It’s a simple fact that cases involving divorce, child custody, or asset division usually bring stress and pressure. But they don’t have to bring confusion. Our attorneys make every effort to answer any questions you have, and to ensure you understand the process and what to expect. Below we’ve addressed some of the common questions our clients ask. If you don’t find the answer you’re looking for here, we invite you to contact us.
Can one attorney represent both parties in a divorce?
No. An attorney can draft the documents in a divorce for both parties to sign, but he or she can’t legally advise more than one of the parties how to proceed in the divorce.
Is mediation required in most Texas divorces?
Yes, in most cases the Court will require you to attend mediation prior to attending the final trial.
If my spouse wants a divorce and I don’t, how can I stop it?
Once a divorce is filed in Texas and one party wants to go through with it, you can’t stop it from happening in the court system. Your only recourse is to convince your spouse to consider reconciliation.
What are the advantages of hiring a board-certified family lawyer to handle your divorce?
The Texas Board of Legal Specialization, as established by the state, recognizes attorneys who do most of their work in one area of the law and meet annual requirements including a certain level of continuing legal education.
Attorneys who are not board certified in family law can handle divorce-related matters, but most cases involving complex asset division or difficult child custody situations have a board-certified family lawyer on one or both sides.
Are divorce actions matters for a judge, or can you have a jury hear the case?
Either party in a Texas divorce can ask for and receive a jury trial, a unique feature of Texas law. But as a practical matter, judges hear most divorce-related matters, and jury decisions that are binding on the court are limited.
I heard that Texas is not an alimony state. Is that true?
No. The Texas Family Code provides for spousal maintenance to be awarded to a spouse if your facts and circumstances meet the requirements as set in the code. Furthermore, you and your spouse may agree to contractual alimony depending on the division of your assets.
Since Texas is a community property state, can you expect a “50/50” split of assets in a divorce?
Not necessarily. Property in a divorce is divided in a manner that the judge deems “just and right.” In addition, the judge may look at projected future earnings of the parties, who’s at fault for the divorce, and other criteria in making a disproportionate division.
Is there a waiting period between when a divorce is filed and when it is final?
Most jurisdictions have a waiting period. In Texas, you must wait 60 days from the time you file until your divorce is final, even if the divorce is uncontested.
How do I make an appointment with an attorney? What if I don’t have a specific attorney at the firm in mind?
You can contact us at any of our office locations. If you don’t have a specific attorney in mind, one of the members of our staff can assist you with making an appointment and helping you select an attorney.
Will my spouse know that I have consulted with an attorney?
When you contact us either by email or telephone for an appointment, your information is kept confidential and is not shared with anyone outside of our office. We recommend potential clients use a secure email, or friend or loved one’s phone to contact our office if they are concerned about their spouse finding out about the consultation.
What do I need to bring to my first consultation with an attorney?
Just yourself. If you have access to your most recent financial statements or tax returns, bring those, but it is not necessary. During your consultation, your attorney will let you know what documents are needed and will discuss how and when to retrieve them.
What is the first step in the divorce process?
First, you meet with your attorney. During that meeting, your attorney will discuss the options you have for moving forward with your divorce.
Will I have to pay child support?
Depending upon the type of visitation schedule that you receive, you may have to pay child support. Child support is based on your income, how many children are before the Court, and pursuant to what is referred to as the “child support guidelines” in the Texas Family Code. Your attorney can calculate your potential child support obligation and discuss variables that may affect the amount you do (or do not) owe.
What are my chances of gaining custody of my children?
That depends on the facts of your case. In Texas, instead of “custody,” we use the terms “conservatorship” and “visitation.” Conservatorship involves what rights and duties a parent has, while visitation deals with the parenting time allowed with the children. The presumption in Texas is that both parents will be appointed joint managing conservators of the child. Both parents can be joint managing conservators without having equal visitation time with their child. There are multiple options of how these rights can be awarded, and it is important to discuss with your attorney how these can impact you and your children.
Do judges ever award a 50/50 visitation schedule for children?
Yes, and it is becoming more common these days. Consult with an attorney to discuss the likelihood and strategy involved in obtaining 50/50 visitation in your particular case.
Adoption & Surrogacy
What happens to the biological parents' rights prior to adoption?
A biological parent has a constitutional fundamental right to direct the care, upbringing, and education of their child. The state or an individual with standing to bring a lawsuit can petition a court to terminate a parent’s rights. A parent can terminate their rights voluntarily. If the parent does not terminate their rights voluntarily, then a termination case would be filed against that parent. A termination case can be heard by a judge or a jury. There are numerous grounds to terminate a parent’s rights, however, the termination must also be in the child’s best interest.
What are the differences between private adoptions and adopting through foster care?
Both private adoptions and those done through the Texas foster care system connect hopeful parents with children who need loving, permanent homes and families. Both options allow you to become parents with full legal rights to your child. When considering what type of adoption is the right fit for your family, there are several differences to take into account. Private adoptions and state adoptions can vary significantly in terms of cost, wait time, and more. Additionally, adopting a child through the foster care system is considered a public adoption. Our attorneys help foster parents navigate Department of Family and Protective Services requirements, and we represent foster parents’ positions at case conferences, appeals hearings, and court appearances.
What are the legal guidelines for an open/closed adoption?
After a closed adoption, no contact is allowed between the birthparents, adoptive parents, and child. Contact prior to the adoption is also not allowed. In an open adoption, all the parties can legally remain in each other’s lives post-adoption. All adoptions through the Texas foster care system are public.
What does an adopting parent need to know about their rights and obligations before legally adopting a stepchild, grandchild or foster child?
First, the biological parents’ rights must be terminated before an adoption can occur. Inheritance rights from the biological parents can remain intact for the child. If the person adopting is married, their spouse must join in the lawsuit for the adoption. In Texas, a Jury cannot decide an adoption. Once an adoption is complete, the legal effect is that the child is a child of the adopting person as if that person was the child’s parent since birth. In other words, a born or adopted child is treated the same under the law.
What is the best interest of the child legal standard?
The best interest of the child is a common legal standard that courts use to make rulings. They assess several factors such as:
- The child’s emotional and physical needs,
- The parental abilities as potential caregivers,
- Future plans for the child,
- Home stability,
- Parenting acts or omissions that suggest the parent-child relationship is unhealthy,
- Excuses for any acts or omissions of the parent, and
- The child’s desires (sometimes).
How do I know if my surrogate is the appropriate legal fit?
Each state has different laws regarding surrogacy. Our attorneys ensure that the laws of the surrogate’s home state (where the delivery will take place) complement the laws of the parents’ home state — including laws around same-sex parenting. The KoonsFuller team will work alongside your surrogacy agency throughout the process.
What happens if an adoptive couple gets divorced? Who gets the child(ren)?
If the adopting spouses divorce, the adopted child is treated legally as a child of the marriage, just as if the child had been born to the adopting parents during the marriage. All of the laws regarding biological children would apply to an adopted child.
Going to Court
If I want to avoid the anger and bitterness that going to court sometimes produces, is there an alternative?
Most divorces are settled out of court by mediation or simply attorney-to-attorney settlement. The newest method of settlement, which completely avoids the courthouse, is collaborative law. Both attorneys and the divorcing parties vow beforehand to do everything possible to reach a settlement. Sessions are private, and the process is meant to eliminate the rancor often associated with divorce.
If my case is scheduled to go to court on a certain date, am I guaranteed that it will happen?
No, because multiple cases may be set on the judge’s docket the same day as your case. Another case may be heard before you and your case may be reset for another day.
What to expect in a divorce
In any divorce, it’s easy to get swept up in the emotion and pressure of the moment. We believe that maintaining an amiable dialogue helps minimize stress and disruption. But, if the need for more assertive negotiation arises, we’re ready to work tirelessly and aggressively to further your best interests.Read More