Family Law

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Unless you have previously gone through a divorce, you probably have no idea what to expect. Divorces are complicated legal matters that require, even at a minimum, for complex legal documents to be filed. At Morales Law Office, you are guided by veteran lawyers with experience in the dynamics of any case involving children. We have helped hundreds of clients resolve their issues, whether they involve child custody or property, out of court or stand their ground in contested proceedings.

How long does a divorce in Texas take?

In Texas, you must wait 60 days from the date of filing before a divorce may be granted. Even if the divorce is agreed to and uncontested, you must wait 60 days. In reality, divorces can take much longer, depending on the number of issues you have to resolve, i.e., child custody, property, debts and child support.

Are assets always spit “50-50″ in a divorce?

No. While Texas is a “community property state,” the judge may divide the property in a manner that he or she deems is “just and right” to the parties based on a number of factors, such as fault in the divorce, the earning power of the parties, etc.

What are my chances of winning physical custody of my children?

In most cases, one parent will have primary custody (sometimes called placement or possession) and the other will have regular visitation, but there is a trend toward more equal parenting time. If you are fighting for primary custody, shared custody (a 50-50 or 60-40 split) or maximum visitation rights, the lawyers of Parker & Montgomery are skilled at convincing the judge that such an arrangement is in your child’s best interests. In Texas, the term “conservatorship” refers to the rights and duties of caring for your child on a day-to-day basis and major decisions about education, health care and upbringing. Texas does prefer that parents be named “joint managing conservators” unless there is a compelling reason to order “sole managing conservatorship,” such as the other parent’s abuse, neglect or addiction. However, conservatorship should not be confused with joint custody. Regardless of whether a judge orders the parents to be joint managing conservators or one parent to be a sole managing conservator, one party always has the exclusive right to determine the primary residence of the children as the “primary conservator.” That parent will have primary physical custody and the other “possessory conservator” will have visitation. Whether a judge grants you that exclusive right depends on the facts of your case and the ability to show the judge that you were the primary caregiver for your child.

What kind of visitation is typically granted in divorce cases?

Texas prefers that the parent with visitation rights be permitted possession of the child under The Standard Possession Order. This order allows access to a child if you and the other parent cannot come to an agreement.

How much child support will a judge order?

While both parents have a duty under Texas law to support their child, the “possessory conservator” will typically be ordered to pay support to the “primary conservator.” The amount of support ordered is based on a person’s net resources. The table below shows the percentage of a person’s net resources that are ordered based on the number of children of the relationship. Please be aware that this is a simplified version of the actual tables used and does not take into consideration all factors:

  • 1 Child of the Marriage – 20% of Net Resources
  • 2 Children of the Marriage – 25% of Net Resources
  • 3 Children of the Marriage – 30% of Net Resources
  • 4 Children of the Marriage – 35% of Net Resources
  • 5 Children of the Marriage – 40% of Net Resources
  • 6 Children of the Marriage – 45% of Net Resources

How can I stop a divorce if my spouse wants it and I don’t?

Texas allows for “no-fault” divorces which essentially permits a spouse to file for divorce simply because one spouse believes the parties are now incompatible. The court can grant this divorce even if the other spouse does not want it.

Will a judge order alimony?

Texas is a community property state. In other words, Texas law presumes that each spouse will walk away with 50% of the assets of a marriage, so permanent alimony is not allowed. A judge can order one spouse to pay the other “temporary spousal support” while the divorce is pending. Spousal support is typically awarded to one party if extraordinary financial need can be shown to the judge, such as to allow a spouse to continue to make the utilities and mortgage payments.
While the parties can agree to, as part of the division of the marriage assets, post divorce contractual alimony, the judge can order support payments for one spouse after the divorce is final only if that spouse shows entitlement to “spousal maintenance.” To qualify for spousal maintenance, the spouse will have to show that the (1) marriage lasted 10 years or more, (2) the spouse lacks the skills and experience for gainful employment, (3) lacks the means for self support. Maintenance payments must cease no later than three years after the divorce.

I’ve decided I need a divorce. How do I start?

You should always begin any legal process the same way: contact an attorney you can trust. However, with divorces, you should hire an attorney with the expertise that these matters deserve. You should then begin documenting all the property and debts of your marriage to help your attorney determine the proper course of action to take. This documentation is essential. Once the divorce process begins, the amount of stress and emotions involved often make obtaining this information later very difficult.

I have an agreed divorce. Can we hire one attorney to represent both of us?

No. An attorney can only ethically represent one client in a divorce. However, one spouse may hire one attorney to draft the documents the parties will need to sign. Nevertheless, the attorney cannot advise the other party how to proceed in the divorce.

What steps are involved in a contested divorce?

First, a lawyer for one of the spouses drafts and files a “Petition for Divorce.” The petition sets out the issues that need to be resolved. Next, the other spouse must file an answer stating whether or not the spouse agrees with the petition. If he or she does not file an answer, then the court may proceed to finalize the divorce without any further notice to that party. The spouses then exchange documents and other information about issues such as property and income to permit the judge to decide how to divide up property and how to deal with child support and alimony. Depending on the number of issues unresolved, the judge may order the parties to attempt to settle their issues through mediation. If the parties reach a settlement, the proper documents are drawn up to present the agreement to the judge at a hearing. If the judge approves the agreement, the divorce decree will be signed by the judge and the divorce will be granted. If the case does not settle or if the judge does not approve the settlement, the case will proceed to trial. Whether the trial is before a judge or a jury, the attorneys will present evidence for each side, and the judge will render a decision to resolve all issues, including child custody and visitation, child and spousal support, and property and debt division. Once the judge has reached his or her decision, the judge grants the divorce.

I was never married to the other parent of my child. Do I need a divorce?

A common law marriage, or informal marriage, in Texas, is formed by one of two methods. First, the parties have signed a “Declaration of Informal Marriage” and filed the document with the clerk of their county. Or second, a man and woman have an agreement to be married, and after the agreement, live together for any period of time, and hold each other out as husband and wife. The second scenario is the most common cause for concern between parties. However, just because you lived with another person for a period of years, that does not make you married. You have to have fulfilled all three requirements in order to be considered married informally. Regardless of whether you two had a child together, it does not matter. You will need to file a Suit to Establish the Parent-Child Relationship if you do not qualify under the two examples above.

If I was not common law married to the other parent of my child, where do I start?

The process is the same for a divorce, except that, obviously, there will be no property or debt issues to present to a judge. Whether you are a parent seeking custody and child support from the other party or if you are simply a parent wanting to establish your right to visitation, you should consult an attorney immediately. Under Texas law, both parents have the same rights to their child. Until a court hands down an order saying which parent is supposed to have the child on which days, the parties can begin a virtual tug-of-war which can prove to be heart-wrenching and can sometimes involve the police. That is why it is imperative that you seek the advice of an attorney immediately to guide you through this process.

How much will this cost?

Every case is unique and the overall cost in any case depends on the number of issues to be presented to a judge. Dividing property is one thing, but children can’t be split.

Determining Child Custody

Custody (also called conservatorship) refers to the rights and duties of caring for your child on a day-to-day basis and major decisions about education, health care and upbringing. Texas courts assume joint custody unless there is a compelling reason for sole custody that puts the child at risk, such as the other parent’s abuse, neglect or addiction.

In most cases, one parent will have primary custody (sometimes called placement or possession) and the other will have regular visitation, but there is a trend toward more equal parenting time. If you are fighting for primary custody, shared custody (a 50-50 or 60-40 split) or maximum visitation rights, the lawyers of Morales Law Office are skilled at convincing the judge that such an arrangement is in your child’s best interests.
Our board-certified family law attorneys* can certainly advance your interests in family court proceedings. But our experience has shown that out-of-court resolution of custody and visitation is better for everyone in the long run. We encourage clients to explore collaborative law or mediation to work out the details, rather than a plan imposed by a judge. These alternatives are less costly than litigation, less stressful for you and your children, and foster a positive co-parenting relationship for the years to come. It is also less likely that you will be back in court to modify or enforce child custody.

Morales Law Office represent clients in a number of issues relating to children involved in divorce, post-divorce modification, and paternity proceedings, such as:

  • Child custody
  • Child support
  • Visitation, possession and access
  • Child custody modification
  • Child support modification
  • Visitation modification
  • Grandparent visitation
  • Paternity establishment
  • Stepparent adoptions
  • Third-party visitation
  • Enforcement of custody, visitation and child support

If you are in need of experienced and skilled representation in any case involving children to advocate for your needs, contact Morales Law Office at (432) 570-1499 or fill out our intake form.

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