Family Law Overview
Texas attorney Mari Wise of The Wise Law Firm help clients in and around the communities of Houston, Sugarland, and Richmond with family law matters such as divorce, paternity, and adoptions. Ms. Wise also works to resolve important matters such as child support, child custody, and property division in the initial decree and through post-divorce modifications.
In Texas, a divorce may be granted on various grounds such as cruelty, adultery, or abandonment. Texas also has a "no-fault" divorce option, which means the court can grant a divorce if the marriage has become "insupportable" due to conflict, and there is no reasonable expectation of reconciliation. In addition to dissolving the marriage, the divorce proceeding will decide important issues such as child support and maintenance, child custody, and property division. If these issues cannot be worked out between the divorcing spouses, the decision is made by the judge on the basis of evidence, testimony, and legal arguments to the court.
In most cases the noncustodial parent is ordered to pay a monthly support amount to the parent given primary possession of the children. Although the support amount is initially determined according to statutory guidelines which figure in the payor's income and the number of children to be supported, the court has authority to deviate from that amount according to the circumstances of the case. The court may also award spousal maintenance for up to three years, to be paid by a working spouse to a non-working spouse until the receiving spouse is able to become self-supporting.
Child custody includes both legal custody (managing conservatorship) and physical custody (possession). Custody therefore determines not only where the child will live but also who has the right and responsibility to make educational, religious, and medical decisions regarding his or her upbringing. Most often the court will award primary residence to one parent and scheduled visitation to the other, although the court may implement a restricted visitation plan or even prevent access to the child by the noncustodial parent in certain circumstances.
Child custody is one of the most important - and often one of the most contentious - issues in a divorce, and it is vital that your attorney be knowledgeable in the law and skilled in advocating for your issues before the court.
Texas is a community property state. In general, all property acquired during the marriage is community property, and in a divorce is divided between the spouses by the court in a manner the judge deems is "just and right," considering the rights of each party and any children of the marriage. Some property acquired during marriage may still be considered the separate property of the spouse who acquires it, such as gifts or inheritances or certain recoveries for personal injuries. Considering the wide latitude given to the judge to divide community property, it is critical to have a strong advocate on your side who can argue persuasively regarding the proper characterization and valuation of every asset.
Even after a divorce has been granted, it is possible to return to court at a later date to seek a modification of court orders regarding custody and support. In order to receive a modification, the moving party must demonstrate a material and substantial change in circumstances, such as a change in either party's incomes, a change in the needs of either party or the children, or a change in residence. A proposed modification can also be challenged in a court hearing.
Determining parentage can have important legal consequences, both in the context of a divorce and as a stand-alone issue. Legal parents have the right to share in custody and visitation, and have a legal duty to support their children financially, which may include the obligation to pay child support. Paternity suits may be challenged by the current or proposed legal father or other interested party, and a legal hearing and court order is often required to resolve the matter.
It is not uncommon for people who have been divorced to remarry and bring children into the second marriage. In these cases, the new spouse may wish to legally adopt the children. As with establishing paternity, adopting a child carries with it all the legal rights and responsibilities of being a parent. Also, establishing parentage in one person may also serve to terminate the parental rights of another person, such as the birth parent or a previously-recognized legal parent. This action generally cannot be accomplished without the consent of the party, unless certain circumstances exist, such as abandonment.
Seek Experienced Legal Representation
In every type of family law matter discussed above, serious issues are at stake, and adversarial proceedings may be necessary to resolve disputes regarding how these issues should be settled. With ten years of experience practicing family law, Mari Wise has gained the knowledge and familiarity with the law and court systems needed to obtain successful results in the family courts of Harris and Fort Bend counties. For help with your family law matter from a skilled, experienced family law attorney, contact The Wise Law Firm.