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Dallas Divorce Law Blog

Alimony in Texas

Alimony, also known as spousal support or contractual maintenance, is the court-ordered or approved amount that one spouse must pay the other after divorce. If neither party can agree on an amount, the court will only assign alimony under specific conditions per Texas state law.

The court can award alimony if the requesting party has been a recipient of domestic abuse within a two-year period preceding the divorce, or at any time during divorce proceedings. Spousal support can also be awarded if the marriage lasted a minimum of 10 years and the recipient is disabled, caring for a child with a disability or otherwise hindered from earning a livable wage.

The filing and notification processes for a divorce

The divorce process typically commences when the petitioner files for divorce. Subsequently, the other spouse, or the respondent, receives notice of the petition. Filing for divorce in Texas requires the couple to have lived in the state for a minimum of six months. Moreover, the petition for divorce must be submitted in the county where the couple has lived for the previous 90 days.

If there is sufficient grounds for divorce, such as adultery, the petitioner may note these grounds so as to gain a tactical advantage. The petitioner may also include the desired outcome of the divorce, such as what the petitioner would have the court order in the event that the divorce is disputed.

Domestic violence in Texas

Domestic violence continues to plague Texans, both male and female, who fall victim to the abusive behavior of their partners. Studies have shown that domestic violence normally follows a cyclical pattern with recognizable, discrete behavioral patterns. Recognizing the early warning signs that a person is in a potentially abusive relationship is important in order to prevent it from occurring.

Texas law takes a dim view of family violence, providing potential criminal penalties to abusive people. When a victim of domestic violence calls the police, he or she has the option of asking that charges be pressed. Officers can also provide standby services to victims in order for them to gather belongings and children for transportation to a domestic violence shelter. The law provides that abuse victims can seek and obtain restraining orders to prevent the abuser from coming near to them or their children, adding an extra layer of safe distance between them and the abusive partner.

How are noncustodial parents treated in Texas?

Divorced parents in Texas may benefit from learning more about the rights afforded to noncustodial parents. The state's Office of the Attorney General provides a handbook that is designed to inform noncustodial parents about establishing paternity and assessing child support services. The guide was developed on the belief that the child's quality life is best when both parents provide love and support.

Noncustodial status does not mean that the parent is unimportant or does not have any parental rights. The custodial parent, referred to as the managing conservator, is afforded the legal right to choose where the child will reside. This Office of the Attorney General refers to this legal right as having custody. The possessory conservator, commonly referred to as the noncustodial parent, is afforded the legal right to spend time with the child and remain privy to the child's whereabouts.

The Standard Possesion Order in Texas

Under Texas law, a person who has the rights to a child is known as conservator, and this designation may be categorized in two different ways. A person may be appointed a managing conservator or a possessory conservator by the courts. Generally, parents are presumed to be joint managing conservators, but the designations might change if a judge deems it necessary.

Generally, one adult is appointed to be the primary managing conservator for a child. This individual maintains primary custody of the child and has the ability to determine where the child resides. The other parent is designated the non-custodial parent and has the right to possession of the child according to the terms listed in the Standard Possession Order.

Texas property division considerations

Texas is a community property state. This means that most property acquired during the marriage is considered jointly owned by both parties unless they are considered include gifts or inheritances.

Property acquired in another state that would be community property if it had been acquired in Texas and assets acquired by the exchange of property that would be deemed community property are designated as jointly owned for property division analysis. Though the law sees most marital property as jointly owned, a judge may order an unequal distribution under certain circumstances, and generally, the court's focus is on equitable division. To that end, the court will consider the rights of the parties to assets as well as any children of the marriage.

Guidelines determine child support payments

Texas courts use a mathematical formula to determine the child support amount that a non-custodial parent is required to pay monthly. The calculations are based on that parent's net income, which includes wages in addition to self-employment income, royalties and even workers' compensation payments. The state does not consider welfare payments to be part of the parent's net income, and certain expenses, such as income tax, are deducted from the parent's resources prior to child support calculations.

If the non-custodial parent earns less than $7,500 monthly, the state will likely have the parent pay 20 percent of his or her income to support one child. That support amount increases by 5 percent for each additional child up to 40 percent of that parent's net income. If each parent has custody of one or more of their children, the state will calculate child support differently. If the non-custodial parent already has a child support payment to a child from another relationship, the 20 percent obligation may be reduced.

Obtaining a restraining order in Texas

Texas law recognizes the need that some people have to protect themselves from the persistent hazards generated by certain dangerous or erratic individuals, especially in cases of domestic abuse. There are two types of protective orders, or restraining orders, available in Texas. Someone who feels threatened by another person may petition the court for the imposition of an order to prevent the other individual from contacting them, modify their child custody arrangements when applicable and suspend the other person's right to carry deadly weapons.

The two types of restraining orders in Texas are general and temporary. A temporary restraining order can last as many as 20 days, while a general protective order may be applicable for up to two years. The restraining order can prohibit the subject from contacting the protected individual and entering their dwelling or place of employment, and it can demand the surrender of any firearms or concealed weapons permit. The court may also order the subject to seek counseling or treatment for substance abuse problems. Violation of any of these terms can result in imprisonment for a term as long as a year and a fine up to $4,000.

What is a child conservatorship?

Texas labels child custody 'conservatorship" and calls parents 'conservators" instead of 'custodians." The terms describe parental responsibilities and rights. During a divorce, family court determines who will have conservatorship unless the parents reach an agreement about custody ahead of time. If the court makes a decision about conservatorship, they will look at what is in the best interests of the child.

The state has two types of conservatorship: sole managing and joint managing. Rights included in conservatorship include obtaining information about the child's well-being and education, access to important records regarding the child, permission to discuss the child's care with medical professionals and school officials, and the authority to grant emergency treatment to protect the child's safety.

"Gossip Girl" actress trying to keep her children in the U.S.

Texas "Gossip Girl" fans may have heard that Kelly Rutherford's two children were sent to live with the children's father and the actress's ex-husband on Aug. 13. However, this means that her children would be leaving the United States as her ex-husband was denied re-entry into the country.

In a statement made by the actress following the court hearing, she stated that it was not her who had gotten kicked out of the country. She claimed that the ruling made by the U.S. District Court failed to protect her rights and the rights of her children. In response, the judge stated that nay requests made by the actress's legal team to reverse the ruling would be denied. The two children, ages 5 and 7, were scheduled to leave the United States on Aug. 19. Both of the children are United States citizens.

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