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Friendswood Family Law Blog

Texas child support orders

Many Texas parents find themselves in situations in which they are raising a child on their own with little if any support provided by the other parent. Such a parent may seek a child support order from the court. In other cases, a child support order will be issued along with a child custody and parenting time order when a custody decision is made as part of divorce proceedings. Such orders are legally enforceable and binding.

In determining the child support amount, the judge will consider the income of the noncustodial parent as well as the number of children that parent is already required to support. Texas, like other states, has guidelines established based on the income and number of children for courts to follow.

Changing a child support order in Texas

While a child support order may have been fair to all parties when it was first issued, circumstances may dictate that the order be changed. For instance, the custodial parent may make more money and needs less support or the noncustodial parent makes less money and cannot continue paying support as ordered. In some cases, it may be possible to agree to child support changes without a court order.

However, those who are obligated to pay child support must continue paying under the current order until it is changed by a judge or the agreement is approved. Those obligated to pay support must comply with the order even if that person is contesting paternity of the child. This is true even if both sides agree to the changes. If both sides agree, an agreement can be presented to a judge who will file that order with the court.

How to avoid adoption fraud in Texas

People who plan to adopt a child should be aware of adoption fraud, or wrongful adoption, which in many states is considered as a felony charge of theft by deception. This illegal act can occur through facilitators, adoption agencies or other scammers who make false claims for financial or personal gain. Prospective adoptive parents should be aware of adoption agencies that overcharge them or charge them for unperformed services. Other signs of adoption fraud include online advertisements of babies for sale, adoption facilitators that do not give information about the child's background to the party wishing to adopt the child and a pregnant woman who collects financial support from several parties who are all expecting to adopt the woman's baby.

In order to avoid adoption fraud schemes, a propsective adoptive parent should look for warning signs including facilitators or adoption agencies that strongly request a signature to ambiguous documents, guarantees of high expectations regarding the adoption process and unreturned emails or telephone calls. Additionally, a birth mother who refuses to provide contact information or proof of her pregnancy or one who is unwilling to associate with a counselor or adoption agency are signs of probable adoptive fraud scams.

Unique aspects of military divorce

Military spouses in Texas who are considering divorce are most commonly interested in custody of minor children, the division of military pension and spousal support. In many cases, the spouse who is not in the military gets custody of the children if the military parent could be deployed for long periods. The military parent may then be required to pay child support.

Spousal support is more likely to be an issue in military divorces because the non-military spouse often leaves the workforce. Frequent moves make it difficult for a civilian spouse to keep a full-time job so their income potential may be limited for a period after the divorce.

Removal of disabilities of a minor

In the state of Texas, all individuals are considered to be minors until they reach the age of 18. Being a minor comes with certain restrictions, which are legally known as disabilities. The most obvious of these restrictions is the inability to enter into a contract, which prevents a minor from opening financial accounts, taking on debt, signing a lease and a whole host of basic life functions. Minors are also unable to make their own decisions with regard to education and health care.

When a minor is properly cared for by a parent or guardian, these disabilities may not matter. However, there are some instances when a minor may feel that they would be better served if they were released from their disabilities and could make the same legal and financial decisions as any adult. For instance, after a parental divorce, minor children may feel that they're better off making their own decisions rather than relying on either of their parents. To do this, the minor would simply need to petition for their release from minor disabilities in court.

What to expect when a divorce is finalized

The conclusion of Texas divorce proceedings is very important for both parties. With the end of a marriage comes important considerations regarding distribution of property, child custody, spousal support and other issues.

It is possible to schedule a final hearing at any point after the 60-day waiting period ends. When a divorce is amicable, it is a matter of answering a judge's questions and entering the agreement into court records. In cases with disagreement, a bench trial with the judge alone or a jury trial are options.

How are the rights of birth parents terminated?

Before a Texas couple can adopt a child, that child's legal relationship with the birth parents must be terminated. This is a separate legal action from the adoption, but without it, adoption may not proceed. Adoption can be approved by a court after the parental rights of birth parents end.

The need for termination of these rights can complicate the adoption process if the identity or location of a birth father is not known. A father is legally entitled to know about the proceedings, and those seeking to adopt a child whose birth father cannot be identified or located must demonstrate that a diligent effort has been made to find that individual. He may be served with a notice about the imminent termination of his parental rights through the inclusion of this information in a newspaper. This service by publication must be approved by the court. It is important to understand that this option leaves a slight possibility of a later challenge to the adoption, meaning that it should only be used as a last resort.

Resolving custody through alternative dispute resolution

Child custody disputes bear the potential to cause families financial and emotional stress. In states like Texas, however, parents can turn to alternate dispute resolution methods that could allow them to maintain healthier relationships. Resolution techniques such as arbitration and mediation, for instance, may make it easier for parties with differing opinions to attain closure more swiftly and without incurring as much emotional damage along the way.

The Texas Family Code grants courts the right to send ongoing lawsuits to arbitration. In many cases, the parents initiate the process by submitting a formal written document signifying they agree to have their case arbitrated, and the court will decide whether the arbitration is binding or non-binding. Binding settlement agreements can't be revoked after they're made, but parents may seek official court judgments and modifications.

Private adoptions in Texas

When considering adoption, many couples choose to go through a private process, either through an adoption agency or by using the services of an attorney who has experience in these matters. Texas has some restrictions in place regarding private adoptions that must be followed.

Texas does not have a truly confidential adoption process. The birth mother or legal guardian has a say in who will adopt her child, and couples must deal directly with the mother if no child placement agency is involved. Intermediaries, such as attorneys or agencies, can function to introduce the parties to a private adoption.

Differences between military and civilian divorce

When Texas residents in the military choose to dissolve their marriage, the legal process is the same as it is for civilians. However, there are some key factors that can shift the process and change it in significant ways. One is the location of each partner. If the decision is made when one or both spouses are on active duty overseas or in remote areas, then the process may take longer. However, some states now have more lenient residency requirements for people who are stationed in the state and want a divorce.

The Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act is a federal statute that encourages military members going through a divorce to accept state statutes when it comes to certain issues, including retirement, spousal support and child support. Under this statute, states are able to classify military pensions as property rather than income, and that can change how the payments are distributed when the time comes. In order for one spouse to receive part of the retirement payment, the couple must have been married for at least 10 years with an overlap of 10 years of service. This means that if a couple is married for 20 years, but one member only served for nine, then the standard has not been met. However, a couple that was married for 10 years with the member serving during the entire marriage would meet the requirement.