It has now been more than 20 years since child psychiatrist, Richard A. Gardner, introduced the term of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS). Dr. Gardner defined PAS as a disorder that arises in divorce or child custody disputes, when one parent deliberately damages, or destroys the previously healthy and loving relationship between the child and the child’s other parent. The main manifestation is the child’s own sudden or atypical campaign of denigration against the targeted parent without any justification.
Parental Alienation Syndrome is an evil, yet common and effective device for gaining custody of a child. Through systematic alienation, the alienating parent may slowly brainwash a child against the targeted parent. The alienating parent involved in these abusive behaviors usually gains misplaced and deleterious loyalty of the child.
The main problem with PAS is that the child actually participates in the denigrating of the alienated parent.
The main areas of denigration from the child are:
- The child supports and tries to protect the alienating parent.
- The child express the ideas of denigration of the target parent as his/her own idea.
- The child gives weak and absurd reasons for his/her anger towards the alienated parent.
- The child uses situations and scenarios that he/she could not have experienced
- The child uses foul and often atypical language and server behavior to denigrate the targeted parent.
- The child has no guilt over his/her cruelty towards the alienated parent and expresses hate for the parent.
Children who live in alienated family situations are usually unable to form healthy relationships with either parent.
Main areas of concern for these children impacted by Parental alienation are:
- Aggression and conduct disorder
- Disregard for social norms and authority, adjustment difficulties
- Emotional Distress, Anxiety, Depression, and Self Hate
- Lack of remorse or guilt
- Poor reality testing and unreasonable cognitive operations
- Low self- esteem or inflated self-esteem, Pseudo- maturity
Children displaying some or all of these symptoms need professional and legal help. Parental Alienation Syndrome is sometimes recognized by the courts but is very difficult to define and most cases requires bringing in County Social Services, Child Protective Services, and /or other family therapy professionals.
Your child desperately needs your help, no matter how bad the situation is. IT IS NOT THE TIME TO GIVE UP YOUR PARENTAL RIGHTS! Contact an attorney and discuss your options on how to help your child and moving forward to solve this legal situation.
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!
A divorce can be grueling is transformed by law, probate, and insurance decisions made prior to divorce. It is important to know exactly what will happen to your will and life insurance if this misfortune happens to befall your family. The family unit is important and if it is fractured the question of what happens to “my will”, “my life insurance”, or “my trust” is a relevant and important one that needs to be answered.
If you are divorced from your spouse then your previous will may be in many aspects considered revoked automatically. Under the Texas Estate Code § 123.001 after a valid divorce, all provisions in a will, including all fiduciary appointments, shall be read as if the former spouse and each relative of the former spouse who is not a relative of the testator failed to survive the testator, unless the will expressly provides otherwise. The translation of this states: if you receive a valid divorce then your will is in many respects revoked and your spouse and stepchildren will receive nothing from the previous will. The one exception is if the will explicitly states that in case of divorce the previous spouse or children will still inherit. This revocation applies to fiduciary appointments as well. For instance if you have a trust and your spouse is the trustee, then she will be revoked from the trust in its entirety.
If you divorce your spouse, then your spouse’s beneficiary status pertaining to your life insurance will be automatically revoked. Texas Family Code § 9.301 states an automatic revocation upon divorce and lists three exceptions:
- If the divorce decree names the former spouse as a beneficiary
- The individual adds the divorced spouse as a beneficiary to the policy after the divorce
- The former spouse receives the life insurance as a “guardian” of the children
These are the exceptions for life insurance. If you decide to divorce your spouse unless further action is taken, the spouse will not benefit from your death regarding the life insurance.
Finally, the inheritance of a divorced spouse in reference to a trust depends on whether the trust is revocable or irrevocable. If you have set up a Revocable Trust then after the divorce your prior spouse will automatically lose his/her beneficiary status within the trust. On the other hand, if you set up an Irrevocable Trust then regardless of a divorce the prior spouse will still inherit and be considered a valid beneficiary. A divorce will have no effect on an Irrevocable Trust. If you decide to create an irrevocable trust, be sure to understand that your spouse will inherit the assets in the trust even after a divorce.
In a Texas divorce, the law protects you from unchecked gifts to your prior spouse and stepchildren with regard to your will, life-insurance, and revocable trusts. The prior spouse will not take from these unless one of the few exceptions apply. Divorces are riddled with complexities and it is prudent to seek advice from an experienced Texas divorce attorney during these proceedings to ensure that the divorced spouse is removed completely from your will and does not reserve an argument to acquire your assets post-divorce .
Two New Family Case laws have been passed by the Texas legislature and signed by Governor Abbott, effective 9/1/2019:
HB553 Relating to notice summer weekend possession of a child under a standard possession order in a suit affecting the parent-child relationship.
SECTION 1. Section 153.312, Family Code, is amended by adding subsection (c) to read as follows:
(c) Notwithstanding Section 153.316, after receiving notice from the managing conservator under Subsection (b)(3) of this section designating the summer weekend during which the managing conservator is to have possession of the child, the possessory conservator, not later than the 15th day before Friday that begins that designated weekend, must give the managing conservator written notice of the location at which the managing conservator is to pick up and return the child.
SECTION 2. Section 153.312 (c), Family Code, as added by this Act, applies only to a court order providing for possession of or access to a child rendered on or after the effective date of this Act. A court order rendered before the effective date on this Act is governed by the law in effect on the date the order was rendered, and the former law is continued in effect for that purpose.
SECTION 3. This Act takes effect September 1, 2019
HB House Bill 558: Relating to the court ordered support for a child with disability:
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:
SECTION 1. Section 154.302, Family Code, is amended by adding Subsection (c) to read as follows:
(c) notwithstanding Subsection (b), a court that orders support under this section for an adult child with a disability may designate a special needs trust and provide that the support may be paid directly to the trust for the benefit of the adult child. The court shall order that support payable to a special needs trust under this subsection be paid directly to the trust and may not order that the support be paid to the state disbursement unit. This subsection does not apply in a Title IV-D case.
SECTION 2. The change in law made by this Act constitutes a material and substantial change of circumstance under Section 156.401, Family Code, sufficient to warrant modification of a court order or a portion of a decree that provides support for a child rendered before the effective date of this Act.
Section 3. This Act takes effect on September 1, 2019
More new Texas Legislature Family Laws to come!