Dallas Divorce Law Blog

Why parents may seek a DNA test

Child support disputes in Texas can be complicated situations that can take a long time to get resolved. However, resolution often comes when a DNA test is made, paternity and maternity are legally established and support is ordered by the court.

There are many reasons why parents seek DNA tests. For some parents, it might mean having a father legally recognized that a child is his. This can then result not only in support but also in a relationship between parent and child. Ascertaining parentage is very important, but when children are conceived and born when the parents aren't married, the father's name does not have to be on the birth certificate. In those cases, the father is considered the 'alleged father" until paternity is established by a DNA test. Once that is completed, however, a court can order the father to pay support and grant him visitation rights.

The challenges and advantages of parallel parenting

Texas parents who are getting divorced may hope to establish a healthy co-parenting relationship with each another. However, if there is a great deal of conflict, this may not be possible. An alternative to co-parenting is an approach called parallel parenting.

In both co-parenting and parallel parenting, exes should want what's best for their children. Sometimes, that means less interaction between exes. Parallel parenting eliminates as much direct contact as possible to reduce the likelihood of conflict. Research indicates that parental arguing is particularly difficult for children to deal with in a divorce.

What is conservatorship in Texas?

Most people have probably heard of child custody, and parents in Texas may approach their divorce prepared to negotiate for joint custody. However, custody laws are different from state to state. In the Lone Star State, family law courts refer to custody as "conservatorship."

Joint managing conservatorship

How 'birdnesting' may make shared custody easier post-divorce

Regardless of how amicable a split is, the end of a marriage can present several challenges for anyone in Texas, especially when children are part of the picture. Unless sole custody is granted, children are likely to have to split their time between two homes. Some parents wishing to minimize this type of transition for their kids are exploring their options with what's termed "birdnesting."

Essentially, birdnesting is an arrangement where children remain in the marital home while each parent alternates time spent there. When not in the home, each parent residents in a separate home, or a jointly owned apartment nearby. Generally, such arrangements tend to work best when child custody terms have already been worked out. The motivation behind the birdnesting concept is to minimize disruption for children. However, it's not advised that parents continue with this setup indefinitely.

Divorce and financial assets

Couples in Texas who get a divorce should understand the tax ramifications of the dividing their financial assets and take care to follow the correct procedure when dividing certain types of assets. For example, for divorcing couples who want to split a workplace retirement plan, it will be necessary to obtain a qualified domestic relations order, a legal document that details how much of the employer-sponsored retirement benefits of one spouse will be given to the other spouse.

Individuals who are recipients of their ex-spouse's workplace retirement plan and who are younger than 59.5 years old will be able to take advantage of a one-time exemption for the withdrawal penalty. While they will not have to pay the penalty, which is 10 percent of the withdrawal amount, they will still be assessed taxes on the funds that are withdrawn from the plan. However, if the money is transferred to an IRA, they can avoid having to pay any taxes.

Understanding a Standard Possession Order

As a Texas parent contemplating a divorce, you need to be aware of the laws surrounding custody and visitation of your children after your divorce. Consequently, you should familiarize yourself with two important terms: standard possessory order and possessory conservator. The former refers to the default parenting schedule in Texas; the latter refers to your children’s noncustodial parent.

Per the Texas Family Code, a Standard Possession Order constitutes the default visitation arrangement in all Texas divorces where children are involved. This SPO contains a detailed parenting time schedule setting forth not only exactly when you and your ex-spouse will have your children during the year, but also how you will go about exchanging them.

Responsibilities custodial parents may have

A custodial parent is generally the parent the child lives with most of the time. Custodial parents in Texas should keep a few points in mind when dealing with the other parent.

One of those things is sticking to the agreed-upon custody schedule or letting the other parent known in advance about any changes. Usually, when one parent has custody, the other parent has visitation rights. The parents may have created a schedule that outlines when the child is with each parent, or a court may have done so.

Overdue child support and homeownership

It is not completely impossible for Texas parents who have overdue child support obligations to obtain a loan to purchase a home. However, they should realize that having delinquent child support is considered a derogatory credit event and can possibly impair their chances of having their mortgage application approved.

The first step a person should take is to obtain a copy of his or her credit report and carefully review what has been listed. People should verify that all of the line items are correct and determine if their FICO score is within the requirements set by mortgage lenders. In order to determine if they will be able to afford a mortgage payment while paying off their child support arrearage and any current debts they may have, they should use a home affordability calculator.

Prenuptial agreements in a Texas divorce

Prenuptial agreements continue to become more common, especially among couples where at least one party owns or expects significant assets. Generally, a valid prenuptial agreement can serve to determine property division in a divorce.

People on the brink of divorce often want to know whether the prenup they signed all these years ago will still hold up in court. Whether you are hoping to enforce your agreement or challenge it, it can help to know some basic principles that can affect this issue.

Regaining rights to a son or daughter

Parents in Texas who have lost custody of their children may not understand why this happened to them. However, they should understand that they may still be allowed to have visitation or other rights to their children. If they want to get custody back, it is important to understand why it was taken away and comply with any court order to help rectify the situation.

For instance, a parent may be asked to attend anger management classes or get help for a drug or alcohol problem. While individuals may not feel like they have a problem that needs to be addressed, it is generally better to comply with the court as opposed to arguing about an order. This may help parents get on a judge's good side and make it easier to win back custody at a later date. As a parent fulfills obligations imposed by a judge, it may be worthwhile to request an in-home evaluation.