So what exactly is “family law”?
Family Law is a type of civil action that generally involves domestic issues. Many of the issues intertwine and are handled within one case and sometimes a case can be limited to one issue.
What does Family Law include?
Family Law can include matters such as divorce, child custody and visitation, child support, modification of previously existing orders, enforcement actions, paternity suits, grandparent’s rights, adoptions, and name changes.
Do I need a family law attorney?
While the answer to this question is no, you should be aware that family law issues can be quite complicated and involved. It is possible you can represent yourself in Court, but you are held to the same standards and rules as the attorneys.
This means you risk not being able to present the evidence properly or know when and how to object to evidence the opposing counsel is presenting. You jeopardize your own case and position by not properly representing yourself. It is a choice only you can make.
What does a family law attorney cost?
The cost of hiring a family law attorney varies depending on the type of case and the issues involved. You can expect to pay anywhere between $1,500 to $10,000 as a deposit for services. Hourly rates for attorneys also vary depending on their experience, location, and size of the firm.
You can expect to pay between $150/hour to $500/hour for an attorney. It is possible to receive free or reduced legal services if you qualify. You should check with your local or state bar for more information.
What should I expect in family court?
Most attorneys will try to come to some agreements between the parties so as not to waste the Court’s time on smaller issues. Every person has a right to be heard in Court, however, the Court does not care that your spouse dresses your child in pants and you dress your child in dresses. You should expect to try and come to some agreements to limit the issues before the Court.
You should also expect to conduct yourself professionally and respectfully. If you hire an attorney, you should expect the attorney to handle the proceedings and you should follow the advice of your attorney. Sometimes the hearing is brief and is in front of the Judge’s bench, while other times the hearing is more formal and witnesses are called to the witness stand. Always heed the advice of your attorney if you are unsure what to do.
Now that you have some idea of what family law entails and what to expect in Court, the following are brief descriptions of the different areas of family law.
Divorce can happen to anyone no matter their race, religion, educational background, financial position, employment status, or sexual orientation. Divorces can range from very simple to very complex and can include other areas of family law, such as child custody, visitation and child support.
Regardless of how simple or complex your divorce may be, every divorce must be initiated by the filing of an Original Petition of Divorce and will end by the signing of a Final Decree of Divorce. How the case progresses throughout the rest of the matter depends on what issues are present and the parties and/or their counsel.
If you are considering filing for divorce or if your spouse has already filed, please visit our Divorce page to learn more about the process in Texas and what you can expect.
Child custody can be included in a divorce proceeding or in a Suit Affecting Parent-Child Relationship. Regardless of the situation, child custody issues are highly emotional not only for the parents, but also for the children. In all child custody situations, the Court looks to the best interest of the child. What the court deems to be in the best interest may not align with your desires.
Navigating child custody issues can be a challenge and often leads to a child custody battle. In those situations, the Court may appoint an attorney ad litem or an amicus attorney and can order a social study. These actions may assist a Judge in determining child custody. Of course, the easiest way to handle custody issues is entering into a child custody agreement.
For more information about child custody laws and how our Firm can help, please visit our Child Custody page.
Suit Affecting Parent-Child Relationship
So what is a SAPCR? A SAPCR is a proceeding that addresses issues regarding custody and support of children in situations where the parties do not have a marital relationship or the parties may be separated but are not wanting to file a divorce. A parent or a person with physical custody of a child can initiate the proceedings. A SAPCR can be a suit between the parents, between a parent and other family members seeking custody of a child, or can include the Department of Family and Protective Services.
Other issues typically addressed within a SAPCR include possession and access (visitation), child support, and medical and dental support.
Possession And Visitation Schedules
Possession and access, otherwise known as visitation, goes hand in hand with child custody. As a general rule, custody establishes the physical residence of the child, whereas possession and access establishes who has visitation of the child and when.
Texas has a standard possession order called an SPO. This possession schedule addresses how and when the parents will see the children and varies depending on if the parents live within 100 miles of each other or over 100 miles apart. An SPO may include an extended visitation schedule or may be modified in other ways. The SPO also provides for holiday visitation and summer visitation.
There may also be situations where standard possession and visitation is not appropriate, and you may seek supervised visitation or nonstandard possessory periods. The Court will determine what is in the best interest of the child, so it is important to have concrete evidence as to why the standard possession order is NOT in the best interest of the child. Absent proof, most Courts are reluctant to stray from the standards set forth in the Family Code.
Please visit our Visitation page to learn more about visitation rights and Possession and Access Schedules in Texas.
Another area of family law that goes hand in hand with custody and visitation is child support. Child support cases can be included in divorce suits, in SAPCR proceedings, or they can be initiated by the Office of the Attorney General on behalf of a parent or on behalf of the State of Texas.
The State of Texas may initiate a child support case in a Title IV-D Court because a child is receiving medicaid benefits and there is no record of child support. A child support case will involve establishing (or modifying) the amount of child support ordered, as well as health insurance or cash medical support in lieu of health insurance provisions. If the parties do not have a visitation schedule in place, then the OAG (Office of the Attorney General) can also include custody and visitation provisions.
Things change after an Order is signed. Sometimes parties can go years with no issues, and other times the original Court Order is no longer workable. No matter the reason, there are steps that can be taken to “amend” or modify an existing Order. An Order can be modified for many reasons, including visitation, determining the primary residence of the child, and increasing or decreasing child support.
There are certain requirements that deal with specific situations in modification. Keep in mind that almost every Order allows the parties to agree on provisions outside of the Order and, absent mutual agreement, the Order controls. If you must modify, it will be filed in the same Court under the same case number as the original Order.
Learn more about Modifications and how a Motion to Modify may be beneficial to you by visiting our Modifications page.
No matter the circumstances, it may be necessary to seek court intervention to enforce a court order. Enforcement actions are court proceedings filed in the same court where the original order was signed. The purpose of an enforcement action is to “enforce” or make the other party comply with the Court order.
The most common situations for enforcement are those dealing with child support and visitation. Sometimes one parent will not allow visitation because the other is behind on child support. Perhaps the other parent has never paid child support. Other situations can involve division of property and the failure of a party to turn over an asset.
When a party fails to abide by a Court Order, they can be held in contempt of court. There are two types of contempt: civil contempt and criminal contempt. An enforcement action typically requests the Court hold the person in contempt for violating the Court Order. A person found to be in contempt could face fines and/or time in jail, along with probation.
There are some defenses a person may have in violating a Court Order, but they are very specific. Before you intentionally violate a Court Order, you should consider the statutory defenses and the ramifications. A Judge may not agree with your idea of justification. It is always best to seek legal advice rather than violating a Court Order.
If you need to file an enforcement action or are in need of defending one, please visit our Enforcements page to learn how we can help you.
Paternity is the process of establishing a legal relationship between a child and a father. Paternity can be established in any of the following ways:
- Acknowledgement of Paternity;
- Adoption; or
- Consent to assisted reproduction
When a child is born to an unwed mother, the father does not have an automatic legal right to a child until paternity is established. Once that legal relationship has been formed, the only way to terminate that relationship is by a legal proceeding to terminate the parent-child relationship. This means that if a man establishes paternity, then later finds out the child is not his biological child, he must file to terminate his parental rights.
If you believe you may or may not be the father of a child, it is imperative that you take certain steps to protect your legal rights. To learn more about establishing paternity, visit our Paternity page or contact our office for a consultation.
Our firm also handles grandparent visitation. In Texas, grandparents do not have an automatic right to visit their grandchildren. As difficult and heartbreaking as the situation may be, if the grandparent(s) did not already have a relationship with the grandchild, and certain circumstances do not apply, then the Court will most likely not award visitation and access for a grandparent. Unfortunately, there is a presumption that a parent acts in the best interest of their child so restricting grandparent access is usually upheld.
Why Choose Our Firm
Regardless of the type of family law matter you are facing, it is important that you have a local family law attorney that can handle these matters efficiently and effectively. Every case has the potential to be an emotional and financial nightmare. Having the best family law attorney that can handle every situation is a necessity.
At the Law Office of Ronda S Haynes, PLLC, you will have the opportunity to meet with a compassionate, experienced family law attorney who will listen to your story and answer all your questions. We spend the time to learn about your history and how you found yourself in the current situation.
We learn about your overall goal and help you manage expectations. We strive to obtain realistic results for you and your family as quickly and efficiently as possible. Contact us today for a consultation.
Regardless of the type of family law matter you are facing, it is important that you have an attorney that can handle these matters efficiently and effectively. Every Court case has the potential to be an emotional and financial nightmare. Having an attorney that can handle every situation is a necessity. Contact us today to protect not only your rights, but the rights of your children.