Have you been searching for tips on how you stay married or keep your marriage intact?

I have based my marriage on five tips that have helped build my marriage foundation and these tips have stayed intact my seven years of marriage. I will give you a tip a month on how I stay married and hope it works for you.

Tip #1:
1. Bonding with your spouse and making them a priority

Marriage is difficult. We tend to put our spouses on the back burner when life and work becomes hectic. However, if we make our spouse a priority and bond with them, we can eliminate the feeling of insecurity and loss of connection. Every spouse wants to feel like they are most important and desires to keep the foundation of a close relationship with their spouse.

The definition of bonding is “a formation of a close relationship especially through frequent or constant association.”

My spouse and I are extremely busy during the week and sometimes only see each other at night for about 10 minutes before one of us falls asleep. We have recognized that the more time we spend apart the more we argue over the little things, which then turn into big things. I am at fault most of the time with making school and work a priority, and not making him a priority during the week. My inability to give us back our connection that we have when we are spending time together plays a HUGE roll in our disagreements.

My Suggestion:  Carve out at least an hour out of your busy schedule to eat dinner with your spouse or just to talk. Making your spouse feel important and bonding with them makes a difference and gives them peace of mind. It will make your week better knowing that you are still connected and dedicating time to them.

Always remember, “If things get tough, remember the journey you started together. Remember why you first fell in love. Don’t give up easily.” – Unknown

Disclaimer:   I am not a counselor. These are just suggestive tips that I have found work for me and my spouse and how we stay married.

The answer to this question is plain and simple – when you believe that the safety and welfare of your children will be jeopardized if you choose to compromise. Let’s be honest, when it comes to divorce emotions run high and all too often parties get hung up on titles or on “besting” the other parent to the detriment of their children. A zero-sum game framework is not conducive to a healthy co-parenting relationship.

The number one issue that parties get hung up on is who gets to designate the primary residence of the children. The parent with this right is generally referred to as the primary conservator. This parent gets to designate the primary residence of the children and generally is also the parent who will receive child support. This is certainly an important right, but in practical application it may mean much less than you think. This is because conservatorship in Texas consists of two parts, the rights and duties and possession and access. Just because a party has the right to designate the primary residence of the children does not mean that they have the exclusive right to make all other decisions for your children. All of the other rights listed below can be designated either exclusively to one parent, joint (decision must be made together), or independent (each parent can make the decisions on their own), so just because you are not the primary conservator does not mean that you do not get to have a say in important parenting decisions.

  • the right to consent to medical, dental, and surgical treatment involving invasive procedures;
  • the right to consent to psychiatric and psychological treatment of the children;
  • the right to receive and give receipt for periodic payments for the support of the children and to hold or disburse these funds for the benefit of the children;
  • the right to represent the children in legal action and to make other decisions of substantial legal significance concerning the children;
  • the right to consent to marriage and to enlistment in the armed forces of the United States;
  • the right to make decisions concerning the children’s education;
  • except as provided by section 264.0111 of the Texas Family Code, the right to the services and earnings of the children;
  • except when a guardian of the children’s estates or a guardian or attorney ad litem has been appointed for the children, the right to act as an agent of the children in relation to the children’s estates if the children’s action is required by a state, the United States, or a foreign government; and
  • the duty to manage the estates of the children to the extent the estates have been created by community property or the joint property of the parent.

Further, if you ask for an expanded standard possession schedule the time each parent gets to spend with the children is nearly even. With an expanded standard possession schedule, possession and access begins and ends at the time the children start and are dismissed from school. So, instead of picking up the children at 6:00 PM on Friday and dropping them off on Sunday at 6:00 PM, you will pick them up at school on Friday afternoon and return them to school on Monday morning. This gives you one extra overnight period of possession. Additionally, instead of having the children for Thursday dinners during the school year from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM that same evening, you get the children from the time they are released from school on Thursday until they return to school on Friday morning every week during the regular school year.

With all of the above in mind, at the end of the day if you believe that the safety and welfare of your children will be endangered if you compromise on a specific issue, then compromise may not be in your children’s best interest. Attorney’s fees can get expensive, but it is better to address certain issues during a divorce rather than trying to modify an order later. On modification, you have the burden to show that there has been a material change in circumstances since the underlying order. So you cannot introduce evidence of things that took place prior to the divorce, except in very limited circumstances. Therefore, if you do not bring up an issue during the divorce, you may not have the opportunity to later. Further, if it wasn’t important enough for you to bring up in the initial proceedings, it isn’t likely the Court is going to ask why it is important enough to modify an order after the fact.

In sum, there may be times that you need to dig in your heels because it will benefit your children in the long run, but it is important to always weigh the costs and benefits of a certain course of action before pursing the same. At the end of the day, if both parties are excellent parents and have the ability to care for their children, fighting for the sake of besting the other parent will only negatively impact your children.

Contemplating filing for divorce or learning that your spouse filed a petition for divorce can be overwhelming.  Aside from the emotional component, a divorce will touch every aspect of a party’s life, from where they will live to how to divide up family pictures.  It is common for people to reach out to both the internet and their family and friends to begin to figure out what their rights are under Texas Law.  However, it is important to remember that every case is different, and laws change.  So where should one look and how helpful can these sources be?

Internet Sources

There are a couple of great sites on the internet which may be useful with respect to your divorce.  If you have children, the Attorney General of Texas’s Child Support Division website is a wealth of information for parents who are getting divorced and need to figure out child support and the issues that go along with it.  Other sites can also provide information on conservatorship, rights and duties, and possession and access.  Specifically, there is a lot of information online about a standard possession order which is presumed to be in a child’s best interest.  With respect to property, there are plenty of sources of basic concepts of Texas law, such as community property principles.

These sources can be a great resource to begin to think about what issues one may need to explore in a consultation with an attorney or in discussion with your spouse.  However, for both property and child related issues, it is extremely important to remember that each case is fact-driven and that there are reasons that standards may not apply to your case, for property, possession, access and even child support.  Additionally, some of these sources may be out-of-date.

Family and Friends

Oftentimes, people will reach out to families and friends who have gone through a divorce for advice and comfort.  While family and friends can provide a lot of information, it is imperative that you remember that each case may be different and that their situation is likely different from yours.  It is not always easy for either the party going through the divorce or the person sharing their experience to be completely forthcoming about the bad facts that may have impacted their case.  No one is perfect, and everyone has bad facts, but discussing them with your family and friends may not be advisable, especially if the divorce will be very contentious and they may be called as witnesses later.

Familiarizing yourself with basic concepts and common issues in cases like yours can make the process seem less overwhelming and make consultation with an attorney more productive and focused.  Just remember that these sources of information should be used as a resource only and that they should not be the source of your legal advice.

For more information, please consult an attorney to discuss the issue.

Below are a list of resources that can help you begin searching your topic and find answers to the many questions you have about your family law case.

Tyla.com

TYLA stands for Texas Young Lawyers’ Association. This is a great resource for the general public as well as a resource for “young lawyers,” those with 5 or less years as an attorney.  The resources section of tyla.com has pamphlets, videos, and other materials where one can research a certain topic for a better understanding of the subject matter, as well as the procedure of that area in the Texas Court system.  Each article is dated so you can rest assured the information is current.

Texaslawhelp.com

This website offers Harris County specific instructions for family law topics and also how to navigate the Harris County Family law court system.  The handbook, although from September 2016, is a useful resource with a question and answer format and separated subjects within family law so one can find the most frequent questions and answers regarding their certain issue within family law and specifically within Harris County.  Sub-topics are listed at the top of the home page, including Court How-To’s with an interactive tool kit with step by step instructions.

Texascourthelp.org

This is a website geared to help you navigate the Texas Court system.  When utilizing the resources tab, there is a list of helpful websites and resources, including texasbar.com to help you find a lawyer, texasforms.com to help you draft simple legal forms and links to the Texas Law Library as well as links for alternative dispute resolution and mediation.

Houston Law School Legal Clinics

Texas has the second most law schools in one state, just behind California, and Houston has three of them.  All three law schools have some form of a legal clinic, where law students can perform simple cases under the supervision of an experienced attorney and professor.  If you qualify, utilize the legal clinics at one of your local law schools.  You are able to receive legal aid at no cost to you and you also are helping the next generation of lawyers.

It is February and that means love is in the air. Valentine’s Day means candy and flowers for adults, but you don’t want to forget the kids! For children going through and caught in the middle of their parents’ divorce, it is an extra important to remind them they are loved and cherished. Try sending a sweet note in their lunch box, use a heart shaped cookie cutter to cut their sandwich, make a special dinner for you and the kids, or stay in and have a carpet picnic or movie night. You can even take them out on a one-on-one date. It doesn’t have to be a five-star restaurant; just being together will make it more special. You could potentially help them create cards for their siblings. Think about being crafty with their valentine cards, decorative cute little card boxes and fun treats for school!

Valentine’s Day is filled with so much excitement and celebration for the kids at school. It is excitement for them and perhaps a little pressure for the parent to try to come up with cute ideas. Be creative! If you search the internet, you can find printable valentines and tons more. If you want to go the extra mile, spend time with your child creating homemade treats for their classmates. This bonding can be fun, and it doesn’t have to be expensive or even intimidating. Kids still get excited at elementary school parties dumping out their Valentine’s Day box to see their cards and enjoying all the treats. It is certainly an excuse to let you kids eat as much candy and junk food as they want – just make sure they brush their teeth extra well that night! Below are some great ideas to make with your children. You not only get to spend quality time by creating something together, you also get to help ensure their class party is a little extra special this year. The only thing that truly matters is that they know they are loved this Valentine’s Day and every day.

  1. Chocolate Covered Strawberry Hearts

http://onelittleproject.com/chocolate-covered-strawberry-hearts/

  1. Valentine’s Marshmallow Pops

http://www.glorioustreats.com/2011/02/valentines-marshmallow-pops.html

  1. Strawberry Roses

https://www.spendwithpennies.com/how-to-make-strawberry-roses/

  1. Apple Sandwich hearts

http://www.happytogetherbyjess.com/hearts-in-apple-sandwich/

  1. Heart rice krispie pops

https://www.skiptomylou.org/heart-rice-krispie-pops/

  1. Fruit kabobs

https://shmallergy.wordpress.com/2012/02/13/cupids-arrows-valentines-day-fruit-kabobs/

  1. Red velvet sandwich cookies

http://www.bakerella.com/easy-and-easier-valentine-treats/

  1. Chocolate sticks

http://www.superziper.com/2011/01/palitinhos-de-chocolate.html

  1. Valentine’s bark

https://lilluna.com/valentines-bark/

  1. Dipped and decorated pretzels

http://www.5minutesformom.com/49632/kid-friendly-dipped-and-decorated-pretzels-for-valentines-day/

  1. Pink Fuzzy Monster Cupcakes

http://thecakeblog.com/2014/01/diy-love-bug-cupcakes.html

  1. Chocolate Sprinkle Donuts

https://www.lovefromtheoven.com/valentines-day-donuts/

  1. Valentine’s Brownies

https://www.itsalwaysautumn.com/shot-house-valentines-brownies.html

  1. Home made Pop Tarts

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/213567/home-made-top-tarts/?internalSource=streams&referringId=1417&referringContentType=recipe%20hub&clickId=st_trending_b

  1. Chocolate Chip Cookie Heats

https://princesspinkygirl.com/chocolate-chip-cookie-hearts/

  1. Marbled Valentine Sugar Cookies

https://www.bakedbyrachel.com/marbled-valentine-sugar-cookies/

  1. Valentine’s Day Ladybug Oreo Treats

http://formodernkids.com/valentines-day-ladybug-oreo-treats/

  1. Valentine’s Day Chocolate Teddy Bear Bites

https://productivepete.com/2018/01/17/make-chocolate-teddy-bear-bites/

  1. Valentine’s Candy Dog

http://kidfriendlythingstodo.com/2018/01/valentines-candy-dog-fun-kids-craft-treat/

  1. Valentine’s Day Popcorn

http://www.twosisterscrafting.com/valentines-day-popcorn/

These are not only adorable but also look delicious and something your kids class with certainly love to eat on to help celebrate the day! I can promise you that they will certainly remember the time spent together to make their Valentine’s Day all the more special for a while to come.

During this chapter in your life there is going to be situation that arise during your divorce that you are unsure how to handle or address with your young child or teen. This is a confusing time for your young child or teen with them trying to understand what is happening and what is a divorce, understanding their feelings about the current situation, and coming to terms that the two people they love the most will no longer be under one roof.  Giving your young child or teen available resources to better assistant them with understanding the situation and prepare them for what is two come. Children and teens need reassurance that they are not alone during this time and even though everyone won’t be together in the same home, they still have both parents, and they are loved.

Are you facing a situation at home where you child thinks the divorce is their fault, questioning why they are going to have two homes, or just overall trying to understand what is happening between their parents? As a parent, you want to reassure your child that what currently is progressing is not their fault and give them the knowledge that both parents will continue to spend time with them and love them. Below are a few books for children ranging between the ages of 3 – 12 years old to help them understand why they now have two homes instead of one, releasing that divorce is not their fault, and helping them realize they are not alone.

  • Two Homes

By: Claire Masural (Author) &  Kady MacDonald Denton (Illustrator)

Available on Amazon:

  • Standing on My Own Two Feet: A Child’s Affirmation of Love in the Midst of Divorce

By: Tamara Schmitz

Available on Amazon:

  • When My Parents Forgot How to Be Friends (Let’s Talk About It!)

By: Jennifer Moore-Mallinos (Author) & Marta Fabrega (Illustrator)

Available on Amazon:

  • Living with Mom and Living with Dad

By: Melanie Walsh

Available on Amazon:

  • Was It the Chocolate Pudding?:A Story For Little Kids About Divorce

By: Sandra Levins and Bryan Langdo

Available on Amazon:

  • Divorce Is Not the End of the World: Zoe’s and Evan’s Coping Guide for Kids

By: Zoe Stern & Evan Stern

Available on Amazon:

Teenagers are feeling new emotions called puberty and navigating the new unknown world of either middle school or high school, trying to find where they belong. For some teenagers, divorce might not be something they emotionally can comprehend or even fully understand, while they are undergoing their current transition themselves. Providing a resource to your teenager might enable them to better organize their emotions and thoughts on the process. Below are a few suggestions to help your teen understand divorce and the changes that are about to occur in their lives.

  • Now What Do I Do?: A Guide to Help Teenagers with Their Parents’ Separation or Divorce

By: Lynn Cassella-Kapusinski

Available on Amazon:

 

  • Divorce Helpbook for Teens (Rebuilding Books)

By: Cynthia MacGregor

Available on Amazon:

 

  • The Bright Side: Surviving Your Parents’ Divorce

By: Max Sindell

Available on Amazon:

 

Disclaimer: Please note that we have not read the suggested books above but have recommended them based on the synopsis and reviews.

Sex Change Impact On Divorce

“My spouse has transitioned from one gender to another during our marriage, how does that impact our divorce?” For purposes of this question, I am assuming that the spouses were of opposite gender on the date of marriage, as the issue of same-sex marriage in Texas is best left for another entry and could confuse the issues here.

The truth is, that such a question depends on a very fact specific analysis of the history of your relationship, as is the case with almost every issue that can arise in a divorce.

If there are no children, then the answer is, there is not an impact based solely on the fact that your spouse transitioned.  You and your spouse would be divorced, just as any other couple married in Texas.  In regards to the division of property, transitioning alone is not a statutory basis for which a party could request the court to award a disproportionate share of the division of assets.

If there are children, then the answer is, there could be an impact.  Just like any issue in a marriage with children, the court could take into consideration how the parties addressed such a transition with their children and/or the impact on the children.  Although we have no caselaw in Texas regarding a custody dispute involving a transgender parent, it is important to note that the best interest of the child standard includes an examination of the following factors:

  1. Which party can best provide for the child’s physical, psychological, and emotional needs and development;
  2. The cooperation between the parents; and
  3. The child’s preferences.

These are just a few items that the court may consider, but should demonstrate why this is a case and fact specific analysis.

For more information, please consult an attorney to discuss the issue.

Divorce with a Disabled Child

When contemplating the need to file for divorce, it can seem like a daunting task.  Just finding the right attorney for your case can be intimidating in and of itself.  So, when adding additional stresses, such as a child with disabilities, a divorce can not only be overwhelming, but seemingly impossible.

At Ramos Law Group, PLLC, we are here to help, with a list of the top five mistakes you can make during a divorce when you have a disabled child.

1)   Not making a finding of disability in the Final Decree of Divorce

It is so important to have the child’s treating physician or a medical professional make a determination of disability that can then be included in the Final Decree of Divorce.  For example, say you have a child with Asperger’s and when the child turns 18, you want to continue child support based off his disability and continued medical care, but your ex-spouse states that your child is just anti-social and that there is really nothing wrong with him.  What happens?  You’re back in Court fighting for child support and having to prove your, now 18 year old, child is disabled and entitled to indefinite child support.

If the Court made a finding of your child’s disability when the Final Decree of Divorce was drafted, it may have prevented the need for future litigation.

2)  Not considering indefinite child support

With the previous example in mind, let’s consider indefinite child support.  The Texas Family Code allows for indefinite child support to be paid for an adult child over the age of eighteen that: 1) Requires substantial care and personal supervision because of a mental or physical disability and will not be capable of self-support, 2) The disability exists, or the cause of the disability is known to exist, on or before the eighteenth birthday of the child.

Unfortunately, disability usually equals money. Whether it be in doctor’s bills, medication, or therapy, the costs of caring for a disabled child can far exceed your monthly child support payment, and those costs do not go away just because your child has reached the age of 18 when the general rule is that a parent stops receiving child support.

So, always consider indefinite child support.  Even if the child progresses over time, it prevents future litigation down the road having the Court making a finding of your child’s disability and that you are entitled to indefinite child support for your child’s continued care.

3)  Not limiting or eliminating income received by the child pursuant to the divorce

Another mistake many attorneys make is not considering income of a child pursuant to a divorce.  Many disabled children qualify for supports and services through social security, Medicaid, etc.  If qualified, the child cannot make an income and they can only have a very limited amount of funds available to them, or they lose their supports and services.

When dividing an estate pursuant to a divorce, let’s say mom is to pay dad 50% of her total 401K, but instead the parties agree to put the money into a bank account or savings account for the benefit of their child.  Guess what?  That qualifies as income, and the child may lose his or her benefits and Medicaid can request reimbursement for everything they paid on behalf of the child!  Again, it is extremely important to make sure your attorney is knowledgeable and aware of this specific area of the law.

4)  Not making decisions regarding Guardianship

In the Final Decree of Divorce, make sure there are provisions stating who will be the Guardian of the child when the child turns 18, who will pay for the Guardianship, and if agreed, who cannot be the Guardian of the child.

When your child turns 18, you may consider becoming their legal Guardian.  There are many considerations, such as being able to speak to medical professionals on your child’s behalf, but that is for another blog and another day.

However, you don’t want to end up in wasteful litigation over the ability to become your child’s legal Guardian, in the event it is necessary.  I’ve seen many parents waste thousands of dollars fighting their ex-spouse over whether Guardianship was really needed for their child.  You can prevent this by making provisions as to guardianship for your child in the Final Decree of Divorce.

5)  Not using an attorney who has knowledge and understanding of these special provisions

I think this last topic speaks for itself.  Although many disabilities such as ADHD, Asperger’s and Autism are on the rise, there are still a lot of attorneys who are not aware of the special provisions that can be included in a Final Decree of Divorce when divorcing parents with a disabled child.

Ask your attorney if they have divorced parents with disabled children before; ask if they know anything about Social Security or Medicaid and how the divorce will impact your child if he or she is receiving those services.   Most importantly, do your research, and find someone knowledgeable because handling these issues in your Final Decree of Divorce could save you big time down the road.

Adoption is a process by which a child is adopted and rights of one or both parents is terminated. Please refer to our blog post The Legal Challenges of Adoption for more information about adoption. Termination is a necessary component to the Texas adoption process.
The following individuals have standing to bring an adoption or termination suit:

  1. A stepparent of the child;
  2. An adult, who because of placement for adoption, has had actual possession and control of the child at any time during the 30 days prior to the filing of the petition;
  3. An adult, who has had actual possession of the child in two out of the three months prior to the filing of the petition;
  4. An adult who has adopted, or is the foster parent of and has petitioned to adopt a sibling of the child; or
  5. Another adult whom the court considers to have had enough substantial past contact with the child to create standing.

Substantial past contact does not have a statutory definition. To find substantial past contact, the court makes a fact-intensive inquiry, but there are no set standards for this aspect of the Texas adoption process.

Involuntary parental rights termination

Because termination of parental rights, even for adoption, is akin to the civil death penalty. A higher burden of proof is required for termination cases: clear and convincing evidence rather than the preponderance of the evidence. Thus, involuntary termination is complex. Additionally, a parent facing a termination suit has a right to a jury trial. Just like the death penalty in criminal cases, civil judges are reluctant to grant terminations except in cases of abuse and neglect. This is even true when a stepparent wishes to adopt the child and terminate one parent’s parental rights.

Voluntary parental rights terminations

If the termination of parental rights for adoption is voluntary, after a petition for termination is filed, the next step is to secure the Affidavit of Voluntary Relinquishment of Parental Rights. This affidavit must be signed after the child’s birth and be witnessed by two credible persons. If a stepparent is adopting the child, during this part of the Texas adoption process, the stepparent can exercise the rights of a managing conservator. If this happens, the affidavit must include a statement acknowledging that the parent who is relinquishing their parental rights has been informed of their parental rights and voluntarily give the adoptive parent or parents all their parental rights and duties.

The affidavit must also state whether the relinquishment is revocable, irrevocable, or that is irrevocable for a stated period of time. If the affidavit does not state that it is irrevocable, it is revocable for a stated period of time.

A copy of the affidavit

An important and often overlooked procedural step of termination of parental rights for adoption is that when the affidavit is signed by the parent, he or she must be provided a copy of the affidavit. This can become an issue if the adoption later becomes contested, complicating the Texas adoption process. Also, the affidavit may not contain any terms for post-termination contact between the child and the parent whose parental rights have been relinquished as a condition for the relinquishment.

Consult with an adoption attorney

If you or a loved one is involved in an adoption or termination suit or would like to be involved in one, consider your options carefully and consult with the knowledgeable attorneys at Ramos Law Group, PLLC.

Adoption is one of the more delightful parts of Family Law. It is a beautiful process whereby a child is formally and officially made part of another loving family. For adoption to occur according to Texas adoption laws, at least one of the parents (such as in a step-parent adoption) or both must terminate their rights to that child. This is often best done with help from a Texas adoption lawyer.

Who can be adopted?

In Texas, any single or married adult can adopt a child whose parent-child relationship with one or both of their parents has been terminated. A termination suit can be handled separately or can be joined with an adoption suit by a Texas adoption lawyer. Parents, Legal Guardians, or Adoption Agencies can initiate adoptions; only these individuals may serve as an intermediary in adoption.

Who must be noticed in an adoption and termination?

A key issue for adoption and termination is notice. Legal parents, anyone with court-ordered access, or anyone you allege as a possible father in a petition has right to notice for a termination or adoption under Texas adoption law.

A waiver of citation may be signed prior to filing a termination or even before the child’s birth. The court may order termination if it finds that the parent has executed an unrevoked or irrevocable affidavit of relinquishment of parental rights. This affidavit may have come before or after the filing of the suit.

An affidavit of waiver of interest in a child may be signed prior to the child’s birth. A pre-birth filing of a termination petition, best supervised by a Texas adoption lawyer in a private adoption, requires a statement to confer standing by a pregnant woman or a parent of the child or the biological parent files the termination as the petitioner.

Is there a waiting period for a termination order to be entered?

There is a waiting period for termination with married birth parents. If the adoptive parents have completed a home study, a termination of parental rights can be entered anytime after 40 hours as long as the relinquishment is irrevocable for 60 days, or after 10 days if the relinquishment is revocable for 10 days. For unmarried birth parents, the termination order generally can be entered when the child is more than 31 days old and the adoptive parents have completed a home study; however, if paternity was adjudicated then the newly established father will relinquish under the same rules as married birth parents and the termination order will be entered with the same timeline as married birth parents. A Texas adoption lawyer can help to prepare the necessary termination process.

Must Texas accept another state’s adoption consent form?

One issue with Texas adoption law is whether Texas must accept an adoption consent form of another state if the birth parent delivers in another state and signs that state’s adoption consent. Full Faith and Credit of the United States Constitution requires Texas to accept any other state’s order, but it does not require that it accept the legal documents of another state, limiting the reach of a Texas adoption lawyer. The best course of action in such a scenario would be to hire a local attorney in the other state to make sure you are complying with the requirements. If possible, you should have the birth parents execute Texas documents and finalize the termination and adoption in Texas with the Texas adoptive parents.

How are inheritance rights changed for a newly adopted child?

Lastly, adoption does not change a child’s inheritance rights regarding the parent who relinquished his or her rights. It divests all other legal rights and duties between parent and child except for inheritance rights through the parent whose rights has been terminated. Furthermore, an adoption creates inheritance rights through the adoptive parents.

Thus, if you or a loved one is involved in an adoption or termination suit, or would like to be involved in one, consider your options carefully and consult with the knowledgeable attorneys at Ramos Law Group, PLLC. for an experienced Texas adoption lawyer.

Fatherhood

Termination of parental rights in Texas is the legal process by which a court ends the official parent-child relationship between a child and his or her parent. This process should not be confused with the awarding of sole custody, which is the process by which one parent is granted guardianship of the child and decision-making responsibilities, but visitation rights of the other parent remain. Both termination and custody proceedings are initiated through a lawsuit called Suit Affecting Parent-Child Relationship, also known as a “SAPCR”.

Grounds for Termination

As a father, it is imperative to have complete understanding of the termination process as the consequences of this act are severe and difficult to reverse. Grounds for termination include the court’s determination that termination is in the best interest of the child, in conjunction with:

  • Voluntary abandonment of the child
  • Knowingly placing the child in harmful conditions
  • Failing to support the child for a period of one year ending within six months of the filing of a termination SAPCR
  • Failure to enroll the child in school
  • Being absent from the child’s home without consent of the other parent or guardian
  • An unrevoked affidavit of relinquishment on file as provided by the Texas Family Code
  • Conviction or being placed on community service or deferred adjudication for crimes against children within Title 3 of the Texas Penal Code
  • Having your parent-child relationship terminated with respect to another child per certain provisions of law
  • Failure to complete required substance abuse treatment programs or continuing to abuse substances following the completion of such program
  • Knowingly engaging in criminal conduct that results in conviction and being imprisoned or otherwise unable to care for the child for more than two years from the date of SAPCR filing
  • Murder or attempted murder of the child’s other parent

Legal Challenges Facing Fathers

As a father, you must be aware of your rights as a parent, as well as defenses against potential claims to end your relationship with your child. For many men familiar with divorce or child custody disputes, it often feels as though the legal system is working against you.

Only 17.5% of fathers are designated as the custodial parent of their children following divorce. While over half of custodial mothers are awarded court-ordered child support, only around a third of custodial fathers are awarded the same –and of that third, only around 9% of fathers actually receive the court-awarded support amount. With the plethora of challenges to fathers rights in Texas, intimate understanding the family court system is a must.

Court Order Required for Termination

When defending your rights as a father, it is necessary to understand how those rights could be taken away. Termination of parental rights in Texas is only able to be effected via court
order.

There are affidavits by which a parent may voluntarily agree to limit their parental rights. First is the Affidavit of Voluntary Relinquishment, by which the parent agrees that a court should terminate his or her interest to a child. A parent may also sign an Affidavit of Waiver of Interest, by which the parent agrees to give up any interest he or she has to a child.

Even if a father signs either of these affidavits, parental rights are actually not terminated until a judge signs a court order terminating those rights. Voluntary relinquishments on their own are insufficient to terminate fathers rights in Texas, so even if you have signed one of these affidavits, know that you still have rights prior to the issuance of a court order.

Be Informed About Protective Orders

Perhaps the single most damaging weapon that is wielded against fathers during custody disputes is the protective order. These legal orders are frequently issued by courts in situations where claims of domestic violence have been alleged. These legal orders require the subject of the order to cease acts of harm and limit contact between the alleged abuser and his or her victims.

Within the context of custody disputes, research has shown that a staggering 70% of abuse allegations are found to be unnecessary or false. Men bear the brunt of the majority of these allegations, making the defense of fathers rights in Texas even more challenging. Protective orders are far too often used as a tool to separate innocent men from their children.

In order for a protective order to be issued, a minimal “preponderance of evidence” is typically all that is required. Therefore, the claimant merely must establish that it is more likely than not that the alleged abuse took place. Since these orders are done on an emergency basis, also known as “ex parte”, the alleged abuser does not get a chance to defend himself or herself, allowing myriad opportunity for an unscrupulous claimant to take advantage of the justice system.

What to Do in the Event of a False Abuse Claim?

It is critical that fathers understand how to protect themselves against false claims of abuse in order to avoid termination of parental rights in Texas. As soon as you learn of a claim of abuse or the issuance of a protective order, it is critical to act immediately. Contact an attorney who specializes in defending fathers rights in Texas, and share with them all of the information you have regarding the claim.

Your attorney will be best suited to guide you with your defense, but will likely advise you to begin gathering evidence to present at your hearing. Texts, emails, recordings and similar materials may support your case or demonstrate the other parent’s lack of fitness to be custodian of your child. It is not uncommon for men to capture evidence showing that the other parent had been threatening to falsely claim abuse in order to gain an advantage within court proceedings or for other ulterior motives.

Most importantly, make sure to maintain your composure throughout the legal process. Avoid the temptation to lash out at your accuser in response to a false claim, and thereby establishing the poor conduct that the claimant is attempting to attach to you. Follow the protective order as directed while it is in place, and focus your energy on ways to better your situation with your children moving forward. Uphold your equanimity at court hearings and visibly show the court that you are not the abuser that you have been labeled. With the help of your attorney, you should be able to demonstrate to the court that you are a loving, supportive father who deserves parental rights and belongs in the lives of your children.

Invaluable Father-Child Bond

Too frequently the importance of a child’s bond with their father is understated. Studies have shown that fathers greatly contribute to the well-being and development of their children. When fathers are allowed to be supportive of their children and involved in their lives, language skills, social development, cognition, self-esteem and other developmental markers, show improvement.

The relationships of fathers with their children frequently set the tone for children’s relationships with others throughout their lives. Children who have good relationships with their fathers also tend to have less behavioral problems, including reduced alcohol and drug abuse issues.

If you find yourself facing termination of parental rights in Texas, make sure to find an attorney who appreciates the importance of your fatherly relationship with your child. You will need an advocate who understands the court system and is willing to fight for your rights –not just as a parent, but specifically in your infinitely important role as a father.

Protect Yourself from Termination of parental rights in Texas

Contact Ramos Law immediately if you are dealing with an issue involving potential termination of parental rights in Texas. We will vigorously defend your rights as a father and guide you through the nuanced challenges facing men during difficult child custody proceedings.

Sources:

  1. http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/FA/htm/FA.161.htm
  2. https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2016/demo/P60-255.pdf
  3. http://www.ecdip.org/docs/pdf/IF%20Father%20Res%20Summary%20(KD).pdf
  4. http://www.saveservices.org/downloads/False-DV-Allegations-Cost-20-Billion
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