simple transaction to complete. It is important, nonetheless, because your case cannot proceed without your first having provided notice of the lawsuit to your spouse.

There are international treaties that are in effect that govern how you can provide notice to any person who is a resident of a country that has signed on to that treaty. While the United Nations has a treaty in place that governs this subject, each member nation interprets its contents a bit differently. From personal experience, I can tell you that this step is one that can delay a case for weeks and even months. You are best served by hiring an attorney who knows how to quickly and correctly serve an opposing party with an international service of process.

More on international divorces to be posted tomorrow

In tomorrow’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we will discuss more issues related to divorce from an international perspective. In the meantime, if you have any questions about the material that we have covered please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. We offer free of charge consultations six days a week with one of our licensed family law attorneys. It would be an honor to meet with you to discuss your case and answer any questions you may have.

Our attorneys and staff share a commitment to putting your interests ahead of our own and to provide the best legal representation of any family law attorneys in southeast Texas. To find out what sets us apart from our competitors please give us a call today.

Curated by Texas Bar Today. Follow us on Twitter @texasbartoday.



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