Texas Family Code
Child Support: OAG and District Courts
The Office of the Attorney General represents the State of Texas, not either parent or the child. The state is interested in making sure the child’s needs are taken care of, including health insurance. Often, the custodial parent (the one the child “lives with”) is awarded the bulk of the decision making powers in the child’s life. The non-custodial parent (the one the child “visits”) may be awarded only the standard rights and duties about being informed of the custodial parent’s decisions.
The District Courts are usually much more efficient, and each parent’s rights and duties, including the decision-making rights, may be allocated more evenly between the parents. The OAG will send an attorney to the District Court to sign off on the child support issues if necessary.
And, as an aside, the OAG order usually awards the standard possession order to the non-custodial parent. In District Court, the NCP may request longer periods of possession and access, and a custom schedule may be crafted to fit each family’s individual needs and circumstances.
If you are going through a child custody dispute, please contact a Fort Worth Family Law Attorney at the Hurr Law Office, P.C. today.
Like in many areas of life, there is an easy, a medium, and a difficult way to get through the divorce process. The more the parties agree, the easier and less expensive it is. The reverse is also true. My philosophy in practicing family law is to not make a bad situation worse if at all possible. If you have children together, the divorce is really two suits in one: one deals with the property of the two spouses, and the other concerns child-related issues. The divorce process may be finished within sixty-one days from the date of the Original Petition for Divorce’s being filed, but it is not unusual for a divorce to take between six to twelve months to complete, depending upon the complexity of the issues.
If there are complicating factors, such as the need for a protective order, the first actions in a divorce are a request for an ex parte protective order and then a later setting to hear the matters relating to the requested protective order. The normal procedure includes the original petition for divorce, a request for a temporary restraining order, a request for temporary orders, and an order setting hearing for temporary orders. From there, the divorce can go a variety of ways. If the case is contentious and complicated, a long discovery process may ensue. If not, the parties and their attorneys may reach a settlement agreement on their own, or they may use a mediator to help reach an agreement. While divorce is never easy, the law seeks a fair and equitable division of property. And, the Court is concerned with what is in each child’s best interest.
If you are in search of a Fort Worth Family Law Attorney dedicated to making divorce as stress-free as possible, we encourage you to contact us right away!
When you already have an Order that is being violated, you can ask the Court for an enforcement. Each violation may be considered a separate act of contempt, including missed child support payments, unpaid medical support, unpaid unreimbursed medical expenses, and dates of possession and access (“visitation”).
Enforcement proceedings are usually a stair-step approach to gaining compliance with the final order or decree, but it is possible to be incarcerated from family courts upon even the first finding of contempt. It is very important that you have good records showing what hasn’t been done. It is important that both parties abide by the terms of the final order or decree. Otherwise, a request for enforcement is less effective. If the Court finds the other party in contempt, he/she may be ordered to reimburse your attorney’s fees.
Modifications may be sought in almost all family law cases. The customary areas where modifications are sought are usually connected to children—either in child support, custody determinations, or changes in possession and access. When you are requesting a modification, you might as well reconsider everything you want changed, since it all occurs in the same hearing. Often problems arise that were not forecast when the final order or decree was signed. Just as life changes, so do circumstances surrounding families.
Adjudication of Paternity
A Petition to Adjudicate Parentage establishes the biological father as the legal father. If the father has never been ceremonially married to the mother or if he hasn’t acknowledged paternity, the father may have to go through this process. A paternity adjudication not only sets up conservatorship issues (stating who the primary parent is, setting out rights and duties of each parent), but it establishes child support and other child-related expenses and a possession and access (visitation) schedule.
Often an adjudication of paternity is a one-time hearing if all the parties are in agreement. Otherwise, this procedure can resemble the child-related portions of a divorce case, including an extended time frame for completion.
Normally, adoptions are the happiest part of family law. However, before the adoption may occur, several steps must be taken. The biological parents’ parental rights have to either be voluntarily relinquished by each parent, or the Court has to find that the termination of a parent’s rights is in the best interest of the child. The prospective adoptive parents have to meet the requirements to petition the Court, and then there are pre-adoption and post-adoption social studies to be conducted, a criminal background check to be run, and usually the appointment of an attorney to represent the child’s best interests. It is not unusual for the adoption process to take six months or more to complete after the petition for adoption has been filed. The primary expenses of adoptions are filing fees, costs for the attorney ad litem, funding the social studies, and paying your attorney’s fees. The adoptive parents may be eligible for an adoption credit on their federal income taxes. If the child being adopted is in the foster care system, he/she may also be eligible for educational benefits from the state after high school. The best part about adoption is the unconditional love your family is extending to a child in need.
Because of constitutional issues, a biological parent’s rights usually trump the rights of a grandparent. Often a grandparent may actually have a better argument based on having continuous possession of the child rather than relying on the biological ties to the child. Otherwise, the customary right awarded to a grandparent is the right to request reasonable possession and access to the child. A grandparent might consider asking to be named as an additional joint managing conservator or as an additional possessory conservator. Doing so provides the child with another responsible adult to take care of the child should something happen to one or both of the parents.
Members of the Tarrant County Family Law Bar Association