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

Holiday Activities For Kids in TexasAs the song says ” It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas”. Lights are glistening all over the city and you can feel the excitement in the air. There is so much to do with the kids. It doesn’t matter what you are doing, it can be something as simple as taking in the lights of the city while enjoying some hot chocolate. I encourage you to take advantage of the many activities throughout the city. You will be making memories for your children that will last a lifetime. Below are just a few of the opportunities going on throughout the city:

1. Zoo Lights

Zoo Lights is held beginning mid November continues on through the month of December. During Zoo lights, the Houston Zoo is transformed into a winter wonderland for all ages.

2. Santa’s Wonderland

Santa’s Wonderland, just an hour north of Houston in College Station, is a great time for the whole family. You can buy various tickets for to either drive through the Wonderland, walk or ride on a horse and carriage. After you are through with the lights, you can head in over to the village where you can eat, visit with Santa and warm up with some hot coco.

3. Festival of Lights

Festive of Lights is Galveston’s very own kickoff for the holidays with its annual full of fun, festival. The Festive of Lights is held at Moody Gardens in Galveston. Kids can take pictures with Santa, see the class holiday movies you grew up on a take a walk under the Christmas light displays. The Festival of Lights is held all the way until the New Year and January 7th.

4. Magical Winter Lights

The Magical Winter Lights is happening until January 2nd at Gulf Greyhound Park in La Marque where they light up various themed light displays. There is also a kid’s area, arts and crafts, holiday market and more.

5. Lights in the Heights

Lights in the Heights is held in the Heights neighborhood where the whole neighborhood gets in the spirit of the holidays and the event. During the event, people are able to walk throughout the neighborhood while enjoying the live music, food, hot chocolate and lights. Lights in the Heights is held the second Saturday in December (December 9th), however they are often left up throughout the whole season for people to enjoy.

6. Ice Skating at Discovery Green

Especially if the weather has not gotten into winter temperatures, Ice-skating at Discovery Green is the perfect way to cool down, while also getting in the spirit. Additionally, living in Houston, we do not get to experience real ice-skating on frozen ponds in the winter so this is certainly the next best thing. Discovery Green sets up their outdoor rink no matter the temperatures. There is not cost to get into the park but ice-skating will cost you rentals for the skates and entrance to the ice rink itself.

7. Breakfast with Santa

I certainly remember attending this event as a kid and would highly recommend it to anyone with little kids. The Downtown Aquarium restaurant will host its traditional Breakfast with Santa event. Santa may even make an appearance in the 500,000 gallon fish tank!

Agreed DivorceAfter working in family law for the past 14 years from an intern in a local family law court to running my own practice, I have decided to expand our Agreed reduced retainer Family law Services. The services we include:

  • Agreed Divorce
  • Agreed Motion to Modify
  • Agreed Child Name Change
  • Agreed Suit Affecting P/C Relationship (SAPCR)
  • Adult Name Change

New coverage areas for our uncontested reduced retainer services include the following cities:

  • Austin
  • Dallas/Fort Worth
  • San Antonio

At this point, we will only service counties offering electronic filing as it assures that we can finalize the case quickly without the additional cost of hand delivery or the filing pleadings via USPS.  Additionally, we are ONLY offering our services for agreed family law services including uncontested divorces, name changes, adoptions and agreed modifications.   We take pride in a high level of service to both local and remotely located clients.   If you are looking for a law firm that can get the job done at reduced retainers give us call or send us an email.

For more information please visit our uncontested divorce page.

Retainer AgreementAs an attorney, I often hear clients ask, “What is a retainer?”  Potential clients and existing clients of attorneys are often times misinformed when it comes to understanding what a legal retainer is and how it is used throughout the entirety of their legal case.

A retainer is the fee that the client pays when hiring an attorney to act on his or her behalf.  Typically, the attorney sets the retainer fee prior to taking a client’s case. When a client decides to hire an attorney to represent them in their legal dispute, the attorney will require the client to furnish adequate funds to meet the attorney’s set retainer amount.

Once the client pays the retainer fee, the attorney places the funds in the client’s trust account.  As work is performed on the client’s case, the attorney will deduct his or her expenses related to the case from the retainer, thus decreasing the amount of funds in the client’s trust account.  As the deductions from the retainer decrease the amount of the account, the attorney may require the client to replenish their retainer to ensure the attorney has sufficient funds to adequately represent the client.

The practice of law is a service-based industry and an attorney’s time is his commodity. Attorneys use retainers to solidify the fact that once hired, the attorney now represents the client and will operate off of the client’s retainer account. The retainer allows the attorney to provide necessary services to obtain the client’s goals, including determining and executing an appropriate strategy and plan of action in reaching a client’s goals through various functions. For example, it is very likely that the client will be billed for legal research, drafting of pleadings, telephone and in person conferences, drafting and reviewing emails, telephone conversations with opposing counsel, preparation of discoverable documents, investigation of facts, preparation for and appearances in court, correspondence with the court, and other tasks necessary to adequately handle the matter in controversy. The attorney’s time involved in out-of-office representation will be measured from the time the attorney leaves the office until the attorney arrives back at the office.

The following fees are examples of expenses that will be deducted from the retainer: court fees, duplication fees, filing fees, facsimile fees, and postage fees.  Larger expenses such as travel expenses, long distance telephone expenses, accountant’s fees, appraiser’s fees, consultant’s fees, other professional fees incurred on the client’s behalf (including specialized or local legal counsel), and other disbursements will be in addition to the retainer amount. Thus, the client will have to bear the cost of those fees separately from the attorney’s retainer amount.

The retainer amount and the process by which the attorney’s firm uses or spends the client retainer amount is normally discussed simultaneously with the explanation and signing of the retaining contract for hire with the attorney or the attorney’s firm.  The contract should explain in detail how the retainer will be used, as well as, when and how the client’s money will be drafted from the retainer account.  Retainers are property of the client and the client’s funds only, not the attorneys. The attorney only receives the amount of the retainer in which the attorney earns by working on the case.  Once the case has been resolved, the attorney should return any remaining retainer funds in the client’s trust account to the client.

Quick Example:

If the retainer is $5,000 and the attorney and her staff expend 5 hours at a rate of $300.00 per hour preparing, conferencing, drafting, and filing the original answer and the counter petition then the client should expect that a total of $1,500.00 of work was performed on the case, thus leaving a total of $3,500.00 left in the clients retainer fund. If filing an original petition for divorce, the client must also consider filing fees at around $400.00 and service fees for the process server of approximately $100.00. Those fees would be subtracted from the retainer amount as well, leaving the client retainer fund with about $3,000.00. It is important for the client to understand that the retainer is an initial deposit and will likely have to be replenished before the suit is resolved.

Divorce For Dads™ - Activities for KidsDivorce for dads™ can be a scary situation given the potential unknown and inexperience with the care of children. Life will change for the parents, as well as for the children. Some divorced fathers are overwhelmed just trying to schedule activities and keeping the kids entertained. Divorce for dads™ can create a tight budget as they have to manage with less income due to the additional expense of spousal maintenance and child support.

If the budget is tight, then the mere idea can be an extra stressor for divorcing or divorced dads. Have no fear, single fathers; you are in luck because Houston has a plethora of activities and things to do with the kids for free or a low cost. Below are just a few examples of things to do with the kids that they will enjoy and you will too, without breaking the bank. Remember, it is not about the amount of money you spend on your children to show them love, but rather the quality time you spend with them.

    1. One of the many bike trails and various activities offered around Houston’s bayous, waterways, and parks (a few listed below)
      • Buffalo Bayou
      • Herman Park
      • Discovery Green
      • Memorial Park, Houston
      • Eleanor Tensely park
      • Market Square
    2. Museums
      • Free admission to the following museums on certain days
        • Buffalo Soldiers National Museum – Thursday 1 pm – 5 pm
        • Houston Museum of Natural Science – Thursday 2 pm – 5 pm
        • Museum of Fine Arts, Houston — Thursday 10 am – 9 pm — (Kids 12 & under free every day)
        • Children’s Museum of Houston — Thursday 5 pm – 8 pm; Power Hour: Get $2.00 off on admission every day after 5 p.m. (except on Thursdays)
        • The Health Museum — Thursday 2 pm – 7 pm
        • Holocaust Museum Houston – Thursday 2 pm – 5 pm
        • Houston Museum of African-American Culture — Thursday 6 pm – 8 pm
        • Czech Center Museum Houston – Last Monday each month, noon -4 pm
    3. The YMCA
      • One adult membership (with kids) is $72.00 per month
      • If you are interested in participating in the programs or activities but do not need the full use of the facility, program memberships are available where there is a Join Fee and discounted fee per month (Fees may vary on locations around Houston)
      • Membership for All available if you meet the financial requirements
      • https://search.ymcahouston.org/search/programs/
    4. Movies
    5. Libraries
      • Many of the city libraries offer free summer reading programs
      • This is a great way to keep up their reading skills over the summer months
    6. Water Activities
    7. For little builders
    8. Baseball
      • Sugar Land Skeeters Tickets
      • Discounted Field Box seats at select Skeeters’ games – $8.50 per ticket
      • Value ticket nights include $1 hot dog Wednesdays, family night and Friday night fireworks at the ballpark
      • Houston Astros tickets – http://m.mlb.com/astros/tickets/fan-value/
    9. Houston Zoo
    10. For the Animal Lover
      • Spotting Dolphins from the Galveston Island Ferry
      • It may be a little ways from the city but what a great opportunity to venture out of the City of Houston for the day to watch Dolphins while taking a ride on the Galveston Island Ferry on its way to Port Bolivar Peninsula
      • http://www.galveston.com/galvestonferry/

There will without a doubt that divorce for dads™ will require an adjustment period as you transition to the life of a single parent, however, that does not mean you need to miss out on spending quality time with your children. With these activities and the many other options in and around the City of Houston, a fun time will be had by all!

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