Protecting Your Family's Future
 

Protecting Your Rights as a Single Mother—Paternity Disputes

Protecting Your Rights as a Single Mother—Paternity Disputes

As the unmarried mother of a minor child, it’s essential that you establish the paternity of your child. The father will have visitation rights, but will also have to provide some level of support, provided you are no longer living together. Paternity can also make your child eligible for a wide variety of benefits through the father of the child, including medical insurance, veteran’s benefits, Social Security and inheritance. Here are the ways to establish paternity in Texas while protecting your rights as a single mother. Contact a Baytown divorce lawyer for more information.

Establishing Paternity

Under Texas law, you can successfully have the father of your minor child legally designated three different ways, all of which will qualify you to receive support and other benefits. The accepted methods are:

  • Presumptive paternity—if you were married to the father or lived continuously with him for a period of time before the birth of the child, paternity will be presumed, though the alleged father may challenge paternity through DNA testing.
  • A voluntary acknowledgement of paternity—if the alleged father signs a legally binding document stating that he is the genetic father of the child, you then have the right to seek all benefits.
  • Paternity by court order—either the mother or the alleged father of the child may ask the court to establish paternity. Furthermore, a child may also ask the court to order paternity testing, provided he or she has reached a certain age.

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 10 years of experience to clients in south Texas. To learn about our services, call us at 281-761-6042 or contact us online. Our family law attorney offers an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

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What Not to Do When You Are a Noncustodial Parent

Noncustodial Parent Time

There’s simply no way around it—divorce is hard on kids and it’s hard on parents, too. Unfortunately, with good or bad intentions, custodial and non-custodial parents can make the situation much worse. Here are some of the most frequent ways adults complicate matters for children of divorce. If you have questions about your noncustodial parent time, contact a Baytown divorce lawyer for assistance.

  • Discuss things in front of the children that should be addressed privately—It’s not realistic (and probably not healthy) to expect that you’ll never have a disagreement with your ex. But don’t air that laundry in front of your children!! Your kids aren’t mature enough to understand that disagreements can be worked out. In addition, they may assume they have caused the problem.
  • Use visitation as a tool to either punish or reward an ex-spouse—Visitation is a right of the child, as much as it’s a right of the parent. Custodial and non-custodial parents should never use it as a bargaining chip or to punish an ex. The ones who suffer the most from this type of behavior?—the children.
  • Make a child feel guilty about being with the other parent—It may often be entirely unintentional, but when you tell your children that you will miss them when they are with the other parent, they may have a vision of you as sitting home sad and alone..and they may blame themselves for your condition.
  • Let your children make the decisions about when and how long they will visit their non-custodial parent, or when they will go home—This puts unnecessary pressure on the child, as they don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings, but find themselves in a no-win situation.
  • Set your expectations too high—It’s common, especially for non-custodial parents, to want the time spent with children to be special. That puts a lot of pressure on your kids. Try, instead, to integrate your children into your life. Don’t plan all your activities around your children, but let them participate with you in deciding what you’ll do. But do as many of the things you normally do as possible. That’s how your kids really get to know you.

Noncustodial Parent

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, our divorce lawyer bring more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at 281-761-6042 or contact us online . We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

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Understanding the Tax Implications of Divorce

Tax Implications of Divorce

During a divorce, your focus is on custody and visitation, child support, alimony (perhaps) and the division of marital debts and assets. It may not even occur to you to consider the potential tax consequences until the divorce is finalized. But thinking about the tax impact beforehand can benefit both parties. Contact a Baytown divorce lawyer with questions about the tax implications of divorce.

The Treatment of Child Support and Spousal Support for Tax Purposes

With both child support and alimony, one of the parties is receiving income from the other. However, for tax purposes, the two types of payment are treated differently.

Under IRS rules, child support payments are not considered as income by the recipient. Accordingly, the person paying child support cannot claim any kind of deduction for the payment.

As a general rule, however, spousal support qualifies as reportable income and must be included on state and federal tax returns, as long as the payments are made because of a valid divorce or separation agreement, and the payments are monetary—gifts of real or personal property, or services (gifts in kind) are generally not taxable. If the payments qualify as income to the recipient, they can also be deducted by the payer.

Tax Implications of Divorce

What Filing Status Should You Claim?

If your divorce in still in process at the end of the tax year, you can still choose to file a joint return, or you can file as “married filing separately.” However, if the divorce decree is entered before the end of the tax year, you must file as either single or as “head of household.”

To claim your children as exemptions on your return, you must generally be considered the custodial parent. In most instances, the parent with whom the child spent the most amount of time will be considered the custodial parent for tax purposes. You can, however, claim your child if the custodial parent waives the exemption in writing.

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, our divorce lawyer brings more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at 281-761-6042 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

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When is Paternity Presumed under Texas Law?

When is Paternity Presumed under Texas Law?

Child Custody in TexasOne of the most frequent, and often contentious, issues that can arise in family courts in Texas involves the rights of fathers to visitation with and access to minor children, particularly when the parties were unmarried at the time of conception or birth, or there are other uncertainties about paternity. The Texas Family Code has specific definitions of who qualifies as a “parent.” With respect to fathers, a man will meet the definition of “parent” if he:

  • Is presumed to be the father
  • Is legally determined to be the father
  • Is adjudicated by a court to be the father
  • Has acknowledged his paternity

Presumption of Paternity

The Texas Family Code holds that a male will be presumed to be a child’s father if any of the following conditions is met:

  • The man is married to the child’s mother and the child is born while the marriage is still valid
  • The man was married to the child’s mother and the child is born within 300 days after divorce, annulment or the man’s death. This applies even if the marriage is or could be declared invalid, provided the marriage was in “apparent compliance” with the law
  • The man married the mother after the birth of the child and voluntarily declared his paternity of the child, and he has either promised to support the child as his own or his declaration of  paternity is filed with the bureau of vital statistics
  • The man lived in the same household as the child for the first two years of the child’s life and told others he was the child’s father

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, our Baytown family law attorney brings more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at 281-761-6042 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

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Keeping Christmas from Becoming a Contest When You Are a Parent of Divorce

Keeping Christmas from Becoming a Contest When You Are a Parent of Divorce

Christmas-celebration

If you are a divorced parent with minor children, Christmas can be involve more stress and anxiety than good cheer. Whether you are the custodial or non-custodial parent, you can easily get caught up in a sense of competition—who’s giving the children the best gifts? Or the ones they really want? Who’s having the best celebration? It can be hard on you, but rest assured, it can be much harder for your children. Here are some tips to help make the holidays more jolly for everyone.

Communicate about Presents

It’s best to have conversations, generally outside the earshot of your children, about what they need and want for Christmas. Agree upon a spending limit that’s fair to both parties. If there are gifts that your children want, rather than need, try to split those up, so that each parent gets to enjoy giving the child something that makes his or her eyes light up. And no surprises—getting your child a really big ticket item may make you feel good momentarily, and your child may be excited as well, but it will wear off and your child will feel pain for the other  parent, and will feel  put in the middle.

Talk about Festivities

Share your holiday plans with your ex and see if you can work out a compromise that allows your children to have quality time with both of you. It’s a really great idea to alternate holidays every year…Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Years. The earlier you start that practice, the more accepted it will be, and the less disappointment you’ll have from children who have become accustomed to only one way of doing things. Try to minimize travel back and forth, too. You might have the children spend Christmas Eve at one house and stay overnight, but spend the rest of the day with the other parent, once presents are opened in the morning.

Be Willing to Compromise

A little flexibility is a good thing. Be willing to let the deadlines be just a little fuzzy, but keep your ex honest. When you set good boundaries with each other, your children benefit, too.

Be Willing to Spend a Few Minutes Together as a Family

One of the most powerful things you can do during the holidays is to drop your defenses. Stay and have some cookies with your ex and the children when you drop them off. Give your children the opportunity to see you acting like a grownup.

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at 281-761-6042 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

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Visitation and the Holidays

Visitation and the Holidays

Visitation-and-the-Holidays

You may have a visitation schedule that works very effectively during the rest of the year, but things are typically different during the holidays. Your kids will have a certain amount of time off from school and may need adult supervision. In addition, you’ll want to spend more quality time with them, if you can. The best way to ensure that the holidays don’t magnify your stress level is to agree to a holiday schedule in advance and stick to it.

There are a number of ways that you can deal with visitation at the holidays:

 

  • One of the most common approaches is to alternate major holidays every year—if your children were with you on Christmas last year, they’ll be with you this year. This gives both parents the opportunity to share holidays with their children and offers the same experience to kids. Don’t ever consider having some kids with mom and others with dad on the same day—bad idea, as the kids will naturally talk about which place was best. It’s what kids do.
  • You can also set up two holiday celebrations. Christmas is on the 25th with one parent and on the Sunday before with the other parent.
  • Divide the day up for major holidays like Christmas or Thanksgiving. Let children wake up in one house and spend the afternoon and evening in the other parent’s home. With Thanksgiving, you may have your children with one parent on Thanksgiving Day and with the other parent on Friday.
  • For some parents, it works to have assigned holidays. For example, if you are in the hospitality business and your ex is not, you may have obligations every New Years Eve, so you may agree to have the children with your ex for that holiday every year.

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at 281-761-6042 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

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Texas Man Beats Charge Filed by Ex-Partner

A Texas man was acquitted of theft charges after confiscating his daughter’s iPhone 4. Ronald Jackson, a Dallas native, says he saw what he considered to be an “inappropriate” text message on his 12-year-old daughter’s iPhone and took it away from her. The girl’s mother, though, contended that she had purchased the phone and called local authorities, reporting that Jackson had stolen the phone. When police arrived, Jackson refused to turn over the phone, saying police had no right to interfere with his efforts to be a parent to his daughter.

When Jackson refused to turn over the phone, his ex, Michelle Steppe, convinced the city attorney’s office to have a citation for theft served upon him. The city attorney proposed a plea bargain, whereby Jackson would have all charges dismissed if he returned the phone. He refused and hired an attorney. In response, the city attorney changed the charge to a higher grade misdemeanor and police issued a warrant for his arrest. Jackson was taken into custody, but posted a $1,500 bond.

In pre-trial motions, the Dallas County Criminal Court threw out the case, saying that the state had not produced enough evidence to go to trial. Jackson’s attorney says he plans to file a complaint in federal court for violation of his client’s civil rights. He also acknowledged that Jackson still possesses the iPhone.

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas.

To learn how we can help, call our office at 281-420-8020 or contact us online . We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

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Living Close for the Sake of the Children

In the aftermath of a divorce, one of the most challenging and emotionally difficult issues to deal with is not seeing your children, regardless of whether you are the custodial or non-custodial parent. While the natural inclination may be to put some distance between you and your ex, some parents are choosing to stay close, primarily for the benefit of children.

One couple in Brooklyn, recently divorced, decided to keep their three-unit brownstone there, with one parent living on the second floor, the other living at the garden level, and the parties renting out the middle apartment. They say that, though it was a challenge at first to ensure that the privacy of all parties was respected, the arrangement has proved to be a huge benefit for everyone involved.  There is no need to pack for kids when they visit the other parent, no need to drop off children and pick them up. In addition, if either parent has a work emergency, the other is right there, able to step in and meet the needs of the children. For the kids, it ensures that they’ll never be too far away from their favorite book or stuffed animal.

For some parents, the concept of “bird-nesting” works, where the children stay in one home and the parents rotate in and out. Most who have tried it, though, say it presents a lot of challenges, requiring the visiting parent to constantly check to see if they have clothes and other necessary items.

The preferred approach of many is to stay a few blocks from each other, where they can walk to see of pick up children, and where children can easily commute back and forth.

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at (281) 420-8020 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

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Getting Temporary Support While Your Divorce is Pending

When your marriage has fallen apart, one of the most pressing immediate concerns is meeting the financial needs of you and your children (if you are the custodial parent.) Whether you realize it or not, as the custodial parent, you are entitled to child support from the time a divorce complaint is filed. There is no requirement that your divorce decree be finalized before your ex must provide you with support.

As a general rule, when you file a complaint for divorce, you also ask the court to issue what are known as pendente lite (pending litigation) orders. These are temporary orders that can address any number of issues, including:

  • Conservatorship and parenting access to minor children
  • Child support obligations
  • Spousal support obligations
  • The use of marital property, including who may reside in the marital home

The court can also enter an order that prohibits both parties from “wasting” marital assets, incurring any new debt or destroying marital property.

To determine the amount of child support, the court will use a formula that takes into account the incomes of both parents. The judge can also make modifications based on any special needs of the children or the parties.

If the court has issued orders granting child support, spousal support, custody or visitation, and your ex is not in compliance with those requirements, you can return to the court to seek enforcement of the decree. Your ex can be held in contempt of court, subject to certain criminal penalties.

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at (281) 420-8020 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

Se Habla Espanol | ASL and ESL Services Also Available

Texas Divorce Laws — An Overview

Divorce in Texas—An Overview

Before you think seriously about getting a divorce in Texas, it’s a good idea to learn as much about the process as you can. Here’s an overview of divorce in Texas.

Qualifying to File in Texas

Like most states, Texas requires that you have a minimum period of residency in the state before you can file for divorce. At least one of the parties to a divorce action in Texas must have lived in the state for the six month period immediately preceding the filing. This applies to military personnel as well. As a soldier, you need not have been a resident of Texas before being stationed there, but you must have served at one of the state’s military installations for a minimum of six months before the divorce action is filed.

In addition, at least one of the parties to the divorce must have resided in the county where the divorce is filed for at least 90 days immediately prior to the filing of the complaint.

Grounds for Filing

Although you don’t need to state grounds for filing—Texas allows no-fault divorce—doing so can gain you some advantage in property distribution and alimony determinations. Texas allows a party to file an at-fault-based divorce complaint for the following reasons:

  • The other spouse committed adultery
  • The other spouse engaged in physical or mental cruelty
  • The other spouse was convicted of a felony, has served at least one year in the penitentiary in Texas or another state, and has not been pardoned.
  • The other spouse is confined to a mental hospital for at least three years
  • The other spouse has abandoned the marriage or the marital partner

Alimony or Spousal Support

A Texas court has the discretion to award spousal support on a limited basis. The court may grant temporary or permanent alimony, based on a number of factors, including the length of the marriage, the age and health of the parties, the earning capacity of the parties, and any evidence of domestic violence or abuse.

Child Custody, Visitation and Support

In Texas, decisions that affect minor children must give priority to the best interests of the child. Child support is generally calculated using a state formula, but the court may amend the amount to be paid, based on the needs of the child and the ability of the parents to provide. Texas courts encourage agreements that allow minor children to have regular and meaningful contact with both parents. The parties may agree to the terms of custody and visitation, but the court may impose different conditions if they believe doing so is in the best interests of the child.

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at 281-420-8020 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

Se Habla Espanol | ASL and ESL Services Also Available

 
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