There are times in life when unintentional pregnancy occurs in the context of fatherhood. There are times when an individual believes he is a father but in the distant future discovers that he is not the genetic father of the child. If a divorce results from this union the man that is not the genetic father of a child may not wish to pay child support for this child for up to 18 years. In these circumstances, a man may wish to terminate his parental responsibilities to the child to avoid paying child support on the child that is not his generically.
Under the Texas Family Code 161.005, a father may terminate his parental rights to a child if (1) he is not the genetic father and (2) a signed acknowledgment of paternity or the father failing to contest parentage of a child was due to a mistaken belief that the man was the genetic father of the child based on misrepresentations that led him to that conclusion.
Basically, the man must not be the genetic father and he must have been deceived by misrepresentations made by the mother or other family members in order to successfully prevail in a termination suit. The man wishing termination must file the suit within two years from first becoming aware that he is not in fact the genetic father of the Child. The importance of this two year limitation is that that it begins when “the man first becomes aware that he is not the genetic father of the child”. This means that a man may be adjudicated and considered the father for ten years but after he discovers or becomes aware that he is not the genetic father of the child he will have an additional two years to file suit and terminate his parental rights.
There are certain limitations under Family Code 161.005 that will not allow a man to terminate the legal relationship. These are:
- The man is an adoptive father;
- The child was conceived by assisted reproduction and the man consented to assisted reproduction by his wife under subchapter H, Chapter 160, or
- The man is the intended father of the child under a gestational agreement validated by a court under subchapter I, Chapter 160.
These three areas of adoption, assisted reproduction, and signing of a gestational agreement will prohibit a man from terminating his parental right or attempting to release himself from the responsibility of being a father, which includes child support.
In most instances a man will bring a termination of parental right because he has been misled into believing that the child is his when in actually the man is not genetically related to the child at all. The parental termination will end child support for minor children that are not genetically related.
A parental termination suit should not be filed before careful thought since it will terminate any rights the man has to the child and most importantly the man will relinquish his right for visitation access and decision making. If you are desiring to terminate the parental rights of a child you should contact an experienced lawyer to ensure that you qualify and that the suit proceeds as smoothly as possible allowing the court to make a ruling that favors your termination.
The possession order for both mother and father in any divorce must be in the Best Interest of the child and the Court has specific guidelines it must follow if both parents refuse to agree to custody arrangements. The Managing Conservator has primary custody of the child and the Possessory Conservator has visitation but is not the primary custodian of the child. The guidelines set forth by the Court regarding custody for parents living 100 miles or less of each other and parents that reside over 100 miles from each other are listed in the Family Code § 153.312 and § 153.313.
Family Code § 153.312 Standard Possession Order, regarding parents who reside 100 miles or less of each other, states the Possessory Conservator will have the following rights:
- Have custody of the child throughout the beginning of the year at 6 p.m. on the first, third, and fifth Friday of each month and ending at 6 p.m. on the following Sunday.
- On Thursdays of each week during the regular school term beginning at 6 p.m. and ending at 8 p.m. unless the Court finds this is not in the best interest of the child.
- Custody of the Child for 30 consecutive days during the summer but the Possessory Conservator will be required to give written notice to the Managing Conservator by April 1st of each year specifying the extended period of possession for the summer. If Possessory Conservator does not give written notice on April 1st, then the Possessory Conservator shall have access to the child from 6 p.m. July 1st to 6 p.m. July 31st of each year.
Family Code § 153.313 Standard Possession Order, regarding parents who reside over 100 miles from each other, states the Possessory Conservator will have the following rights:
- Have custody of child throughout the beginning of the year at 6 p.m. on Friday of the first, third, and fifth weekend of each month and ending at 6 p.m. that Sunday. The Possessory Conservator may also elect an alternate weekend if he/she gives a 14-day notice either written or telephonic to the Managing Conservator.
- The visitations on Thursdays nights are not mandated under this section due to the distance between the two parents.
- Custody of Child for 42 consecutive days during the summer but the Possessory Conservator will be required to give written notice to the Managing Conservator by April 1st of each year specifying the extended period of possession for the summer. If the written notice is not given then the Possessory Conservator shall have access to the child from 6 p.m. on June 15th to 6 p.m. July 27th.
The Court shall follow these guidelines unless it is NOT in the Best Interest of the child. These guidelines are needed because of the contention between both parents and the common inability to find a middle ground when it comes to custody of a child. The Court may deviate from these standard Guidelines but only if a parent can prove by clear and convincing evidence that it is in the Best Interest of the Child. If these guidelines are unworkable because of the child’s schedule then the Court will make exceptions but attempt to keep the custody arrangements as close to the guidelines as possible. Custody issues can be vexing and straining on both parents. To ensure you receive a fair outcome to see your child, it is wise to seek an experienced attorney to ensure that the sacred right to see your child is not infringed.
Premarital and post-marital agreements in Texas have a complex history immersed in the community property presumption, the state constitution, statutes and case law. Originally, such agreements were found to be unenforceable. But with amendments to the Texas Constitution, evolving statutes, recent case law, and improved draftsmanship, such agreements are now enforceable under contract law.
For many Boomer and Senior couples, living together is a precursor to marriage; for others because of family issues or commitments, there is no intent to ever marry. The simple fact is, domestic partnership agreements address a wide variety of circumstances, many involving established adults who want to be together but because of prior financial and family commitments prefer to have an applicable contractual agreement for their legal needs.
Many couples choose to live together so they do not lose certain benefits under current rules of social security, military and insurance disability programs, or to stop those benefits from being taken away from their children. In other cases, couples who are divorced, and who may have children, may want to protect certain assets. In situations such as trust funds or inherited funds, beneficiaries simply do not want to place family money at risk. Other couples choose to shelter their own resources from the real or perceived obligations of their partner.
The marital agreement is considered to be a contract under Texas law. The premarital agreement must be in writing and signed by both parties. No actual consideration is required; however, to conform to contractual law, it may be wise to provide benefits for the non-monied party to avoid a later finding of unconscionably, particularly if the financial or physical condition of the non-monied party under the agreement is poor.
Matters that may be dealt with in a premarital agreement include, but are not limited to, the following:
- the right to buy, sell, use, transfer, exchange, abandon, lease, consume, expend, assign, create a security interest in, mortgage, encumber, dispose of, or otherwise manage and control property;
- The rights and obligations of each of the parties in any of the property of either or both of them whenever or wherever acquired or located;
- The disposition of property on separation, marital dissolution, death, or the occurrence or nonoccurrence of any other event;
- The modification or elimination of spousal support;
- The making of a will, trust, or other arrangement to carry out the provisions of the agreement;
- The ownership rights in and disposition of the death benefit from a life insurance policy;
- The choice of law governing the construction of the agreement; and
- any other matter, including their personal rights and obligations, not in violation of public policy or a statute imposing a criminal penalty.
In post-marital agreements, it has been noted that a fiduciary duty exists that is not present in pre-marital agreements between spouses or prospective spouses. Case law states that a confidential relationship between husband and wife imposes the same duties of good faith and fair dealing on spouses as required of partners and other fiduciaries. However, adverse parties who have retained independent counsel may not owe fiduciary duties to one another. Texas Legislature enacted Section 4.105 with the understanding that married spouses owing fiduciary duties to one another would negotiate and execute post-marital agreements. Notwithstanding these duties, the legislature manifested the strong policy preference that voluntarily made post-marital agreements are enforceable.
Beside a Cohabitation and Domestic Partnership Agreement, what other documents should you supplement for a more complete legal coverage?
- A will with a designated executor to handle execution and distribution of all assets
- A durable financial power of attorney
- A durable medical power of attorney, directive to physicians, and a HIPPAA release form
- Partnership agreement to set out and clarify property rights, define ownership and related issues upon dissolution
Cohabitation, domestic partnership, premarital and post-marital agreements may be as creative as a party determines necessary. However, care must be given to see that such agreements protect the party, keep with public policy, and adhere to current Texas family law and applicable contractual law.
The 2015 Texas Legislature was active on family law bills and changes to the Texas Family Code! These many changes to various provisions of the family code could legally affect you and your family.
Some of the more important 2015 Family Laws, Amendments, and Revisions:
House Bill 826 amends the Family Code to require a child support order to contain a specified statement regarding the circumstances under which a court may modify a child support order. Effective: 9-1-15
House Bill 1447 amends the Code of Criminal Procedure to expand the persons authorized to file an application for a protective order for certain victims of sexual assault or abuse, stalking, or trafficking and to entitle victims of those offenses or the victim’s parent or guardian to additional crime victims’ rights relating to the protective order to provide the notice in the prescribed manner a Class C misdemeanor. Effective: 9-1-15
House Bill 1500 amends the Family Code to require a person who files a motion for a temporary order in a suit for modification of the parent-child relationship to execute and attach to the motion an affidavit that contains facts that support the allegation that the child’s present circumstances would significantly impair the child’s physical health or emotional development. The bill establishes a court’s duty to schedule a hearing if those facts are adequate to support the allegation. Effective: 9-1-15
House Bill 1782 amends the Family Code to establish, for purposes of a family violence protective order, the presumption that family violence has occurred and is likely to occur in the future if the respondent has been convicted of or placed on deferred adjudication community supervision for an offense involving family violence against the child for whom the petition is filed, the respondent’s parental rights with respect to the child have been terminated, and the respondent is seeking or attempting to seek contact with the child. Effective: 9-1-15
House Bill 1923 amends the Civil Practice and Remedies Code to include a retired or former statutory probate court judge among the judges eligible to serve as a special judge in certain civil or family law matters. Effective: 9-1-15
Senate Bill 206 amends the provisions of the Education Code, Family Code, Government Code, and Human Resources Code relating to the functions and administration of the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). The bill revises and streamlines agency procedures involved in adoption cases and child protective services cases by changing various record keeping, notification, and casework documentation requirements and provisions governing the investigation of a report of abuse, neglect, or exploitation of a child and by condensing and updating provisions governing procedures in a child protection suit, including adversary and permanency hearings, and the performance of a child placement review for a child under DFPS care. The bill establishes annual reporting requirements for DFPS regarding key performance measures and data elements for child protection and sets out notification requirements relating to significant events for a child in DFPS conservatorship involving the child’s placement, medical condition, prescribed drugs, and school performance; revises provisions governing foster care, including requirements that foster children be provided access to certain personal information and documents; and sets out requirements for implementing foster care redesign. The bill consolidates and restructures provisions regarding prevention and early intervention services, including the child abuse and neglect primary prevention program, and requires the development and implementation of a strategic plan for those services within DFPS. The bill revises provisions relating to public school admission and attendance of, and eligibility for an exemption from tuition and fees for, students under DFPS conservatorship.
The bill broadens the authority of DFPS to obtain criminal history record information regarding certain persons; authorizes the executive commissioner to adopt rules regarding the purpose, structure, and use of advisory committees by DFPS; and requires the development and implementation of an annual business plan for the child protective services program to prioritize the department’s activities and resources to improve the program. The bill provides for an enforcement policy for the regulation of certain child-care facilities, homes, and agencies and revises provisions governing administrative remedies for those regulated entities.
The bill requires DFPS to study whether provisions governing authorization agreements between the parent of a child and a nonparent relative should be expanded to include authorization agreements between a parent of a child and a person who is unrelated to the child. Effective September 1, 2016, the bill updates provisions governing the licensing and certification of certain child-care facilities, homes, and agencies. Effective: 9-1-15
Senate Bill 314 amends the Family Code to detail what information the Department of Family and Protective Services and a court appointing a nonparent as managing conservator of a child must provide to the nonparent. Effective: 9-1-15
Senate Bill 550 amends the Family Code, Government Code, Insurance Code, and Labor Code to establish a court’s duty to render an order for the dental support of a child in a suit affecting the parent-child relationship or in a proceeding under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act. Effective: 9-1-15
Senate Bill 813 amends the Family Code to establish that a digitized signature on a pleading or order in a proceeding involving the marriage relationship, the child in relation to the family, or a protective order satisfies the requirements for and imposes the duties of signatories to pleadings, motions, and other papers identified under the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure. Effective: 9-1-15
Senate Bill 814 amends the Family Code to establish the authority of a party to a suit to remove the disabilities of minority, a suit to change a person’s name, or a suit affecting the parent-child relationship to waive the issuance or service of citation. The bill revises requirements for a waiver of service in a suit for dissolution of a marriage. Effective: 9-1-15
Senate Bill 815 amends the Family Code to expand the types of activities a court may prohibit by temporary restraining order in a suit for the dissolution of marriage. Effective: 9-1-15
Senate Bill 818 amends the Family Code to require a court to order that each conservator of a child has the duty to inform the other conservator of the child of certain information regarding the conservator’s involvement with a person who is the subject of a final protective order or if the conservator is the subject of such an order. The bill establishes deadlines for providing the notice and makes a conservator’s failure to provide the notice in the prescribed manner a Class C misdemeanor. Effective: 9-1-15
Senate Bill 1726 amends the Estates Code, Family Code, and Government Code to revise and clarify provisions relating to suits affecting the parent-child relationship, including provisions relating to Class 4 claims against an estate, the conditions under which a court is authorized to order that certain information not be disclosed to a party to a suit, notice requirements regarding enrollment in or termination of benefits under an employer’s health insurance plan, and notice requirements and enforcement mechanisms for certain child support orders. Among other provisions, the bill provides for electronic notarization of required signatures in a proceeding filed under provisions relating to the parent-child relationship. Effective: 9-1-15
To view more information on the 2015 Texas family law bills, amendments, and revisions go to Texas Legislature Online @ http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/
“Mediation” is a process to aid parties in finding a fair and equitable settlement of disputes without unnecessary court intervention. Most Texas district and county courts require pretrial mediation for a variety of cases in order to help the parties resolve their problems while avoiding extensive court procedures and expenses
Mediation is a process in which the parties, under the guidance of a Mediator, agree upon a legally binding settlement the disputes in issue without a trial. Meditation can take many forms and the process may produce creative solutions without the direct rulings of the court. Courts usually encourage the opposing lawyers to first mediate a dispute and if no progress is made then continue the normal judicial process.
The Mediator that helps bring both sides to an agreement usually is a lawyer, ex-judge, or other specialist who has experience or expert training in the specific areas related to the dispute. A Mediator fees may range anywhere from $160-$500 dollars an hour depending on the case and the complexity of the issues in dispute. Mediators attempt to work with each side to find a reasonable middle ground to which a fair agreement can be structured.
An experienced lawyer is a valuable tool to advance favorable terms of any agreement during a mediation. During a mediation a Mediator will likely place the parties into separate “Caucus” areas, splitting the parties into different rooms to negotiate individually with each party to understand the positions and interests. Once the Mediator has talked to each party he will attempt to discover a common grounds that will fairly or smoothly serve both parties’ interests. If an agreement is reached that neither side is overly happy about, it is often likely that a reasonable compromise has been reached.
The important point of a mediation is to express your concerns and attempt to reach a compromise that is mutually acceptable, smart and fair to both sides. Many courts support this type of dispute resolution because it frees up the courts dockets and allow the parties to consider compromise first without involving the courts. Mediation maybe a cost saver, as the dollars you spend on an attorney for trial can be reduced significantly if a compromise is reached.
Make sure you have an attorney who is experienced in the Mediation process and knows how to craft a smart, fair deal which will result in significant cost savings.