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Austin Texas Family Law Blog

Use a prenuptial agreement to strengthen your marriage

For many generations, prenuptial agreements carried a certain stigma in the public's view, often seeming like the kind of thing that old, rich families used to keep their wealth protected in case a son or daughter married someone without means of their own. While this is true to an extent, prenups are not only for the rich and powerful. They are also useful for any couple that marries, even if they never divorce.

With a clear understanding of exactly what a prenup offers, many couples now use them to strengthen their marriages rather than create an easy escape hatch if the union sours. If you are approaching marriage, you should create a prenup, for your sake and for the sake of the person you wish to spend your life with.

Understanding how community property laws work

No matter where a divorce occurs, the process is rarely simple. However, for those who live in Texas and other states with community property laws, divorce can prove a bit more complicated than spouses expect.

Community property laws require spouses to split all marital property equally, meaning that each spouse leaves the marriage with one-half of the value of the couple's assets and liabilities. Other states that do not have community property laws allow spouses to reach an "equitable" property division agreement, where each party and the court agrees that the division of property is fair, but not necessarily equal.

If there’s no custody order, can a parent kidnap their child?

When one parent violates another parent's rights and refuses to allow them to spend court-ordered time with their child, this often adds up to parental kidnapping. Like any form of kidnapping, this is a very serious crime and may result in criminal charges and significant punishment, including jail time and loss of many privileges.

However, not every act that feels like parental kidnapping actually is. This area of the law can get very difficult to navigate. If you have concerns about a potential kidnapping situation in your own family, it is important that you clearly understand how the law applies in your circumstances and what legal options you have to protect yourself and your child.

Divorce may affect your immigration process

Here in Texas, we have many residents who build lives in the community after immigrating to the United States, often marrying citizens in the process. Of course, these marriages are just as likely to face divorce as any other marriage, and when the relationship ends it often impacts the immigrant spouse in ways that citizens simply never encounter.

As immigrants work toward permanent resident status while married, they must file certain forms within certain time periods and follow some fairly stiff guidelines to lift their resident status from conditional to permanent. If divorce comes knocking and the marriage fails while the immigrant spouse is still a conditional resident, the citizen spouse must still file the forms jointly with the immigrant spouse for them to receive permanent resident status.

Avoid commingling your assets if you face divorce

When a couple chooses to get married, their assets and liabilities also get married, so to speak, unless the couple uses a prenuptial agreement to protect themselves and their property from potential legal issues. Here in Texas, our community property guidelines make divorce much more complicated in some cases, because couples must divide their marital property equally, without much flexibility.

This brings into question assets that may be considered otherwise separate. For instance, in many cases, an inheritance is not considered marital property. However, that may not matter much to the court if the inheritance is virtually indistinguishable from other assets. In order to keep assets separate, they must remain actually separated.

Does serious illness affect child support obligations?

In many books, films, and television shows, the parent who falls behind on his or her child support obligations often gets used as shorthand to tell the audience quickly that this character is doing a lousy job as a parent and does not deserve sympathy or understanding. Considering just how many parents throughout the country face just this circumstance for completely legitimate reasons, it is a wonder that the writing convention of the so-called "bad" or "irresponsible" parent is still a powerful symbol, especially given the challenging reality of being a parent with child support obligations, especially when times get difficult.

Many loving parents find themselves feeling trapped between their obligations to their children and crushing circumstances that make it implausible to continue making the payments. This is especially true for parents who suffer a serious illness or some other major injury that produces large medical expenses.

What are grounds to challenge paternity?

When a child is born, the mother and father of that child generally have the opportunity to assign paternity voluntarily, without proving paternity with any kind of testing. This can create legal complications if the child's paternity is later called into question, and in many cases, another father may have strong grounds to challenge paternity and claim some forms of parental rights to a child.

However, there are a limited number of justifications for challenging paternity that a court will consider seriously. If you are wondering whether or not you have grounds to challenge the paternity of a child, it is wise to do detailed research and use strong legal resources to help you build your case before you launch any legal actions. Even if your case is strong, it is not any easy process, so the more supporting evidence you can provide in your claim, the better.

What if your spouse is hiding assets in your divorce?

Divorce is an innately messy process, even when both spouses approach the situation with level heads and a commitment to fair dealing. Of course, the reality of the matter is that very few couples are able to put their differences aside and think clearly and practically about dividing their assets and dissolving their marriage.

In fact, many spouses swing the other way and do everything they can to circumvent the law and keep the other party from obtaining a fair portion of some marital assets. In Texas, dividing property is even more difficult to swallow for some, because spouses must divide marital property equally.

Resolving disagreements over a custody schedule

After the fog of divorce lifts and parents work on getting into the swing of sharing parenting privileges and responsibilities, maintaining a consistent and fair custody schedule often becomes a point of contention. For thousands of families throughout the country, one parent or the other may struggle to abide by the visitation schedule or custody plan, either intentionally or out of negligence. Not only does this place both parents in a difficult position, it almost always creates additional strain for the child at the center of the conflict.

As a parent sharing custody of the child you love, you have a responsibility to put your difference with the child's other parent aside, at least as much as is necessary to create a stable environment for the child. Using custody and parenting privileges as leverage to punish or reward the other parent for his or her behavior is not only potentially illegal, it is truly destructive for everyone in the family.

Can grandparents pursue custody of a child in Texas?

A typical custody battle involves two parents fighting over how to divide their child's time and where to raise the child. However, in many cases, the parents are simply not the best option for meeting the child's needs. Instead, it is sometimes wise for grandparents to step up to the plate and seek legal custody of the child. In Texas, grandparents may seek custody, but only if the circumstances and the grandparents themselves meet a number of qualifications.

In most cases, grandparents who seek custody in Texas face the difficulty of getting the case before a court. In order for a court to consider awarding grandparents custody, the parents of the child must be at least one of the following:

  • Declared mentally incompetent
  • Deceased
  • Living somewhere other than the child's home
  • Incarcerated
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