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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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The Consequences of Lying to Your Children in a Divorce

It Doesn’t Pay to Lie to Your Children

The Consequences of Lying to Your Children in a DivorceMost parents would agree with the statement that it’s not a good thing to lie to your children. Unfortunately, most research shows that children learn to lie by observing their parents. Often, the parent who doesn’t tell his or her child the truth is acting out of perceived attempts to protect the child. A parent may worry that the child lacks the resources to fully understand an issue, and may tell the child that nothing’s wrong, when it’s clear that something is. The message to the child—it’s okay to lie in certain situations. The other potential side-effect of not telling your child the truth—he or she may start to doubt his or her perceptions or may stop trusting you.

So does that mean you reveal all the gory details of everything in your life to your child. No, say experts. For example, if you are upset about something and it’s apparent to your child, you may get the question, “Are you okay?” “I’m fine” is clearly not an honest answer. But you don’t have to disclose the full nature of your unhappiness. It can be enough to say to your child, “Thanks for noticing that I am upset. I will be okay. I just need to take care of some things.”

It’s also healthy to help you children understand that sadness and disappointment are part of life. If you acknowledge to your child that something makes you sad, but you have the ability to move forward, you child will learn that the same approach is possible for them. And when you make a mistake, don’t be afraid to admit it to your child. It will encourage them to be candid with you when they’ve done something wrong.

A common misperception is that kids don’t know what’s going on unless you tell them. The reality is that kids are far more sensitive to changes in routine, tone of voice, level of confidence and happiness than they are usually given credit for. They know when mom and dad aren’t talking to each other, or even when they are being testy with each other. They know something is different if you are a parent of divorce and you have a new girlfriend or boyfriend, even if you haven’t told them.

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

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

Change Your Will after a Divorce

Change Your Will after a Divorce

Change Your Will after a DivorceIn the midst of the many emotions that come with divorce, one of the last things you often think about is what will happen to your property in the event of your death. But you need to attend to it as soon as possible. If you have put a will or trust in place, naming your soon-to-be ex as the beneficiary, there’s a good chance they will inherit a part of your estate, should something happen to you. If you don’t specifically name your ex-spouse, but simply state that you leave certain property to “my spouse,” your property may ultimately go to others (since your ex is no longer your spouse), but your heirs could face a long and expensive battle to accomplish that end.

Tear Up the Existing Will or Trust

The simplest way to invalidate the terms of a will or trust is to destroy it. When you execute a will or trust, you will have only one authentic copy of the document—the one with your original signature on it. Typically, you’ll put it in a safe deposit box or leave it with your attorney for safekeeping. If you tear up the document, it should no longer be binding. However, if others don’t know of your intent to revoke the will, a copy may potentially be used to show your intent. The other potential problem with simply revoking or tearing up your existing will—if you die, your estate will pass under laws of intestacy.

Your best move, then, is to prepare and execute a new will or trust, one that specifically revokes all prior wills and trusts. You can use one of the many simple will forms found online—provided they comply with the formality requirements of your state. You are generally best-served, though, by hiring an attorney to prepare and execute a new will for 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

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

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

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

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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