Protecting yourself starts with a premarital agreement. This is not an inauspicious document betting that your marriage will end in divorce, but rather is one that will protect you in case your marriage is one of the 1-out-of-every-2-marriages that end in divorce.
Division of Property in Divorce
Texas law requires a "just and right" division of the marital estate, having due regard for each party and any children of the marriage. This doesn't always mean equal; the court can consider various factors, usually fault and disparities between the parties in age, education and income.
Texas has a longstanding policy against alimony (called "spousal maintenance" in Texas). It is presumed that spousal maintenance is not required unless the spouse seeking maintenance has exercised diligence in seeking suitable employment or developing the skills necessary to become self-supporting. Further, spousal support can only be ordered if the spouse seeking maintenance will lack sufficient property to provide for their minimum reasonable needs, and either: 1) there was recent domestic violence, or 2) is unable to earn enough to provide for their minimum reasonable needs or has to provide care for the child of a marriage that requires substantial care and supervision because of a disability. Finally, orders of spousal maintenance are limited to the shortest reasonable time period that allows the spouse seeking maintenance to earn sufficient income to provide for their minimum reasonable needs. As in division of property, the court can consider various factors -- usually marital misconduct and disparities between the parties in age, education and income -- in determining amount and duration.
"Palimony" came in to existence in California in 1976 but is not the law in the State of Texas. Unmarried partners have no right to support after the end of the relationship no matter how long they cohabitated. A written agreement for support between cohabitating persons (such as a Domestic Partnership Agreement), however, is valid in Texas.
Under Texas law, a child born to a man and woman who are not married has no legal father. There is a difference between a biological father and a legal father. The father cannot enforce his right to visitation or possession of the child until paternity is established.
Once paternity is determined, custody (called "conservatorship" in Texas) can be established. It is public policy in Texas that parents have frequent and continuing contact with their children. There is a rebuttable presumption that appointment of the parents of a child as joint managing conservators (joint custody) is in the best interests of the child. The court cannot discriminate based on sex or marital status when making custody decisions. Further, the court cannot condition visitation on the timely payment of child support. Generally, courts tend to divide custody of the child evenly unless there is reason to believe it would not be in the child's best interest (e.g., abuse, neglect, abandonment or imprisonment of one of the parents).
Finally, an unwed father who has not been ruled as the father by a court has a right to notice and a hearing before his parental rights can be terminated, but he must have made sufficient efforts to establish a relationship with or take responsibility for the child. However, to be notified of a termination proceeding, he must register with the bureau of vital statistics or else will not be entitled to notice.
Contact us to learn more about establishing and protecting your rights as a father.
The court cannot discriminate based on sex or marital status when making child support decisions.
An increase in the needs, standards of living or lifestyle of the obligee since the current order was signed does not warrant an increase in the obligor's child support obligation. It is an affirmative defense to criminal charges for not paying child support that the person could not provide support for the child. A court can, however, infer intentional un/under-employment and base your income on what evidence shows you may be able to make. Don't let yourself get trapped in court; don't get stuck paying more child support than you should -- hire a lawyer who can rebut "evidence" of intentional un/under-employent.
New laws in Texas allow a "legal" father to challenge his status as father with DNA evidence. If the DNA evidence shows he is not the biological father, the court can order the termination of the father-child relationship and cease child support payments. Contact us to find out how.
Courts must and should investigate accusations of domestic violence and sexual abuse of children. Far too often, however, one spouse will try to use false accusations as a weapon against the other in a divorce proceeding. When faced with the potential of not having their child everyday, or simply for revenge, women sometimes take advantage of the deference given to their testimony in domestic matters. This can affect custody and the exlusive right to establish residency, alimony, and restraining orders, not to mention the embarrassment of the father and the emotional harm done to the child. Don't let this happen to you -- contact an attorney to protect yourself and your right to see your children.
Principal office located in Euless, Texas
If you have questions or want to schedule a consultation, please fill out the contact form. Your email will be sent directly to an attorney and responded to within one business day.