When the custodial parent of a child dies, in the state of Texas, not only is the child and family union devastated, but now is presented the difficult issue of who will become the child’s guardian. Who are the possible candidates that may be legal guardians?
- Non- Custodial parent, if paternity is acknowledged
- Other relatives
- Godparents, Family friends, Neighbors
- State Foster System
Usually, the surviving non-custodial parent will have an automatic right to custody of the child. Texas law favors a child having a solid relationship with both parents and in the event of death, the living parent will take over permanent exclusive custody of the child. What factors should be considered in the child’s best interest that could determine custody by the surviving parent if he/she is not appropriate for the child?
- Did the court, after the divorce, terminate your parental rights in a legal proceeding? If the non- custodial parent had legally been terminated of his/her parental rights this is binding and the terminated parent WOULD NOT be granted permanent custody of the child.
- What if the custodial parent remarried and the new stepparent legally adopted the child? If the child was legally adopted by the stepparent and the non-custodial parent had waived their parental rights, the stepparent would be granted permanent custody of the child.
- What if the non-custodial parent has acknowledged parentage, but paternity has not been established? To be entitled to custody of the child, the father would first claim parental rights through paternity testing to determine if he is the biological father of the child or if he has signed the child’s birth certificate. After Paternity is established, a separate legal proceeding may need to be initiated to override the terms of the mother’s will.
- What if the Custodial Parent created a will that stated the grandparents/godparents would take over as the legal Guardians of the child in the event of death? Many parents will request a particular person or group, such as grandparents, relatives, or godparents to become guardians for their minor children in the case of their demise, but a child is not a piece of property to give away to others when the other biological parent is living. The judge will view what is in the best interest of the child and will always first look at the surviving parent. If this parent meets basic standards the child will live with this parent. If the surviving parent cannot serve the child’s best interest, then the judge will consider the guardian designated in the deceased parent will.
Nacol Law Firm P.C.
This is a “Never Want to Live Through” Scenario: After a family breakup or divorce, your kids are picked up by your Ex and they all disappear! Where are they? Are they in danger? Will I ever see my children again?
After you get over your shock, the main question you will ask is: What can I do to get my children back?
- Thinking clearly, you must respond quickly. Time is of the essence.
- Contact the police immediately. You need to tell them that the runaway parent may have taken the children without permission. Make sure that you have your certified legal court orders that pertain to your parental arrangement agreement concerning your children. It is important to be able to show the police the specific orders and how important it is to find the runaway parent and kids!
- Make a list of possible locations the runaway parent may have taken the children. This helps the police in their search.
- Contact a family law attorney immediately. After the runaway has occurred, there will be court intervention to prevent any further occurrences. Custody and supervised visitation issues will also need to be addressed.
If you were never married or divorced from the runaway parent, or if you have no legal court orders concerning or establishing custody and visitation rights in place, this could be a serious impediment in securing help to find your children.
At any time this could happen to you! If your legal position concerning custody and visitation with your children is in limbo, go secure a family law attorney and the help you need to protect your kids.
If a custody agreement is in place with the courts, it is legally binding. If the runaway parent violates the agreement terms, this parent is in violation of the law and will likely face some serious legal problems.
Many times, the runaway parent may take the children out of your area and may even cross state lines. This violation in your custody/visitation agreement could be considered parental kidnapping if the runaway parent moved without telling you the new residence of the child or without getting legal permission through the court to move or modify the custody order.
When the runaway parent and children are found, this is what could happen:
- Custody Arrangements will legally be changed by court orders. You will most likely be awarded protective orders or custody with the runaway parent receiving supervised visitation or no contact with the child.
- The runaway parent may also face criminal charges and jail time.
Divorces with children are painful and emotional under the best of circumstances, but a divorce with a “Special Needs Child” is usually a very complex and mentally stressful situation for all family members involved.
The main goal in a “Special Needs” divorce is that all decisions affecting a child with disabilities must be in the “Best Interest of the Child.”
What is the “Best Interest of the “Special Needs Child”? Often this is the very reason that the parents are divorcing. The parents cannot agree on the existence of a disability or the best approach needed for care and support for their special needs child. Many times a medical/neutral professional will need to be involved to help the parents transition the new “after” divorce life of the child and parents.
When working with parents of a “Special Needs Child”, our attorneys focus on the most critical issues impacting the child and the family unit.
Some of these important issues are:
- Keeping the relationships between the family members agreeable in making the necessary decisions concerning visitation and transitions between both parents’ homes. You child needs contact with both parents unless there is an abuse or addiction issue or the other parent’s home is an unsafe environment for the “Special Needs” Child.
- Agreed upon health and medical care issues including special therapies to address the child’s needs. Let the child know that both parents are in agreement on the care for the child.
- Special social and recreational opportunities and appropriate educational programs are available for the child and her/his disability and should be agreed upon by both parents, if possible.
- Coordinate structured and regular visitation dates with same place drop off points. Give your child a calendar with visitation dates and let her/him be prepared to visit the other parent.
- Helping the parent to find a support group of family, friends, counselors and neighbors to help your family with your “Special Needs” Child. This help may come in many forms, mental and physical support, financial planning or just a good hug to say “you are ok”.
What is very important in a “Special Needs” Divorce is to realize what is “normal” in most divorces may not be the norm here. There are many important situations that will have to be resolved before the divorce can be finalized. The divorced parents of the “Special Needs” Child will continue to have to work together for what is best for their child.
Other serious considerations to settle:
- The transitions after a divorce on living arrangements and visitations for the child. It will be difficult to use a standard visitation schedule and a special parenting plan will have to be agreed upon to meet all of the child’s needs.
- The divorce decree will have to be custom designed to make sure the needs of the child will be met for the child’s entire life. The final divorce decree may have to be modified for the child’s benefit.
- Be knowledgeable of the financial aspect of your “Special Needs” Child. What type of care will be needed on a daily basis and will one parent have to give up all monetary benefits from employment outside of the home to take care of the child.
- List all expenses of raising this child: medical costs, food for special nutritional diets, special medical equipment needed for use of child, special schooling and transportation needs. This is very important to make sure the needs of the child will be met.
- Spousal Maintenance/Alimony: this amount must be worked out to ensure the caregiving parent will be able to afford all need of the child and their household. Many times this parent will not be able to work out of the home because of the constant care for the child. This will usually continue for the entire life of the child, so the divorce decree will have to reflect this continued support and cost of living changes.
When choosing a qualified lawyer for your “Special Needs” Divorce, it is important that the lawyer is familiar with what is involved with this type of divorce and understands the importance of tailoring a custom decree that will fit the best interest of the child and family situation for the duration of the child’s existence. It won’t be easy, but if the parents will work together, it can be achievable!
When you think of domestic violence or Intimate Partner Violence between couples what usually comes to mind? A woman being hurt or abused? This is the majority of public thought in the United States, yet the latest studies on domestic violence are showing a new and very alarming trend: notable rising rates on Intimate Partner Violence against Men.
In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey. This was a serious eye opener on violence and men. In the United State for the previous 12 months, app. 5,365,000 men had been victims of intimate Partner physical violence compared with 4,741,000 women. This physical violence includes slapping, pushing, & shoving. Also tracked were more serious threats of being beaten, burned, choked, kicked, slammed with a heavy object or hit with a fist. Roughly 40% of the victims of severe physical violence were men. Again in 2011 the CDC repeated the survey and the results were almost identical!
Domestic violence (intimate partner violence) against men include emotional, sexual, verbal, physical abuse or threats of abuse. It happens in heterosexual and same-sex relationships. Have you ever felt scared of your partner and changed your behavior since you were afraid of what your partner might do? If so, you may be in an abusive relationship.
Are you being abused? What are the warning signs? What kind of abuse are you experiencing?
Emotional & Verbal Abuse:
- Calls you names, belittles you, or puts you down regularly
- Is jealous and possessive and accuses you without just cause of being unfaithful
- Tries to isolate you from family and friends
- Tries to totally control your life: how you spend your money, what you wear and where you may be going
- Constantly makes unreasonable demands for your attention.
- Blames you for her violent behavior and says you deserve it
- Gets very angry or violent when drinking alcohol or using drugs
- Biting, burning, or choking you
- Hitting, punching, or slapping
- Pushing, shoving, or throwing things at you
- Knifing or burning you
- Forcibly holding you down
- Hurting you, your children or your pets
- Forcing you to have sex or engage in sexual acts against your will
- Hurting you during sex
- Forcing you to have unsafe sex
Threats and Intimidation:
- Threatens to hurt / kill you
- Threatens to kill themselves or the children
- Stalks you
- Reads all your emails, texts, or mail
- Destroys things that belong to you
Being a man in an abusive relationship, it may seem hard finding the help that you need. It has been estimated that about 20% of men who call the police to report an abusive spouse /partner are themselves arrested for domestic violence.
You do not have to stay in an abusive relationship. You need to start by discussing your situation with either someone you trust or a health professional who can give you guidance. Gather evidence on what is happening, photographs of any injury or bruises experienced during a confrontation, threatening emails or texts that can be used in a court of law, make a list of people who have experienced confrontations between you and your intimate partner.
Stay away from any type of violence with your partner since she may try to put you into a damaging situation with the police to make you look like the abuser or try to entrap you.
You can overcome these challenges and escape from the abusive intimate partner. If you have a family or are concerned for your well-being, contact a legal professional who can help you break from this situation and also work to get your children out of harm’s way. Just remember, if you are not available for her domestic violence, a predator will look for someone else to take your place and children are easy targets!