Are you the father of a child in Texas and Mom is refusing to let you see or communicate with your child? Are you paying child support in Texas for your child, yet Mom tries to dominate all interaction between you and the child to suit her needs. Is this Parental Alienation in the present or a step commencing down that path?
Fathers have rights in Texas and because this is one of the more frequent calls we receive from Dads, I thought it was time to discuss some specific law from the Texas Family Code regarding the rights and duties afforded to a Parent, whether Mom or Dad!
Under the Texas Family Code a “Parent” is defined as the mother, a man presumed to be the father, a man legally determined to be the father, a man who has been adjudicated to be the father by a court of competent jurisdiction, a man who acknowledged his paternity under applicable law or an adoptive mother or father.
Tex. Fam. Code Sec. 160, otherwise known as the Uniform Parentage Act, states that a man is presumed to be the father of a child if:
1. he is married to the mother of the child and the child is born during the marriage;
2. he is married to the mother of the child and the child is born before the 301st day after the date the marriage is terminated by death, annulment, declaration of invalidity, or divorce;
3. he married the mother of the child before the birth of the child in apparent compliance with law, even if the attempted marriage is or could be declared invalid, and the child is born during the invalid marriage or before the 301st day after the date the marriage is terminated by death, annulment, declaration of invalidity, or divorce;
4. he married the mother of the child after the birth of the child in apparent compliance with law, regardless of whether the marriage is or could be declared invalid, he voluntarily asserted his paternity of the child, and:
a)the assertion is in a record filed with the bureau of vital statistics;
b) he is voluntarily named as the child’s father; or
c) he promised in a record to support the child as his own; or
5. during the first two years of the child’s life, he continuously resided in the household in which the child resided and he represented to others that the child was his own.
If the above applies to you and you have established legal standing to support that you are “the father,” what are your rights and duties as the Texas Family Code Sec. 151.001 states:
§ 151.001. Rights and Duties of Parent
(a) A parent of a child has the following rights and duties:
(1) the right to have physical possession, to direct the moral and religious training, and to designate the residence of the child;
(2) the duty of care, control, protection, and reasonable discipline of the child;
(3) the duty to support the child, including providing the child with clothing, food, shelter, medical and dental care, and education;
(4) the duty, except when a guardian of the child’s estate has been appointed, to manage the estate of the child, including the right as an agent of the child to act in relation to the child’s estate if the child’s action is required by a state, the United States, or a foreign government;
(5) except as provided by Section 264.0111, the right to the services and earnings of the child;
(6) the right to consent to the child’s marriage, enlistment in the armed forces of the United States, medical and dental care, and psychiatric, psychological, and surgical treatment;
(7) the right to represent the child in legal action and to make other decisions of substantial legal significance concerning the child;
(8) the right to receive and give receipt for payments for the support of the child and to hold or disburse funds for the benefit of the child;
(9) the right to inherit from and through the child;
(10) the right to make decisions concerning the child’s education; and
(11) any other right or duty existing between a parent and child by virtue of law.
Both parents have these rights unless a court order has created, modified, ordered, or delegated the statuary rights of a parent. The rights you have will support and empower you in a hands on relationship with your child.
All parents have the right to have a relationship with their children! One misguided parent may attempt to employ parental alienation to hurt the other parent and cause the child to be denied a loving relationship with the other parent. Know your rights and contact an attorney who can help you and your child fulfill a meaningful relationship!
Consider the legal consequences of Trusts regarding the characterization of marital property, especially Trusts created by separate property prior or after marriage. A Trust can be a creative and useful tool depending on the perspective and actual need of the parties. To a spouse owning substantial separate property, an irrevocable Trust may be a safe haven that will guard the separate property and potentially the income from the separate property against property divisions in a Divorce Court. On the other hand, in some cases, a spouse that has no separate property may be defrauded by the other spouse.
The Texas Courts have indicated that separate Trusts created prior to marriage, that are irrevocable spendthrift Trusts are a valid means to shelter separate property of the marriage and the income from the trusts are not subject to division during the divorce proceedings. The beneficiary of the separate Trust (the spouse with the separate trust or beneficiary of a separate trust) do not have a present possessory right to any asset within the corpus of the Trusts. If the spouse is granted a present possessory right to any portion of the trust in the trusts, then the income from the Trusts may be divided in a Divorce Court as community property.
This is an area of concern to the other spouse. If you are married to an unsavory spouse, where separate property assets owned prior to the marriage are put into an irrevocable spendthrift trust, take measure to insure no money or other property acquired during the marriage is siphoned into those separate Trusts. One spouse may siphon community property throughout the marriage into separate Trusts in order to deplete the community estate. This constitutes fraud on the community estate and the innocent spouse may seek adequate compensation.
It is important to hire an experienced attorney that understand the intricacies of Trusts and the part Trusts can play in sheltering community funds from a spouse during the marriage. Many wealthy men or women may abuse the Trust formation to defraud their spouses from fair community property allocation. Wealthy spouses may use irrevocable or discretionary Trusts created prior to the marriage for asset protection instead of using prenuptial agreements or post marriage property agreements. The case law is still not completely settled in Texas regarding irrevocable Trust as they pertain to divorce and it is important to hire an attorney that can help guide you through these complexities and insure you are not being defrauded or taken advantage of in a divorce proceeding.
One the most complicate and transparent ways an individual may defraud a spouse during a marriage is with the use of a trust. A trust is an entity that separates equitable and legal title of all property or money placed within it. Prior to, during, or after marriage, a spouse may create a trust and name the children of the marriage or others, as the beneficiaries. The spouse then may start siphoning community property and separate property into the trust removing the property from the community. This is a tactic commonly practiced when a spouse has failed to sign a pre-nuptial agreement.
Circumstances like this happen in High Asset Divorces because a trust may be used to protect properties from the other spouse. Attack the trust as a party of the case and request an accounting. It takes an experienced lawyer to understand which trusts can be attacked and which trusts are impenetrable.
Trust busting consists of complex and arduous litigation depending on the circumstances. The circumstances of a trust are important in divorce cases. Here are a few questions you should ponder when assessing any trusts during a divorce:
- Determine when the trust was created;
- Determine if the trust is revocable trust or irrevocable trust ;
- Determine who the beneficiary of the trust is;
- Determine who the trustee of the trust is;
- Determine who the settlor of the trust is;
- Determine the type of property or money that is placed within the trust; and
- Determine when the property or money was placed in the trust.
These are just a few inquiries you should make prior to meeting with your lawyer. It will save you time and money. Depending on the answers to the seven inquires stated above, an experienced lawyer may be able to bust the trust opening the property and monies for the final hearing in a divorce case. There are many defenses and unsettled law in connection with trust busting and an experienced attorney must be sought.
Julian Nacol, Attorney
Nacol Law Firm P.C.
Now that the Texas Legislature has ended, we will review some of the bills passed that will affect our Family Law Cases.
S.B. 814 Waivers of Citations in Certain Family Law Suits
Currently, the state of Texas allows for a parties involved in a divorce to waive service. Loosely translated, that means that the person named in the divorce suit can sign a paper which proactively tells the relevant court that they are officially aware their spouse is filing for divorce. This waiver means they don’t have to physically be served with the divorce papers by their spouse or a process server, potentially saving everyone involved a bit of time, money, and maybe some emotional pain
S.B. 814 was introduced to further the use of such waivers to apply to other common family law matters.
The waiver should also be used for:
- Suits to remove disability of a minor (commonly referred to as emancipation)
- Suits to change the name of an adult or child
- Any suits relating to a parent-child relationship
The bill passed and will take effect on September 1, 2015.
S.B. 817: Issuance of a protective order and appointment of a managing conservator in certain family law proceedings.
S.B. 817 proposes that the state change the language on applications for protective orders (restraining orders, etc.) by switching the word “victim” with the phrase “applicant for a protective order.” Specifically, this change is meant to help those people who are applying for the protective order on behalf of the actual victim of the abuse or violence.
Some judges are currently reluctant to sign orders which list the applicant as a “victim” because doing so indirectly endorses the allegations of abuse as being true without a trial. With the label change, it removes that concern and will enable judges to issue more orders to protect those in need.
The bill passed virtually unopposed, and will take effect on September 1, 2015.
S.B. 314: Appointment of a non-parent as managing conservator of a child.
This law addresses a growing number of complaints by relatives who assume custody of children removed from their parents’ homes by CPS (Child Protective Services). This type of custody is called “permanent managing conservatorship,” or PMC. It is not adoption and does not carry the same legal meaning, but many relatives claim that these differences are not clarified by CPS.
As a result, the bill requires a court awarding custody to specifically explain 3 common misunderstandings to the relatives or non-parents assuming PMC.
- PMC rights are specified by the court, and are not the same as rights associated with adoption
- The parent(s) can still request visitation, and can request to become the managing conservator
- PMC does not qualify nor disqualify the relative or non-parent for/from post-adoption benefits
The bill states that if the non-parent assuming PMC does not appear in court, the court must then have evidence that they were advised of this information.
The bill passed without opposition, and will take effect on September 1, 2015.
As we now approach the deadline for filing our 2014 federal income tax return, many divorced parents are asking this question, “Which parent may legally claim their children on their tax return”? This question has become complicated with the rise in fathers’ rights, expansion in non-custodial parents visitation periods, and advance parenting schedules allowing children to spend quality if not equal time with both parents throughout the year.
In the past the Internal Revenue Code provided that the custodial parent was allowed to claim the minor children on his/her federal income tax return. Mom was usually the custodial parent and Dad usually had the children every other weekend.
The Internal Revenue Code states that the parent with whom the child lived with for the greater number of nights during the year is entitled to claim the dependency exemption.
If during or following a divorce in final judgment, the two divorcing parents agree that one parent shall claim the child as a dependent in odd numbered years and the other parent in even numbered years, or if the divorcing parents have more than one child, one parent shall claim some children, while the other parent shall claim the other children, this agreement in your final divorce decree will be honored by the IRS.
If your divorce was final before 2008, just attach the final divorce decree to your tax return. If your divorce was final after 2008, your ex-spouse must fill out IRS form 8332 which provides the name of your children that you can claim on your federal income tax return.
I you are divorced in 2014 and have questions please contact your tax adviser or go to the website http://www.irs.gov/Forms-&-Pubs for more information.