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Child Law Divorce Family Law

Texas Standard Possession Schedule

What is a “Standard” or “Expanded Standard” custody schedule? Texas Family Code 153.311 begins the Texas possession schedule. The following sections detail out what exchanges dates/times are used in a Texas Possession schedule. These sections outline what possession and access schedule (AKA visitation schedule), is in the child(ren)’s best interests. Judges start from this schedule […]

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New Texas Rules of Civil Procedure affects family law filings

The Texas Supreme Court has issued new rules changing the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, specifically, Rule 21c dealing with privacy protection for filed documents.  The most recent version of these rules was signed in December, 2013, and can be found by clicking here or on the Texas Supreme Court website.  Make sure you are looking at the most recent version as the Tex. Sup. Ct. released another different version of these changes over the Summer.

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Drug Testing

When drug use is an issue in a case, many Judges will order a drug test as a condition to visitation.  Once a clean drug test is produced, then visitation can progress.  The most common testing facility used by Judges in Travis and Williamson Counties is Austin Mobile Drug Testing. 

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De Novo Appeal – Rehearing from Associate Judges

The 2013 Texas Legislative Changes to Texas Family Code sec. 201.015 & 201.1042 & 201.2042 now shorten the amount of time a party has to request a rehearing from an Associate Judge’s rulings.  Associate Judges are typically employed for Child Support and Child Custody cases where the County and District Judges have hired a judge to sit and handle just those types of cases, thus freeing the District and County Judge’s dockets for other matters. 

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Child Support, Increase in “cap” Upper Limits

In the past, the upper limit of a parent’s income for child support purposes was limited to a monthly gross of $10,340 GROSS for employed persons and $11,074 GROSS for self-employed persons.  Under the older Texas child support guidelines, that worked out to $7,500 NET monthly income.  That meant that anyone making above that amount per month would not have it “count” for purposes of figuring your child support percentage. 

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Mediation

Mediation is an informal settlement option that is available and appropriate in most divorce cases.  Mediation is highly encouraged in all Texas Courts as a necessary intermediate step before a final hearing can be held in a divorce case, especially one with complex custody and/or property issues.  Mediation is where both parties meet, usually at the mediator’s office, usually in separate rooms, to try to reach an agreement on some or all issues in their case.  This saves the costs and stress of a big final contested hearing, where the outcome is unknown.

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Jail Release for Child Support

If someone has been arrested in Travis County due to failure to pay child support, you need to find out who asked for the person to be put in jail.  You can review the paperwork that was signed by the Judge when that person was committed to find this out.  It is usually called a Commitment Order or something similar.  You can get that in the district clerk’s office at the Travis County Courthouse, First floor, 1000 Guadalupe, Austin, TX 78701.  You need to find out whether the Travis County Domestic Relations Office or the Texas Attorney General Child Support Division is the one who put him in jail.

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Best Interests of the Children

Texas Family Code 153.002 and 153.003 show that when a Judge is making a decision as to custody (Conservatorship, Possession, & Access) they look to these sections of the Family Code to instruct them on whom to award custody of the child(ren). In fact, the best interests of the child(ren) is usually the primary consideration of the court in determining the issues of conservatorship and possession of and access to the children.  The Court cannot consider a party’s marital status (or lack of marital status) or their gender in determining who would be the “better” parent.  The old saying that Courts favor the mothers is not the case, under Texas law.

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Board of Nursing Violations

The Texas Board of Nursing handles the licensing and practice standards for all Registered Nurses (RNs) and Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs) actively working in Texas.  If you are a licensed nurse and you receive a Notice of Disciplinary Action letter from the Texas Nursing Board you know you need serious assistance to protect you, your license, and your family’s income through your job.  The Board’s Disciplinary Action page on their website has some guidance, but it is to your advantage to speak with someone familiar with the disciplinary process. 

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Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested

Many people do not know the power of Certified Mail. If you need to prove that someone actually received a letter, package, or document, then this method is the best way to confirm that.  It will cost about $6.00 to send a regular sized envelope through the U.S. Postal Service.  Your local post office can help you find the right stickers that you need to place on the envelope.  See USPS.com for more details on Certified Mail.

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Civics Resources for Students and Teachers

The Texas State Board of Education has new standards for the TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) test relating to social studies curriculum. The additions to the State’s government and history curriculum include knowledge of certain landmark court cases. Middle and High School students are now required to analyze them and be tested on their main points.
The State Bar of Texas has made a website to assist teachers and educators in their efforts with this civics portion of the TEKS test.

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How to get what you want in a Final Divorce Hearing; Making a list, checking it twice.

The best advice for someone, attorney or not, when going for a final divorce hearing is this: make a list of all the property you want the Court to divide. I suggest hiring an attorney who can help you with your divorce, regardless of how many assets or debts you have. But if you want to go it alone then preparation and organization are your best tools.
I see people make the mistake of assuming the Judge knows everything about their case down to the last nickel. If you have your case together and are well prepared then the Court will give you more weight (believability) on other issues, like which person is better suited to keep the house or establish where the children live.

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How to reduce your back owed child support

The most common question I am asked is whether past due child support can be taken off someone’s account with the Texas Attorney General. The answer is, sometimes you can.
Many parents fall behind on child support payments and then have a hard time catching back up. Those unpaid amounts sit as a negative in the account and slowly gather interest. If payments are not made for long periods of time then the outstanding balance can be quite substantial. The Texas Attorney General’s office will eventually come knocking for its money if it can’t collect it through income tax refund withholding or other means.

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Can my child choose where they want to live?

This question comes up a lot in Change of Custodyor Divorce cases, not just in in Austin Divorce cases and Georgetown Divorce cases, but also in many Texas Divorce and custody cases.  The Texas Family Code, Section 153.009 is the law dealing with this question.
Many children express a desire to live with one particular parent over the other.  This is common during the divorce process as well as down the line after the divorce has been completed for some time.

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Visitation for Children Under three years old

Texas Family Code Section 153.254 was changed in the 2011 legislative session.  Please note that the link is to the old law. The new language goes into effect September 1, 2011 but will not be posted until the website updates.  The new language has been published elsewhere but the changes might not be well-known yet.
Under the old language a Judge was authorized to “render an order appropriate under the circumstances” for children under three years of age and to make provisions for possession and access once the child turned three.

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Child Support – Paying something is better than nothing

Many people come to me with large amounts of past-due child support.  The interest alone can represent a large portion of their amount owed.  I have seen lots of people go to jail due to their failure to pay child support.  In most cases, the non-paying parent has paid nothing for months or years and now their past payment history (or lack thereof) is being used against them to show their true character.