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Grandparents sometime take on a parental role in the lives of their grandchildren.  In some circumstances, such grandparents may have standing (i.e., the right to sue) for possession and access to the children. Parents have a fundamental right to make decisions regarding their children, however. Generally, a court in a Texas custody case cannot interfere with a fit parent’s right to make decisions for their child by awarding access or possession to a non-parent over the fit parent’s objection, unless the nonparent overcomes the presumption that the fit parent is acting in the child’s best interest. In a recent case,…
A geographic restriction in a Texas custody order helps ensure the parent without physical custody has access to the child, but it can also impose severe limitations on the mobility of the parent with physical custody of the child.  In a recent case, a mother challenged the imposition of a geographic restriction on the child’s primary residence by the trial court after a jury found she should be the child’s sole managing conservator. Modification Suit Filed After Prior Order The final divorce decree named the parents joint managing conservators and gave the mother the exclusive right to designate the child’s…
When a court determines the amount of Texas child support a parent is obligated to pay, it must consider that parent’s net resources.  The statute sets forth certain items to be included in the parent’s net resources and other items that are not to be included.  Tex. Fam. Code § 154.062.  An appeals court recently had to determine if a trial court could consider an item that is not specifically included in the statute. The divorce decree required the father to pay child support, provide health insurance, and reimburse the mother for 50% of non-covered health-care expenses. Mother Moves for…
In determining the Texas child-support obligation of a parent, the court may consider whether that parent is intentionally unemployed or underemployed.  If the court finds the parent is intentionally unemployed or underemployed, it may apply the support guidelines to that parent’s earning potential, rather than to their actual earnings.  Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 154.066.  The court does not have to find the parent was attempting to avoid child support to find intentional unemployment or underemployment. In a recent case, a father challenged the denial of his request for modification of his child-support obligation following a change in jobs…
A Texas common-law marriage can occur when the parties agree to be married, subsequently live together as married within the state, and represent themselves as married.  Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 2.401. The agreement to be married is a separate requirement that must be proven, although it may sometimes be inferred from evidence of the other two requirements. CLAIM OF INFORMAL MARRIAGE In a recent case, a woman appealed the dismissal of her claim of common-law or “informal” marriage. The parties had previously been married and were divorced in 2014.  They subsequently rekindled their relationship later that year.  The…
Marriages in Texas are generally presumed to be valid. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 1.101.  In some cases, however, a party may seek to have a marriage determined to be invalid by pursuing an annulment.  When a person petitions for annulment, they are taking the position that the marriage was not valid and should be declared void.  One reason a party may seek an annulment is if they were induced to enter the marriage through fraud, duress, or force by the other party. A party may only be granted an annulment on these grounds if they did not voluntarily live…
A court may order Texas spousal maintenance if the spouse requesting it is not able to earn enough to provide for their own minimum reasonable needs due to an incapacitating disability. The incapacitating disability may be either physical or mental.  Tex. Fam. Code 8.051.  A former husband recently challenged a spousal-maintenance award, arguing that the former wife had not shown her disability was “incapacitating.” Husband Files for Divorce The couple separated in September 2016 and the husband petitioned for divorce in 2018.  At trial, the wife testified she had fallen down the stairs in April 2016. The wife testified she…
The trial court must divide property in a just and right manner in a Texas divorce.  The division must be equitable, and should not be punitive against either spouse.  A husband recently challenged a property division, arguing it had been punitive against him. The wife filed for divorce after the parties had been married for over 30 years.  She alleged the husband had engaged in cruel treatment and had committed fraud on the community estate. Wife’s Trial Testimony Highlighted Abusive Marriage The wife said the husband often disparaged her appearance, individual worth, and profession in front of others and in…
A court may generally only modify a Texas custody order if the modification is in the best interest of the child and there has been a material and substantial change in circumstances since the previous order was rendered or the parties signed the settlement agreement. The court may also modify an order if the modification is in the child’s best interest and an older child has told the court his or her preference or if the parent with the exclusive right to designate the child’s primary residence voluntarily gave up primary care or possession of the child for six months…
When the parties to a Texas divorce agree on a property division, they may agree that certain obligations or conditions must be met.  If a party fails to meet their obligations as agreed to and set forth in the divorce decree, they may not be entitled to the property they were expecting.  In a recent case, a husband challenged a court order requiring him to reimburse the wife for certain tax liabilities after she failed to provide him the documentation required to calculate the amount he owed in accordance with the decree. Wife Fails to Comply with Requirements of Divorce…