Learn about Divorces and Suits Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship in Texas
Divorce laws in Texas are unique and differ from divorce laws in other States. If you are thinking about getting a divorce, you will need an experienced divorce and child custody attorney to properly advise you and protect your interest. As a lawyer practicing family law in the Houston-Galveston area, I have helped my clients to understand their rights and duties under the Texas family law code. It comes down to providing clients with straight talk to help them make difficult, emotionally charged decisions. I am attorney David Romero. I have been providing compassionate, competent, well-reasoned advice to my clients in their most difficult hour by serving not only as an attorney but also as a counselor of law.
Divorce is one of the most important and difficult decisions you will ever face. It is a decision that requires rational perspective in a time of complete emotional turmoil. A divorce is a termination of a marital contract. Attorney David Romero will help guide you through the legal process and will provide you with critical information you need to transition yourself and your family from a marital relationship to a new beginning.
Planning for Life after Divorce
Careful planning should be undertaken at the onset of the divorce filing to cope and deal with the challenges that spouses face with one another after divorce. This is especially true when dealing with the needs and welfare of your children — now and in the future. Attorney Romero will discuss child custody, visitation and child support. The best interest of the child is the focal point of all orders relating to children. Attorney Romero will discuss the rights and duties of parents, parenting plan options that go beyond the standardize possession and visitation schedules, and child support orders that provide for above and beyond Texas Family Code guideline support options.
Texas Divorce Process
A divorce begins when a spouse files an Original Petition for Divorce. The petition officially announces your requested relief — such as dissolution of the marriage; orders dealing with custody, possession and child support for the children; and an order providing for a just and fair division of marital assets and debts. The party that files the petition is the Petitioner, and the party that responds to the petition is the Respondent.
Most Texas counties require a financial information sheet to be prepared by both parties and exchanged before any temporary order or final hearing. You and your lawyer will get more information about marital finances and relevant information concerning the children through the discovery process by way of request for disclosures, interrogatories, requests for production and inspection, depositions and local rule requirements. You and your attorney may work closely with financial and child care experts. The information gained during discovery may help you and your lawyer to settle the issues in your case.
Some Texas Family Courts require mediation, and others do not. Mediation is an alternative to a traditional trial and is considerably less expensive. It allows the parties to have their cases heard by a Mediator — usually an attorney — who tries to facilitate an agreement between the parties. Mediation is attended by the parties and their attorneys. It provides the parties with an opportunity to be heard, and it allows them to voice their disagreements. If a Mediated Settlement Agreement (“MSA”) is reached, then the parties briefly appear in court for an uncontested hearing. If an agreement is not reached, the parties can proceed to trial and allow the judge or jury to determine the issues that have not been resolved.
A contested divorce is one in which the husband and wife cannot come to agreements concerning the property division, child custody, child support and debt allocation. At The Romero Law Firm, P.C., we have experience working with clients in coming to a resolution that is best suited for their situation and their children’s best interests.
We offer a comprehensive approach, and depending upon the size of the marital estate, we will work with other experts to trace and determine what assets were acquired before or after the marriage. This is essential when one of the parties is trying to hide assets or is claiming that the bulk of the estate is immune to division.
The attorneys and staff at the firm work with clients and provide them with as much information as possible so that they can make informed decisions. In a contested divorce, the first hearing usually involves a Temporary Orders Hearing, where the Judge will determine the following issues: who will remain in the home and reside there during the pendency of the divorce, the amount of child support that will be paid by the other spouse, temporary custody and visitation schedules for the children, temporary spousal support if necessary, and who will be responsible for which bills. At the Temporary Orders Hearing, the Judge may also order temporary injunctions, which prohibit the husband and/or the wife from doing certain acts, such as threatening the other spouse, hiding the children from the other spouse, withdrawing money from accounts contrary to the Court’s Order, and disturbing the peace of the children and the other spouse.
The next phase in the contested divorce is the discovery process, in which the parties send discovery requests to the other spouse to find out as much information as possible about the property to be divided and what the other spouse’s case is all about. During this process, clients usually must file a sworn inventory with the Court, disclosing all community assets, separate property claims and debts.
At this stage, if agreements cannot be reached by the parties, attorneys and clients usually attend Mediation and present their case to a third party, who helps the parties try to come to an agreement concerning the disputed issues. If an agreement cannot be reached, the case proceeds to trial, and the Judge or jury decides the issues.
The majority of cases are never tried by a judge or jury. Many people will come to agreements prior to the trial date for a variety of reasons: what the Judge or jury will decide being completely out of their hands, the costs of litigating the case, and the uncertainty of the length of time that it will take the case to come to a final resolution will depend upon how busy the Court’s docket is.
If both the husband and wife can agree on issues concerning the property division, child custody and child support, then a divorce can proceed on an uncontested basis. Because the parties have come to agreements on all issues, and there is nothing to fight over, this process saves a lot of time and money; and in the end, it reduces a lot of the stress to the divorcing spouses. At The Romero Law Firm, P.C., the attorneys and staff will work with you to keep the costs and expenses to a minimum.
In an uncontested divorce, usually one party retains an attorney to draft the Original Petition for Divorce, the Waiver of Citation and the Final Decree of Divorce. The other spouse reviews the documents and signs the Waiver of Citation and Final Decree of Divorce. In this scenario, it is important to realize that the attorney represents only one of the spouses and can advise only that client.
Once the petition has been filed, the waiver has been signed by the other spouse, and the divorce decree has been signed by both the husband and the wife, the attorney and the client may go to court and have the judge grant the divorce.
Texas Community and Separate Property Laws
Texas is a community-property state. The presumption is that property acquired during the marriage will be considered community property. Separate property is property that was acquired prior to the marriage and by gift and device during the marriage. The family court judges are required to divide marital/community property in a just and fair manner.
Texas Child Custody Cases
In Texas, every divorce in which children are involved will contain a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (“SAPCR”). The SAPCR can also be an independent law suit brought by a parent or a person who has standing to bring a suit affecting the parent-child relationship of the child or children.
Texas Child Support, Child Custody, and Visitation Modifications
The attorneys and staff at The Romero Law Firm, P.C. are knowledgeable and experienced about modification proceedings in Harris and surrounding counties. Because we have been through the process before, we are familiar with court hearings and the costs and expenses involved. At the initial consultation, you will meet with David M. Romero to determine if a modification suit is proper. He will advise you as to the risks and benefits of bringing the suit to modify the prior order and give you realistic expectations of your chances of succeeding in court.
Because the process of modifying a prior court order can be challenging, and because the legal criteria to show that a material and substantial change has occurred since the prior order can be complicated, it is important that you meet with an attorney who will provide you with an honest assessment of your situation and offer you sound and knowledgeable advice.
When you have questions about the divorce process or these legal matters, contact us at The Romero Law Firm, P.C. We will work with you and give you straight talk to guide you through this difficult time.