Family Law

Family Law

Few things in life are more traumatic than a divorce.  At Joaquin & Duncan, L.L.C., we understand the emotional toll a divorce takes and we help clients make the best decisions to get through a difficult time.  Joaquin & Duncan, L.L.C. provides the following Family Law services:

  • Uncontested Marital Dissolution
  • Contested Divorce
  • Sole or Joint Custody Parenting Agreements
  • Establishment, Modification or Termination of:
    • Child Custody
    • Visitation
    • Child Support
    • Spousal Maintenance (Alimony)
  • Paternity Matters
  • Assistance with Child Support Proceedings
  • Enforcement Proceedings for:
    • Divorce Decrees
  • Child Support Arrearages
    • Spousal Maintenance (Alimony) Arrearages
  • Juvenile Criminal and Dependency Matters
  • Domestication or Enforcement of Foreign Divorce Decrees
  • Termination or Severance of Parental Rights
  • Name Changes

If you or your family are in need of legal assistance, please contact Joaquin & Duncan, L.L.C. at (817) 282-9050.

Common Questions that Arise Under Texas Family Law

How long do I have to live in Texas before I can file for a divorce?

To file a petition for divorce, you must have been living in Texas for at least six months and you must be a resident of the county where the suit is filed for a 90‑day period before the petition is filed.

Can the court order child support and alimony payments during a divorce suit?

A judge can order such things as temporary child support, temporary visitation, and temporary alimony while the divorce action is pending.  This will usually occur after a hearing where on any temporary orders that might have been filed by either party.

How is child support calculated?

The Texas Family Code contains child support guidelines.  The guidelines use two years of federal income tax returns and the year‑to‑date pay records to calculate the amount of child support.  The judge will most likely sign a mandatory wage withhold order when the final decree is interred, which provides an additional tool to assure that child support is paid.

How is health insurance handled?

Health insurance can be awarded as additional child support and enforced in the same manner as child support.

What is the difference between temporary alimony and after‑divorce alimony?

Alimony is also called “spousal maintenance.”  A judge has wide discretion to award temporary alimony during a divorce. However, after the divorce is final, alimony is not automatic, but is subject to certain limitations set out in the Texas Family Code.

How is child custody and visitation determined?

Under the Texas Family Code, there is a presumption that it is in the best interests of a child that both parents be named as Joint Managing Conservators (joint custody).  That means both parents get almost the same rights and duties.  One parent will normally determine where the child lives, while the other parent is given visitation rights.  Both parents can reach an agreement regarding visitation, but if an agreement cannot be reached, then the final decree normally has a Standard Possession Order that will control visitation.

Texas law presumes that a standard visitation schedule will be followed in most cases for children age three and over.  A judge can deviate from the standard schedule for good cause, and special allowances can be made for religious holidays.  Parents can agree on custody arrangements that differ from the standard visitation schedule, and judges will almost always go along with their agreement.

How is visitation modified?

The court must consider some of the following, and may consider all of the following when modifying a visitation order:

  • a material and substantial change of circumstances since the last visitation order;
  • the last visitation order is unworkable;
  • the person with custody moves outside of Texas or moves without giving proper notice to the person with visitation rights before the move;
  • a person with visitation rights repeatedly fails to exercise visitation with the child.

What are the basic rules that followed by the court in dividing property?

The court must make a fair and equitable division of the marital property.  In Texas, property is classified as community or separate property.  Community property consists of the property, other than separate property, acquired by either spouse during marriage.  Separate property is property owned or claimed by a spouse before marriage and property acquired by a spouse during marriage by gift or inheritance.  In addition, recovery for personal injuries sustained by a spouse during marriage is separate property, except any recovery for loss of earning capacity during marriage.  A judge has wide discretion over the division of community property, but almost none with separate property.

What happens if one of the spouses does not follow court orders?

If a party that is not complying with a court order, the judge can find that party in contempt of court, particularly in matters involving alimony, child support, visitation, and the turning over of certain property incident to a divorce decree.  A party found in contempt could face jail time and an order to pay the attorney’s fees to the lawyer who brought the contempt action.

What are the grounds for divorce?

Texas is a no‑fault divorce state, meaning people can get divorced simply because discord or personality conflicts have destroyed the marriage. Other grounds for divorce in Texas include cruelty, adultery, a felony conviction, abandonment, or commitment to a mental institution.

How long will it take to get divorced?

It depends on how quickly both sides can reach a settlement.  If both sides can reach an a settlement, a divorce can usually be completed in a few weeks.  If the spouses cannot agree and trial is necessary, it can take months or even over a year to get to trial.  Most courts require the parties to try mediation before the case is set for trial.  The result of a trial can be appealed if one side is willing to pay for it, and an appeal can drag things out for many more months or years.  The vast majority of divorce cases settle before trial starts because there is no way to know how a trial will turn out and a settlement is for sure; the financial and emotional costs of a prolonged divorce proceeding, and the time it takes to go to trial.

What should I do if I am served with divorce papers?

Read the papers carefully and make a note of any court dates.  If the papers include a Temporary Restraining Order, you need to understand and obey provisions of that Order.  You should them search for a divorce attorney to represent you because there is a deadline to file an answer to the divorce suit.  The attorneys at Joaquin & Duncan, L.L.C. can review the divorce suit, advise you on filing an answer, and represent you in the suit.

What is the divorce decree?

The divorce procedure is started by filing a divorce petition and usually ends with the filing and proving up of the divorce decree.  The decree is the official document signed by the judge and it divorces the parties, orders how property and debts are divided, and provides for child custody, visitation, support, etc.

Dealing with Child Protective Services

Under Texas law, any person having cause to believe that a child’s physical or mental health or welfare has been adversely affected by abuse or neglect has a duty to immediately report such information to Child Protective Services (CPS).  A well‑meaning teacher, a family member, or a even stranger can report to CPS that they suspect a child is victim of neglect, abuse, sexual assault, or molestation.  After the allegation is made to CPS, a social worker or investigator will assess whether or not the parent should be allowed to retain custody of the child or children involved.

If you have received a visit from a CPS caseworker, you may be confused as to where to turn or what to do next.  CPS investigates reports of child abuse and neglect.  This agency may even take actions to remove a child from a parent’s custody if so approved by a court.  Without effective legal representation, the parent can end up in court and the children can be placed in foster care. If you are contacted by CPS, contact the family law attorneys at Joaquin & Duncan, L.L.C. for legal assistance in any dealings with CPS.

The sooner you have an attorney to represent you, the more likely it is that the CPS investigation will have a favorable outcome for you.  We work to protect your parental rights at all stages of a CPS investigation.