COVID-19 Accommodations:

We care about your health and safety and are fully capable of conducting client consults virtually by telephone or video-conferencing. Please contact us at 214.692.8200 for a consult or fill-out our form online.

Published on:

It is not uncommon for a non-custodial parent who moves away to seek custody.  To change a Texas custody order, the parent must show that the change is in the child’s best interest and that there has been a substantial and material change in circumstances.  A mother recently challenged the denial of her petition for a change in custody.

The parents divorced in 2014 when the child was four.  The parties agreed in the decree the husband had the right to designate the child’s primary residence, but the mother petitioned for that right in December 2016.

The mother said the child lived with her until she enlisted in the Army in 2015.  According to the mother, the child then alternated between her grandmothers.  The mother remarried in 2016 and moved to Fort Hood.  She continued visiting the child most weekends until she was transferred to Poland for part of 2016.  She now lives in Colorado.

Continue reading →

Published on:

When a party wants a judgment corrected, he or she generally has to challenge it directly within a specific time frame.  In some cases, however, a person may seek to avoid the effect of the judgment through a collateral attack.  A voidable judgment becomes final unless it is attacked directly in accordance with applicable procedural rules, but a void judgment may be challenged at any time.  In a recent case, a Texas appeals court had to determine if a provision in a Texas divorce decree ordering a father to pay the mother’s attorney’s fees was void or voidable.

The divorce decree included a fee provision that ordered the father to pay the mother’s attorney’s fees related “to issues concerning the suit affecting parent-child relationship [“SAPCR”] and the safety and welfare of the children.”

The father moved to modify the decree about a month after it was signed.  He asked for increased possession and decreased child support.  He also challenged the fee provision.  The court’s order increased his possession. In its Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, the court found there was not a sufficient change in circumstances of either parent or the children to support a change in the father’s child support obligations or the fee provision.  The court ordered him to continue to pay all of the mother’s attorney’s fees related to the SAPCR.

Continue reading →

Published on:

Pursuant to the Texas Supreme Court’s 17th Emergency Order Regarding The Covid-19 State of Disaster, Texas courts may now modify or suspend deadlines for civil and criminal cases, except for child-welfare cases, until September 30. In child-welfare cases, the Texas courts may modify or suspend a deadline or procedure imposed by statute, rule or order for a period not to exceed 180 days and extend the dismissal date for any case previously retained on a court’s docket for no longer than 180 days. The 17th Emergency Order reiterates the status quo of following the trial court’s order in possession and access cases. Continue reading →

Published on:

In a Texas custody case, the court is not required to give parents equal periods of possession or visitation just because it appoints the parents as joint managing conservators. Tex. Fam. Code § 153.135. The court is also not required to award rights and duties of conservatorship to each parent equally or both jointly.  The court’s primary consideration should be the child’s best interest. Tex. Fam. Code § 153.002.  Case law has established a non-exhaustive list of factors to be considered in determining the child’s best interest.

A mother recently challenged a court order naming both parents joint managing conservators, but granting the father the exclusive right to determine the child’s primary residence.  The mother petitioned for divorce and moved from Missouri City to Dallas.  The child primarily lived with the mother for the next six years, but the parents sharing custody under temporary orders.

According to the appeals court’s opinion, both parents “contributed to the ongoing discord . . .” The mother failed to tell the father about some appointments or events before they occurred.  She sometimes kept the child from taking calls or made him stop conversations.  She would not allow the father to have makeup time, but sought makeup time for herself when her time was disrupted by bad weather.  The father “berated” the mother when she was late for the exchange, recorded their conversations, and tracked the child through an iPad.  He sometimes ignored the mother, but criticized her frequently for not communicating with him.  The mother testified the father was controlling and manipulative.

Continue reading →

Published on:

Divorce can be complicated when the parties are citizens of different countries.  Each party may feel a divorce in the other’s country may be unfair to them.  There may be issues regarding jurisdiction.  Furthermore, even after one country issues a divorce, the other country may not recognize it.  A husband recently challenged a Texas divorce after a Mexican court had already granted a divorce.

The parties married in 1986 in Texas.  The husband is a Mexican citizen and the wife is a U.S. Citizen.  They had residences in both countries during their marriage.  Their business was in Mexico, but the wife and daughter lived in Texas at the time of the Texas divorce proceedings.

The husband filed for divorce in Mexico in 2015.  The wife challenged jurisdiction, arguing jurisdiction was in Texas because that is where the parties lived.  The Mexican court granted the divorce in April 2016.

Continue reading →

Published on:

Texas family law contains a presumption that it is in children’s best interest for the parents to be appointed joint managing conservators.  If there is credible evidence of a history of child neglect or physical or sexual abuse by one parent against the child the court may not appoint both parents joint managing conservators.  Tex. Fam. Code § 153.004.  In a recent case, a mother challenged the appointment of both parents as joint managing conservators when there were allegations of abuse against the father.

The parents had five children together.  The mother filed for divorce in 2016.  The trial court appointed the parents joint managing conservators of the four minor children and granted the father the right to designate their primary residence.  The mother appealed, arguing the court erred in naming them managing conservators when there was credible evidence of a history or pattern of abuse.  She also challenged the admission of certain evidence and testimony.

The mother argued that testimony from pre-trial hearings, the father’s trial testimony, and his invocation of the Fifth Amendment during discovery constituted credible evidence.  The appeals court found, however, that the trial court had never actually admitted the pre-trial hearing transcripts into evidence and the testimony could therefore not be used to challenge the trial court’s order.

Continue reading →

Published on:

Although courts are still open and conducting Zoom hearings, there is no doubt that many court cases are moving along more slowly than otherwise desired as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. A potentially more practical and expedient method of divorce is collaborative law. Continue reading →

Published on:

When there is a finding of paternity, a child’s father may move to change the child’s name.  Under Texas family law and the state constitution, both parents are treated equally, however, so a child’s surname will not be changed to that of the father based solely on tradition. The court may only change the child’s name based on “good cause shown” and the best interest of the child.   Some courts consider a showing of the child’s best interest to be sufficient to establish good cause, but other courts require the requesting party to establish both.

In a recent case, the parents agreed on all issues except the child’s name.  According to the court’s opinion, the mother told the father she was pregnant while they were dating.  She broke up with him after he asked her to consider an abortion.  She then got back together with an ex-boyfriend.  She gave the child the boyfriend’s first and last names, but called him by his middle name.  The mother told the father he was actually the child’s father after she broke up with the boyfriend.

The father filed a petition to establish paternity, appoint him managing conservator, and change the child’s name.  The mother asked to be the sole managing conservator and receive child support.

Continue reading →

Published on:

Under Texas family law, there is a presumption that one or both parents should be named managing conservator of a child in an original suit for custody.  If, however, the child’s health or emotional well-being would be significantly impaired, the court may appoint a non-parent if doing so is in the child’s best interest.  This presumption can make it difficult for non-parents to gain custody. A mother recently challenged an order giving her child’s paternal grandparents custody.

She appealed the order that appointed her and the child’s paternal grandparents as joint managing conservators, with the grandparents having the exclusive right to designate the child’s primary residence.  The trial court had issued that order following a petition to modify a 2013 order that granted the grandparents possession and access to the child.

The trial court titled its order “Order in Suit to Modify Parent-Child relationship.”  The court found the child had primarily lived with the grandparents, and they had “had actual care, control, and possession of the child with the voluntary consent of [the mother].”  The court also found the mother had been arrested for Battery and Cruelty to a Child in an incident involving her teenage daughter.  The court found the mother had a history of drug use and instability.  The trial court concluded the mother had relinquished care, control and possession of the child to the grandparents, that appointing her as sole managing conservator or giving her the right to determine the child’s primary residence would significantly impair the child’s physical health or emotional development, and that the modification was in the child’s best interest.

Continue reading →

Published on:

As COVID-19 began to take hold in the United States, Texas and other states took action to ensure that child possession schedules remained in effect and were followed according to court orders. These actions were effective, and as COVID-19 continues to persist in society, parents have adapted to working within court-ordered possession schedules. Now, however, new issues have surfaced regarding the safety and protection of children who are subject to the court-ordered possession schedules. Continue reading →

Contact Information