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Friendswood Family Law Blog

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.

Obtaining a divorce in Texas

The first thing to consider when filing for divorce is the jurisdiction where the divorce proceedings will take place. Texas law requires that either the filer or the other party must have resided in the state for the past six months and within the county for the past 90 days to be able to file for divorce in that specific jurisdiction. For the purposes of a divorce, the law considers a spouse working in service of the state or federal government to still be a resident of the state and county.

The next thing to determine is the grounds for the divorce. If either spouse committed adultery or severe cruelty against the other, the court will usually grant the divorce. The court will also grant a divorce if the couple has lived apart for at least three years or one abandoned the other for at least a year. Texas law also lists confinement in prison on a felony charge for at least a year or in a mental institution for at least three years without the possibility of adjustment as valid grounds for divorce.

Understanding adoption in Texas

Adults living in Texas may benefit from learning more about the adoption rights guaranteed under the state's family code laws. These laws prohibit the courts from considering military service as a negative factor for people applying to adopt. The law requires guardians who are putting children up for adoption to provide a comprehensive report that includes a history of genetic, educational, health and social information. The law also provides potential adoptive parents the right examine these records and other information pertinent to the child's history.

The adopted child also has a right to these records after becoming an adult, as does the surviving spouse of a deceased adopted child. Adults seeking to adopt are required to submit a criminal history report that is often provided by the Department of Protective and Regulatory Services. Petitions for adoption cannot be approved without the aforementioned information, unless permitted by the presiding court.

Child support calculations and parental rights

Non-custodial parents are required by law to monetarily support minor children through the age of 18 or graduation from high school. If that child is still in high school beyond 18, they must adhere to minimum requirements and attendance to remain eligible for child support. Child support can also extend beyond the age of 18 if the child is disabled in any way. Child support includes legal adoptions.

Child support calculations are generally a percentage of a non-custodial parent's net income. That calculation can fluctuate based on a number of family law matters, including number of children and if there are other supported children from a previous relationship. What is and isn't considered income in family legal issues can be tricky. Consulting with a family law attorney is the best way to establish what assets the court could include.

How grandparents can seek visitation of their grandchildren

Grandparents in Texas who do not see their grandchildren, whether due to a family dispute or for other reasons, may be interested to learn how they can go about seeking visitation. Although grandparents are not considered to have a constitutional right to visit their grandchildren according to a U.S. Supreme Court decision, there are some scenarios where court ordered visitation is granted to the grandparents of a child.

If a child's parent or parents have restricted the time a grandparent is allowed to visit their grandchildren, the grandparent might be able to schedule a court hearing to seek visitation. In most cases, a judge will not hear a grandparent visitation case unless at least one of the child's parents is mentally ill, deceased, incarcerated or not living with the child. A grandparent will not be allowed to seek visitation if adoptive parents have already been granted custody of the child.