In September 1, 2011, Texas House Bill 901 ( Texas HB 901 ) revised the spousal maintenance law in the Texas Family Code effective for divorce cases filed on or after September 1, 2011. The bill revised the conditions that establish eligibility for spousal maintenance, commonly referred to as alimony, and changes the factors required to be considered by a court in determining the nature, amount, duration, and manner of periodic payments for a spouse who is eligible to receive maintenance.
Eligibility for spousal maintenance still requires that the spouse seeking maintenance lacks sufficient property to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs.
The law provides potentially increased relief to spouses who have been out of the work force, are disabled, are victims of family violence or are the primary custodians of a disabled child.
Some of the major items in the Texas Spousal Support Law are:
1. The maximum amount of spousal support that courts may award increased from $2,500 to $5,000.00 per month, although it is still limited to 20 percent of the payer’s average gross monthly income.
2. The duration of spousal support in Texas is a maximum of 5, 7 or 10 years, generally depending on the length of the marriage.
3. The law clarifies if a person has primary care for a disabled child, the custodial parent may be prevented because of the child’s disability from earning sufficient income to meet the custodial parent’s minimum reasonable needs.
4. The law also clarifies a person may not be held in contempt for failing to pay spousal support which is in an agreed order and extends beyond the period of time provided under the law.
In order to receive “maintenance,” (which is the statutory term for spousal support), the spouse seeking support must lack sufficient property to provide for the spouse’s “minimum reasonable needs”, AND one of the following:
(1) The recipient must be unable to earn sufficient income to provide for his or her minimum reasonable needs because of an incapacitating mental or physical disability;
(2) The marriage lasted for 10 years or longer and the recipient lacks the ability to earn sufficient income to provide for his or her minimum reasonable needs;
(3) The recipient is the custodian of a child of the marriage of any age who requires substantial care and personal supervision because of a physical or mental disability that prevents the spouse from earning sufficient income to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs; OR
(4) The person ordered to pay support was convicted of or received deferred jurisdiction for an act of family violence during the pendency of the suit or within two years of the date the suit is filed.
The court can order maintenance to continue for:
(1) 5 years if the parties were married less than 10 years and the maintenance is awarded due to family violence;
(2) 5 years if the parties were married more than 10 years, but less than 20 years.
(3) 7 years if the parties were married more than 20 years, but less than 30 years;
(4) 10 years if the parties were married for more than 30 years.
In cases where the maintenance is awarded due to the mental or physical disability of the spouse or a child of the marriage, the court may order that the maintenance continue as long as the disability continues.
However, in all circumstances, the law provides that the Court shall order maintenance for the shortest reasonable period that allows the recipient to earn sufficient income to meet his or her reasonable needs.
What about Termination?
a. The obligation to pay future maintenance terminates on the death of either party or on the remarriage of the oblige.
b. After a hearing, the court shall order the termination of the maintenance obligation if the court finds that the obligee cohabits with another person with whom the obligee has a dating or romantic relationship in a permanent place of abode on a continuing basis.
c. Termination of the maintenance obligation does not terminate the obligation to pay any maintenance that accrued before the date of termination, whether as a result of death or remarriage
If you are contemplating dissolving your marriage and have questions concerning your financial future, seek competent legal counsel to help you determine whether you could be eligible for spousal support the provisions of the law.
Parental Alienation are destructive actions by an alienating parent to discredit and sabotage the target parent in the eyes of the child. This will eventually cause increased hostility and decreased contact with the child and the target parent. The alienating parent programs the child to believe that the target parent is mean, unloving, worthless and selfish, and makes the child believe that he/she will be happier if the targeted parent is erased from his/her life.
Since the American Psychiatric Association does not formally recognize Parental Alienation Syndrome/Disorder, The State of Texas does not provide legal standards to evaluate a parental alienation presence in a child. Texas courts have started to act when there is suspected parental alienation. Some of the aids are courts appointing guardians ad litem, parenting facilitators and forensic psychologists used to study the child’s living situations and mental health of both parents and the child. Reports from these specialists have been used in making some very important rulings for the benefit of the child and the families in suspected Parental Alienation cases.
What are some symptoms of Parental Alienation by the Alienating Parent?
- Interference with the target parent visits. Giving children unhealthy choices when there is no choice about the visit. Not allowing any target parent visits.
- Depriving the target parent from information regarding educational, medical and social activities of the child and excluding or not informing the target parent of all of the school, medical, social activities of the child.
- Sharing with the child “everything” about the marital relationship with false information to be “honest” with the child. Blaming the target parent of breaking up the family, financial problems, or not loving the child enough to stay, the alienating parent tries to turn the child and his/her anger against the target parent.
- Interference with or not supporting contact between the child and the target parent. Listening into telephone conversation or reading all emails, texting, or correspondence between the child and target parent.
- Making major unilateral decisions regarding the child without consulting the target parent.
- Refusing to let the child take his/her possessions to the target parent’s residence.
- Telling the child, in a time of juvenile crisis, that the target parent has been abusive and the target parent may hurt the child.
- By defying the target parent’s authority and supervision, the alienating parent is asking the child to impossibly choose one parent over the other. This causes considerable stress and potential long term emotion scarring for the child and much unnecessary pain, difficulty, and anxiety when trying to love both parents.
The alienating parent will try to program the child to dislike, hate, or fear the target parent. By causing the child to disown or distance themselves away from the target parent, the alienating parent may, in the end, cause a very distrustful and emotionally scarred child. The goal may be achieved, but not with the desired results of the alienating parent. Many times, the child, without hope, will turn on both parents and never be able to have trusting, loving relationships in his/her life.
With the increase of parents moving from state to state and internationally, Child Custody cases involving crossing state lines, is causing many legal conflicts and costly legal battles. Most states follow a uniform law regarding determination of appropriate state jurisdiction in custody matters known as the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), and related statutes which enforce or set procedures regarding proper jurisdiction such as the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act. Texas has adopted these statutes. The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act defines which state has or may maintain jurisdiction in a particular case and often mandates that other states recognize decisions handed down by the state determined to have jurisdiction.
How does The State of Texas view the initial Child Custody determination?
Texas Family Code 152.201 of the UCCJEA states, among other things, that a court may rule on custody issues if the Child:
*Has continually lived in that state for 6 months or longer and Texas was the home state of the child within six months before the commencement of the legal proceeding.
*Was living in the state before being wrongfully abducted elsewhere by a parent seeking custody in another state. One parent continues to live in Texas.
*Has an established relationship with people (family, relatives or teachers), ties, and attachments in the state
*Has been abandoned in an emergency: or is safe in the current state, but could be in danger of neglect or abuse in the home state
How can Continuing Exclusive Jurisdiction be lost?
- When A Texas Court determines that neither the child, or a child and one parent have a significant contact with Texas, and substantial evidence is no longer available in Texas concerning the child’s care, protection, and personal relationships
- Texas or another state determines that the child and the child parents do not presently reside in Texas.
What about Jurisdiction to Modify an Existing Order?
In the absence of temporary emergency jurisdiction, Texas cannot modify a child custody decision made by another state’s court unless or until a court of this state has jurisdiction to make an initial custody determination and one of the following occurs:
- Another State determines it no longer has continuing jurisdiction or finds that Texas would be a more convenient forum.
- A court determines that the child and the child’s parents do not presently reside in the other state.
What about Temporary Emergency Jurisdiction?
Temporary emergency jurisdiction is reserved for very extraordinary circumstances. The court has and may assert jurisdiction only when a child is present in the state and has been abandoned or is in need of protection because of a threat or subjected the child to mistreatment or abuse.
When involved in an international child custody case where the child has been abducted or is wrongfully retained, the issue may be determined if the International Child Abduction Remedies Act, 12 USC Section 11.601-11610, of the Hague Convention, is applicable. If so, The US State Department Office of Citizen & Counselor Services should be contacted or any attorney may file suit for return of the child.
At the Nacol Law Firm PC, we represent parents trying to enforce these laws; cases where we try to persuade courts to apply the specific, narrow exceptions to these general rules in order to have custody cases heard in the most convenient forum in which the most evidence is available; cases where the child’s home state or other basic questions need to be clarified, and cases where a parent has violated or has been falsely accused of violating these laws.
Getting Divorced? Here is Your Financial Checklist to Get Started.
Preparing for a Texas Divorce: Assets
Preparing for a divorce is painful no matter the circumstance. Before you get into the tangle of the Texas divorce process, you can reduce the expense, stress and conflict many people face by making sure you are prepared. Planning ahead allows you to make sound decisions and start preparing for your life post-divorce, and may also help you avoid post-divorce pitfalls. Below is a list of items you need to gather before counseling with an attorney.
1. A Listing of all Real Property, address and location, including (include time-shares and vacation properties):
1. Deeds of Trust
3. Legal Description
4. Mortgage Companies (Name, Address, Telephone Number, Account Number, Balance of Note, Monthly Payments)
5. Current fair market value
2. Cash and accounts with financial institutions (checking, savings, commercial bank accounts, credit union funds, IRA’s, CD’s, 401K’s, pension plans and any other form of retirement accounts):
1. Name of institution, address and telephone number
2. Amount in institution on date of marriage
3. Amount in institution currently
4. Account Number
5. Names on Account
3. Retirement Benefits
1. Exact name of plan
2. Address of plan administrator
5. Starting date of contributions
6. Amount in account on date of marriage
7. Amount currently in account
8. Balance of any loan against plan
4. Publicly traded stock, bonds and other securities (include securities not in a brokerage, mutual fund, or retirement account):
1. Number of shares
2. Type of securities
3. Certificate numbers
4. In possession of
5. Name of exchange which listed
6. Pledged as collateral?
7. Date acquired
8. Tax basis
9. Current market value
10. If stock (date option granted, number of shares and value per share)
5. Insurance and Annuities
1. Name of insurance company
2. Policy Number
4. Type of insurance (whole/term/universal)
5. Amount of monthly premiums
6. Date of Issue
7. Face amount
8. Cash surrender value
9. Current surrender value
10. Designated beneficiary
6. Closely held business interests:
1. Name of business
3. Type of business
4. % of ownership
5. Number of shares owned if applicable
6. Value of shares
7. Balance of accounts receivables
8. Cash flow reports
9. Balance of liabilities
10. List of company assets
7. Mineral Interests (include any property in which you own the mineral estate, separate and apart from the surface estate, such as oil and gas leases; also include royalty interests, work interests, and producing and non-producing oil and gas wells.
1. Name of mineral interest
2. Type of interest
3. County of location
4. Legal description
5. Name of producer/operator
6. Current market value
8. Motor Vehicles (including mobile homes, boats, trailers, motorcycles, recreational vehicles; exclude company owned)
5. Name on title
6. VIN Number
7. Fair Market Value
8. Name of creditor (if any), address and telephone
9. Persons listed on debt
10. Account number
11. Balance of any loan and monthly payment
12. Net Equity in vehicle
9. Money owed by spouse (including any expected federal or state income tax refund but not including receivables connected with any business)
10. Household furniture, furnishings and Fixtures
11. Electronics and computers
12. Antiques, artwork and collectibles (including works of art, paintings, tapestry, rugs, crystal, coin or stamp collections)
13. Miscellaneous sporting goods and firearms
15. Animals and livestock
16. Farming equipment
17. Club Memberships
18. Travel Award Benefits (including frequent flyer miles)
19. Safe deposit box items
20. Burial plots
21. Items in any storage facility
22. A listing of separate property (property prior to marriage, family heir looms, property gifted)
23. Listing of all liabilities (including mortgages, credit card debt, personal loans, automobile loans, etc.):
a. Name of entity, address and telephone number
b. Account number
c. Amount owed
d. Monthly payment
e. Property securing payment (if any)
f. Persons listed as liable for debt
Recently the news covering the custody battle between Bode Miller and his child’s biological mother Sarah McKenna became a 24-hour news cycle. According to court filings, Ms. McKenna while still pregnant moved to New York from California to attend school. Approximately a month prior to Ms. McKenna’s departure from California, Mr. Miller filed a paternity and custody suit in California State Court. Two days after the child was born, Ms. McKenna filed a custody case in New York State Court. The New York family court decided that the Ms. McKenna had “fled” California with the child in utero; and, while this was not child abduction under the UCCJEA, the Court decided the move was simply to avoid the California Court’s jurisdiction. Further, the Court decided that the prior paternity/custody suit filed in California by Mr. Miller, “trumped” the New York filing as well, giving California statutory authority to decide the custody issue. In On November 14, 2013, the New York Family Court’s decision was overturned on appeal and was remanded back to New York family court for further decision on all issues.
This case has ignited a debate over whether a mother may move an unborn child to a different jurisdiction prior to the birth of the child.
Even if you have not been proven to be the biological father of the child, in Texas, you still have legal rights that may be enforced.
Prior to the birth of the child, you may request a DNA test from the court. If the mother agrees paternity can be determined even before the baby is born. In addition, now there are non-evasive and less risky options for prenatal testing for paternity.
A purported father does have the right to establish paternity. Establishing paternity in Texas can be a process that occurs prior to the birth of the child. There are several forms of pre-natal testing available. Some methods are costly and some methods more invasive than others. In Texas, a man can establish paternity prior to the birth of a child by filing a request for adjudication of parentage and voluntary litigation. If the mother agrees to prenatal testing the Court will accept the DNA test results and make a determination on the record. However, if the mother does not agree, a Court may not force her to have invasive testing on the fetus.
A purported father has a right to a custody determination although this right cannot be determined prior to the birth of the child. In Texas, a court has jurisdiction to decide custody issues if Texas is the “home state” of the child. In the case of a child less than six months of age, “home state” means “the state in which the child lived from birth with a parent. . . .” Tex. Fam. Code Ann §152.102(7); see also Waltenburg v. Waltenburg, 270 S.W.3d 308, 315 (Tex. App.—Dallas 2008, no pet.).