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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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.

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Common Visitation Mistakes

Visitation Mistakes Parents Often Make

Divorce and visitation are really hard on kids. As a parent, you don’t want to make a difficult situation even worse. Unfortunately, many custodial and non-custodial parents do just that. Here are some of the worst things you can do with visitation.

  • Use visitation as a tool to either punish or reward your ex-spouse—This applies to both sides. Custodial parents may falsely claim that children are sick. Non-custodial parents may claim they are unable to take children as agreed upon. In both instances, the children become pawns and they know it.
  • Use the time when children are picked up to discuss difficult issues—Disagreement is a part of life, but it doesn’t have to take place in front of your children. If you have a conflict that is between you and your ex-spouse, don’t discuss it in front of your children. They usually lack the development to understand that a simple disagreement won’t lead to a serious result.
  • Make your children feel guilty about visiting 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 are inclined to feel responsible and guilty for leaving.
  • 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.

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.

 
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