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In Texas, a petition for divorce can be filed only after the petitioner meets residency requirements. The petition must clearly specify why the filing spouse is seeking a divorce. Once the document has been filed, the court clerk will assign a case number and date for a preliminary hearing.
In addition to the petition for divorce, a number of other documents may be required as well. The types of documents required can depend on whether there are children or large amounts of property involved. A few of the papers that may be needed can include:
- Marital settlement agreement
- Child support worksheet
- Financial affidavit
Local courts have jurisdiction over a variety of matters when it comes to a divorce. Some of the issues that they can rule on include property distribution, debt distribution, child support, custody and visitation rights. The court will also determine how assets such as pension and retirement accounts will be distributed. In determining how intangible assets are divided, judges will look at factors like:
- Type of plan or asset
- How long the spouses have been married
- Distribution of other assets
- Age and health of each person
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Child Support and Custody
In Texas, the parent who is awarded child custody is known as the conservator. This parent has the exclusive right to determine where the child will live. However, the courts may limit this to a specific geographic area. A child custody order will also spell out the duties of each parent when it comes to certain responsibilities like education and financial support. The ultimate goal of a child support order is to ensure that the child’s needs are met with as little disruption to his or her upbringing as possible.
Child support, custody and visitation orders may fail to meet the needs of those who are affected by them after time. When circumstances change, it is often necessary to modify existing orders to better meet the needs of all parties concerned. This involves petitioning the court for a modification and showing just cause for the conditions of an original order to be changed. Contact a child custody lawyer today if you need help with modifying a child support, visitation or child custody order.
Child Support Modification
Whenever the financial situation of a non-custodial parent makes a change for the worse, it can seriously impact that person’s ability to pay child support as ordered by law. When a job loss occurs, it is imperative that a modification be sought shortly thereafter in order to avoid incurring any negative consequences to a child’s upbringing or well-being. The petitioner will need to provide proof of current income in order to show that there is a need to reduce the amount owed, even if only on a temporary basis.
The custodial parent may want to request a modification to a child support order whenever the financial needs of the child change. For example, if a child now requires extraordinary care or there has been a loss of insurance, a modification might be issued. This could also be the case whenever one or both parents begin earning substantially more money than when the original order was issued.
Custody and Visitation Modification
In order to modify custody or visitation orders, there must have been a “substantial and material” change in the circumstances of one or both parties. A few of the scenarios that could warrant a modification include:
- Change in employment status or working hours
- Relocation to a new geographic area
- Birth or adoption of other children
- Child abuse or neglect
- Inability of the custodial parent to care for the child
When deciding whether to modify a visitation or custody order, the court is obligated to consider what is in the best interest of the child. Texas judges normally consider the totality of the circumstances in determining this. A child’s preference may play a part in this decision; however, it is only one of several factors that are considered by the courts. If you need help modifying visitation rights, get in touch with a child custody lawyer today.
In general, Texas law does not provide for the payment of alimony or spousal support. Even so, there are a couple of exceptions to this rule:
- When one spouse has committed an act of domestic violence within two years of filing the petition
- The parties have been married at least 10 years, and the requesting spouse lacks sufficient property or means to be self-sufficient
The decision to award spousal maintenance requires the court to consider a number of circumstances such as the employable skills of both spouses, special needs, duration of the marriage and financial resources of both individuals. Since the Texas laws surrounding spousal support are complicated, a person who is seeking a dissolution of marriage should call a divorce lawyer to learn about his or her legal rights.
Paternity in Texas
Paternity involves determining the legal father of a child. The legal father and biological father are not always the same, although this is most often the case. A child’s legal father is the one who is obligated to provide support and is able to claim any rights that are associated with parenthood.
Born Within a Marriage
When a child is born within a marriage, the husband is assumed to be the biological and legal father of that child. The husband’s rights under Texas law are very solid, as he must sign a Denial of Paternity form to relinquish his status. If he fails to do this, a biological father must file a claim in a court of law in order to be recognized as the legal father. For help with paternity issues, interested parties should contact a qualified paternity attorney.
Born Outside a Marriage
Paternity must always be established whenever a child is born outside of marriage. This is often done at the hospital during the time of the child’s birth. Since the biological father is often present at the birth, establishing paternity at the hospital can be very convenient. All Texas hospitals have the necessary forms that are required to establish paternity. By doing so at the time of birth, the father’s name can be added to the child’s birth certificate.
Once the Acknowledgement of Paternity is signed, it becomes a binding legal document. Even so, there is a grace period in which either parent can file a petition to rescind it. This must be done within 60 days after the Acknowledgement of Paternity is signed. Whenever a court date is pending to determine paternity, the petition must be filed before that date. A Houston paternity lawyer can help make sure that all important deadlines are met.
Refusal to Sign
Both parents have legal remedies available in the event that the other parent refuses to acknowledge paternity. A mother who finds that her child’s biological father is unwilling to accept responsibility can open a case with her local branch of the Texas Department of Human Services. This will trigger an investigation into the matter, and the alleged father may be subject to DNA testing in order to force him to provide for the child.
If the mother refuses to acknowledge a father’s paternity, he can raise suit with the attorney general’s office. The court will consider the totality of the circumstances when determining whether further DNA testing will be permitted. If the mother of your child is refusing to acknowledge your paternity, get help from a qualified paternity attorney today.
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Since there are so many aspects involved in a divorce, those who are contemplating a dissolution of marriage should not try to represent themselves, as there could be repercussions that last long after a decree is issued.