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.

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