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How to Tell Your Children You Are Getting a Divorce

How to Tell Your Children You Are Getting a Divorce

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Your children are pretty perceptive and they may be painfully aware that your marriage is in trouble, but that does little to prepare them for your decision to seek a divorce. They may have friends whose parents are divorced, and have a basic understanding of what it means. But you need to sit down with them and carefully explain what’s happening and what it will mean. Here are the important steps in informing your children:

Try to Find the Best Time, But Understand That There Will Never Be a Perfect Time

Don’t ever say anything to your children until a divorce complaint has been filed. The worst thing you can tell your children is that "mommy and daddy might be getting a divorce." That will leave your children in limbo, and they may try to figure out what they can do to prevent it from happening (they will likely try that anyway, but leaving things up in the air is particularly hard for them). The less time kids know about the impending divorce, the less time they will have to fret about it.

Don’t tell your children when you don’t have time to answer their questions and be with them. Don’t do it just before bed or when your child is about to head out the door for school or practice. They’ll need time to process it and you need to be there in the early stages.

Tell Your Children Together

If only one of you tells the children, that person will be perceived differently by the children, either as the victim or the perpetrator. In addition, if you tell the children separately, you will inevitably tell different versions of the story, which will serve to confuse the children.

Keep It Simple

Your children will want to know the reasons, but it’s counterproductive to start allocating blame in front of your kids. It’s best to say that "mommy and daddy believe that it’s best if they don’t live together anymore. Be ready to tell your children where they will live and what  visitation will look like, so they don’t worry that they won’t see one parent anymore (this is especially important with small children).

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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What Happens to Child Support if My Ex Moves to Another State?

When your divorce is final and you have a permanent child support order in place, you can usually relax, knowing that state enforcement officials will help you collect support, should your ex fall behind or stop paying. But what happens if your ex moves out of state? Does the state of Texas have the authority to collect child support payments from a non-resident?

A federal law, the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA), governs the enforcement of child support orders across state lines. Under the UIFSA, a party does not need to go to court in another state to enforce a child support order. Instead, the child’s home state has the authority to enter an initial support order and can obtain jurisdiction over a payer in another state.

Under the UIFSA, the court in a child’s home state must register the original support order with the court in the state where the non-custodial parent resides. Once that is done, though, the courts in the non-custodial parent’s state have full legal authority to take a number of actions to recover support, including:

  • Garnishment of wages
  • Suspension of business or professional license
  • Suspension of driving privileges
  • Seizure of property
  • Attachment of any tax refunds

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

Chameleon Kids

The Adaptability of Children in Divorce—Pros and Cons

The Adaptability of Children in Divorce—Pros and ConsIt’s pretty hard, most of the time, to be a child of divorce. Kids look to their parents for guidance, acceptance, love, support and instruction. When they get dramatically different signals from one parent, they can become confused, anxious and depressed. Often, as a defense mechanism, they will simply adapt—be what dad wants at dad’s house and what mom wants for mom. Experts say that there are benefits to learning some level of adaptability, but that kids who continually play different roles and wear different “masks” when with different parents ultimately struggle to find out who they really are.

Learning to Be Flexible

To successfully function in society, we all need to learn some level of flexibility—to learn that we can’t always behave the same way in every situation. You wouldn’t want your child to act the same way at a classical music performance or at a funeral that they would at a birthday party or a rock concert. Everyone is different, and it’s inevitable that dad will respond differently to some things than mom does, or that dad will attach more or less importance to some rule or behavior than mom does. Being exposed to that can help children prepare for situations that are different or where circumstances are not as expected.

Children who are expected or believe that they must behave very differently when with different parents tend to become extremely vulnerable to peer pressure and abuse. They can associate the failure to adapt with a fear of abandonment or rejection. They may associate with peers, not because they have much in common, but because they feel sorry for those kids or they are simply afraid to be alone. The other common problem with over-adaptive kids is the inability to make decisions. They tend to believe that the parent with whom they are staying controls the agenda, so they often engage in a game of trying to guess what the parent wants, instead of expressing their own opinion or answering a question honestly.

Contact Stewart Law, PLLC

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 10 years of experience to clients in south Texas.

Concerns about Over-Adapting

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

Guidelines for Social Media Use during Divorce

Social Media and Divorce: Playing It Smart

Guidelines for Social Media Use during DivorceIf social media is a big part of your life, you have likely used it to share information about nearly every aspect of your life, and to keep friends and family up to date on how you are doing. But if you are going through a divorce, you need to be very careful about what you say and how you appear online. Here are some strategies to avoid potential problems through social media during a divorce.

  • Don’t use social media to air dirty laundry, vent against your ex or try to gain favor in your divorce proceeding. The old adage “anything you say can and will be used against you in court”—it applies to what you say on Facebook, too.
  • Create separate circles—If you have “friends” on Facebook who might share with your ex, put them in a separate circle and don’t share private information with them.
  • Consider that almost anything you do may be used against you—Need to post pictures of yourself at a concert or bar, or out shopping? Think about how it might play in court. Could your ex use it against you, perhaps to support an argument that you had substance abuse issues or that you were financially irresponsible.
  • Think about your safety—If you have been in an abusive relationship, you may want to keep a low profile. Posting pictures of yourself at a favorite hangout can tip your ex off as to where he or she can find you.

The best approach, though, is to simply be willing to close your social media accounts until your divorce is final. You may wonder how you can do it, but people have actually been able to communicate with each other for thousands of years before the advent of the Internet. It will assure that nothing you say or do on social media will come back to harm you.

Contact Stewart Law, PLLC

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 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

Common Law Marriage and Divorce in Texas

Common Law Marriage and Divorce—Saying I Do without Really Saying “I Do”

Common Law Marriage and Divorce—Saying I Do without Really Saying “I Do”Currently, Texas is one of nine remaining states that sanction the concept of “common law marriage.” Essentially, common law marriage means that the state (and the law) recognize two people as being married, even though the parties may never have had a formal ceremony or exchanged vows. The practice is a carryover from old English tradition, where rural couples without access to a priest or official would live as a married couple and hold themselves out to the community as husband and wife.

Common Law Marriage

Texas validates common law marriages, provided you either:

  • File a certificate at your county courthouse swearing that you are married under the common law, or
  • Live with another person and hold yourself out to the community as husband and wife

For a common law marriage to be valid in Texas, both parties must be over the age of 18 at the time the marriage is declared, and both parties must voluntarily agree that they are married. The law requires that you live together in a residence that you both consider to be your home, though there is no specific amount of time required. You must hold yourself out to the community as married, typically referring to yourselves as Mr. and Mrs., or as husband and wife.

Divorce after Common Law Marriage

If your common law marriage was validated by filing a formal certificate in court, you must obtain a formal divorce to terminate all rights under the marriage. If, however, you never filed a certificate, you may not need to file for divorce, provided you can show that one of the four conditions to a common law marriage was not met. For example, if you allege that even though you held yourself out to the community as husband and wife, you never voluntarily agreed to consider yourself married, you may be able to simply terminate the relationship.

Contact Stewart Law, PLLC

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 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

Can I Get Back Child Support to the Date of Birth?

Retroactive Child Support—When Does the Obligation Start?

In Texas, the custodial parent of a minor child has a right to pursue child support from the non-custodial parent, whether they were married or not. Especially in cases where the alleged parents were not married, and there are no divorce proceedings, it can be months before the mother asks the court for an order of child support. If the court grants the request, when will the obligation to pay support begin? Will the court automatically include support from the date of birth of the child?

Married vs. Unmarried Parties

If the parents were married, the court will usually order support effective to the date of separation or filing of a divorce complaint.

If the parties were not married, the court has the discretion to order support as of the date of the birth of the child. The court can also require that the non-custodial parent pay some portion of medical expenses associated with the birth of the child, including pre-natal exams and hospital/delivery costs, provided those expenses are not covered by insurance. As a general rule, though, Texas courts typically do not order retroactive child support for a period of more than four years.

Retroactive support is not automatically granted, though. If the custodial parent does not ask for retroactive support, the court will typically not grant it.

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

Someone Called Social Services on Me

What to Do if Someone Calls Social Services on You

You get a notice in the mail or a phone call, or worse yet, a child protective services social worker shows up at your door. How do you best protect yourself?

If you get written notice or a phone call, your first step should be to contact an attorney. If you received a communication by telephone, keep the conversation short and don’t agree to anything. Advise them that you will have your attorney contact them.

If a child services social worker comes to your home unannounced, remember that you don’t have to let them in, unless they have a law enforcement officer with them and have a valid search warrant. This is highly unlikely, as the reason a social worker has come to your home is usually to obtain enough evidence to support an action against you. Tell them that they may not come in, ask for contact information, and advise them that you will have your attorney contact them. Don’t say anything more.

If you know or have reason to know that you have been reported to child protective services, you should start to document everything:

  • Keep a file with copies of all documents received from social services
  • Take pictures of your home, your children or anything that may be related to the investigation
  • If you are contacted by a social worker, send that social worker a follow-up letter documenting exactly what happened during any meeting or conversation.
  • Obtain a video camera, if possible, and be prepared to tape any interview or conversation with a social services worker

Be careful in all dealings with any representatives of child protective services. It may seem like they are trying to be helpful, that they understand your concerns, but they are often looking for any evidence to present against you in a hearing in court.

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

 
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