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Austin Texas Family Law Blog

Can I modify my divorce judgment?

When the dust settles and you come up for air after a divorce, you may quickly find that the terms of your divorce decree are not possible for you to uphold, or present some serious injustice. While the decree is legally binding, it is possible to petition the court that issued it to reconsider the terms and make modifications.

In general, petitioning a court for a modification is more likely to succeed than an appeal to a higher court. Whereas an appeal seeks to have one court undo the ruling of a lower court, which is not terribly common in divorce law, a modification is granted by the same court that issued the original divorce decree, and is usually significantly easier to achieve.

What are the rights of an emancipated minor?

Many minors struggle to find their own sense of personhood and direction while under their parents' roof. This is a normal part of growing into a new season of life and personal responsibility.

However, some minors understand that their parents or guardians do not have their best interests at heart or cannot offer the guidance and protections that a child should expect from a parent. In some instances, a minor may choose to seek emancipation from his or her parents.

Child custody disputes and unmarried parents

Child custody conflicts are some of the most frustrating things a parent can experience, and sometimes require one parent to take serious action to protect his or her rights. For unmarried parents facing custody decisions, it is important to use all available tools to ensure that both parties share a fair balance between parental responsibilities and rights.

If you find yourself facing the difficult task of sorting out a custody arrangement with someone who is not your spouse, you have a very important task ahead of you. Depending on the nature of your relationship with the other parent, you may want to approach sharing custody a number of ways. In many instances, it is normal for an unmarried mother of a child to receive sole custody, but a father may fight for certain custody and visitation rights if he chooses.

You’re never too young for a prenuptial agreement

Many young couples approaching their first marriage often assume that it is unnecessary to consider a prenuptial agreement. After all, they will surely stay together, and they don't have many assets right now, so why even bother? Creating a prenuptial agreement may offer important protections to the rich or to those who want to remarry later in life, but isn't it a little overboard for a young couple with few assets?

These are good questions to ask, especially if it encourages a young couple to research prenuptial agreements in greater detail. Even young couples with few assets at the beginning of the marriage can still benefit significantly, and a prenuptial agreement that truly represents their particular relationship may strengthen it for the long haul.

Are you a victim of parenting time interference?

As a parent sharing custody or visitation rights, you know that custody issues are often very difficult to navigate. It is normal for parents to face some difficulty forming their lives around a court ordered custody plan, but some behavior crosses a line into dangerous territory, amounting in some cases to parenting time interference.

Parenting time interference is a serious offense in the eyes of a court, and can result in the loss of some parenting privileges for the offending parent, or even criminal charges and jail time in severe cases. Direct interference usually involves some behavior on the part of one parent that keeps the other parent from physically spending his or her court-ordered custody time with the child. A minor violation might look like a parent cancelling visitation, whereas a major violation might be a parent taking child to another state without the knowledge or permission of the other.

Best interests of a child and grandparent custody

When a court considers custody options for a child, it is primarily concerned with the child's best interests above the rights or many of the preferences of parents and other guardians. In many cases, a court may even consider the wishes of the child in a ruling. This does not mean that parents and others in the child's life have no say in the custody of a child: in fact, quite the opposite. Most courts prefer for families to work together to create a custody plan that puts the child's needs first.

If you are a grandparent concerned about how a divorce or separation may affect your relationship with your grandchild, you may have legal grounds to request custody or visitation rights in court. In many instances, courts recognize the value grandparents offer many children, and may prove willing to grant you legal visitation or even primary custody of your grandchild, depending on the circumstances.

Child custody and support in prenuptial agreements

Any couple can usually find some benefit in a prenuptial agreement, excepting those who create faulty agreements based on poor understandings of the law. While prenuptial agreements offer potential spouses many important protections, these agreements acknowledge very strict limits to what they can and cannot govern during a divorce.

Prenuptial agreements are excellent tools to help a couple determine how they might address property division in the event of divorce, and may protect one spouse from the other's debt during the marriage or keep a business owned by one spouse out of a divorce altogether. However, these agreements very specifically do not apply to child custody and child support matters.

Do you know how to deal with your debts in divorce?

Divorce is often far more involved and complicated than spouses expect, sometimes leading to ongoing financial difficulty well after the divorce finalizes. Even worse, couples can avoid many of these frustrations with some careful planning and execution during the divorce process, but they often overlook crucial aspects of debt division out of a desire to get the marriage behind them as soon as possible.

If you and your spouse face divorce, it is wise to order joint credit reports from each credit reporting bureau. Even if you think that you know all of the debt each of you has to contend with, it is wise to double check and identify all of your debts so that you can address them fairly and comprehensively. Once you identify all your debts, you may consider working in both parties interests to pay off these debts in full before your divorce. While this may deplete some of your existing resources, it also eliminates a number of potential conflicts in the future.

How can I compel a parent to pay owed child support?

If your child's other parent does not pay his or her child support on time, your child is ultimately the one who suffers. Unfortunately, many parents with child support obligations do not stay current with support payments, placing both themselves and the support-receiving parent in a difficult conflict. For the parent trying to cover the shortfall of income, this can seem like a hopeless circumstance with no solution.

However, the law does provide receiving parents with some recourse against nonpaying or delinquent parents. Depending on the how much support a parent owes and how many months behind he or she is on payments, a number of authorities may impose several different kinds of pressure on the nonpaying parent to catch up on their support and remain current. These consequences may include

  • Wage garnishment
  • Property seizure
  • Seizure of tax refunds
  • Professional license suspension
  • Driver's license suspension
  • Incarceration

Does your marriage qualify for annulment?

Marriages can end several ways, and not only through death or divorce. In some cases, it is possible and advantageous to have a marriage annulled instead of going through the divorce process. If annulled, a marriage is literally removed from legal history, completely canceling the marriage and legal effects of the marriage. However, this is only possible in a few specific circumstances.

In order for a court to approve annulment, at least one spouse must present proof that the marriage itself was faulty, legally inappropriate or unconsummated. For instance, courts may agree to annul marriages where one or both spouses were not capable of understanding the seriousness of the act, or entered into the marriage under unreasonable circumstances. These may include marriages entered into:

  • By mentally ill or mentally handicapped individuals
  • Spouse(s) suffering from temporary insanity
  • While one or both parties are intoxicated
  • Under duress
  • That are based on fraudulent misrepresentation by one or both spouses
  • By one or more minor without proper parental consent
  • When one or both spouses are already legally married to someone else