Divorce & Family Law

Jun
09

Unique Possession Orders that Work with a Fathers Profession

Many professions create impositions on conservators making a standard possession order inapplicable and unworkable. The Court may deviate from a standard possession order if the order is inappropriate or unworkable in reference to the schedules of both the conservators and the child. Unique professions and irregular school schedules for children allow the Court to have flexibility to deviate from a standard possession order that is in the Best Interest of the Child. There are multiple ways in which the Court may depart from a standard possession order to fulfill the needs of all parties involved with the custody of the child.

First, the Family Code § 153.254 states that the Court will be allowed deference to modify the standard possession order if work schedules of either conservators or the school schedule of the child is irregular. The Court must attempt to narrowly tailor the modifications to keep the new possession order as similar to the standard possession order as possible. This instance most commonly occurs when the Managing Conservator and the Possessory Conservator cannot reach an agreement and one of the two Conservators has a unique profession such as a firefighter, police officer, or airline pilot. The working hours of these jobs allow the Court to modify the standard possession order even if both of the parties do not comply with the changes. The modifications must be made only if it is in the Best Interest of the Child.

Secondly, the standard possession order may always be modified if it is by the mutual agreement of both the Managing Conservator and Possessory Conservator. Family Code § 153.007 is the Agreed Parenting Plan Statute and allows for both parties to agree on a standard possession order for the child. This statute was passed to promote amicability in settlement for child custody issues and to give flexibility to the parents if they are willing to agree on custody terms. The Agreed Parenting Plan must be in the Best Interest of the Child for the Court to approve. If the Court grants the Agreed Parenting Plan then the Managing or Possessory Conservator will have a remedy as a matter of law for any violation of the agreement committed by either party.

Finally, both Conservators may enter into a Mediated Settlement Agreement under Family Code § 153.0071. A Mediated Settlement Agreement is the only time in which the Court will NOT look at the Best Interest of the Child when granting the custody agreement.

The Mediated Settlement Agreement § 153.0071 must be:

  • In bold, underlined, and capital letters that the agreement is NOT REVOCABLE
  • Signed by Both Parties to the agreement
  • Signed by the lawyers (if represented) of each party

The Mediated Settlement Agreement is binding and not revocable so if the Conservators wish to go this route they must understand that what is in the agreement will be held as binding. This method can be used to modify or change a standard possession order and the Court will not look at the Best Interest of the Child regarding the agreement, unless there exists a credible threat of domestic violence.

These are the methods in which a unique possession order may be obtained to accommodate irregular schedules or working hours of both the conservators. Any possession order must be correctly drafted and all future contingencies must be accounted for. An experienced lawyer must be contacted to safeguard an individual’s custody rights of their children and to make sure that a fair custody arrangement is obtained.

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Jun
02

Temporary Restraining Orders in Texas – What Does a TRO Do

A temporary restraining order, commonly known as a “TRO” is used in family law to place injunctions without a full hearing on one or both parties. These injunctions prohibit specific actions that could endanger or prove damaging to the property in a divorce or the children of a divorce. You should have an idea on what the process entails.

A TRO is governed by Texas Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 680 and Texas Family Code § 150.001. If your spouse wishes to file a TRO that immediately excludes you from possession of or access to your children, a notice of this hearing must be given to you prior to the court date. The only exception to this is an Ex-Parte meeting with the judge, which means that only your spouse or her attorney will be present at the preliminary hearing. The judge may order a TRO Ex-Parte only if the TRO clearly demonstrates from specific facts shown by affidavit or by a verified complaint that immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage will result to the applicant or children before notice can be served and an actual hearing.

If you are on the receiving end of TRO and it prohibits you from access to your children, there are some things to keep in mind.

First: a TRO has a time limit, which is 14 days. After 14 days the TRO may be extended by a judge only once for an additional 14 days. Thus at most this TRO may only last 28 days’ absent agreement to an additional extension. A Judge does have the discretion to extend the TRO more than once if it is uncontested (you do nothing or do not appear).

Second: A TRO is NOT a Protective Order. This means that the police cannot kick you out of your house or forcibly arrest you for violating a TRO, absent any related criminal conduct. There are consequences for violating the TRO but not criminal consequence. You may be found in contempt of court by the Judge who ordered the TRO and forced to pay fines or be held to more severe sanctions. Violations will not be good for your case if you intentionally violate.

Third: A TRO must have a signed and notarized Affidavit or a verified pleading attached to the motion. If the opposing counsel did not follow these procedures the order may upon motion to dissolve be found void due to violation of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure.

Fourth: You cannot practically appeal a TRO because it may only last for at most 28 days, if contested. Once you are served with the Ex-Parte TRO, you may request a motion to modify or dissolve the TRO after giving your spouse 48-hour notice and seek attorney fees if the filing was false or frivolous.

TRO’s are civil injunctions that are usually given without notice only if immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage will happen. The proof rules are more relaxed in Family Law Cases. Specific TRO procedures can differ in all counties and in different courts so make sure the check online the rules of each specific jurisdiction.

TRO’s only last 14 days and cannot be enforced by police officers, absent related criminal activity. Do not be distressed if you are served a TRO one day while you are battling your spouse for child custody or property. Take a deep breath call your attorney and set a hearing to modify, vacate or dissolve the TRO.

Many counties have standing orders that issue and are effective as to both parties upon the filing of a Family Law Proceeding. Read such mandatory orders before you file your case.

By Nacol Law Firm | Domestic Violence . Protective Orders
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May
23

What Happens in a Texas Divorce ?

Divorce can be frustrating, confusing, and resentful. Divorce is never a pleasant experience even in the most amicable terms. It is important to know what you are in for when a divorce is filed. An original petition will be filed, and your spouse must be served with a process server.

After service of the original petition, the Petitioner may file for a Temporary Restraining Order (“TRO”) to protect the child and marital estate. Once a TRO is granted by the District Judge, a temporary order hearing will be set within 14 days. This temporary order hearing is extremely important and will determine the direction of the case.

Temporary Order hearings are usually condensed to 20 minutes a side depending on the complexities of the case. Within this 20 minutes, you will have to put on evidence for your entire case regarding custody of the children, management of the marital estate, and any other considerations such as receivership of a business.

After the temporary orders hearing, the case will dive into full throttle litigation. Discovery on both sides is usually conducted including interrogatories, admissions, and production of documentations. The documents that are usually requested consists of bank statements, retirement pensions, social media pages, text messages, and emails. Each case requires specific Discovery requests that are narrowly tailored to the facts presented. Discovery can last months and usually follow with motions to compel and sanctions. In highly contested cases the rigors of discovery and compiling documentation can be brutal.

During the Discovery phase, Depositions may be warranted. Depositions consists of your attorney questioning your spouse and any other witnesses that are relevant to the case for impeachment purposes. Depositions are necessary if the case will go to a jury, because impeachment of your spouse is a necessity to prove your truthfulness.

Mediation is, more often than not, mandatory in Courts, but this is the general rule. Certain Courts in the Dallas, Fort Worth, and Collin county do not require mandatory mediation. Each Court has its own rules of procedure and requirements. If the Mediation fails to produce a settlement between you and your spouse, then the only thing left is trial.

Depending on the complexities of the case and assets, a trial can last half a day or be a three-day trial. Most trials are before the District Judge. Certain facts may give rise to a jury trial but a jury trial is more costly and can take up more time. After the trial is complete the parties will have to wait for a ruling. This can take days to months depending on the case and jurisdiction.

When the final ruling is given to all parties, the Judge will charge one party to create a final order that will be submitted to the Court. This can give rise to more litigation depending on the interpretation of the Judge’s rulings by both parties. Finally, when both parties agree to a final order or the Judge determines which version of the final order is proper, then the case will be over.

Divorce can be a painful process that lasts 6 months to three years depending on the circumstances and the nature of the parties involved. If you are about to file for a Divorce in the DFW metroplex call Nacol Law Firm so that you have an experienced family law attorney to represent your interests throughout the process.

Julian Nacol
Dallas Fathers Rights Divorce Attorney
Nacol Law Firm PC

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Child Support Modification in Texas – Done Within Three Years

Child support is one of the most heavily litigated issues in all of family law. To increase or decrease payments there are specific requirements that must be met to modify a previous child support order. Per Tex. Fam. Code § 156.401 the requirements necessary to modify a prior child support order are:

  1. The circumstances of the child or an affected party have materially and substantially changed; or
  2. Three years have elapsed since the order was entered or last modified, and the amount of child support differs from the statutory guidelines by either 20% or $100.00.

The second requirement is self-explanatory. The three-year limitation to file for another modification is for the benefits of the Courts. If there was no three-year waiting period to refill, then every conservator would constantly attempt to modify child support, thus creating endless litigation for clogging the Courts’ dockets.

The first requirement needs more explanation. A Material and Substantial change in the circumstances of the child or an affected party must be clearly shown at trial. Many Courts are meticulous in making the determination of what a Material and Substantial change is regarding the child and the affected party to insure this requirement is not abused for excessive litigation.

To prove a Substantial and Material change in circumstances, a conservator must show evidence at the final hearing of:

  1. The financial needs/expenses at the time of the divorce or prior modification for the children and the person affected, and;
  2. The financial needs/expenses at the time of the request for the modification.

If evidence of financial needs/expenses are not submitted and proved regarding both (1) the prior divorce/modification and (2) the recent modification, then no Substantial and Material change can be adequately proved. Further, if the request for modification of child support is predicated solely on one conservator’s increase in earning capacity, absent other compelling evidence, the change in circumstances is not Substantial and Material. Interest of L.R., 416 S.W.3d 675, (Tex. App.—Houston [14 Dist.] 2013, pet. denied.)

If one conservator decides to file a modification of child support within three years just because the other conservative received a better job, it may be dismissed. At the end of the day a Court has broad discretion on determining what is Substantial and Material and may allow the case to be heard and give an unfavourable ruling, but if that occurs you will have the ability to appeal the judgment and request attorney’s fees. It is important to know in any family law case the Judge has extremely broad discretion and interprets case law in a way that he deems fit using the Best Interest Test.

If you are a conservator that meet these requirements above and wish to increase or decrease the child support obligation, be sure to hire an experienced attorney. Nacol Law Firm will always fight for you and your children’s best interest.

Julian Nacol, Attorney
Nacol Law Firm, PC
Call (972) 690-3333

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Jan
19

Fathers Rights and Legal Presumptions of Fatherhood in Texas

The presumption of fatherhood in Texas is strong, and positively impacts a father’s claims upon his children. Without the presumption of fatherhood, a father would face significant barriers in asserting his rights. The presumption of fatherhood supports access, rights, and duties, allowing the father to assert his right to help raise his child as he deems fit.

The presumption of fatherhood is determined in the Texas Family Code 160.204 and states that a man is presumed to be the father of a child regardless of genetic testing in the following circumstances:

  1. If the man is married to the mother and the child is born during the marriage;
  2. If the child is born before the 301st day after the day the marriage is terminated by death, annulment, invalidity, or divorce;
  3. If the man is married to the mother before the  birth of the child in apparent compliance with the law;
  4. If the man married the mother after the birth of the child in apparent compliance with the law and voluntarily asserted his paternity of the child by:

a. The assertion in a record filed with the vital statistics unit
b. The man is voluntarily named as the Child’s father on the child’s birth certificate or
c. He promised in a record to support the child as his own occurrence

    5. The man during the first two years of the child’s life resided in the household in which the child lived and the man represented to others, (held out) that the child was his own.

These five factual series support the presumption of a father without actually filing a Suit Affecting Parent Child Relationship.

Only the 5th element pertains to men that are not married to the mother of the child. A man that is not married most likely will not legally be presumed the father even if the child is the man’s genetic son or daughter. This is a shock to many men if the relationship between the mother deteriorates and the mother decides to leave town. The father of the child will have no enforceable rights to his genetic son or daughter absent the filing a suit to establish the paternity of the father.

If a father is not married to the mother of his child, then the only option to the father is that he must continuously live with the mother and his child for the first 2 years of the child’s life and hold out to the public that the child is his own. This usually does not happen because of the stress involved in the beginning stages of raising a child and other factors. The father may have an active role in his child’s life but if he does not live with his child continuously for the first 2 years of his child’s life, then the mother may take exclusive possession of his child and move anywhere in the U.S. and the father will have no way to stop her unless he petitions the court for emergency relief, which will likely result in genetic testing.

If you have fathered a child out of wedlock and have not continuously lived with your child for the first 2 years of the child’s life, then it is wise to secure a genetic test and file suit to adjudicate yourself as the father of your child so you may receive the rights of a parent as a matter of law. It is prudent to contact an experienced family law attorney for the process because the innate right to see, guide, and teach your child is too important to forfeit. A man never knows what the future holds in a relationship, and if you have a child out of wedlock it is important to protect your right to be a part of that child’s life. To do this seek an experienced attorney to ensure your right is not infringed or sabotaged.

By Nacol Law Firm | Parental Rights . Paternity
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