Monday, December 28, 2009

divorce and the holidays

In my last post I went over tips to survive Halloween. As the holidays progressed I read more good articles on how to help your kids survive the holidays. Dick Price posted an article entitled "7 Ways to Wreck Your Kids Holidays", and J. Benjamin Stevens posted "Tips to Follow for Holiday Parenting Time". These are great articles, and there are many more like it.

As I read these articles it got me thinking about who the articles were intended for and I noticed a common theme, or lack thereof. What about you? Separated parents can find new gaps in their life that were once filled with sports, dance class and of course the holidays. What to do?

There are many things you can do, but I suggest you take up a hobby. Never had a hobby? Now is the perfect time.

The one that jumps out at me is exercise. I love to exercise. Looking for something more than the standard treadmill on LA Fitness? Try Crossfit. I guarantee it will be the most challenging and rewarding exercise you have ever done. Local to the Dallas, Texas area? Check out Crossfit Deep Ellum. From somewhere else, search Crossfit and your local city.

Like to bike? In Plano, Dallas, or surrounding areas, check out DORBA. Somewhere else, search Mountain Biking and your city.

Not an exercise buff? How about photography or videography? Check out Vimeo and of course YouTube. How about cooking?

The point is, there are many things you can do for yourself to fill in the time once occupied by children's activities. All of us have things that we want to do but could never find the time. Now you have the time. Take care of yourself.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

halloween and the divorcing parents

I read an excellent article on Divorce 360 regarding how to handle the Halloween holiday when recently divorced or in the divorce process. As always, being reasonable and viewing your decisions and statements through the eyes of the children is the best way to handle things. If you need a little help with this, they offer 5 tips in their article "Tips to Help You and your Ex Make this Halloween Fund for the Kids":

1. Keep children informed.

Let the child know ahead of time what will happen on the holiday "so that different expectations will not arise," Shoshanna said.

2. Don't put the kids in the middle.

Don't ask, 'Do you want to spend Halloween at my house of your mom's (or dad's)?', " said Blackstone Ford. "That approach tests your child's allegiance. Better to ask, 'Where would you like to spend Halloween?"'

3. Share your children.

"If possible, see if you can share the time during a holiday so that all participate. Perhaps each parent can take half of the time. Or, for Halloween, for example, perhaps one parent can get the costumes and dress the child and the other parent go with them for the trick and treating," Shoshanna said.

4. Treat the other parent well.

According to Shoshanna, it is "very helpful for children to see that their parents are treating one another respectuflly during holiday times (as always). Don't use this occasion to reminisce about the pass or say negative things about your ex."

5. Make your own plans.

If you're a parent who is alone during a holiday, don't make a big deal about it or create upset about it in the child. Find a friend to share the time with. Or, use the time to volunteer and be with others. "You don't want to child to feel that they're enjoying the holiday while the other parent is sad or alone," Shoshanna said. "This may create guilt in them and prevent them from having a good time."

Monday, October 26, 2009

this is a good time to make a point about residency restrictions in Texas

In a comment to my original post on the residency restriction in Texas, anonymous posts:

Chris, you said in your post that one way to maintain a geographical restriction is to stay active in your child's life well, I'm here to tell you, that's not the case in Guadalue County, Texas. I'm a joint managing conservator or my children and even though my ex-wife is the "custodial" parent, I proved in Court that the children spent more than half the time with me, I testified confidently that I had been to EVERY significant even in their life since the divorce, and showed that I had a daily relationship with them. The judge still allowed my ex-wife to take my children and live 5 hours away with them. SHe claimed that she had been searching for a teaching position for 2 years within the geographical restrictions and I brought public information requests from all the school districts surrounding her residence that showed that she had NEVER applied to them for a job. Still, she got the restriction lifted. So, by no fault of my own, without me doing anything but be a good father, never missed a child support payment PLUS i paid for their daycare, my children were taken away from me and I'm helpless to having the court make my kids another statistic.

This is a good opportunity to bring home a point that I find myself stressing over and over in response to comments to my posts and that is that you are always subject to the whims of a judge. Many times the specific facts of a case are less important than what judge it is before or how the judge feels about you as a person. Judges are people too and have opinions like the rest of us, wrong or right.

You might ask then, what am I to do in a situation similar to that of anonymous? Anonymous can and probably should appeal the ruling of the Court with regard to lifting the Texas residency restriction. If he does not already have an attorney then he should consult an appellate attorney to inquire as to appealing the judge's ruling. An appellate court is the checks and balances that help control how the lower courts behave.

Just some food for thought for those of you out there who are hyperfocused on the facts of their specific situation. Ask anonymous, he will tell you that sometimes you can do everything right and still not get what you feel you are entitled to.

Anonymous, good luck.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

separating in Texas and online considerations

If you are separated from your spouse or considering separation, I have attached a great article about how to separate your online life.  From a legal perspective, this article has some good advise, most specifically in regard to passwords.

The majority of divorcing people I deal with in my practice have web-based email such as Yahoo or Hotmail.  If you forget your passwords for those accounts there are certain questions you can answer to change the password.  Problem is, your ex may know the answer to those questions and can then change the password giving them access to all your personal emails.  Be careful with this and enjoy the following article:

How to break up in an online world—and avoid e-stalkers - Ars Technica

Friday, October 02, 2009

gay marriage (or divorce) in Texas wins it first big battle...

but not the War.  In what I think is a landmark ruling for gay divorces, a judge in Dallas County has ruled the ban on gay marriage in Texas is unconstitutional.  Read about it in the article - Texas Lawyer Blog: State district judge finds Texas’ ban on gay marriage unconstitutional

The Texas Attorney General is fighting this tooth and nail in an attempt to uphold the ban on gay marriages and has vowed to see this all the way through to the Supreme Court.

The ruling by Judge Callahan in the 302nd District Court basically opens the door for this gay couple to get divorced.  Kind of ironic if you ask me, supporting gay marriage so someone can get divorced.  In any case, the couple in question here, who were married in another state, will most likely be divorced in a few weeks.  When that happens the Attorney General's Office will certainly appeal to the Texas Court of Appeals level.

The case will probably then proceed to the Texas Supreme Court and then on to the United States Supreme Court.

I will update you as information becomes available.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

same sex marriage in Texas

I found an interesting blurb in a Texas case on gay marriage. You can find it in my discussion board here.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

great articles on do it yourself divorces

Click here to visit the site. Remember that I offer online divorce paperwork to handle your own divorce in Texas, under the Uncontested Divorce in Texas tab. You can visit that portion of my website by clicking here.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

how to use an RSS feed

Here is a great article on how to use an RSS feed to follow this blog and setting it up in Google Reader (like and email program to organize the sites you are following.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

terminations and adoption in Texas part 2

I know some of you have been on the edge of your seats to get to part 2. Sorry for the delay, been busy busy.

Okay, so we know now about terminating a parent's rights. That is the first step to completing an adoption in Texas. As I stated earlier, there can only be one father and one mother. If a step-father wants to adopt, then bio father must be terminated. However, if someone other than a step-parent wants to adopt then BOTH parent's parental rights must be terminated. This would mean grandparents, uncles, aunts, etc...

Okay, so on to adoptions. This discussion is about private adoptions in Texas and not adoptions through an agency. Everyone knows what an adoption is, so I will just give a brief discussion of what is required to complete the adoption. First you must have a home study done. A home study is where a social worker comes and visits your house and makes sure it is suitable for the child being adopted. The social worker then makes a report to the court that the home is suitable and the adoption should go through. If the home is not suitable, or the people in it are not, then you know the result of that. Social studies can range anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands dependent upon where you are and the requirements of that specific court.

The next major expense is the ad litem or amicus attorney. This person is an attorney and represents the interest of the child. An attorney for the child. In a step-parent adoption this requirement can sometimes be waived, but is a requirement in all other adoptions. The purpose of the amicus attorney is again to watch out for the best interests of the child and make a recommendation to the Court for or against the adoption. Guess who pays for this.

Next, the prospective adoptive parent or parents must have a criminal history report submitted to the court. This is done by submitting a fingerprint card to the Department of Public Safety who then mails a copy of the report to the court. Clean record, clean adoption. This is only required for the adopting parent. You bio parents out there with the arm length wrap sheets are safe!

Next there is the health and genetic report. This is not required in a step-parent adoption because the bio parent knows their medical background and probably that of the parent who will be terminated. When the adoption involves non-parents however, it is important to know the biological parent's medical background so that the child's health can be safeguarded. This is a form that must be filled out in detail and filed with the court.

There are a few affidavits that must be filed with the court that I won't go into here. Nothing major.

This is not an all inclusive list of the things that occur in an adoption, but it is pretty close. If you are contemplating an adoption I suggest you contact an attorney and let them handle it so that you do not miss anything. However, if you want to research it more yourself, all the requirements are set out in the Texas Family Code. You can find a link to the Texas Family Code at my website to the right under Resources.

One final word to address the questions that I know will arise. Typically a court will not terminate a parents rights unless there is proof to the court that there is someone who is going to step in and support the child. For example, mother makes $30,000 a year and is struggling to get by. She despises the father and wants to terminate his rights, but there is nobody adopting the child. Father does not pay child support. In this situation the Court most likely will not terminate the parental rights unless there is some other reason to do so, but not for failure to support the child. They want somebody supporting the child or obligated to support the child. They will not let the father off the hook so easy. In my scenario, if the mother made $100,000 per year or there were a step father adopting, the Court may change its position because they know the child will be taken care of financially.

Another point. What happens to child support in a termination? Current child support (i.e. child support in the future) terminates. Back child support is not terminated (absent an agreement by the person owed the money) because that obligation has already accrued and is due and owing. That simple.

Good luck.

The information contained in this blog is provided for informational (and sometimes entertainment) purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. I can guarantee you that I am not covering every facet of the family code, and there may be hidden gems in the Family Code that could make or break your case based upon your specific fact situation. No recipients of content from this blog, retained client or otherwise, should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any content included in this blog without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice. ALL CASES ARE DIFFERENT BECAUSE OF THE FACTS PARTICULAR TO YOUR CASE; THEREFORE YOU NEED A LAWYER TO DISCUSS THOSE SPECIFIC FACTS. I expressly disclaim all liability in respect to actions taken or not taken based on any or all of the content of this blog. Talk to a lawyer first, preferably me, it is that simple!

Monday, February 09, 2009

terminations and adoptions in Texas part 1

I would like to post a bit on terminations and adoptions. I get tons of questions and emails regarding terminating a parents parental rights or a step parent wanting to adopt a step-child. I am going to give a very brief procedural layout for how this works in an attempt to answer some of these questions. In part 2 of my post I will discuss some of the hoops that must be jumped through to accomplish a termination and adoption.

Before anybody can adopt a child, either one or both biological parents must have their parental rights terminated. That means that if a step-father wants to adopt his step-child, the biological father's rights must be terminated. The point is, there can only be one father and one mother for each child whether that is biological or legally (through adoption).

A termination in Texas can only be completed by having "grounds" for the termination. Put simply "grounds" are reasons for the termination. You do not get to determine the reasons, the Texas legislature has set up the reasons for you. If you will look to the right, there is a link to my website. Please click on that link and go the the "resource links". There you can find the Texas Family Code. Specifically you need to look at Chapter 161, Section 161.001. There you will find your reasons. THERE ARE NO OTHERS! I can see the posts now...."can i terminate the father's rights cause he never visits". Is it in the list is just referenced? Then no. "Can I terminate the mother's rights cause she is crazy and talks to the walls." Is it on the list? Then no you cannot terminate for talking to walls.

The two most common reasons to accomplish a termination that I see are failure to support the child for one year or the signing of an affidavit of relinquishment. These are not the only ones, as you can see from the list, just the most common. Any of the others will work as well if they are applicable.

Failure to support a child is pretty obvious. That means that the parent has not financially supported their child. This can be failure through a court order or not. Bottom line, if you don't support your child, your rights can be terminated. The failure to support has to be recent (within 6 months of filing the petition to terminate). This means that you cannot use a parent's failure to support a child that occurred 5 years ago if the parent supports the child now.

The second is the affidavit of relinquishment. This is basically an agreed termination as the biological parent has agreed to terminate rights. The form for this is very specific and probably needs to be obtained from an attorney. This alone, as seen from the list, is grounds for termination.

In the first reason, or in any other reason other than the affidavit, you are going to have to go through a court hearing to get the rights terminated. That means filing a lawsuit, serving the party you are trying to terminate and setting a hearing where a judge will decide the issue.

With the affidavit, there is typically not the need for a full blown termination hearing as the parent has agreed to terminate. In some cases, this moves you straight to the adoption. I say in some cases because there are certain times when a person agrees to terminate their rights, but the court will not do it. I will discuss this below.

In any case, you have to complete the termination before you can complete the adoption. If you have to have a trial, then that needs to proceed and conclude before the adoption can proceed. If the affidavit is used and you do not run into the problem discussed below, then you are ready to proceed with the adoption.

Just because a biological parent agrees to sign an affidavit of relinquishment does not mean the court will terminate. The court is primarily concerned about the best interests of the child. One of the major interests the court protects is the support of the child. They will not allow a parent to terminate to avoid paying child support. They also will not allow a parent to terminate another parent's rights unless it is shown that there is someone to step in and take the place of the support provided or owed by the terminated parent or unless the parent seeking the termination of the other parent's rights can establish to the court that they can adequately meet the needs of the child financially. Even upon this showing, they still may not terminate. A parent is obligated to support their children and the court does not take this lightly. If there is someone out there who can support the child, the Court wants them supporting the child.

One more note regarding child support. While a termination of a parent's parental rights will terminate all future child support payments, it will not terminate amounts owed in the past. Those amounts have already accrued and cannot be undone.

This concludes Part 1. See you in Part 2!

The information contained in this blog is provided for informational (and sometimes entertainment) purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. I can guarantee you that I am not covering every facet of the family code, and there may be hidden gems in the Family Code that could make or break your case based upon your specific fact situation. No recipients of content from this blog, retained client or otherwise, should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any content included in this blog without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice. ALL CASES ARE DIFFERENT BECAUSE OF THE FACTS PARTICULAR TO YOUR CASE; THEREFORE YOU NEED A LAWYER TO DISCUSS THOSE SPECIFIC FACTS. I expressly disclaim all liability in respect to actions taken or not taken based on any or all of the content of this blog. Talk to a lawyer first, preferably me, it is that simple!