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Very few people seeking a divorce want to see the process drag out longer than necessary. Divorces can be difficult and expensive. If you’re seeking a divorce, you likely don’t want to spend a lot of time and money in the process either. But the answer to how long a divorce takes in Texas will depend on a number of factors. An experienced divorce attorney can typically help you estimate the timeframe during your initial consultation.

What to Expect

Truth be told, there is no such thing as a quick divorce in Texas. Texas requires a minimum 60-day waiting period between filing for divorce and issuing the final divorce decree. The court cannot have a hearing until 60 days after the complaint is filed. This is considered a “cool off” period, and it gives the spouses time to think and decide if they really want a divorce. In cases where domestic violence is involved, the court may waive the 60-day waiting period.

Once the two parties are ready to move forward, the court will be able to schedule a hearing to take place sometime in the future, and how long the divorce takes in a Texas court depends upon the numerous and varied legal complexities involved in the case. Most couples find it takes longer than two months to officially dissolve the marriage.

Uncontested Divorces

The 60-day period begins to run from the time the Original Petition for Divorce is actually filed with the court. If the divorce is “uncontested”, meaning the parties agree to all divorce terms, then the divorce may be finalized any time after the 60-day waiting period. Usually, these divorces are much more efficient. Sometimes, the divorcing couple decides upon the terms of their divorce before filing, while other couples reach their agreement soon after. In these situations, the divorce may be finalized almost immediately following the 60-day waiting period.

Contested Divorces

A contested divorce will usually take much longer to resolve and require more legal fees. How long an uncontested divorce in Texas takes often depends upon how much information each party needs to gather from the other. Each side will have time to conduct discovery, which is a time when your attorney may demand that your spouse produce certain financial evidence like bank statements or credit card bills. Your attorney should do all they can to determine what you’re entitled to in the divorce agreement, and they should negotiate with your spouse or their attorney to get you a good settlement before facing trial. However, if you cannot reach an agreement the case may go to trial.

Many divorce cases do not end up in a trial, but if they do, they can take several days or even weeks to resolve. At trial, a judge will hear testimony and review evidence about the divorce. At the end of the trial, the judge will issue an order with the terms by which the divorcing couple must comply.

If you have questions about how long your divorce in a Texas court will take, contact Ramos Law Group today for a consultation.

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If you’re considering handling your own divorce paperwork and proceedings, you’re not alone. There are many couples who start the divorce process without representation from an attorney. While this practice is legal, it can be dangerous when people believe in several common myths about divorce before trying to start a do-it-yourself divorce in Texas.

The feasibility of getting a divorce without an attorney can change considerably depending on the details of your marriage, and the type of divorce you will need. This is generally only possible during an uncontested divorce, when both parties agree on every detail, including about how community property will be split. If there are any disagreements, however, you’re in for a contested divorce and should seek representation immediately.

Finding the right Information

You may have friends and family members who have been through a divorce, and may feel like you have a good idea of the process, but every state has their own laws and regulations concerning the requirements for issuing a final divorce decree. These laws can change over time due to new legislation and court rulings affecting Texas divorce. Do-it-yourself attempts at divorce may seem like a money saving move in the short-term, but you stand to lose more in the long-run if you have the wrong information.

If you go into your do-it-yourself divorce in Texas with the wrong information, you may make decisions that could hurt your case. That’s why it’s crucial to seek advice from an experienced divorce lawyer as your first move toward a divorce, or as soon as you are notified of your spouse’s divorce intentions. Your divorce lawyer can tell you the truth about how divorce works and debunk many of the myths surrounding it. Here are the top 10 myths about do-it-yourself divorce in Texas.

1. Divorce can be denied. In Texas, you do not have to prove fault in order to have the court grant the divorce. Therefore, even if you don’t want the divorce and your spouse does, the judge will still grant the divorce. Once all the financial, custody, and visitation issues have been resolved at settlement or trial, a divorce will be granted.

2. If you commit adultery, you’ll lose everything. Some people mistakenly believe they cannot have a do-it-yourself divorce in Texas because adultery is involved. Just because someone has been unfaithful during the marriage doesn’t mean that they’ll lose their home, kids, assets, and rights during the divorce. This can still be used as an argument by the other spouse to try to gain more of community property acquired during the marriage, but this argument is not usually seen as a large factor determining the division of property. If the person who has been unfaithful wastes community assets during the course of committing adultery, that factor will likely be taken into consideration during a property division.

3. Mothers are always awarded custody of children. In the past, there was a legal bias in favor of mothers, but the law has evolved so that both fathers and mothers can have the primary right of possession. The court makes decisions about custody and visitation that are in the best interests of the child. If you’re a concerned father, we recommend speaking to an experienced divorce lawyer for men.

4. You can avoid paying child support. Child support payments in Texas are established by law. Unfortunately, some people have the mistaken impression that they can avoid paying child support in Texas divorce through a do-it-yourself divorce. If you have a minor child and you are not the custodial parent, you will have to pay child support. If you fail to comply with a child support order, both your spouse and the state of Texas can take steps to enforce those orders.

5. I can deny visitation to my ex if they don’t pay the child support we agreed upon. Access to the children and parenting time are not related to the payment of child support. There is a process for enforcing child support obligations, but threatening or denying a parent visitation is not one of them. Initiating a do-it-yourself divorce in Texas does not mean you can decide to withhold visitation from your spouse.

6. Only Women get maintenance payments. Decisions about spousal support, just like custody decisions, are no longer are based on gender. Women may be ordered to pay alimony following a divorce if they earn more than their husbands. Decisions about spousal support are based on the economic realities of the respective spouses regardless of their gender. Do-it-yourself divorces in Texas are no different. If you are considering a divorce and expect child support or alimony to be a contested issue, it’s important to schedule a consultation with a competent attorney to protect your rights.

7. Children get to decide who they live with. If a child has reached the age of 12 and has expressed a preference as to which parent they would like to live with, a judge may decide to take that fact into consideration in the determination as to custody. The judge is not required to follow a child’s choice and will make their custody decisions based on what is in the best interests of the child during your Texas divorce. Do-it-yourself divorces are no different in this regard.

8. Divorce always leads to battles. Divorce can often be full of hostility, blame, and finger-pointing, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Do-it-yourself divorces in Texas have the best results when all parties agree, but this is not an effective means of de-escalating the divorce process. Other methods such as collaborative divorce, mediation, and negotiation are all options if you are trying to keep the divorce from becoming highly contested. If you tell your attorney that you would rather focus on resolving conflicts as opposed to starting or escalating them, the attorney can help make your divorce a process of negotiation and agreement rather than argument.

9. Equitable distribution results in equal division. Property in Texas is divided based on what is just and right in light of the circumstances. Property can be and often is divided in an unequal manner based on the many factors that go into a judge’s decisions about property division. Whether that property is divided 50/50 is not one of them.

10. You must have a lawyer. You have a right to represent yourself in your own do-it-yourself divorce in Texas, but it is not always the best option. You could make errors that harm you in the future. Once the judge signs the Final Decree of Divorce, there is nothing about the property division that can be changed. You may also make mistakes regarding your children and child support that could be difficult to change later.

If you’re thinking about getting a divorce in Texas, contact the offices of Ramos Law Group for a consultation. We’re here to help. Call us today to schedule a consultation.

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There may be a time when you need to get copies or verification of your divorce records. For example, you may need to show them to an employer or a state organization so that you can give cause for a name change. You may need to show them to a governmental entity so that you can receive some type of assistance. Furthermore, you may need your Texas divorce records so that you take some steps to move on with your new life. Divorce records in Texas are public, so anyone can access them by following a few simple steps. These steps are the same regardless of whether you want to access public divorce records in Texas from your home or in person at the clerk’s office.

What You’ll Need Before Starting

  • In order to access a Texas public divorce records, you’ll first need to gather some important information:
  • The full name of the party/ person you’re searching for
  • The date and place of divorce
  • The relationship with the person
  • The type of order
  • The reason for wanting the information

Obtain a Certified Copy at the District Clerk’s Office

Parties to the divorce (the divorcing couple) may obtain certified copies of their divorce decree from the District Clerk’s office. Since certified copies of divorce decrees are only available in person, you will need to visit the district clerk in the county or district where the divorce was filed.

Obtain a Verification Letter from the Texas Vital Statistics Unit Website

If you’re seeking verification of your divorce, but you don’t need a certified copy of the final decree, you can visit the Texas Vital Statistics Unit for a divorce verification letter. You may request a divorce verification letter online or by mail from the Texas Vital Statistics Unit. Divorce verification letters are different from certified copies of the final divorce decree, and they’re not a substitute for providing a final divorce decree when one is needed for legal purposes.

Verification for divorce decrees is available for divorces that have been filed since 1968. The website for the Texas Vital Statistics Unit contains an index of public divorce records in Texas by year, and you can search these records on the website. These records may be purchased or downloaded for free from the website.

Try an Online Search

Although requesting information by mail is fairly easy, it usually takes much longer to obtain your divorce records by mail as opposed to by online. In today’s world, it’s extremely easy to find a lot of publicly accessible information online. A quick search for “public divorce records in Texas” via popular search engines will reveal websites where you can access Texas public divorce records. Some of these websites may require registration or a fee to access some public records. Even some ancestry research websites provide access to public divorce records in Texas.

If you have questions, or if you’re considering divorce, call Ramos Law Group today. We’re here to help.

Divorce is a difficult and painful process for almost any couple experiencing the end of a marriage partnership. Making decisions about property division and custody arrangements can be extremely stressful and emotionally-charged for the parties involved. Divorce becomes even more complicated when one party becomes pregnant before the divorce is finalized. Couples who are considering getting a divorce in Texas while pregnant will face some additional steps throughout the divorce process due to the pregnancy.

Waiting Period

Texas requires almost all couples to wait sixty days before finalizing a divorce, regardless of whether or not one of the spouses is pregnant. A divorce in Texas while a spouse is pregnant is unlikely to be finalized until after the baby is born. Courts in Texas typically wait to finalize the divorce until after the birth of the baby so that orders regarding the child can be included in the final divorce decree. (One of the few exceptions to this rule is in the case of domestic violence.) Therefore, if the pregnancy is already a few months along, the waiting period shouldn’t take much longer than the two months already required by Texas law. Even if the divorce is contested, it’s unlikely the pregnancy would delay the process since contested divorces often take longer than the length of a pregnancy.

Paternity Issues

Divorces in Texas involving a pregnant spouse become more complex when the paternity of the unborn child is in question. In this case, the husband will need to file documents with the court denying paternity of the baby. If the biological father will not agree to sign an acknowledgment of paternity, the court will need to order the biological father to take a paternity test. If the paternity test verifies the identity of the biological father, the divorcing husband will need to file for the court to adjudicate parentage so that the court can name the father in the final divorce decree.

 

Child Support

Husbands who are unable to prove they are not the biological father of their wife’s unborn child will still be subject to paying child support since the court views children born during the marriage as being the husband’s children. A husband who strongly believes he is not the father of his wife’s baby can petition the court to order a paternity test. This process may be necessary once the baby is born to determine who the father is.

Although getting a divorce in Texas while pregnant adds an additional layer of complication to the divorce process, it is possible to navigate this complex territory by finding a good Texas divorce attorney. Working with the right legal experts will provide you with the knowledge and guidance you desperately need during one of the most difficult times of your life. If you’re facing a divorce and you need trusted, expert legal guidance, contact Ramos Law Group today to schedule a consultation.

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Military divorces — divorces where one or both of the spouses are active duty military personnel, in the National Guard, or reservists — often require additional steps and procedures to finalize as compared to civilian divorces. Most states, including Texas, have laws and procedures that only pertain to military divorces. There are also federal laws that govern the steps necessary to finalize a military divorce in Texas. This is why it’s important for service members and their spouses to consult with Texas military divorce lawyers to ensure their divorce proceedings are conducted according to all of the requirements found in both state and federal law.

Protection from Military Divorce in Texas

Federal laws exist to protect active duty military members from being divorced by their spouses without knowing an action has been filed in federal court. Under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), and in the discretion of the local court, a military divorce in Texas may be postponed while the service member is on active duty and for an additional 60 days afterward. Active duty service members may waive these protections if they wish to continue with the divorce proceedings as soon as they are filed.

Serving an Active Duty Military Spouse

In order for a Texas court to hear the divorce proceedings involving an active duty military spouse, the active duty member must be served in person with divorce papers. It is also possible for the spouses of military members to file a waiver affidavit not to be served in person, but this is only possible when the divorce is uncontested.

Residency and Filing Requirements

The grounds for filing for a military divorce in Texas are the same as those for civilians. Divorces are usually filed where a couple lives, but this is not always possible for military couples on active duty. Active members of the military may be deployed at any time, and that can cause problems when planning a military divorce. Some couples may not have lived in a state long enough to establish residence. Texas military divorce lawyers can help individuals determine whether or not they meet the residency requirements for obtaining a divorce in Texas. If a divorcing couple meets the residency requirements for a state other than Texas, military divorce lawyers may advise their client to file for divorce in the other state.
In order to proceed with a military divorce in Texas, either the active duty member or their spouse must have been a resident of Texas for at least six months and a resident of their county for three or more months. The active duty service member must be stationed in Texas for these residency requirements to apply. If the active duty service member is deployed or stationed in a different state, then the process may require filing in a different state.

Property Division

The rules regarding the division of property and marital assets in military divorces in Texas are the same as those for civilian marriages, but there are federal laws governing the division of military retirement benefits. Division and disbursement of military retirement assets are determined in accordance with the guidelines set by the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA). In order for a dependent spouse to receive any disbursement from retirement benefits, the couple must have been married for at least ten years while the military member was on active duty. Federal law grants direct partial payments of military retirement to spouses married to a soldier for at least ten years, but military divorce in Texas requires the division of any future military retirement benefits that accrued during the marriage regardless of its length.

Divorcing couples must include a section in the divorce decree that spells out provisions for the Survivor Benefit Plan premiums, if any, as well as the length of the marriage, the time on active duty service and the computed amount of the retirement payments the spouse will receive if any. Health care benefits will also continue for the minor children and, if the marriage lasted for 20 years, the spouse as well, so the soldier will be required to obtain military identification cards for his dependents as needed. Because of these unique circumstances, it is important to consult with a Texas military divorce lawyer who understands the specific requirements for finalizing a military divorce in Texas.

Custody, Child Support, and Spousal Support

The normal Texas child support guidelines, worksheets, and schedules are used to determine the amount of child support to be paid in a military divorce in Texas. Although support orders in Texas are decided according to the normal guidelines for support determination, the support may not exceed 60 percent of the pay and allowances of the active duty member.

Parents who are divorcing in Texas must agree on a written parenting plan or allow a judge to enter an order regarding conservatorship and possession, the terms used for custody and visitation. Military couples must consider what will happen if the active duty member is deployed or sent to another location. For example, in military divorces in Texas, a deployed service member may ask the court to allow extra visitation after they return. Therefore, the parties might agree to include an automatic provision to that effect in their parenting plan. They might also agree to let the child’s grandparents visit with the child while the service member is away.

Starting The Process

With the assistance of a Texas military divorce lawyer, actions filed in Texas are generally the same as most other divorces, with the exception of some specific requirements for the action to proceed within the state. Active duty military members should always work with an experienced law firm that is familiar with military divorces in Texas. It is important during a military divorce to know the best way to handle concerns such as jurisdiction, child custody, and division of property as it applies to a military member to let divorcing couples reach the most favorable resolution for their individual situation.
The board-certified attorneys at Ramos Law Group can help. Contact us to start the process of achieving the best possible result for your case.

New Locations For Ramos Law Group, PLLC.: 

The Woodlands and Sugar Land Offices

The Ramos Law Group, PLLC. is thrilled to announce the opening of two new locations in The Woodlands and Sugar Land. We have been working tirelessly to get these offices operational and we are thrilled that the day has finally come for us to open our doors! Our Family Law attorneys cater to any and everyone who needs help going through divorce, custody concerns and any other family issues.

Houston, TX, March 5, 2018– The Ramos Law Group, PLLC., a Family Law firm, is excited to announce the opening of two new offices located in Sugar Land and The Woodlands. We’ve been working to get these locations open for quite some time and are ecstatic that the day has finally come!

“The most important thing for us is to help our fellow Texans. At the end of the day, if we can help our clients heal, find peace and achieve happiness, then we’ve done our job.” -Mary E. Ramos, Company Founder

Since we have added locations in The Woodlands and Sugar Land, we are more accessible than ever. Our company also operates with 100% transparency. Our rates are all online. Check around on other Family Law websites; this level of openness is unseen in our industry. With a strong staff who only works in Family law, people from all over Houston can come to any Ramos Family Law location and know that they will receive an unparalleled level of customer service. We promise that our Family Law gladiators will fight to make sure that you are taken care of.

“At Ramos Family Law, we offer a ‘Raving Fan Guarantee.’ If our customer is not happy with the service they receive, we offer them up to a $1,000 refund. “ -Alfredo Ramos, Business Futurist at Ramos Law Group

Ramos Family Law, PLLC.  was started in 2004 by Mary E. Ramos who through her efforts and those of her team has grown the organization from a single attorney firm to one with over ten employees and four attorneys.  We are committed to the practice of divorce and family law in Harris, Fort Bend, Galveston and Brazoria County. We have effectively negotiated positive outcomes in complicated divorce, child custody and property division cases while keeping attorney fees under control.

If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Kristy Tatom at (281)225-6200 or email at info@ramosfamilylaw.com.

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.

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

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.

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