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Joint Managing Conservatorships in Texas

Joint Managing Conservatorships in Texas

If you are involved in or considering a divorce in Texas and there are minor children involved, you need to get familiar with this term—joint managing conservatorship. It may sound daunting, but it’s something with which you are probably already very familiar—it’s the new language used in Texas to refer to custody of minor children. Our Baytown family law attorney can answer any questions about joint managing conservatorships in Texas.

Here’s how it works. In Texas, a parent who is awarded primary custody of minor children is referred to as the “sole managing conservator.” The other parent is called the “possessory conservator.” If the parents are granted joint custody, the relationship is known as a “joint managing conservatorship.” As a general rule, Texas considers a joint managing conservatorship to be in the “best interests of the child,” the standard for such decisions.

Conservatorships in Texas

How Does the Court Determine Managing Conservatorship?

As indicated above, the presumption is that a joint managing conservatorship will be best for any minor children. In fact, a court can (and often does) appoint both parents as joint managing conservators, even if the parties have not agreed to that arrangement.

It’s important to understand, though, that a joint managing conservatorship does not necessarily mean equal access or physical possession of a child. The court has discretion to grant one parent more time or access, based on a number of factors, including:

  • The ability of the parties to reach shared decisions that are in the best interests of the child
  • Whether or not there’s a positive relationship between the parents, or between the children and the parents
  • Whether the psychological, physical and emotional needs of the child will be met by the specific arrangement
  • The geographic proximity of the parents’ homes
  • The preference of the child, if the child is 12 years of age or older

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. 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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Court Allows Visitation by Mother Accused of Medically Abusing Child

Court-Allows-Visitation-to-Mother-Accused-of-Medically-Abusing-Child

A Texas court has granted a request for visitation by Danita Tutt, a 40-year-old resident of Cleburne who has been charged with medically abusing her son and with denying him food. The court has allowed her a weekly, supervised two hour visit with her two sons, ages 13 and 9, as well as two phone calls a week.

According to reports, Fort Worth police arrested Tutt on August 5, charging her with causing serious bodily injury to the older son. As part of her bond, she was prevented from having any contact with either child. However, the Johnson County judge handling her Child Protective Services (CPS) case had recommended supervised visits.

Police say that they had evidence that Tutt had withheld food and water from the older child, had put him on unnecessary pain medications, and had caused him to have unnecessary medical procedures. They contend that Tutt suffers from a well-known medical child abuse malady known as Munchausen syndrome by proxy, where parents tend to exaggerate or even make up symptoms or health problems experienced by their children in order to gain attention. Authorities say that Tutt lied to doctors about her son’s condition and symptoms, to the point that he had been admitted into hospice at the Ronald McDonald House, had a feeding tube and a colostomy bag installed, and was prescribed a number of pain medications. Since his mother’s arrest, he has been taken off the feeding tube, had the colostomy bag removed and has gained 10 pounds.

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

Visitation and Co-Parenting in Texas

Visitation vs. Co-Parenting

Visitation and Co-Parenting in TexasIn Texas, as in other states, courts in custody proceedings give priority to the “best interests of the child.” The courts also distinguish between physical custody (now called “managing conservatorship” in Texas) and legal custody. Managing conservatorship or physical custody refers to the actual physical residence of the child. Legal custody addresses the rights of the parent to participate in decisions regarding the child’s welfare, such as medical, educational, religious or other special needs.

With respect to physical custody, courts in Texas prefer to grant “joint managing conservatorship,” where both parents have access to the child, and the child spends some time in the home of each parent. In many instances, the child will spend a greater amount of time with one parent, who is labeled the “primary joint managing conservator,” or custodial parent. The other parent is customarily granted visitation (now referred to as “access”) with the minor child.

There is no “standard” co-parenting arrangement, though. The parents are typically free to work out agreements, such as alternating weeks with each parent, provided the court finds that such an arrangement is not disruptive to the child. Parents also have the ability to negotiate all other issues related to custody and visitation, from holidays and vacations to participation in extra-curricular activities.

If the parents cannot work out an acceptable arrangement, the court will order conservatorship and access, based on a number of factors, including:

  • The stability of each home
  • The fitness of each parent
  • The current and prior relationship between parent and child
  • The physical and emotional needs of the child
  • The input of the child, if the child is 12 year of age or older

Contact Us

At the law office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 10 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 office is 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

Legal Issues for Single Moms

Legal Issues for Single Mothers—Establishing Paternity

Legal Issues for Single MomsIf you are an unmarried mother of a minor child, there are a number of legal issues about which you need to be concerned, so that you can protect yourself and your child. One of the most important is determining who the biological father is.

Establishing Paternity

Unless you can establish paternity or get the father to agree to paternity, you won’t be able to collect child support, and will have to support your child entirely on your own. 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.

Paternity may be established three different ways in Texas:

  • By presumption—if you were married to the father or lived continuously with the father for a period of time before the birth of the child, there is a presumption of paternity. The alleged father may challenge paternity through DNA testing
  • By voluntary acknowledgement—the alleged father may sign a legally binding document stating that he is the genetic father of the child
  • By court order—the mother or the alleged father of the child may ask the court for an order establishing paternity. A child who is old enough may also ask the court to order paternity testing.

Contact Us

At the law office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 10 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 office is 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

Can I Move after My Divorce?

Relocation after Divorce in Texas—What are the Limitations?

Moving boxes in empty roomUnder Texas law, when parents divorce with minor children, the court establishes what is known as “managing conservatorship,” formerly known as custody. In most instances, the court awards joint managing conservatorship, consistent with the state’s stated objective of keeping both parents involved with the life and upbringing of the child. Achieving that objective can be complicated, even when both parents live in proximity to each other. But what if one of the parents seeks to move, for work or for any other reason? Are there restrictions on a custodial or non-custodial parent’s ability to relocate after a divorce?

Obtaining Permission of the Court

As a general rule, the court order in a divorce prohibits the custodial parent (known now as the “primary parent”) from moving outside a certain area without permission of the court. The area specified is customarily the county in which the child lives and all contiguous counties.

Even if your order does not clearly address relocation, you must provide notice to the non-custodial parent if you plan to move and take the minor child with you. The non-custodial parent has a right to challenge the relocation and may ask the court to schedule a hearing to resolve the matter. In making its decision, the court will give priority to the best interests of the children. As the custodial parent, you will have to show good reason to move—a better job or to be closer to family are both common reasons. However, you will still need to demonstrate that it will be in the best interests of your minor children to relocate.

Contact Us

At the law 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 office is 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

She Claims I Am the Father of Her Child

Challenging Paternity in Texas

When you’ve had an intimate relationship with a woman and she’s pregnant, or has a child and claims it’s yours, what are your options when you are certain you’re not, or learn that it’s unlikely or questionable?

How Paternity is Established in Texas

Under Texas law, paternity can be established three different ways:

  • By presumption—If you were married to the mother at the time of birth, for a period of time before the birth, or simply lived with her continuously for two years prior to the birth, you are presumed to be the father. That presumption can, however, be challenged and you can voluntarily take a DNA paternity test to refute paternity.
  • By voluntary acknowledgement—You can sign a legally binding document known as an “Acknowledgement of Paternity.” If you obtain subsequent evidence that you may have signed the acknowledgement in error, you may be able to have it voided, based on the results of a DNA paternity test.
  • By court order—The mother, father or child (in limited circumstances) may ask the court to issue an order declaring paternity.

DNA Testing

Under modern DNA testing, paternity can be determined with a great deal of accuracy. Courts, though, typically require that the test find a 99% chance of paternity.

It is not necessary, though, to obtain a court order to have genetic DNA testing done. However, you will need biological information from both alleged parents.

Contact Us

At the law 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 office is 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

Late Child Support or Spousal Maintenance Payments — Your Options

What to Do When a Support Payment Is Late

Your ex-spouse is late with a child support payment or hasn’t paid the alimony ordered by the court. What are your options?

Using the Power of the Court to Get Relief

Because the obligation to pay child or spousal support has been ordered by the court, your ex-spouse’s failure to honor that commitment can be considered contempt of court. If your ex-spouse is found to be in contempt of court, he or she can be fined or can face jail time.

In the state of Texas, child support enforcement falls within the purview of the state’s attorney general. The attorney general’s office has a number of avenues through which to pursue unpaid child support obligations, including:

  • Income withholding orders that mandate that money be taken directly from the obligor’s paycheck. Such an order may apply to workers’ compensation benefits or unemployment compensation. The attorney general may also seek to attach any federal or state income tax refunds.
  • The attachment of assets owned by the obligor, to be sold or used to pay support arrearages.
  • The requirement that the obligor pay or put up a bond to cover potential support arrearages.
  • The suspension of a passport or other professional licenses.
  • Notification to credit reporting agencies of the arrearage.
  • Criminal prosecution with a potential fine and/or jail time.

Don’t Deny Visitation

In Texas, as in other states, the right to visitation is not conditioned upon being current on all child support obligations. If you try to deny the noncustodial parent the opportunity to spend time with a minor child, you can find yourself facing a contempt of court proceeding.

Questions About Late Child Support or Spousal Maintenance Payments — Your Options? Custody, Divorce, and Family Law Attorney, Baytown, Texas

Stewart Law, PLLC, located in Baytown, Texas, provides legal counsel to parents involved in relocation issues, child support and custody matters, divorce, and other family law cases. For an initial assessment and consultation, contact our family law firm online or call our office at (281) 420-8020, at a reduced fee of $50.

Life after Divorce — What Are Your Relocation Options?

Moving with Your Children after a Divorce in Texas

It’s not unusual these days after a divorce for an ex-spouse to want to relocate, either to take a new job, to be closer to family or just to get a fresh start. Maybe they plan to remarry and the future spouse lives in another part of the state or country.

In Texas, you can’t just pick up and move when there are minor children involved. Citing public policy that both seeks to assure that children have regular and continuing contact with both parents and that parents are encouraged to share the rights and duties of raising children, the legislature has put laws in place that allow relocation only when it is determined to be in the best interests of the minor children.

The “best interests of the children” must be established on a case-by-case basis, but courts in Texas and across the country will consider a broad range of factors when making the determination, including:

  • The age of the children
  • The reasons for (and against) the move
  • The nature of the child’s current relationship with each parent
  • The ability of the noncustodial parent to have frequent and continuing contact with the children
  • The effect a move will have on family relationships
  • The child’s extracurricular activities in the community

In most instances, the final divorce decree will prohibit the custodial parent from moving outside a predetermined area without the permission of the court. There is no set distance, as the court will look at the factors above and determine whether a move across the state or to another state will be in the best interests of the child.

Even if your divorce judgment is silent on the matter of relocation, you must still notify the noncustodial parent if you want to move away from the local area. The other parent may seek a temporary restraining order prohibiting you from moving until the court can hold a relocation hearing. At the court proceeding, you can provide information to demonstrate that moving will be in the best interests of your children, but ultimately the court will make that determination.

Questions About Life after Divorce — What Are Your Relocation Options? Custody, Divorce, and Family Law Attorney, Baytown, Texas

Stewart Law, PLLC, located in Baytown, Texas, provides legal counsel to parents involved in relocation issues, child support and custody matters, divorce, and other family law cases. If you have questions about how to stop your ex from moving away with your child, or other custody, divorce, or family law matters, we can give you advice that will help you decide how to proceed. For an initial assessment and consultation, contact our family law firm online or call our office at (281) 420-8020, at a reduced fee of $50.

What Happens When a Party Stops Paying Child Support?

The Impact of Not Paying Child Support in Texas

You may be a custodial parent wondering what your options are when your ex-spouse stops paying child support. Or, as the noncustodial parent, you may have lost your job or be unable to make child support payments for some other reason. This blog provides an overview of what can happen when a person stops making child support payments as ordered by a Texas court.

The Sanctions a Court May Impose for Nonpayment of Child Support

In Texas, the state attorney general’s office handles legal actions to enforce child support orders. Because the law in Texas requires that the noncustodial parent have child support withheld from his or her paycheck, as long as the noncustodial parent is working child support should be collected. However, if the noncustodial parent becomes unemployed or is self-employed, nonpayment issues may arise.

When a noncustodial parent stops making child support payments, that parent is technically in violation of a court order. This violation of a court order can be construed as contempt of court. Accordingly, the attorney general can take legal action, which could include criminal sanctions, if a nonpaying party is found to be in contempt of court.

Other actions that can be taken in response to the failure to pay child support include:

  • Interception of tax refunds — the attorney general may attach any state or federal income tax refunds
  • Suspension of driving privileges
  • Suspension of professional or business licenses
  • Suspension of passport
  • Attachment of any lottery winnings

It’s important to understand that the loss of a job does not have any impact on a child support order. To change a support order, you must request a modification from the court. Typically, unless you are without work for a significant period of time or can show that it is unlikely that you will return to work or will be able to find work, the court will not change your order. Instead, an arrearage will accrue.

Questions About What Happens When a Party Stops Paying Child Support? Custody, Divorce, and Family Law Attorney, Baytown, Texas

Stewart Law, PLLC, located in Baytown, Texas, provides legal counsel to parents involved in relocation issues, child support and custody matters, divorce, and other family law cases. If you have questions about how to stop your ex from moving away with your child, or other custody, divorce, or family law matters, we can give you advice that will help you decide how to proceed. For an initial assessment and consultation, contact our family law firm online or call our office at (281) 420-8020, at a reduced fee of $50.

Visitation Rights for Step-Parents

You love your stepchildren as if they were your own biological children. You nurtured them. You watched them grow. You celebrated their achievements. You picked the kids up. You fed them dinner. You worked the calendar. You loved them wholeheartedly. And now you’re getting a divorce.

How do you continue to maintain a loving relationship with your stepchildren after divorce? Are you scared that the divorce will spell the end of your relationship with your stepkids? What are the rights of stepparents when it comes to visitation with their stepchildren?

In the past, stepparents’ rights to visit their step children after a divorce didn’t really happen. However, with more than 50 percent of all marriage ending in divorce and an even higher percentage of second marriages ending in divorce, stepparents’ rights are part of the conversation of divorce these days.

Many states allow stepparents to seek visitation rights. Other states allow “interested third parties” to request visitation rights. Judges will look at factors that include these, when making a decision about granting you visitation rights:

  • How long have you played a parental role to the children?
  • How involved are you with the children on a day-to-day basis?
  • How close is the bond between you and the children?
  • What financial contributions have you made to the support of the children?
  • How much detriment or harm will come to the children if you are no longer involved in their daily lives?

This last, detriment, is especially critical when the biological parent does not want to allow you visitation access to the children. The judge will decide based on the other factors and how harmful it will be to the children not to have you in their lives. This is because the family law standard is to act in accordance with what is in the best interest of the children.

As you move toward the divorce, talk to your partner about visitation with the stepkids and how you can continue to play a role in the children’s lives. Ideally, the biological parent will support this idea for the children’s sake.

As for the children, no matter what happens, let them know how much you love them, how much you want to be in their lives, and that you are divorcing your partner, not them. Work hard to stay connected and levelheaded with your soon-to-be ex as that will help in fostering more continuity for the children.

Custody and Visitation, Divorce, Post-Divorce, and Family Law Attorney, Baytown, Texas

Stewart Law, PLLC, located in Baytown, Texas, provides legal counsel to parents and stepparents involved in issues relating to visitation and custody, enforcing a divorce decree, child support, divorce, and other family law cases. If you have questions about any family law matter, we can give you advice that will help you decide how to proceed. For an initial assessment and consultation, contact our family law firm online or call our office at
(281) 420-8020, at a reduced fee of $50.

 
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