fathers rights attorney

Apr
12

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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Apr
11

Division of Marital Assets in a Texas Divorce

Texas law requires trial courts to divide the estate of the parties in a manner that is just and fair having due regard for the rights of each party and any children of the marriage.  Tex. Fam. Code Ann. 7.001.  A disproportionate division must have a reasonable basis.  Smith v. Smith, 143 S.W.3d 206, 214 (Tex. App. – Waco 2004, no pet.).  The trial court has broad discretion in determining the disposition of property in a divorce action.  If there is some evidence of a substantive and probative character to support the division, the trial court does not abuse its discretion if it orders an unequal division of marital estate.  However, the division should not be a punishment for the spouse at fault.  There is a difference between making a just and right division of the property with due regard for the children of the marriage and punishing the errant spouse.  In general, the trial courts in Texas have perceived this distinction. 

Generally, in a fault-based divorce, the court may consider the conduct of the errant spouse in making a disproportionate distribution of the marital estate.  Young v. Young, 609 S.W.2d 758, 761-62 (Tex. 1980).  This does not mean that fault must be considered.

The Texas Family Code sections 3.02 and 3.07 provide six circumstances when a divorce decree may be granted in favor of one spouse.  These include the traditional fault grounds for divorce of cruelty, adultery, and abandonment.  These sections were codified by the Legislature into the Family Code along with section 3.01 which provides for “no-fault” divorce based on insupportability because of discord or conflict of personalities that destroys the legitimate ends of the marriage relationship and prevents any reasonable expectation of reconciliation.

Texas courts have considered the following factors when equitably dividing a community estate: 

  1. fault in breakup of the marriage;
  2. the benefits that the innocent spouse would have derived had the marriage continued;
  3. disparity in the spouses’ income and earning capacities;
  4. each spouse’s business opportunities;
  5. differences in the spouses’ education;
  6. physical health and need for future support;
  7. the relative ages of the parties;
  8. each spouse’s financial condition and obligations;
  9. the size of each spouse’s separate estate and any expected inheritance;
  10. the nature of the spouses’ property;
  11. the rights of the children of the marriage;
  12. waste of community assets or constructive fraud against the community;
  13. gifts by one spouse to the other; and
  14. tax liabilities.

The court need not divide the community estate equally.  Smallwood v. Smallwood, 548 S.W.2d 796, 797 (Tex. Civ. App. – Waco 1977, no writ).  The court has a broad discretion in making a just and right division, and absent a clear abuse of discretion, such decision will not be disturbed.  Murff v. Murff, S.W.2d 696, 698-99 (Tex. 1981); Boyd v. Boyd, 131 S.W. 3d 605, 610 (Tex. App. – Fort Worth 2005, no pet.) 

When there is no evidence or insufficient evidence to support the property division or an award of attorney’s fees, the appellate court must reverse or remand such decision for a new trial.  Sadone v. Miller-Sadone, 116 S.W.3d 204, 208 (Tex. App. – El Paso 2003, no pet). 

A party who seeks to assert the separate character of property must prove that character by clear and convincing evidence.  Clear and convincing evidence is that measure or degree of proof that will produce in the mind of the trier of fact (judge or jury) a firm belief or conviction as to the truth of the allegation. 

In a popular decision Phillips v. Phillips, 75 S.W.3d 564 (Tex. App. – Beaumont 2002, no pet.), Chief Justice Walker opined that because legislature has now authorized “no fault” divorce, fault could no longer be considered in dividing community estate.  However, In Re Brown, 187 S.W.3d 143, 2006 Tex. App. LEXIS 686 (Tex. App. Waco 2006) states that what is “just and right” in dividing the property should not depend on the ground on which the divorce is granted; the just and right division of property is separate from the dissolution issue. If one spouse’s conduct causes the destruction of the financial benefits of a particular marriage, benefits on which the other spouse relied, a trial court should have discretion to consider that factor in dividing the community estate – regardless of the basis for granting the divorce.

To prove a disproportionate division of assets in a divorce case, counsel must put on clear and convincing evidence.  Without such support, there will be no disproportionate division of community estate.  The circumstances of each marriage dictate what factors should be considered in the property division upon divorce.

By Nacol Law Firm | Property and Asset Division
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Mar
27

Torn Apart – Children and Divorce

Despite the difficulties faced in a divorce, the children should not be placed in the center of the crossfire.  During the divorce process, and sometimes following the divorce process, it is not uncommon for a parent to become so wrapped up in anger, vengeance or simply being “right” that they forget the effect the whole process is having on the children.  Below are some behaviors to avoid and some suggestions to assist you with improving your communications during the divorce process:

  1. Do not use children as messengers between “mom” and “dad.”
  2. Do not criticize your former spouse in the presence of your children because children realize they are part “mom” and part “dad.”
  3. Resist any temptation to allow your children to act as your caretaker.  Children need to be allowed the freedom to be “children.”  Taking on such responsibility at an early age degrades their self-esteem, feeds anger and hinders a child’s ability to relate to their peers.
  4. Encourage your children to see your former spouse frequently.  Promote a good relationship for the benefit of the child.
  5. Do not argue with your former spouse in the presence of the children.  No matter what the situation, the child will feel torn between taking “mommy’s” side and “daddy’s” side.
  6. At every step during the divorce process, remind yourself that your children’s interests are paramount, even over your own. 
  7. If you are the non-primary parent, pay your child support.
  8. If you are the primary parent and are not receiving child support, do not tell your children.  This feeds a child’s sense of abandonment and erodes their stability.
  9. Remember that the Court’s view child support and child custody as two separate and distinct issues.  Children do not understand whether “mommy” and/or “daddy” paid child support, but they do understand that “mommy” and/or “daddy” wants to see me.
  10. If at all possible, do not uproot your children.  When a family is falling apart, a child needs a stable home and school life to buffer the trauma.
  11. If you have an addiction problem, whether it be drugs, alcohol or any other affliction, seek help immediately.  Such impairments inhibit your ability to reassure your children and give them the attention they need.
  12. If you are having difficulty dealing with issues relating to your former spouse, discuss such issues with mental health professionals and counselors.
  13. Reassure your children that they are loved and that they have no fault in the divorce.

Though these steps are not all-inclusive, they will assist you in dealing with the complex issues of a divorce and hopefully minimize the impact of the divorce process on the children.

By Nacol Law Firm | Child Custody
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Mar
01

Summer Visitation Schedules for Texas Fathers

This question causes many divorced or single parents much stress concerning meaningful contact with their children. “What do I need to do to legally secure my specific summer visitation periods with my kids?”. Here is a general breakdown of Texas law on summer visitation:

Family code: 153.312: Notification of Summer Visitation: Parents who reside 100 miles or less apart.

A possessory conservator gives the managing conservator written notice by April 1 of each year specifying an extended period or periods of summer possession, the possessory conservator shall have possession of the child for 30 days beginning not earlier than the day after the child’s school is dismissed for the summer vacation and ending not later than seven days before school resumes at the end of the summer vacation, to be exercised in not more than two separate periods of at least seven consecutive days each, with each period of possession beginning and ending at 6 p.m. on each applicable day; or does not give the managing conservator written notice by April 1 of each year specifying an extended period or periods of summer possession, the possessory conservator shall have possession of the child for 30 consecutive days beginning at 6 p.m. on July 1 and ending at 6 p.m. on July 31;

If the managing conservator gives the possessory conservator written notice by April 15 of each year, the managing conservator shall have possession of the child on any one weekend beginning Friday at 6 p.m. and ending at 6 p.m. on the following Sunday during one period of possession by the possessory conservator under Subdivision (2), provided that the managing conservator picks up the child from the possessory conservator and returns the child to that same place;
and
If the managing conservator gives the possessory conservator written notice by April 15 of each year or gives the possessory conservator 14 days’ written notice on or after April 16 of each year, the managing conservator may designate one weekend beginning not earlier than the day after the child’s school is dismissed for the summer vacation and ending not later than seven days before school resumes at the end of the summer vacation, during which an otherwise scheduled weekend period of possession by the possessory conservator will not take place, provided that the weekend designated does not interfere with the possessory conservator’s period or periods of extended summer possession or with Father’s Day if the possessory conservator is the father of the child.

Divorce, paternity or other orders setting out access/possession rights should specifically set out this information. Such orders are usually custom and specific on times and dates for summer and other holiday visitations.

In today’s world, a statutory preset structured visitation schedule does not always work in a blended family environment. Many fathers are now either sole managing conservator or co-managing conservators with the mother. The current standard visitation schedule is used more as a basic presumed schedule to which extended time may be added for cause good for more equal shared time with the children.

With an enlightened public awareness and presumption under law that children need quality time with both parents, many parents are looking for modifications to child visitation orders that agrees with their lifestyles to share their children equally and fairly.

DETAIL
Feb
28

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
DETAIL

Please contact father’s rights Dallas Attorney Mark Nacol, or father’s rights Dallas Attorney Julian Nacol with the Nacol Law Firm P.C., for legal insight to your rights as a father. Both attorney Mark Nacol, and attorney Julian Nacol , provide counsel in the area of family law including divorce, father’s rights, interstate jurisdiction, child support, child custody, visitation, paternity, parent alienation, modifications, property division, asset division and more. Attorney Mark A. Nacol is board certified in Civil Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Our attorneys at The Nacol Law Firm P.C. serve clients throughout Texas, including Collin, Dallas, Denton, Ellis, Grayson, Kaufman, Rockwall and Tarrant counties and the communities of Addison, Allen, Arlington, Carrollton, Dallas, Fort Worth, Frisco, Garland, Grapevine, Highland Park, McKinney, Mesquite, Plano, Prosper, Richardson, Rowlett and University Park, Murphy,Wylie, Lewisville, Flower Mound, Irving, along with surrounding DFW areas.

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