Can my boyfriend/girlfriend pickup my child from the other parent?


After parties separate, it is highly likely that they will date other people at some point in the future.  When that happens, then another person is pulled into the orbit of the parent’s custody arrangement.  This can be a emotional and contentious proposition, especially when children are involved.

In most Standard Visitation Orders, there are General Terms and Conditions that say who can be present when a child is picked up or dropped off.  This language usually says, “either parent may designate a competent adult to pickup and return the child, as applicable; a parent or a designated competent adult shall be present when the child is picked up or returned”  See Texas Family Code 153.316(6).

This means that if new boyfriend or new girlfriend, new husband or new wife,  is there for pickup or drop off that’s generally OK.  A new boyfriend or girlfriend will usually qualify as a “competent adult” unless they have an extensive criminal background for violent offenses, drug offenses, have a protective order or a history of protective orders, or are a registered sex offender.  Most low-level misdemeanors will not be enough to exclude new boyfriend or new girlfriend from handling pickups and drop offs.  Contact an attorney in your area to determine the specifics in your case and what rises to an worrying level for the Judges that may hear your case.  Yes, this also means new partners can handle the exchanges alone without the actual parent present.

A word of caution: it is best not to let new wife, girlfriend, husband, boyfriend handle communications on your behalf about the children.  Concerns about the children’s school or extracurriculars should be handled by the parents themselves.  Details about the visitation schedule and any modification requests should be handled by the parents themselves.  Allowing a new partner to handle these topics with the other parent is asking for trouble.  Judges prefer the parents to handle the communications about the children, not new partners.  If you are allowing your partner to handle these communications because you “just can’t have a reasonable conversation” with the other parent, then that’s going to be a mark against you in the future.  Finding a way to communicate for the good of the children is in everyone’s best interests.  There are many short-term counseling seminars, online communication tools, and other options to explore before you throw in the towel.  Try these options and you will be in a better place for your next court hearing or maybe avoid one altogether.  If the other parent is being truly unreasonable and demanding in all your attempts to have a reasonable discussion about the children then reach out to an attorney in your area about options.  There are change that can be made if you are experiencing truly poor behavior from the other parent.

Can I go to my child’s activity when it’s not my day for a visit?


A common question is whether a parent can to to their child’s sports game, school play, or classroom activity when it is not their day for a visit under their visitation schedule.  Parents should want to attend as many of these important milestones in their children’s lives as possible.  Judges understand this and encourage this involvement after parents split up.

Sometimes the other parent will overstep their authority and claim one parent and/or their extended family cannot see the child at public/school/sports activities when it’s not that parent’s scheduled visitation day.  Only in rare cases where there’s an active Protective Order, Restraining Order, or similar restriction on how physically close parties can be to one another will one parent be prevented from attending these important events in the child’s life.

Texas Family Code section 153.073 lists the rights of both parents AT ALL TIMES. This means the parent has these rights regardless of what day of the week or visitation schedule they have elsewhere in the Order.  These rights are usually in your divorce/custody/child support order near the beginning of the document.  Check your court paperwork and verify that you have a list similar to the one I quote below.  If so, then you have the right to attend any school related event, i.e., school sports, band performances, choir performances, plays, classroom parties, and awards ceremonies.  Further, any club sports team’s games are usually listed on the club’s website along with the game’s location.  Any member of the public can go to these games.

Disclaimer: You can attend the event but that does not mean you get to visit with the child for an extended period before/during/after the event. Respect the other parent’s time with the child and keep interactions supportive but short.

RIGHTS OF PARENT AT ALL TIMES. (a) Unless limited by court order, a parent appointed as a conservator of a child has at all times the right:

(1) to receive information from any other conservator of the child concerning the health, education, and welfare of the child;

(2) to confer with the other parent to the extent possible before making a decision concerning the health, education, and welfare of the child;

(3) of access to medical, dental, psychological, and educational records of the child;

(4) to consult with a physician, dentist, or psychologist of the child;

(5) to consult with school officials concerning the child’s welfare and educational status, including school activities;

(6) to attend school activities;

(7) to be designated on the child’s records as a person to be notified in case of an emergency;

(8) to consent to medical, dental, and surgical treatment during an emergency involving an immediate danger to the health and safety of the child; and

(9) to manage the estate of the child to the extent the estate has been created by the parent or the parent’s family.

How soon can I get remarried after my divorce?

man holding woman's hand

In Texas, when someone asks, “How soon after my divorce can I get remarried?” or “Is there a waiting period for when I can remarry after my divorce?” I point out Texas Family Code 6.801.

“…neither party to a divorce may marry a third party before the 31st day after the date the divorce is decreed.  The former spouse may remarry each other at any time.”

Some clients have been separated so long that they meet, date, fall in love, and plan a wedding with a new partner before their old divorce is finalized.  Wedding plans get made and then have to be rescheduled to avoid this prohibition.  There are judicial remedies available for emergency purposes, but for the most part it is good advice to finish your old marriage before starting a new one.

Access to Intestate’s Financial Accounts

I receive calls from parties who, after a loved one has passed, have no idea what that balances are in their loved one’s financial accounts.  They do not know whether the estate would be solvent (able to pay its debts) or insolvent (unable to pay debts).  They do not know if there is a small balance or large and how that would affect cheaper probate alternatives.  Not knowing the balance of accounts can make a difference as to whether a case qualified foraSmall Estate Affidavit or needs an more typical Probate or Heirship proceeding.

There is a way to look into balances on a decedent’s accounts. Texas Estate Code 153.003 provides that an “interested person” (heir, spouse, creditor, claim holder) can request a probate court to order a financial institution to release the balance information on each account in the deceased party’s name with their financial institution.  The court can do this only if: (1) at least 90 days have passed since the date of death, (2) no probate petition has been filed (yet), AND (3) no one has already been appointed as a personal representative of the estate.

The exception to this is the bank does not have to provide information about a financial account that already has a beneficiary designation, payable on death (POD) account, a trust account, or an account that provides for a right of survivorship.  These types of accounts automatically transfer on death and become the property of the named successor, so you cannot invade that person’s right of privacy in their newly inherited accounts.  You can only see balance for the accounts left hanging after a death with no where to go except through the probate process.

Change to law regarding Modification of Prior Orders – Temporary Orders

The Texas legislature meets every other year to handle the legislative processes for the State.  Every two years new laws come out or old laws get changed.  Some of those changes effect Divorce and Custody matters.

The Legislature changed the law regarding what’s required if you want to modify an old custody/visitation order.  Now, if you want to change who is the primary parent or create/change/eliminate a primary residence restriction, then you have to include a statement with your initial court pleadings to establish how the child(ren)’s physical health or emotional development would suffer unless the Judge granted your requested changes.  Previously, this statement was only required if you wanted to change the primary residence designation, i.e., the child switch which parent they lived with during the school week.  See Texas Family Code 156.006.  Now the law includes both.

Bottom line is if you are trying to change your old custody or visitation orders and are trying to change the child(ren)’s primary residence or the geographic restriction designation, then you would have to include a sworn statement alleging the potential harm to the child(ren) you are trying to avoid with the modification.  Without such a statement your case might not get a hearing and might be dismissed out of hand before you can reach any real issues, causing delay and additional expense.

Settlement Week

How do I settle my divorce case quickly?  How do I settle my custody case quickly?  How can parties work out their child support case without the need for costly litigation and court hearings?

These are some of the questions I get after potential clients understand the possible costs of litigating a case.  A full on fight in a divorce, custody, modification, or child support case can be financially and emotionally draining.  Most people would prefer to come to the table, air out their issues, and try to find creative solutions to their problems.  The best solution is mediation.  In mediation you have control and can walk away from the table if you feel the discuss is not being productive, taking the case to court instead.  Mediation can happen early on in a case or later after hearings and/or discovery is conducted.

Williamson County, and many Counties throughout Texas, have something called “Settlement Week.”  Settlement Week is when parties can find inexpensive mediators to assist them in reaching an agreement on their case, if possible.  Williamson County offers settlement week twice per year, once in the Spring and once in the Fall.  There are only so many slots available so usually they are reserved on a first come first served basis.  The program is usually run by the courthouse or local bar association.  Your local attorneys or court staff will know if a Settlement Week, or similar low-cost mediation program, is offered in your area.

Settlement Week is mediation, just a rose by another name.  Sometimes cases have too many complex issues to be solved in a short, low cost, mediation setting like settlement week.  There are many experienced mediators throughout the state who can spend extra time or use their unique expertise to assist you in resolving your complex case.  These might be good options if you believe your case might be too complex for a shorter mediation session.  Check with the local bar association in your area for experienced mediators for familiarity in your needed area of law.

Registration of Out-of-State Order in Texas


I receive calsl asking whether a parent can register an out of state order here in Texas.  The answer is, yes, but to what end?

In Texas, to register an our-of-state Order, you follow the steps listed in Texas Family Code 159.602.

Registering an Order from another state is usually accompanied with a request to modify that order, or enforce it.  Rarely are out-of-state Orders just registered in the local court’s files just for good measure.

When parties are living in different states it can become very complicated very quickly to enforce or modify a court order.  You run into problems with Jurisdiction and proper Venue that may restrict where and how you can proceed with your case.

If you live in a different state from the other parent and/or the children then it is vital for you to consult with an experienced attorney.  UIFSA, UCCJEA, and the Uniform Parentage Act will need to be consulted and applied to your specific case facts.

Joining a Child Support case with a Divorce

In Texas, when there is an old Child Support/custody case from before the Divorce was filed, the old child support/custody case needs to be transferred and joined up with the divorce case.  See Texas Family Code 6.406 & 6.407

Child Support cases are sometimes filed by the Attorney General or when parties initially separate.  Parties might let these child support or custody cases run their course before turning their attention to the divorce and dividing marital property/debts.  It’s better to handle all the child-related issues and Divorce all at the same time, but sometimes people just put off the divorce and let the child support and visitation case take care of the immediate need for child support to start.  If you settle the child support and custody before tackling the divorce issues, then you might lock yourself in to something you might not want when later dividing assets and debts in the divorce.

If you have an old custody or child support case, and then later file the divorce, you MUST mention the old custody or child support case in the divorce filing.  A Motion to Consolidate is the best way to join the two cases up if they are both filed in the same County.  If the old custody case is filed in a different county than where the divorce is filed, then a Motion to Transfer, filed in the old county where the custody/child support case is filed, would be the best step.  Failure to bring together the older custody/child support case into the divorce might result in delays and increased costs.

For these reasons, it is highly advisable that when you meet with an attorney or attempt to file a divorce on your own, that you disclose prior court actions that might effect your divorce case.  It is always easier to tackle such issues in the beginning than to have to back up and redo major paperwork and court hearing dates.  If you have this type of problem, just bring your old paperwork along with you to the consultation or at least mention the old case and where it was filed to whomever you are consulting with on your divorce.

Holographic Wills

In Texas, someone can make a Will on their own, but it must be in the person’s own handwriting and show “testamentary intent,” which means they intended the document to be their last will and testament.

Texas Estates Code 251.052 allows that a Will, written wholly in the testamentor’s handwriting, is not required to be attested by subscribing witnesses.

This means that if the decedent wrote out a Will then as long as it’s in their own handwriting, and there’s someone to testify in court to the authenticity of that handwriting, then that handwritten document can likely be used as a Will in a Texas Probate Court.

Caution should be used in using this as an Estate planing technique.  A Will is a specific, special document that needs to be tailored to meet your needs.  Consultation with a Wills and Estates attorney is advisable before undertaking such a task on your own.

Spousal Maintenance

Texas permits Spousal Maintenance, other states call it Alimony.  To qualify for Spousal Maintenance under the Texas Family Law, you need to be married for at least 10 years or there was spousal abuse, AKA family violence, within 2 years of the divorce, or a medical issue during the marriage that prevents a spouse from finding employment.  See Texas Family Code 8.051

It is a rebuttable presumption that spousal maintenance is not warranted unless the spouse requesting the maintenance has exercised diligence in attaining suitable employment (and been unsuccessful thus far) OR they are developing the necessary skills to support themselves during separation.  See Texas Family Code 8.053.  This means a Court would start from the presumption that spousal support is not warranted.

If you are married for ten years or more, or have been the victim of family violence or have medical complications the prevents you from working, then you have the right to request spousal maintenance.  Whether you receive any, and how much you would receive for what length of time, is highly dependent on your circumstances.  The length of time for any support is between 5 and 10 years, depending on the length of marriage.  You should contact an attorney who knows the details of the law and local judicial demeanor in order to assess your situation.