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austin paternity lawyerEstablishing paternity can be challenging even when the identity of the child’s biological father is clear. When there is uncertainty surrounding the father’s identity, it becomes even more complicated. In some cases, more than one man may have a presumption of paternity, or come forward with a claim of paternity in an effort to secure parental rights. It is important for both fathers and mothers to understand how these conflicts can be resolved to ensure that the correct man is recognized as the child’s father.

Competing Presumptions of Paternity

In Texas, a man is presumed to be the father of a child if he is married to the child’s mother when the child is born, as well as if his marriage to the child’s mother ended within 300 days before the child’s birth. While it is not especially common, it is possible for these presumption criteria to apply to two different men. For example, a child’s mother may have gotten divorced from one man and then remarried another man within this 300-day period. In other cases, only one man may have a presumption of paternity, while another man wishes to voluntarily acknowledge paternity because he believes himself to be the child’s biological father.

The easiest way to resolve such a situation is for a presumed father to complete and sign a Denial of Paternity. This allows the other presumed father, or the man who wishes to acknowledge paternity, to continue with the process of establishing legal parentage.

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austin divorce lawyerWhen parents get divorced in Texas, their children are often one of their most important concerns. Addressing child-related issues is also one of the most important parts of the divorce process. Most notably, parents will need to determine child custody arrangements that affect each parent’s involvement in their children’s lives. However, the decisions made regarding child custody can also impact other elements of a divorce resolution.To achieve an outcome that best meets your needs and your children’s needs, it is important to understand how all of these different issues may affect each other.

Child Custody and Child Support

According to Texas law, the parent who will be ordered to pay child support in a divorce is usually the parent who will have less custodial time with the child according to the child custody order. If you expect that your spouse will be granted a larger share of physical custody, you should be prepared to make child support payments. The amount paid is based on a percentage of the noncustodial parent’s monthly income.

Child Custody and Property Division

Child custody arrangements can sometimes have an impact on the division of community property, particularly when it comes to the family home. The court may find that it is in a child’s best interests to spend the majority of their time living in the home they are accustomed to, and therefore may favor a parent with primary custody when granting possession of the home. However, Texas courts also attempt to ensure that the spouses are treated equitably when dividing property, so a noncustodial parent may be granted a larger share of other marital assets. 

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austin texas prenup lawyer Prenuptial agreements can be a touchy subject between partners, and there are many reasons why people may be reluctant to consider them. Some may be concerned that a prenup will start the marriage off on the wrong foot, and others may feel that a prenup is unnecessary given their current financial situation. However, for those who are about to begin their second marriage, the benefits of a prenuptial agreement often start to become more clear. Here are some reasons why a prenup may be a good choice as you prepare to get remarried.

You Want to Avoid the Mistakes of Your First Marriage

Divorce is a largely unpleasant experience, but one positive that may result from divorce is a better understanding of what can go wrong in a marriage. Perhaps disagreements about finances were a major contributor to the failure of your first marriage, and you want to address these issues up front in your next marriage. Or, perhaps the division of marital assets in your divorce was difficult and embittered, and you want to have a better plan for dividing assets amicably if you need to do it again in the future. A prenup can allow you to do both of these things.

You Have More Valuable Assets

Second marriages tend to happen at a later stage in life, when you may already have substantial assets to your name. For example, you may own and operate a business, have one or more real estate properties, or have a valuable investment or retirement portfolio. According to Illinois law, assets owned before marriage are considered non-marital property and protected from division in a divorce, but it may still be a good idea to create a prenup to establish, clearly and in writing, that certain assets will belong to you alone throughout the marriage.

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austin child custody lawyerIn many Texas divorce cases, parents can reach a child custody agreement that serves their children’s best interests. However, it is not uncommon for parents to have significant disagreements or even serious concerns about the other parent’s influence on the children. When this is the case, a child custody dispute may need to be resolved through litigation, and the court may seek input from a representative known as a guardian ad litem when making decisions regarding a child’s best interests.

If you are involved in a complex child custody dispute, it is important to understand the role of a guardian ad litem and how it may affect the outcome of your case.

What Does a Guardian ad Litem Do?

There are a few different kinds of child representatives that the court may appoint in a child custody suit, but a guardian ad litem, or GAL, is one of the most common. The primary role of a GAL is to provide information to the court regarding a child’s best interests. Often, a GAL is a professional or a representative from a volunteer organization with a specific focus on the well-being of children. Anyone who serves as a GAL must have sufficient knowledge and training to fulfill their appointed duties.

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TX divorce lawyerIf you have been seriously injured in an accident, you may rely on compensation from a personal injury claim to provide relief for your ongoing medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Going through a divorce while you are still suffering from the effects of an injury can be especially difficult, and you may be concerned that you are at risk of losing a large portion of this compensation to your spouse in the division of assets. If you find yourself in this situation, it is important to work with an attorney who can help you manage the legal complications of your divorce case and protect your financial resources.

Is Injury Compensation Considered Community Property?

In a Texas divorce, the couple’s community property must be divided, while each spouse is able to keep their own separate property. Community property usually includes any assets acquired by a spouse during the marriage, while separate property includes assets acquired before the marriage. As such, if you suffered an injury and resolved your claim before getting married, you are likely entitled to keep the full amount of the compensation you have been granted.

If you were injured during your marriage, however, it can be more complicated to determine whether your compensation belongs to you alone or to the marital estate. In this case, it is important to understand the types of damages that your settlement or verdict included. According to the Texas family code, injury compensation for your medical bills and pain and suffering is likely your separate property, but compensation for your loss of earning capacity is likely community property. An attorney can help you review the terms of your settlement or verdict to determine the specific amounts awarded for each type of damages.

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TX divorce lawyerIn recent years, many states have eliminated the option to file for divorce on fault-based grounds and transitioned entirely to no-fault divorces on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. In Texas, however, no-fault divorce and fault-based divorce both remain options. If you or your spouse chooses to file for a fault-based divorce, you should be sure to understand how this can affect the outcome of your resolution.

Fault-Based Grounds for Divorce

In order to file for a fault-based divorce in Texas, the filing spouse must be prepared to demonstrate that one or more of the following has occurred in the marriage:

  • Adultery - This means that a spouse has engaged in some sort of extramarital affair. The Texas Family Code used to specify valid defenses to a divorce on the grounds of adultery, but these defenses are no longer available except in rare cases in which reconciliation may be possible.
  • Cruelty - As grounds for divorce, cruelty is broadly defined. It could mean that a spouse has committed an act that is legally recognized as family violence, such as physical or sexual assault, or that a spouse has engaged in verbal or emotional abuse.
  • Abandonment - In order to qualify for divorce on the grounds of abandonment, one spouse must have intentionally left the other and stayed away for at least a year.
  • Conviction of felony - If a spouse has been convicted of a felony offense in Texas, and, as a result, has been imprisoned for at least a year, there may be grounds for a fault-based divorce.

Filing for divorce on fault-based grounds makes it much more likely that the divorce will be contested and that litigation will be necessary. Even if you have justification for filing for divorce on fault-based grounds, you may find that pursuing a no-fault divorce and working toward a settlement with your spouse is a better option.

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TX divorce lawyerFor parents who share children under the age of 18, child custody decisions are central to the divorce process. In general, this is true for both biological and adopted children, though adoptive parents may be especially concerned about protecting their parental rights if they are uncertain how Texas law applies to these cases. If you need to address the custody of your adopted child, an experienced family law attorney can help you understand your rights and options under the law.

Texas Adoption Laws

To understand how your child custody case may be handled, it is first important to understand a few key facts about adoption in Texas. First of all, adopting a child gives the adoptive parent all of the same legal rights and responsibilities as a biological parent. Secondly, married couples are required to petition for adoption together. This means that if you adopted a child together during your marriage, you and your spouse have the same rights and responsibilities as each other. This gives both of you the standing to pursue custody during your divorce.

In order for an adoption to be approved in Texas, it is also necessary to terminate the parental rights of any biological parent who still has them. You may be concerned that a biological parent will attempt to intervene in your custody case during your divorce, but under Texas law, they do not have the legal standing to do so once their rights have been terminated.

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TX child support lawyerProviding financially for a child’s basic needs is not only an important responsibility for parents, it is a legal obligation. When parents are divorced or unmarried, this obligation must be formalized in a child support order that typically requires one parent to make regular payments to the other. When the paying parent fails to fulfill their obligation, they may face a variety of serious consequences.

Penalties for Late Child Support Payments

In Texas, when a parent fails or refuses to make a scheduled child support payment, an enforcement action may be initiated by the receiving parent or the Texas Office of the Attorney General. Depending on the circumstances, the paying parent could face one or more of the following consequences:

  • An order to pay arrearages and interest - A parent who is delinquent on child support payments remains responsible for the full amount of past-due payments. Child support arrearages also accrue interest until they are repaid.
  • An order to pay the other parent’s attorney fees - When the receiving parent brings a child support enforcement action before the court, the delinquent parent can be ordered to pay the petitioning parent’s attorney fees and court costs.
  • Property liens - A lien may be placed on a delinquent parent’s real estate property, bank or retirement account, or other assets in order to enforce payment.
  • Credit consequences - Delinquent child support payments are reported to credit agencies, which may affect the parent’s ability to qualify for loans or credit cards. Unlike many other types of debt, child support arrearages cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.
  • License suspension - A delinquent parent may have their driver’s license suspended while child support is in arrears. Professional and recreational licenses may also be suspended.
  • Denied passport and/or vehicle registration - In some cases, child support delinquency can prevent a parent from applying for a new or renewed passport, or a renewed vehicle registration.
  • Contempt of court charges - A delinquent parent can be charged with civil or criminal contempt of court, depending on the circumstances, which may result in fines and even jail time.

Understanding Your Legal Options

If you are the receiving parent, an attorney can help you understand your options for recovering late child support payments, including by petitioning the court for enforcement if necessary. If you are the paying parent and you are concerned about your ability to fulfill your obligations, you may be able to work with an attorney to petition for a modification of the child support order to preemptively avoid an enforcement action. If you are subject to enforcement, an attorney may be able to help you resolve the situation before costly penalties are assessed.

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