Bruce C. Zivley, Attorney at Law

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Houston Family Law Blog

A good co-parenting plan helps children adjust to divorce

How children will adapt to life after divorce is a big consideration for all parents. You want your children to be happy, well-adjusted and able to move forward with confidence. However, that is a big order when the family breakup is still fresh.

Your divorce may have been contentious, but no matter how poorly you and your ex get along, you have to put your hostility aside long enough to develop—and follow—a good co-parenting plan.

Will your job change mean a divorce decree modification?

A change in circumstances often leads to the request by one party or the other for a modification to the divorce agreement they originally signed. For example, if you have just landed your dream job but must take a cut in pay until you learn the ropes and are eligible for promotion, you might ask that your ex-spouse temporarily assume more of the financial responsibility for the raising of your young son. However, a change in income is just one of the drivers behind the need for a divorce decree modification.

Understanding the Basics of Community Property in Texas

Texas along with about a dozen other states use the community property standard for valuable things acquired during a marriage. Many states use the common-law system for determining ownership of assets. The common law structure makes determining ownership of property in a divorce easy - if one name is on the title, the lucky person is the owner. But, if two names are on the title, each spouse owns 50% of the asset. The property is not just real estate, but includes, cars, electronics, furniture and other tangible things.

Community property states like Texas, view all assets such as money earned and property acquired as belonging to each spouse equally. There is a flip side to the ownership issue though as all debts are usually seen as belonging equally to both spouses as well.

Is uncontested divorce right for you?

Divorce is always an emotional process, but it doesn't have to end in hostility and frustration. Sometimes a court hearing is inevitable, but uncontested divorce is another option for divorcing couples. Here is some guidance if you are debating whether or not an uncontested divorce is right for you.

An uncontested divorce takes place outside of court without the traditional legal proceedings. It may be right for you if:

Dealing with the marital home in Texas divorces

When people file for divorce in Texas, the largest single marital asset owned by the couple is often the family home. As a community property state, the marital estate will be divided equally between the spouses, meaning that when the two own a house, the value of the house will be divided with half going to each.

A party who wishes to keep the home may be faced with the prospect of buying out the other party's share of the home's equity. Some couples may instead choose to place the home on the market, splitting the sales profit between them. Often, these types of divorce fire-sales end with people selling at below market prices, resulting in both parties losing significant amounts of money through lost equity.

Legal representation for a contested divorce

Every divorce in Texas involves a different set of problems and requires a unique solution. When spouses are unable to agree on a solution, the divorce may become contested, and a judge will have to make a ruling about property division. At our law firm, we are prepared to help you achieve the best possible outcome in your contested divorce.

One of the most important issues spouses face during a contested divorce is the distinction between marital property and separate property. As Texas is a community property state, spouses in Texas have equal ownership of all debts and assets that were acquired during their marriage. When they got through a divorce, it will be vital to determine whether any valuable assets can be exempted from community property division.

When a parent wants to relocate

In Texas it is common for one ex-spouse after a divorce to wish to relocate to a new city or state in a quest for better job prospects or an improved quality of life. However, in cases where the custody of a child is involved, the situation becomes more complex.

Joint custody is the preferred outcome for all Texas divorce cases. However, it often happens that one or all children live with one parent while the noncustodial parent has visitation rights. Unfortunately, Texas is a large enough state that even the relocation to a different city can cause a child to de facto lose access to the noncustodial parent. As such, the parent without the right of possession may choose to dispute the move in court.

Grandparents and child custody rights

In Texas, grandparents as well as parents may apply for child custody, and some grandparents may see the need for doing so during the divorce of the child's parents. This may be the case if the grandparents feel the child is unsafe with the parents.

Courts lean toward awarding custody to biological parents when possible, but if parents agree to sign custody over to grandparents by power of attorney or if grandparents file a successful court case, they may get custody. Grandparents may file an original lawsuit to start the process of obtaining custody, or they may intervene in a suit if a custody case is already in progress.

How Texas law handles inheritances in property division

When Texas couples divorce, courts will conduct a division of the marital property. As a community property state, Texas treats all property owned by a couple as either marital property, which will be divided equally between the parties, or separate property, which is not subject to division and rather remains with the spouse who owns it.

In some situations, one spouse will have been the beneficiary of an inheritance left to him or her but not to his or her spouse. Generally, courts consider such an inheritance to be the recipient spouse's separate property, leaving it not subject to division. There are situations in which an inheritance may lose this immunity from being considered to be marital property, however.

Challenging a child support order by denying paternity

In order for a Texas court to terminate the child support requirements assessed against a man who has subsequently denied paternity, the man must file the claim personally. If he signed an acknowledgement of paternity at the time of the child's birth or the court established his paternity, he would need to state in his petition that he believed that he was the child's biological father at the time.

The man must file his mistaken paternity claim within a year of the date that he became aware that he is not the child's biological father. If the man's child support case originated in the Office of the Attorney General, the office must receive a notice after the man files the petition with the court. The first step in processing the case requires a genetic test on both the man and the child. If the results exclude the man as the child's father, the court will terminate the parent-child relationship.

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