Protecting Your Family's Future
 

Understanding the Best Interests of the Child in a Texas Family Law Dispute

Understanding the Best Interests of the Child in a Texas Family Law Dispute

In Texas, when there are unresolved legal issues as part of a divorce, and there are minor children who will be affected by the ways those controversies are settled, the courts are guided by the principle known as the “best interests of the child.” Accordingly, the court must give priority to an outcome that best serves the emotional, physical and mental needs of the child.

For example, when establishing conservatorship and access (formerly known as custody and visitation), the court may grant sole legal and physical conservatorship to one parent, or may confer joint legal and physical conservatorship to both parents. As a practical matter, the court always seeks to encourage participation and involvement by both parents in the growth and development of minor children, but may opt to limit one parent’s access if there has been physical abuse, substance abuse or other violations of the law.

best interests of the child

When determining the best interests of the child, the court will typically look at a number of factors, including:

  • The demonstrated ability of each parent to nurture and raise children
  • The stability of each parent’s home and work life
  • The future plans each parent may have for the child
  • The willingness of each parent to support the child’s relationship with the other parent
  • The child’s physical and emotional needs

In addition, if the child is more than 12 years of age, the court may factor in the child’s preferences.

Contact Us

At the family 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 281-761-6042 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.

Se Habla Espanol | ASL and ESL Services Also Available

Establishing Paternity in Texas

Establishing Paternity in Texas

Whether you are the “putative” father or the biological mother of a child either born out of wedlock or with disputed parentage in Texas, there can be significant reasons to either confirm or refute paternity. A determination of paternity essentially identifies who is (or is not) the legal father, and confers rights on both the legal father and the mother of the child. The father will have the opportunity to petition the court for reasonable visitation, and even custody, if circumstances warrant. The mother can use the establishment of paternity to obtain an order of child support. Establishing paternity in Texas requires the help of a family law attorney.

In Texas, there is a presumption that a child born to a married couple is the offspring of that couple. If the parties agree that they are the parents, paternity is automatically established. However, if the parties are not married at the birth of the child, or if there are allegations of marital infidelity, the child will have no legal father until paternity is determined.

Establishing Paternity in Texas

The Ways Paternity Can Be Determined in Texas

The Lone Star State allows paternity to be confirmed either voluntarily or involuntarily. If both parties agree on paternity, they can sign a document called an “Acknowledgement of Paternity.” Most hospitals carry the form. After it’s signed, it will be sent to the Vital Statistics Unit in Austin, and the legal father’s name will be listed on the birth certificate.

Involuntary determinations of paternity are always done through a court. Either party can file a “Petition to Adjudicate Parentage,” and the court will hold a hearing to gather evidence. If either party denies paternity (or is uncertain about paternity), the court can order DNA testing. If the court establishes paternity, it will issue an order adjudicating parentage, granting all rights as a legal father.

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.

Se Habla Espanol | ASL and ESL Services Also Available

Modifying a Support Order in Texas

Modifying a Support Order in Texas

Change is a constant in life, and that applies in divorce as well. When your divorce is finalized, the court will carefully determine the amount of child support that needs to be paid. But circumstances may render that order ineffective. The payer may become unemployed or be forced to take a job with less pay. The needs of the child may increase. Fortunately, while it can be difficult to modify a child support order, they are not set in stone, and can be amended in certain situations. Contact a Baytown family law attorney for assistance with modifying a support order in Texas.

Either parent in a divorce can petition the court to change the amount of child support being paid. To qualify to modify the payment amount, however, the parent seeking the change must show that the circumstances of the child, or of either of the parents, has changed substantially since the support order was issued.

Support Order in Texas

If more than three years have elapsed since the current order was put in place, the party requesting a modification of the support order must demonstrate that the amount that would be ordered under current guidelines would different by a minimum of 20% or $100 from the amount initially ordered. Accordingly, a payer seeking a change must show a 20% reduction and a recipient must be able to show a 20% increase.

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, our 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.

Se Habla Espanol | ASL and ESL Services Also Available

Frequently Asked Questions about Child Support in Texas

Frequently Asked Questions about Child Support in Texas

If you are involved in a divorce in Texas and there are minor children involved, you need to understand your rights with respect to child support, whether you are the payer or the recipient. Our Baytown family law attorney answers some of the most common questions parents of divorce have with respect to the payment of child support in Texas.

How Is Child Support Calculated?

The first step in determining the amount of child support to be paid is to establish net income for the payer. Net income includes wages, salary, rental income, retirement income, disability income, commissions, tips, bonuses, dividends and interest and trust income. It can also include alimony from a previous marriage. The following expenses are then deducted from that total:

  • Social Security and federal income taxes
  • Union dues
  • Health insurance costs and medical expenses incurred for minor children

Once the net income is calculated, you multiply that number by a specific percentage, based on the number of children for whom support will be paid. For one child, it’s 20% of the net income, and it increases by 5% for each additional child, up to a maximum of 40%.

Child Support in Texas

How Long Does It Take Before Child Support Payments Start?

The amount of time it takes depends on a variety of factors. If the payer is employed and can be located, and you have a Social Security number, you can ask the court to issue an administrative withholding order. This goes directly to the payer’s employer, who then withholds the amount due from the payer’s wages and pays it directly to the state’s child support enforcement agency, or to a local registry, which then sends it to the custodial parent. Customarily, that will happen within two t0 four weeks. The child support order is retroactive to the date the divorce is filed, so it’s not unusual for a payer to start with an arrearage, which can typically be paid off over time.

If I Am Being Denied Visitation, Do I Still Have to Pay Support?

Absolutely! Under Texas law, support is not conditional on access to your children. If your ex is in violation of the court order regarding visitation, you need to file an enforcement action.

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.

Se Habla Espanol | ASL and ESL Services Also Available

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.

Se Habla Espanol | ASL and ESL Services Also Available

Moving Forward after a Divorce

Moving Forward After a Divorce

In the aftermath of a divorce, you can be ready for a new life and a new direction. Here are some recommendations to help you put the past behind you and get on with your life. If you need help moving forward after a divorce, contact a Baytown family law attorney today.

Open New Financial Accounts

You should actually do this as soon as you know you are going to be a party to a divorce proceeding. Once you start putting your money into your own separate account, your ex won’t have access to it. You should also close any joint accounts you had during your marriage.

Close All Credit Card Accounts

Terminate any joint credit cards immediately and consider whether you want to open new accounts. Your finances may be unstable for a little while, so you may want to operate primarily on a cash basis until you have a greater sense of security and stability. In addition, divorce can be an emotional time—if you are prone to spending money in response to emotional trauma, you might be better served not opening a new credit card.

Moving Forward after a Divorce

Change Your Beneficiaries

If your ex is named as a beneficiary on any type of insurance policy, IRA, retirement plan or in a will, contact the provider and change the beneficiary immediately. With respect to insurance, you may want to obtain a life insurance policy on your ex (owned by your ex) to cover alimony or child support in the event of his or her premature death. In addition, if you have a will or trust, you want to meet with a lawyer to change the provisions.

Notify any Government Agencies

The IRS and the Social Security Administration should be notified of your divorce.

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, our divorce 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.

Se Habla Espanol | ASL and ESL Services Also Available

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.

Se Habla Espanol | ASL and ESL Services Also Available

Officials Say Vehicle Registration Ban is Helping with Collection of Back Child Support

Child Support

Last September, the Texas State Attorney General’s Office put parents with child support delinquencies on notice that their vehicle registrations would be denied unless they had entered into agreements to catch up arrearages. In December, the state actually started denying requests for renewals by parents in arrears. Officials say that the program has already paid dividends, with more than $160,000 in back child support collected since notice of the program was publicized in September.

According to state officials, more than 500 non-custodial parents have been notified that their vehicle registrations may be denied. Those notices resulted in payments made on more than 600 child support cases.

Texas has long been the national leader in collecting child support payments—the state has ranked first in total dollars collected for the last nine years. But not everyone agrees that the tactics used in Texas are appropriate. Opponents point out that, for most Texans, a vehicle is essential to get to work. By denying a non-custodial parent the right to renew a vehicle registration, the state may be putting the parent’s job in jeopardy. If the parent cannot work, he or she can’t earn any money.

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.

Se Habla Espanol | ASL and ESL Services Also Available

Texas Implements New Process to Improve Payment of Child Support

Texas-Implements-New-Process-to-Improve-Payment-of-Child-Support

Earlier this month, the state Attorney General’s office sent out notices to every non-custodial parent in the state who is behind on child support payments. It’s all part of a new process whereby delinquent parents can have their vehicle registration blocked if they are behind in child support payments by more than six months. Officials at the Department of Motor Vehicles say they will start denying delinquent parents in December.

Under the Texas Family Code, a delinquent parent may lose his or drivers license, as well as a professional license. This approach, however, is not without its critics, as many family law attorneys say that non-custodial parents typically need to drive to be able to work and pay child support. They also say that the Attorney General’s office can be very slow in reinstating parents who get back on track. Opponents of the measure also say that it makes visitation extremely difficult when the non-custodial parent cannot drive.

The state of Texas is typically at or near the top in terms of collection of child support payments, leading the nation for the last decade.

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

What Your Adopted Child Would Like You to Know

What-Your-Adopted-Child-Would-Like-You-To-Know

Often, in the adoption process, the adults speak to each other, get to know each other and make a decision to move forward based on their conversations. When the child is an infant, that’s the only available option. But what if the prospective adopted child could talk to you and tell you what they need? How might that change the process? Here’s what many adopted children say they would tell potential adoptive parents.

Don’t Assume That My Life Was Bad

Many adoptive parents think that children who are up for adoption must have been mistreated, must have suffered, and must have been sad or depressed. As a result, they have the mistaken belief that those children will now be “happy,” as they are with a “good” family. While many adoptees do come from troubled homes, not all do. Even those that do will experience a sense of loss when taken from a birthparent. The best thing you can do is provide a safe place where the child can feel and express all of his or her emotions.

Don’t Whitewash the Past

Regardless of what it is, your adopted child needs to know his or her story. If you aren’t open and honest with them, they’ll create their own story, and it may have no relationship with the truth. There’s an inescapable sense of loss when a child is adopted, and that sense of loss can only be mitigated when the child fully understands and talks about who he or she is. When your child is young, you’ll probably hear the story over and over—it’s how kids process at that age. Be patient and let it feel natural to them.

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

 
Left Menu Icon
Stewart Law PLLC