We have been successfully handing divorce cases for our clients since 1991. Over that time period, we have literally represented hundreds of women. In fact, our very first divorce client was a woman who had a contested divorce case involving child issues. While representing women, we have noticed that certain issues arise more frequently for them as a group, than for men. This piece will discuss a few of those issues, and then, will offer additional information about how everyone should prepare for an upcoming divorce case.
Last month, we started this conversation by discussing the Court Orders that are immediately available to victims of Family Violence; some, even before the Protective Order case has been filed. Those orders are designed to offer legal protection to victims right away, before there is time for proper notice and a hearing to occur. This is, obviously, very important, so all of that information is available here. With those immediate protections in place, we can now look to what happens next.
Sadly, Family Violence occurs far too often in Texas (as well as worldwide). According to the Texas Council on Family Violence, 158 women were killed by a male intimate partner in 2015; and, shockingly, 1 in 3 Texans will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes. If you are one of these victims, then please contact a helping organization such as Denton County Friends of the Family or the Department of Texas Health and Human Services’ Family Violence Program for 24-hour help, including emergency shelter services.
Folks who marry young often do not own much property beyond personal effects and, perhaps, some furniture and a motor vehicle of some sort. Throw in some idealistic notions about the assured permanency of their marriage, and you typically get a couple having little to no interest in preparing a Prenuptial Agreement to spell out their respective rights when their marriage ends (as all do, either by death or divorce). But, when that couple has been together long enough to have weathered some of life’s storms together, and perhaps accumulated some property, that couple may then want to do some planning for “what if’s.” A specific kind of Texas Marital Property Agreement, called a “Partition or Exchange Agreement,” can be entered into by that married couple, so as to provide certainty as to what will happen to them when their marriage ends (again, either by death or divorce). That is what we will be discussing today.
So, you have a Child Support Order that you believe is no longer right for you, and you want to know if it can be changed. How can you tell?
The Texas Family Code provides that your Child Support Order may be modified if:
- It has been three or more years since the order was established or last modified and the monthly amount of the child support ordered differs by either 20 percent or $100 from the amount that would be awarded according to the Child Support Guidelines;
So, CPS has removed your children from your home: is there any chance that you can get them back? The short answer to that question is “yes.” To start with, CPS is only authorized by law (Chapter 262 of the Texas Family Code) to remove children from their home when facts exist that would “satisfy a person of ordinary prudence and caution to believe that there is an immediate danger to the physical health or safety of the child, or the child has been a victim of neglect or sexual abuse, and that continuation in the home would be contrary to the child's welfare.”
According to the most recent statistics available, approximately 3,200,000 children are investigated each year by the various Child Protective Services agencies operating within the United States of America. Of course, not all of those investigations result in findings of abuse or neglect. And, while no one who has been through that experience would call it “enjoyable,” we, unfortunately, have no system of investigating child abuse or neglect which is perfect at avoiding putting innocent parents through such investigations.
The purpose of this writing is to lay-out some ideas on what you can do if you find yourself being investigated by CPS.
The first thing to do is to remain calm. This lets you converse intelligently with the CPS case investigator with whom you are dealing.
Texas law (the Texas Family Code) provides that CPS shall investigate reports that a child has been abused or neglected. Those reports are typically made through either a phone call, or online ( ph. 1-800-252-5400 or www.txabusehotline.org).
The law goes on to state that the investigation shall be “prompt and thorough,” and may require the assistance of local law enforcement. And when that investigation reveals an “immediate danger” to the welfare of the child, then CPS may remove the child from his or her home, either with or without first obtaining a court order, depending on whether “there is …time” “consistent with the health and safety of (the) child” to first obtain a court order (such as a temporary restraining order).
I often hear people say that they are “Common Law Married.” Sometimes, when I hear that, I ask what that term means to them. I have received a wide array of answers, such as “we have been living together for a long time,” or “we have agreed to never give-up on our relationship.” But, what does Common Law Marriage really mean in the eyes of the law of Texas? The answer to that question is what this post covers.
Who should you choose as your lawyer?
One of the questions which I am frequently asked is some version of “Does it matter which lawyer I use,” or “What is the best way to select a lawyer for my Family Law case.” My answer to the first of those questions is along the lines of “probably” (depending on what is at stake in the case and how much agreement has already been made by the parties to that case). My answer to the second one is that a referral from a trusted friend, coworker, or colleague is usually, in my humble opinion, the best way to choose a doctor, accountant, plumber, roofer, or (yes) a lawyer.
If that personal referral from someone whom we know and trust is unavailable to us, then what strategy should we employ to find a good lawyer? Well, doesn’t it seem like the opinions of people who have used a lawyer’s services would be valuable to us? Most of us agree with the proposition that the best predictor of someone’s future behavior is his/her past behavior. Think about it: most of us know certain people in our lives who have been there for us when we needed them; and others, who have been less reliable. Don’t we feel like we “know” that the first group of people would be available to assist us if we needed help in the future? What about the second group: do we feel comfortable that they would have our backs?