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A parent may want to change a child’s name for a number of reasons.  Texas family law allows a court to order the change of a child’s name if doing so is in the child’s best interest.  Tex. Fam. Code § 45.004(a).  Generally, courts should only order a child’s name change if it is needed for the child’s “substantial welfare.”  A mother recently appealed a court’s denial of her petition to change her children’s names from their father’s surname to her maiden name.

The parents divorced in 2011.  After allegations the father had abused the son in 2015, the mother had sole possession of both of the minor children. The mother petitioned in 2019 to change the children’s last name to her maiden name.  The children agreed to the change, but the father opposed it.  He argued they had his name since they were born and that they could change their names on their own when they are adults.

The mother testified she wanted to change the children’s names because she had grown up with her maiden name.  She said the children wanted to identify with her family’s name “to feel the closeness of [that] family.”  They had been using her name and wanted to legally change their names.  She testified that her maiden name is well respected in the area and having that name would be important when the children became involved with the family businesses.

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Divorce is usually fraught with emotion, but in some cases, a party may be pressured to the point of duress.  Duress exists when there have been threats that prevent a person from exercising their own free will.  Although it is not duress when a person threatens something they have a legal right to do, duress may exist if they exhort or make improper demands of another person.  An agreement signed under duress may be void.  In a recent Texas divorce case, a husband alleged he was under duress when he signed the marital home over to the wife.

The parties married in 1994.  During the marriage, they purchased the home.  They separated in March 2017.  They agreed the wife would take the home and the husband would not have to pay child support, but they never memorialized the agreement.  The husband testified he changed his mind after finding out his wife was unfaithful.

The husband moved out in March 2017.  The wife also filed her divorce petition that month.  She testified that the husband came to the house in April, kicked in the door, and threatened to kill her, her boyfriend, and her grandmother.  She reported the incident to the police.

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When a parent seeks to modify a Texas child support order on the basis of a material and substantial change in financial circumstances, they must prove that such a change occurred.  Doing so requires evidence of the parties’ current income and resources, but it also requires evidence of their income and resources at the time of the previous order.

In a recent case, a father challenged a court’s denial of his petition for modification.  The parents divorced in 2012 and signed an Agreed Final Decree of divorce.  The mother was given the exclusive right to designate their primary residence, but the possession schedule gave each parent possession 50% of the time.

Under the decree, the father was required to pay $1,047.95 in child support each month.  The decree stated it was in accordance with the guidelines in the Texas Family Code, based on the father’s monthly net resources of $4,191.81.

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If a parent fails to pay court-ordered child support in Texas, the obligee may pursue a number of cumulative remedies.  The obligee may seek a contempt of court order, a cumulative money judgment, a child support lien against certain property, a judicial writ of withholding, and an administrative writ of withholding.  The court keeps jurisdiction to confirm the amount of arrearages and render a cumulative money judgment for a motion for enforcement that is filed within 10 years of termination of the obligation or the child reaching adult hood.  Tex. Fam. Code §157.005.

In a recent case, the appeals court allowed an adult to pursue the child support her father owed after her mother’s death.  The father was ordered to pay $250 per month in child support at the time of the divorce in 1980, but did not pay.  The mother initiated an enforcement action in 2011, but it was never heard and she died in 2016.

In 2017, the daughter, then 41 years old, served a notice of application for judicial writ of withholding on her father.  The father moved to stay the issuance of the income withholding order.  The daughter argued the father had failed to timely contest the notice so the arrearages sworn to in the notice had been determined as a matter of law.

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In Texas divorce cases, property is presumed to be community property if either spouse possesses it during the marriage or at the time of the divorce.  Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 3.003.  To rebut the presumption, a spouse must trace the property and clearly identify it as separate by clear and convincing evidence.  How a property is characterized is generally determined based on the character it has at inception, or when the party’s title has vested.

In a recent case, a husband challenged the trial court’s characterization of property received as a gift from the wife’s parents.  When he petitioned for divorce, the husband requested a disproportionate share of the marital estate, due in part to “fault in the breakup…”  He also asked for reimbursement to his separate estate for funds he had expended for the community estate’s benefit.

He testified that the property where the couple lived had been gifted to them by the wife’s parents.  The “Gift Certification” signed by the wife’s parents stated they “intend to give to [husband and wife] a gift . . .” of the lot.  It also listed the relationship as “son in law to be and daughter.” Both the husband and wife signed in acknowledgement of receiving the gift.

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The court in a Texas divorce case may grant a divorce in favor of one party if it finds the other party committed adultery.  There must be “clear and positive” evidence of adultery.  Adultery may occur after separation. In a recent case, a husband challenged the divorce on the grounds of adultery.

The wife petitioned for divorce on the grounds of insupportability and adultery, and cruelty.  She requested a disproportionate share of the community estate.  The trial court found the husband committed adultery.  It named the parents joint managing conservators, with the wife having the exclusive right to designate primary residence.  The possession order granted the husband access to the children on the first, third, and fifth weekends, but only from 10 a.m. on Saturday to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

The trial court denied the husband’s motion to reconsider, modify, correct, or reform its judgment and entered a final decree.  The husband appealed, arguing the trial court abused its discretion in granting the divorce based on a finding of adultery and that the court abused its discretion in “materially deviating” from the Standard Possession Order.

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In some Texas divorce cases, the parties are able to reach an agreement on property division.  Such an agreement is treated as a contract, even when it is incorporated into a final agreed divorce decree.  If there is an ambiguity, the agreement may be reformed to correct a mutual mistake or reflect the parties’ intent.  An ambiguity exists if the meaning is uncertain or could reasonably be interpreted in more than one way.  To show there was a mutual mistake, a party must prove there was a definite agreement that was misstated in the contract due to a mistake of both parties.

In a recent case, a wife moved for clarification to correct the trial court’s omission of the amount of her portion of the husband’s military retirement. The couple divorced in 2000.  The agreed final divorce decree awarded the wife an amount of the husband’s Navy disposable retired pay, and 50% of all increases.  The amount was supposed to be “determined under the formula set forth below,” but the decree did not contain a provision setting forth a specific portion or calculation.  The decree awarded` the portion of the retirement pay “not awarded to [the wife]” to the husband.

The husband started receiving his military retirement benefits in 2015.  When the wife contacted the Defense Finance and Accounting Service to get her share of the benefits, she was told she could not be paid because the decree did not include a formula awarding her a portion of the retirement.

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As a result of his illustrious career, Dr. Dre’s net worth currently sits at a whopping $820 million – but maybe not for long. After 24 years, Dr. Dre’s wife, Nicole Young, is filing for divorce from the producer, rapper, and hip-hop icon. Reports indicate that the couple did not execute a premarital agreement prior to their 1996 marriage, which opens up Dr. Dre to significant financial exposure. In the absence of a premarital agreement, California – a community property state much like Texas – provides that property accumulated during marriage is owned by the community estate. Put simply, all of Dr. Dre’s income during the marriage, from his royalties as a solo rapper to his profits from Beats by Dre, is up for grabs. This means that Dr. Dre could see his hard-earned fortune be split in half right before his eyes in the coming months. Continue Reading ›

On June 26, 2020, the Supreme Court of Texas issued a ruling that is sure to have a major impact on future non-parent custody cases in the state of Texas. In the case of In re C.J.C., the Supreme Court of Texas found that the presumption that it is in the best interest of a child to award possession to a fit parent versus a non-parent extends to modification cases.[1] This decision is certain to be seen as a major win for parents, as the Court reinforced the long-held notion that in most cases, a parent having custody of their child is best for the child.

The case involved grandparents of the child and the boyfriend of the child’s deceased mother attempting to modify the possession of the child and gain at least some court-ordered possession from the child’s father. The trial court found that the boyfriend was entitled to some possession and even some rights, such as the right to consent to emergency medical decisions.[2] The child’s father appealed this decision. Continue Reading ›

In a Texas divorce case, the trial court that enters the divorce decree generally maintains continuing and exclusive jurisdiction over the children.  In some situations, however, transfer may be appropriate or even required.  If a party moves to enforce an order, but the child has resided in another county for at least six months, the trial court must transfer the case.  Tex. Fam. Code § 155.201.  To contest a transfer, a party must timely file “a controverting affidavit.”  The controverting affidavit must deny the “grounds for transfer exist . . .”  If the opposing party files a timely qualifying controverting affidavit, then there is a hearing.  If no qualifying controverting affidavit is timely filed, the case must be transferred without a hearing.  The transfer is mandatory if the elements are met, even when an enforcement action is pending.  A mother recently challenged an enforcement order that was followed by a transfer order just two hours later.

The mother was granted the exclusive right to designate the child’s primary residence and to designate it in McLennan County.  According to the appeals court’s opinion, she had moved to McLennan County by the time the divorce decree was entered in April 2018.

The father petitioned for enforcement of possession or access in June 2019 in Harris County, where the divorce decree had been issued.  The mother moved to transfer venue based on a statute requiring a case to be transferred to the county where the child has lived for at least six months.  Tex. Fam. Code § 155.201. The mother submitted an affidavit averring that she and the child had been living in McLennan County for more than six months.

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