Every family struggles with visitation agreements but your children deserve the best solution possible.

Custody Rights of Fit Parents in Texas

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Children are a contentious part of many divorces. Who will get primary custody? How does a judge decide what is fair? And what can you do if you think the court has made a mistake? Today’s blog will look at a recent decision by the Texas Supreme Court in a case called In Re C.J.C. The case involved a separation, an accidental death, and the custody rights of fit parents. If you or someone you know is expecting a messy custody case, it is worth your time to be familiar with it. 

Background of the Custody Battle: A Fiancé and a Traffic Accident

Custody arrangements are modified with a court order that must meet the requirements of Texas Family Law code.
Custody arrangements are modified with a court order that must meet the requirements of the Texas Family Law code.

The Texas Supreme Court issued its ruling in 2020. But like most cases, this one was several years in the making. According to the Court’s opinion, a couple had lived together for five years. They never married, but they did have a child, who the court called “Abigail.” After five years, the couple separated. Their custody arrangement called for Abigail to live with her mother about 54 percent of the time, and with her father the remainder of the time. 

Afterward, the mother started dating someone else, a man named Jason. They moved in together; thus, when Abigail was living with her mother, she was spending time with her new boyfriend as well. Jason stated that he had a good relationship with Abigail, and she called him “Pops.” This arrangement had continued for about 11 months. 

The couple eventually got engaged. And at some point in the process, the girl’s mother filed a suit seeking to modify the court order: She wanted full custody of Abigail for her and Jason. But in 2018, before they could be married, the mother was in a car accident and died suddenly. 

A Question of Custody

Besides being an obvious tragedy, the mother’s death added an unexpected complication to the child custody case. After the accident, Abigail moved in with her biological father, named Chris. 

However, Jason did not want to lose access to Abigail. The girl’s maternal grandparents also worried they would not get to see their granddaughter. So both parties filed a petition with the court and asked to be named joint managing conservators. The fiancĂ© also wanted periods of possession. In other words, they wanted shared child custody. 

Abigail’s biological father, Chris, opposed this plan, and the case went to court. A lower court dismissed the grandparents’ case. But the court allowed Jason’s case to proceed. Learn more about your legal rights as a grandparent. 

Why Did the Fiancé Want Child Custody?

In his suit, Jason stated that his request for shared custody was an attempt to fulfill his fiancé’s wishes. He also argued that, even though he was not Abigail’s biological parent, he was a significant part of the girl’s life and had served as a parental figure for her for at least six months. Six months is the amount of time Texas requires before a non-parent can request custody rights. 

The Texas Family Code states that the child’s best interests must always be the court’s primary consideration. A trial court awarded Jason temporary custody order. The court noted that the fiancĂ© had lived with the girl for at least six months and that it was in the child’s best interests for him to continue to be involved in her life. 

Chris, the biological father appealed this decision. And in June of last year, the case made its way to the Texas Supreme Court.

Why Did the Father Think He Should Have Full Custody?

Chris maintained that the temporary child custody order issued by the trial court violated his parental rights. His attorney’s argument relied heavily on a ruling issued by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000 in the case Troxel v. Granville.

Texas Supreme Courtroom interior.
Texas Supreme Courtroom interior.

In that case, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that if someone is considered a “fit” parent, he or she has a right to care for their child as they see best, without interference by the state. The court further held that any judge’s decision that overrides the parental rights of a fit parent is unconstitutional. The father argued that the ruling in Troxel v. Granville overrode the fiancé’s claim for custody. 

For his part, the fiancé’s lawyer argued that when Chris had gone to court seeking help in the custody matter, he had effectively surrendered his parental rights to determine the child’s best interests. If this was true, it would nullify the precedent set in Troxel v. Granville.

How the Court Decided this Custody Case

Supreme Court of Texas building in Austin, Texas
Supreme Court of Texas building in Austin, Texas

The Texas Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of Chis. The Texas Supreme Court recognized the right of fit parents to decide what is best for their children, and this presumption is “deeply embedded” in Texas law. Just as important, the court noted there was no indication that Chris was in any way an unfit parent. 

The Texas Supreme Court ruled that when the lower court had given the fiancĂ© temporary custody, they had essentially overridden the parental rights of Chris to decide what was best for Abigail. The court wrote: 

“When nonparents seek court-ordered custody of a child subject to an existing order, under which one or both fit parents were appointed managing conservators, that parent or parents retain the presumption that protects their fundamental right to determine their child’s best interest.” 

Texas Supreme Court – In Re C.J.C.

Why This Custody Rights Case Matters to Fit Parents

Children routinely have other adults involved in their lives. This can be especially common when the parent’s divorce. The divorced parents may start dating; eventually, one of those people may become the child’s stepparent. When someone who has parental rights dies, the question of who gets custody can get complicated and ugly. 

The case In Re C.J.C. reaffirms, in no uncertain terms, the constitutional right of fit parents to determine the best interests of the children. Specifically, the case reaffirms the right of that parent to retain sole custody over the wishes of a non-parent to have custody. 

Simply put, if you are a non-parent who is trying to get custody of a child, you are facing an uphill battle. And if you are a parent who is battling with a non-parent to retain custody, you need to know that the law is on your side. 

How Do Courts Decide Who is a Fit Parent?

The Texas Family Code outlines several conditions that can justify a parent losing possession of his or her children. A parent may lose custody if he or she:

  • Was absent for at least three months
  • Knowingly engaged in conduct that endangered the well-being of the child, or knowingly allowed the child to be in a situation that endangered his or her well-being
  • Has abused drugs or alcohol
  • Has been convicted of a serious crime
  • Voluntarily and knowingly abandoned the woman, or failed to provide adequate support, during the time of her pregnancy and through the birth;
  • Is responsible for the child being born addicted to alcohol or an illegal drug;
  • Knowingly refused to comply with court orders
  • Failed to provide adequate support for the child over an extended time
  • Voluntarily abandoned the child with an expressed intent not to return;
  • Has had his or her parental rights terminated in another case

In making custody decisions, courts work from the presumption that ideally, it is in the child’s best interests to have both parents actively involved in his or her life. Courts also will assume that parents are fit to care for their children unless proven otherwise. 

To override that assumption, someone must show that the parent is somehow unfit. In their initial lawsuits, neither Jason nor the girl’s grandparents had presented any evidence that Chris was in any way an unfit parent. Thus, the mother’s initial lawsuit seeking full custody of Abigail probably would have failed anyway. Read our blog about how to win custody in Texas. 

The Custody Rights of Fit Parents Are Too Important to Leave to Chance

Stephanie and Sean are ready to represent your child custody arrangement or court order modification case.
Sean Lynch + Associates are ready to represent your child custody arrangement or court order modification case.

Custody cases can be stressful, contentious. and complicated. At Sean Lynch + Associates, our lawyers are experts in the Texas Family Code and very experienced in the complexities of these cases. We will fight for your family in court, while always remaining sensitive to the concerns of protecting your child or children. We also offer transparent, affordable pricing.

For a no-cost, initial consultation, contact our office or call 817-668-5879. You’ll be happy with your decision to consult with our award-winning Tarrant County divorce attorneys.

Every family struggles with visitation agreements but your children deserve the best solution possible.

What Are Reasonable Visitation Rights?

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As a parent and going through a divorce, chances are you will be sharing custody with your ex. This means the court is likely to address the question of possession of the children and set up a reasonable visitation schedule.

But you may be wondering, how does the court decide what are reasonable visitation rights? And what happens if your ex doesn’t hold up his or her end of the deal? So let’s learn a little more about your visitation rights as a parent. 

What Does It Mean to Be a Conservator?

A successful visitation schedule works for everyone but is critical for your children's happiness.
A successful visitation schedule works for everyone but is critical for your children’s happiness.

Have you been hearing the term “conservatorship” a lot lately? If so, it might be because the pop singer Britney Spears has been in the news, contesting her conservatorship.

However, Spears is a grown woman. Let’s briefly explain what it means to be a conservator in Texas, as the terms can be confusing. The State of Texas has two types of custody. Physical custody defines who the children will live with.

Legal custody means having the right to make important life decisions regarding the upbringing of the children. Often, the judge will give primary physical custody to only one person. The court refers to this person as the custodial parent. The other person, of course, is called the non-custodial parent. 

However, Texas courts typically don’t use the word custody. Instead, they use the term conservatorship. The court calls the custodial parent the primary conservator, and the non-custodial parent the possessory conservator. The possessory conservator may not have decision-making authority but usually does have visitation rights. 

How Does the Court Decide Who Gets Custody in Texas?

Texas Family Court Judges focus on children's needs in signing-off on custody and visitation agreements.
Texas Family Court Judges focus on children’s needs in signing off on custody and visitation agreements.

The Texas Family Code Section 153.002 states that the court shall make decisions about child custody and visitation based upon the best interests of the child. In an ideal scenario, it is the child’s best interest to spend equal time with both parents. In addition, both parents are equally involved in making decisions for the kids. The court calls this arrangement a Joint Managing Conservatorship. 

Of course, in some situations, the judge will restrict the legal and physical custody and visitation rights of a parent. The court calls this arrangement a Sole Managing Conservatorship. This arrangement also can impact the parent’s visitation rights. The judge may require that the visits be supervised. In extreme cases, he or she may forbid any child visitation. 

Reasonable Visitation Rights Should Be Flexible

As we mentioned, the State focuses on the child’s best interests. However, parents (usually) have a legal right to spend time with their child. And it is (usually) best for both parents to be involved in the child’s life. 

Texas judges understand that one parent or both may have non-traditional schedules. For example, firefighters, police officers, and health care workers often work unusual schedules. In these cases, a strict custody and visitation schedule may not work.

Thus, courts are likely to give parents the opportunity to create their own parenting agreement. This allows the custodial and non-custodial parent to come up with a plan that is reasonable for both parties. If both parents can agree on a plan, they can submit it to the court for review. This plan may become part of the final visitation order.   

What If the Parents Cannot Agree on Reasonable Visitation Rights?

The court wants parents to work together. But if they cannot, the court will develop a possession schedule for them, ensuring that the non-custodial parent will have time with the child. 

The Texas Family Code has what is called a Standard Possession Order (SPO).  This is the default possession order and visitation schedule in Texas. The typical SPO works like this:

  • During the school year, children spend the first, third, and fifth weekend of each month with the noncustodial parent.
  • They also spend one weeknight evening with the non-custodial parent during the school year. 

The Standard Possession Order also covers visitation rights for summer and holidays. 

Can a noncustodial parent request more time with his or her children? Yes. In this case, the parent can request a Texas Expanded Standard Possession Order (ESPO). In a typical ESPO, children also spend Thursday nights with the non-custodial parent. The child stays with this parent until Monday morning, following the regularly assigned weekends as well. The ESPO also addresses visitation during the holidays and summer vacation time.

What do Do If A Parent Is Not Following the Visitation Order

Unfortunately, divorcing parents do not always have an amicable relationship. Or parents who previously got along well may have a falling out. In these cases, the parent with primary custody of the child may act in spite, intentionally trying to punish the ex. For example, your ex decides to stop cooperating, making it difficult for you to spend time with your child. 

If the custodial parent strays from the reasonable visitation rights you originally agreed to, you may need to modify the court order. As a Texas parent, you (usually) have a legal right to see your child. We recommend you consult with an experienced family law attorney who can help protect your parental rights. Read our recent blog, Enforcing a Court Order in Texas.

Don’t Let Temporary Visitation Rights Become Permanent

Life is unpredictable, and occasionally, parents end up having to adjust their visitation plan to accommodate unforeseen circumstances. One parent may end up caring for the children more or less than the court’s original possession schedule. This was a common occurrent last year, when many parents were struggling to cope with the pandemic. Some parents worked from home or had to work additional hours. Others had to home-school their kids. And many parents lost their jobs. 

During the pandemic, these temporary adjustments may have gone on for several months. Parents who were now sharing equal custody time began to wonder why they were still paying child support. And primary conservator parents began to worry that they would lose custody. Some parents thought this might be a good time to request a legal change to the possession and visitation agreement. 

Parents who have had a significant change in circumstances do have grounds to request a court order modification. However, even if you get a 50/50 custody arrangement in Texas, you may still need to pay child support. In these cases, we suggest you talk with a trusted lawyer. Read our recent blog, Does Being Unemployed Affect Child Custody?

How Long Does It Take to Get Visitation Rights Set Up?

Texas Child Custody Agreement are signed by your judge as part of a final divorce decree. Modifications can take much longer to settle and be signed.
Texas Child Custody Agreement is signed by your judge as part of a final divorce decree. Modifications can take much longer to settle and be signed.

Courts usually can establish visitation rights quicker if they can address them in conjunction with the divorce petition. The process also is likely to go quicker if you and your spouse can agree to a temporary possession and visitation schedule. 

On the other hand, the court may need more time to address custody cases for parents who are not married. Again,  the judge’s ability to establish reasonable visitation rights will be heavily influenced by how well the parents get along.

An attorney experienced in child custody issues can be very helpful in these situations. Sean Lynch + Associates have over twenty years of Family Law experience and have been voted Best Family Law Attorneys by Fort Worth Magazine five years in a row.

Texas Judges Cannot Make a Parent Visit His or Her Children

If the custodial parent is denying the other parent court-ordered visitations, the court may intervene to ensure that the parenting agreement is being followed. However, the court cannot force the non-custodial parent to spend time with his or her children. 

Of course, in these situations, the children suffer the most. If a parent doesn’t show up for a visit, the kids may hold themselves responsible. 

If the non-custodial parent routinely misses visitations, the primary conservator can petition the court to modify the visitation agreement. Unfortunately, limiting the other parent’s visits, even if they are inconsistent, may not be in the child’s best interests. 

One more point: If your ex is consistently failing to visit the kids, try to be discreet. We recommend you resist criticizing him or her in front of your kids. You may have more success by meeting with a family counselor. Read our recent blog, How to Win Child Custody in Texas.

Have Questions About Visitation Rights in Texas?

Sean Lynch + Associates are ready to work with you to get the visitation schedule that works for your families happiness.

Our family law lawyers in Fort Worth TX have the skills and experience to serve you. To schedule a no-cost case consultation, contact our firm by phone at 817-668-5879 or connect with us online.

Texas Common Law agreement

Texas Common Law Marriage and Divorce

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Just about everyone has heard of “common law marriage.” But many people don’t really understand what the term means. For most of us, that’s not important. But if you are in this type of marriage and wanting to get out, it’s very important. The decisions you make could be both disappointing and costly. So today we will explain what you need to know about common law marriage and divorce in Texas. 

Texas recognizes informal marriage but the couple must meet legal requirements.
Texas recognizes informal marriage but the couple must meet legal requirements.

The first thing to know is that this IS a “real” marriage. The State will recognize common law marriage in Texas as both acceptable and legal. The key difference is that the marriage was done without any of the traditional steps. Specifically, the couple did not get a marriage license from the county, did not wait 72 hours, and did not have a ceremony performed by a legally qualified person. Texas law refers to common law marriage as “informal” marriage. 

However, to achieve recognition as a common law marriage, the couple does have to meet certain specific requirements. The partners must meet ALL of these requirements, which are as follow: 

  • Both partners were at least 18 years of age when the marriage was created;
  • Neither person was married, informally or formally, to anyone else at the time the marriage was created;
  • Both partners willingly agreed to be married;
  • The partners have lived in Texas as a married couple;
  • The partners have represented themselves to others as being married. 

How Do We Prove that We Represented Ourselves to Others as a Married Couple?

Don't confuse Common Law Marriage with a more formal Domestic Partnership.
Don’t confuse Common Law Marriage with a more formal Domestic Partnership.

The court makes this decision by reviewing a number of factors. For example, if the two of you lived together like a “regular” husband and wife. Specifically, this means the two of you did things like file a joint tax return, or sign a loan or rental agreement together. The court also will want to know if you actively told others about your common-law spouse and whether one partner took the last name of the other.

Note that Texas does NOT grant common law marriage status based upon how long you lived together. The fact you had children together also does not establish marital status. The State will not allow you to claim you just “assumed” the two of you were married. The Texas Family Code Section 2.401 discusses common law marriage in detail. 

Once a couple has met all of the State’s requirements, they can go to the office of the Tarrant County Clerk (or the county they live in) and sign a document called a Declaration of Informal Marriage. In a divorce and other legal matters, this document has the same authority as a traditional marriage license. 

The State considers this signed document valid proof of a legal, common law marriage. And you decide to end your “informal” marriage, it will be very important for you to get the help of a Fort Worth divorce attorney and get a legal, formal divorce. 

Your relationship is eligible for community property division if it meets common law marriage requirements
Your relationship is eligible for community property division if it meets common law marriage requirements

Texas is a community property state. This means that, with a few exceptions, when a couple divorces, ALL of the assets they acquired during the marriage will  be divided equitably. This is true regardless of which partner purchased the asset. 

However, if you cannot prove that you had a legal marriage, you lose the right to claim half of your marital property. Each partner will keep their personal property and the assets they are entitled to. You can imagine how complicated this can become. For example, who gets the house the two of you bought? 

Community property law also applies to inheritances. If your spouse passes away and you can prove you were married, you may be entitled to some of the estate. 

Be aware that if you have children together, it does not matter whether the two of you were legally married. The court will establish guidelines for child custody, child support, and visitation. 

Couples Who Separate Should Act Quickly

One significant difference with common law marriages is what happens if the couple separates. In a common law marriage, you have two years from the time of separation to file for divorce. If you do not take any action during that timeframe, the State presumes you never intended to be married. The court will probably deny your request to get a divorce.

In that event, you may lose your right to request alimony, child support, and a share of any assets or inheritances. You can still assert that you were legally married, but the court may be less sympathetic to your claim. 

Do I Have to Get a Common Law Marriage Divorce?

Strictly speaking, you do not have to go through the divorce process. In some common law marriages, the parties simply gather up their possessions and go their separate ways. They act as if the relationship never existed. Of course, this option is less expensive than hiring a family law attorney. 

But as we have seen, if you wish to claim property or inheritance from the relationship, this is usually not a good option. The common law marriage divorce also will be important if you expect to move into a higher income bracket or inherit some wealth in the future. With a legal divorce, you will be able to show that your ex-spouse has no claim to these new assets. 

Can I Deny the Existence of a Common Law Marriage?

Don't be frustrated by claims of common law marriage. Your attorney can provide the legal requirements to prove your case.
Don’t be frustrated by claims of common law marriage. Your attorney can provide the legal requirements to prove your case.

You have the right to claim that you were never legally married. As you might guess, one of the most common reasons someone would do this is to protect their wealth and property. In this case, your ex will probably hire an attorney to help with the case. 

You can prove your claim of no marriage if you can provide evidence that the two of you did not meet all of the requirements of informal marriage. For example, perhaps you were underage at the time of marriage. Of course, if you have previously signed a Declaration of Informal Marriage, you will not have a very strong case.  

Does Common Law Marriage Divorce Law Apply to Same-sex Couples?

Yes. Because same-sex marriages are now legal in Texas, all of the laws apply, including those about common law marriage divorce. For example, the couple must have lived in Texas after they married. 

Let Us Help You With Your Formal or Informal Divorce

Sean Lynch + Associates are ready to aggressively represent your family law rights and at a price, you can afford.

Divorce can be complicated and stressful. This is true for both formal and informal marriages. If you are considering ending your marriage, we are ready to provide you with expert legal help and a compassionate ear.

We have more than 10 years of award-winning experience serving the Fort Worth Near Southside and greater Tarrant County. To schedule a no-cost case consultation, contact our family law practice today, 817-668-5879


Worried man reviews divorce decree

Child Custody Lawyers for Fathers

Reading Time: 6 minutes

When a father gets divorced, the end of the marriage isn’t the only thing on his mind. He also is thinking about his kids. As Fort Worth attorneys who specialize in father’s rights, we know judges try to be fair. But they are human and can make mistakes. So here are some things to know about child custody lawyers for fathers—how the law works, what your rights are, and how to make sure you’ve found the right attorney for you.

Prioritizing custody is critical to a father's divorce decisions.
Prioritizing custody is critical to a father’s divorce decisions.

Before we can talk about child custody and attorneys, we need to explain some legal terms. The State of Texas has two types of custody: 

Physical custody defines who the children will live with, and for how much time. In some instances, the court will divide physical custody equally between the two parents. But other times, the judge will give one parent primary physical custody. 

Legal custody defines which parent has the right to make important life decisions regarding the upbringing of the children. For example, parents typically decide where the kids will go to school, if they need medical care, and guide their religious education. 

What is Conservatorship in Texas?

Here is where a conversation about a father’s rights can get a little confusing. Texas courts don’t use the word custody. Instead, they use the term conservatorship. So in addition to the two forms of custody, the State has three forms of conservatorship. 

Sole Managing Conservatorship (SMC): In an SMC, the judge grants only one parent the right to make the major decisions regarding the child’s well-being. In addition, the judge usually gives this parent sole physical custody as well. 

S + L attorney's will discuss the Texas Family Law's related to custody.
Sean Lynch + Associates will discuss the Texas Family Law related to custody.

Joint Managing Conservatorship (JMC): In a JMC, the court gives each parent equal authority to make life decisions for the children. In other words, they have equal legal custody. However, the parents may not have equal physical custody. The court calls the parent with whom the children primarily live the primary conservator. 

Possessory Conservator: If the judge has decreed that one parent will serve as sole managing conservator, he or she may name the other parent a possessory conservator. 

A possessory conservator does not have the right to be involved in making critical decisions on the child’s behalf. However, the parent does have visitation rights. The possessory conservator often will be required to make child support payments. 

How Does the Court Decide Who Gets Child Custody?

These terms can be confusing, but it is important to have some understanding of them. For example, you’ve started considering child custody lawyers for fathers. And you tell one of the attorneys that you want custody of the kids. Your attorney may respond, “Okay. What type of custody do you want?”

The Texas Family Code Section 153.002 states that the court shall make decisions about child custody and visitation based upon the best interests of the child. Whenever possible, the judge will declare that the parents will have a Joint Managing Conservatorship. This is because, in an ideal scenario, the children will enjoy frequent and ongoing contact with each parent after the divorce. 

Occasionally, a court may determine it is in the children’s best interests to restrict a parent’s possessory rights. In these cases, the court may declare that visitation times must be supervised. Be aware that a judge cannot prevent a parent from seeing his or her children due to nonpayment of child support. Read our recent blog, Texas Child Support for Non-Custodial Parents. 

How Can Child Custody Lawyers for Fathers Help?

Consultation with an attorney
Divorce is like surgery: It can be a lot less painful if you prepare, ask the right questions, and follow the recommendations.

There was a time when courts almost always gave custody of the children to the mother. Many women did not work outside of the house, while the fathers had to work long hours or travel extensively. In addition, many courts just assumed that women were better at parenting than men.

Thankfully, that time has largely passed. Today, courts must make custody decisions based on the merits of each individual case. In addition, in many families, both parents work full-time. Today, fathers have the opportunity to be just as good a parent as the woman—and perhaps even better. 

This is where child custody lawyers for fathers can play a critical role. A skilled family law attorney can help a father prepare a case to show he is capable of caring for his children. And if you truly think the children will be better off living with you, the lawyer can provide legal advice to help you with that as well. 

In short, judges usually do not make child custody decisions based solely upon gender. The most important factor is what type of parent you are. 

If you think you are a good father who is deserving of custody, you will want to focus on finding an attorney who specializes in father’s rights, someone who knows how to help you prepare the strongest possible case. Read our recent blog, How to Win Child Custody in Texas.

Do Fathers Always Have to Pay Child Support?

Judges determine child support payments using a formula established by the State.

Anytime we talk with fathers about divorce, the subject of child support comes up. Like most states, Texas receives federal funding. To be eligible for this money, Texas law must comply with federal requirements. This means courts actually have very little leeway in establishing child support payments. 

Instead, Texas judges use a formula. The main considerations are your income, the number of children involved, and the percentage of time each party has physical possession of the children. The good news is that, depending upon the circumstances, a father also may be able to collect child support payments. 

But remember, the judge’s job is to look out for the best interest of the child. It is possible that the judge’s goals will not seem fair to you. This is another reason why a man should want an experienced father’s rights attorney. 

Should I Hire a Male Child Custody Lawyer?

It is not necessary for a father to hire a male attorney. A female can do the job just as well, and sometimes better.   

On the other hand, we understand that divorce is a personal experience. Getting divorced is not the same as contesting a will or dealing with a bankruptcy case. So we understand that some men may just feel more comfortable hiring a male divorce lawyer. Sean Lynch has extensive experience helping fathers fight for their rights in custody, visitation, and child support. 

Ultimately, whether your attorney is a male or female is not important. What does matter is that you find the right father’s rights lawyer. You’ll want an attorney who you feel comfortable with and can have confidence in. You’ll also want a child custody lawyer who can give you good advice. And you’ll want someone who can represent you without breaking your budget. Read our recent blog, How Fixed-cost Billing Saves You Money. 

One of the Best Child Custody Lawyers for Fathers

Sean Lynch + Associates are eager to review your case and help you prepare to fight for your children’s best future.

Child custody cases can be complicated and emotionally draining. If you need a Texas family law attorney to help you with your custody case, Sean Lynch + Associates is here to help. He is an experienced Fort Worth divorce lawyer who will fight for your father’s custody rights while still being sensitive to the concerns of your children. For a no-cost, 30-minute case consultation, contact us today at 817-668-5879. Because while your role as a spouse may be ending, you want your role as a father to remain stronger than ever.

How Social Media Hurt My Divorce

Reading Time: 6 minutes

I recently finalized my divorce. I’m glad to be done with it. My ex was hardly the ideal spouse or parent, and I have no regrets about our marriage ending. What I do regret, however, is how I handled one part of the divorce. That’s because I hurt my case considerably by doing something very foolish: I shared information about it on my social media accounts. I’m not sure why I did it. I was upset and wanted to get some amount of “revenge” on my spouse. However, all it ultimately did was hurt my case, a lot. So let me share with you how social media negatively impacted my divorce. 

Social Media is Not the Place to Discuss a Relationship or Marriage

Divorce is bad enough without having your friends and family privy to every angry post.
Divorce is bad enough without having your friends and family privy to every angry post.

The first thing I did wrong was innocent enough: I posted that my spouse had left me, and we were getting a divorce. A lot of my friends responded, assuring me I would definitely be better off. I have to admit, that part felt nice.

The problem was, that one post opened the floodgates. In the weeks to come, friends were constantly posting comments asking me how it was going and sharing their thoughts. And foolishly, I answered them online. 

But as I learned, all those comments can be used as evidence against you. at least twice, I posted a comment that started, “My divorce attorney says …” I also said a couple of things about my spouse that weren’t very nice. 

Now I understand: During a divorce, NOTHING about your relationship, marriage, or the divorce process should be shared on your social media. 

One mistake I did not make: You don’t want to criticize the family law firm you hired, either. The last thing you want when your marriage is strained is to strain the attorney-client relationship. 

In a Divorce, You Can Be Guilty by Association

Goofing around with my buddy's gun seemed innocent until it showed up in as child custody court evidence.
Goofing around with my buddy’s gun seemed innocent until it showed up in my child custody court evidence.

But in divorce court, that didn’t matter. The Texas Family Code states that courts must make custody decisions based on the best interests of the child. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with owning firearms. But my spouse’s attorney had a photo of me looking very irresponsible with weapons, and that had a negative impact on my divorce. 

That picture did not cost me the chance to win full custody. But it didn’t help me, either. Read a recent blog about Texas divorce due to family violence.    

I also hurt my case totally by accident. One of my friends is an avid gun collector, and shortly after the divorce process had begun, he bought a new gun. I went over to see it, and while I was there, another friend took a selfie of us goofing around with all his guns. It was innocent enough—after all, I don’t even own a gun. 

What Your Friends Post Can Negatively Impact Your Divorce, Too

Another thing I did wrong was something I didn’t even do. I know that sounds crazy, but here’s what I mean: After I announced my plans to divorce, one of my single friends commented that when the divorce was done, we would be partying every night and finding some new “companionship.” In addition, a co-worker posted that I should hide our bonus paychecks in a secret account. 

Of course, I had no intention of doing any of these things. My days of hard partying about beyond me, and I definitely wasn’t ready to start dating. And I knew it was illegal to hide assets during a divorce. Even so, I foolishly posted comments agreeing with my friends. Like I said, I was angry and just blowing off steam.

But when we got to court, my spouse’s attorney had gathered all those posts as evidence. I planned to present myself as a model parent. The posts talking about partying every night and hooking up with someone undercut that goal. And the suggestion that I might hide money from my spouse did not sit well with the judge at all. 

As I said, I didn’t actually do any of this stuff. But in the court’s eyes, it didn’t matter. As my divorce attorney explained, in making custody decisions, the court looks carefully at each parent’s state of mind. And all of that talk, even if it was not serious, did not reflect well on me—again, it’s that “best interest of the child” thing. Read a recent blog on how to win child custody in Texas

Divorce Is Not the Time for Partying … Or Purchases

Even innocent get-togethers with friends can have a different impression when a Texas Family Court judge evaluates child custody.
Even innocent get-togethers with friends can have a different impression when a Texas Family Court judge evaluates child custody.

But the real way social media negatively impacted my divorce was entirely through my own doing. My spouse moved out immediately after announcing plans to end our marriage. I felt hurt, angry, and betrayed. I wanted to get even. And one way I tried to do that was by having fun on my own. 

That might not have been so bad, but I foolishly decided to post it on my social media, so my spouse could see. For example, my friends and I went on a little weekend getaway. We stayed at a hotel, went to the casino, had a few drinks. And because my spouse had taken our good TV, I bought a new big-screen set for the house.

For some reason, I documented all of this on my social media. And every bit of it came back to haunt me. 

A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words—And Can Negatively Impact Your Divorce

For example, I had hoped to get a favorable ruling on the alimony. But my spouse’s attorney pointed out that I had gone on a trip, visited a casino, and had a nice, new TV as well. I’m not a super-rich person, but those purchases did not support my argument about the terms of alimony.

My spouse’s lawyer also had all these photos of me having fun. That did not help my plans to talk about the stress and sadness that my spouse had caused by abruptly leaving me. 

Another big problem: Our son’s recital was the same weekend I was gone. Of course, I gave my spouse an excuse why I couldn’t be there. So posting the photos of us on our little trip was not very smart. It’s hard to argue that you will be a good, wise parent when you’ve given the other side that kind of evidence.

One mistake I did not make: After I realized that my social media could negatively impact my divorce, I wanted to delete some of my posts. My attorney pointed out that once the divorce litigation has begun, you cannot delete posts or shut down your account. The court can consider this destroying evidence. Read a blog about how the Texas divorce process works

What I Learned About Social Media Impacting Divorce

You might think I acted pretty foolishly during my divorce. And you would be right. But keep in mind two things: First, I’ve never been through divorce before. So while it’s easy to see now all the mistakes I made, it was different when I was going through it at the time. Also, it was not a happy time. I thought my marriage would be forever. When my spouse ended our marriage so abruptly, it was hard. And I did not handle it as well as I could have. 

So now that the divorce is behind me, here are some things I learned about how social media can impact a divorce:

  • Your spouse’s attorney will probably go through every bit of your social media looking for evidence to use against you. I saw an article that said more than 80 percent of the divorce attorneys had seen social media presented as evidence. 
  • Social media posts are never really “private.”
  • Posts should not be deleted during the divorce process.
  • Avoid using social media to discuss the status of your case. 
  • Never post anything that is remotely angry or threatening. 
  • Things your friends’ post about your spouse or divorce also can hurt your case.
  • Nothing is really “innocent, either. Passive-aggressive memes and jokes, even inspirational quotes—an attorney may be able to find a way to use them against you.

During a Divorce, Less Social Media Is More

I have one more tip. I suggest you seriously consider stopping all social media activity until the divorce is finalized (just DON’T delete your accounts or posts). If you have any doubts, talking with your divorce attorney. 

Time spent on social media can be a waste. And during a divorce, time spent on social media can be costly. 

Divorce Attorneys Who Are Knowledgeable in Social Media—and Much More

Sean Lynch + Associates will fight to protect your rights and at a price you can afford.

Social media is only one thing that can negatively impact your divorce. That’s why you will want an experienced family law attorney. We can guide you through a process that can be complex and stressful with compassion and skill. For a no-cost, 30-minute case consultation, contact us today or call 817-668-5879.

Two of the Best Fort Worth Divorce Lawyers Celebrate Near Southside Fort Worth

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Today, we’re excited to roll out our latest video. As you’ll see, it’s a celebration of our home on the Near Southside of Fort Worth. It also will help you understand why many people consider us to be two of the the best Fort Worth divorce lawyers and family law attorneys.

Fort Worth Divorce Attorneys on the Near Southside

We love where we work. Our family law office is located in Fort Worth’s Near Southside, at 2812 Hemphill Street. Even though the Near Southside is a growing and vibrant area, we love that it still has a cozy, community feel to it. 

For example, some mornings, we pop in for a coffee at one of the Near Southside’s great breakfast joints. There’s Avoca, Brewed, or the Paris Coffee Shop. It’s nice to be served by someone who recognizes you, and even more fun when to see someone there you know. 

Around lunch, you might find us back near Magnolia Avenue again, grabbing a bite at Benito’s Mexican Cuisine, Fixture, Locavore, or perhaps Heim Barbecue. And don’t get us started talking about Cat City Grill or Melt

You might be thinking, “That’s great, but all that fine dining can be bad for your health.” We’ve had the same thought—which is why we also are grateful to have three of Fort Worth’s world-class health care providers near our law firm: John Peter Smith Hospital, Texas Health Resources, and Baylor Scott & White All Saints Medical. Carter Bloodcare also is right up the street. 

We don’t hope to need any of those fine hospitals anytime soon, but it’s nice to know they are nearby, along with Cook Children’s Medical Center. 

Fort Worth divorce lawyer helping clients throughout Tarrant County

S + L attorney Stephanie Sabelhaus plan case work with staff members
Finding the right attorney for you is critical to the success of your family law case.

When it comes to Fort Worth, TX divorce, one of the things we enjoy most about our jobs is that we get to help people. When we started our law firm 2 years ago, we made a mutual commitment to master our profession. Since then, we’ve successfully handled every type of divorce, from simple cases to complex ones involving custody, child support, division of assets, and more. 

But beyond becoming experts in Texas family law, we also made a commitment to treat our clients differently. Divorce can be a traumatic experience. We know that some firms can make their clients feel like they are simply part of an assembly line. So we made the decision that our Fort Worth family law firm would make the divorce process as smooth as possible for our clients, and give them individualized attention.

Similarly, some firms may leave you wondering, “Did I get ripped off for my uncontested divorce?” So we also made a decision to have the reputation as Fort Worth’s best divorce attorneys. That commitment has paid off: For four consecutive years, we’ve been named a Top Family Law Firm by Fort Worth Magazine. We are honored to be recognized for our service to Tarrant County and the surrounding communities and are committed to being recognized as award-winning family law attorneys in 2021. 

Fort Worth, TX 76110, Divorce & Family Law Attorneys

So when you hire us, you will know your legal costs in advance. You can also be confident that our fees will be lower than many other firms. And unlike some attorneys, we’re not interested in running up your bill. If there are things you can do to reduce your costs, we will tell you when you visit us at our 2812 Hemphill Street offices. 

Our family law matters approach reflects a core belief of our firm: We treat each client with respect and compassion. That doesn’t mean we won’t be firm with a client from time to time. But the only purpose is to serve you to the best of our ability. As Sean likes to say, “We do everything we can to help our clients with their case. And sometimes, we do everything we can to stop our clients from hurting their case.”

Nothing would make us more proud as to be known as your Texas family lawyers. Helping people is what we do, and we enjoy it tremendously. 

Texas Divorce Attorneys Who Care About YOU

Sean Lynch + Associates represent the family law needs of their community of Near Southside, TX 76110

Another of our core beliefs is that there should be a good reason behind everything we do in serving your legal issues. That’s why our Fort Worth family law office is located in a simple and tastefully updated 1920s Craftsman house located at 2812 Hemphill St., 76110. We will leave the expensive, high-rise glass buildings to other divorce lawyers in Fort Worth.

Once you’re at our office property, you won’t have to make a long trek from the parking garage to our office—you can just park in the driveway right out front. And inside, you won’t find big, expensive furniture piled up everywhere, just some tasteful, modest pieces. 

The other thing you won’t find in our family law office is dozens of attorneys, paralegals, and secretaries running around. It’s just the two of us and our wonderful legal assistant, Seryn Steffen. Occasionally, you might find a toddler here, too.

In short, we try to bring the same small-town feeling of the southside to our family law practice. In fact, we don’t even have a massive, expensive sign out front. As Stephanie likes to say, “Some divorce firms in Fort Worth want to make people feel impressed. We want to make them feel comfortable.”

Affordable Tarrant County Divorce Attorneys Near YOU

Our Near Southside location isn’t just convenient for us; it is also more convenient for you. We are easily accessible to almost anyone in Fort Worth. And because we serve clients throughout Tarrant County, our office is easy to get to for people outside of Cowtown. We’re just eight blocks off I-35. (We suggest either the Morningside or Berry street exit.)   

The next time you’re riding an elevator up 25 floors to see an expensive family law attorney, take a moment to consider how our location helps reduce our overhead costs. And how we can then pass those savings on to you. As Sean says, “You shouldn’t have to pay top dollar to get a top-shelf family law attorney.”

Sabelhaus+Lynch: Two of the Best Fort Worth, TX, Family Law Attorneys

Which brings us back to our new video. The footage was shot using a drone, which we thought was really cool—it’s not every day you get to see Fort Worth’s Near Southside from the air. In less than two minutes, you’ll get to see some of the prominent landmarks of our wonderful community, many of which you may already know.

More important, you’ll also get a sense of why so many of our clients consider us to be two of the best divorce lawyers in Fort Worth, TX. Sean Lynch + Associates are divorce lawyers who will provide you with experience and serve you with respect. We are award-winning Fort Worth divorce lawyers on the Near Southside—near you. 

Check out our new video, it’s only a couple of minutes long. And when you are ready to make changes, we are ready to fight for you. For a no-cost case consultation, contact our Fort Worth family firm today or call 817-668-5879. 

Why You Should Get a Prenup

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You may have heard in the news recently that Bill and Melinda Gates announced that they are getting a divorce after 27 years of marriage. The couple does not have a prenuptial agreement, even though they are worth about $146 billion. So you might be wondering: If Bill Gates doesn’t need a prenuptial agreement, do I? The answer generally is, yes. So here are a few tips on why you should get a prenup, and what can go wrong if you don’t have one.

What Is a Prenuptial Agreement?

A prenuptial agreement—or “prenup,” as they are usually called—is a legally binding contract people sign before getting married. In the event of divorce, the prenup will determine how the couple’s assets will be divided. These assets can include the house, land, retirement accounts, automobiles, and accumulated wealth.

The future spouses must finalize the prenup before they get married. The terms of the prenup become effective as soon as the two parties get married. In Texas, prenuptial agreements are usually referred to as premarital agreements.

Who Should Get a Prenup?

A family law attorney will answer your questions before you are married.
Whatever questions you have about a prenuptial agreement are worth being answered by an attorney answer.

You don’t have to be a millionaire to need a prenup in your marriage. Following are some of the conditions why it is beneficial for you to have a prenup:

  • Does either person have property?
  • If one partner is much wealthier than the other
  • If either spouse has an existing estate they wish to secure
  • Will either spouse be remarrying?
  • If either spouse has children
  • Does either spouse have significant debt?

You also will want to get a prenup if either spouse is remarrying. Read our blog on how a prenup shaped a successful second marriage. 

Of course, this is not a complete list. If you have any doubts about whether you should get a prenup, we encourage you to talk with a family law attorney. 

What Does a Prenuptial Agreement Usually Cover?

Prenuptial agreements typically focus on how the couple’s assets will be divided in the event of divorce. However, the agreement usually includes much more. Common issues include:

  • Allocation of property, including homes, buildings, business, and land in the event of divorce
  • Allocation of property, including homes, buildings, business, and land in the event one spouse should die
  • Right to use, sell, or lease property and possessions
  • Terms of alimony (also known as spousal support or maintenance
  • Rights to a life insurance policy benefit in the event of death
  • Issues regarding the writing of the will or setting up of a trust fund
  • Documents how household expenses will be paid
  • How existing debts will be handled
  • Clarifies how much each person can withdraw from the other person’s retirement savings
  • Any other issues of special interest to either future spouse

Prenups Can Address Alimony in the Event of a Divorce

A prenuptial agreement can protect both parties in a marriage.
Like all important conversations surrounding the marriage, a prenuptial agreement should be worth discussing to protect both parties.

In Texas, alimony is referred to as “spousal maintenance.” You may also hear it referred to as spousal support If the marriage ends, one of the two parties often is expected to pay money to the former partner. 

However, the law permits prospective spouses to address this topic in their prenup. For example, the couple can agree to a predetermined level of support. The prenup also can address cost-of-living adjustments or affirm that one partner will waive the right to receive alimony.

Alimony is an uncomfortable topic. Couples may not enjoy addressing all of these issues before the marriage. But it can save a lot of grief later in life, as well as a lot of lawyer fees. Spousal support is addressed in Section 8 of the Texas Family Code.

If You Have Children, the Prenup Should Cover Custody and Child Support

On the other hand, a prenup in Texas cannot address future child custody issues. The family law court makes these decisions. The Texas Family Code Section 153 states that the court must make custody decisions based on “the best interest of the child.” 

Thus, when a judge is making decisions about custody and how much child support should be paid, the prenup is not likely to be very important. The Texas Family Code Section 4 discusses premarital agreements.  

Many people are not aware that if one of the two parties has a change in financial circumstances after the divorce, the child support requirements can be changed. Read our blog on how to change a Texas court order for child access. 

How Can I Ensure My Prenup Is Enforceable in Texas?

Texas follows the guidelines of a document called the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act (UPAA). This document helps courts determine when and how prenuptial agreements should be enforced. The UPAA also allows parties to choose which state’s marriage laws will apply in terms of division of property and spousal support

For the prenup to be valid, the agreement MUST be in writing. A verbal agreement is not acceptable. In addition, the prenup is valid only if both parties entered into it voluntarily. The terms of the prenup also cannot cause a future spouse to require government assistance.  

What Are Some Reasons Why A Prenup Would Be Unenforceable?

Don't expect an informal marriage contract to comply with Texas Family Law Code requirements.
A family law attorney can help craft an agreement that will hold up if challenged.

As noted, to be legally enforceable, both parties must sign a prenup voluntarily. In addition, the prenup may be invalidated if it is “unconscionable.” This means the court determines that the terms of the prenup are grossly unfair to one of the two parties.

A prenup may be ruled “unconscionable” if one of the spouses failed to provide the other spouse with an honest and accurate disclosure of all financial obligations and property owned. The court also may invalidate the prenup of one of the two future spouses who did not have adequate knowledge of the other spouse’s financial assets and obligations. Read our blog on what prevents a prenup from being enforced. 

Can I Change My Premarital Agreement After Marriage?

Yes. After getting married, the couple can create a new contract, called a postnuptial agreement. The document can modify or invalidate some or all of the terms of the initial contract. As before, the new agreement must be in writing, and both parties must voluntarily agree to sign it. 

A Prenup Can Protect Both Parties if Your Marriage Ends

When two people are planning a marriage, they don’t want to think about getting a divorce. Just remember that the statistics are not on our side. : Roughly 50 percent of first marriages end in divorce, and about 60 percent of second marriages. And just in case you are considering a third marriage, the divorce rate is about 70 percent. 

Without a prenup, the dissolution of your marriage can be stressful, messy, and expensive. On the other hand, having a prenup can give both of you peace of mind, potentially strengthening your marriage. And if you are one of those fortunate couples who never need your prenup, we will be very happy for you. 

Two of the Best Fort Worth Divorce Attorneys

Sean Lynch + Associates are ready to answer your prenuptial questions and protect your assets.

Let the award-winning family law attorneys at Sean Lynch + Associates law firm help you prepare your case. We have years of experience in Texas family law, serving parents and clients in Fort Worth, Arlington, and Tarrant County. We will use that experience to help you draft a prenuptial agreement that is fair, affordable, and easy to understand. Contact us today for a no-cost review and initial consultation, 817-668-5879.

Father and child enjoying time together

How to Win Child Custody in Texas

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You’ve made the decision to get divorced. And now you are considering making another big decision: You want to have possession of the kids. We should say upfront, it is not easy for a mother or father to achieve this. But it can be done. So if this is something on your mind, here are some key things to know about how to win custody in Texas. 

What Does it Mean to Have Child Custody?

Texas Family Law seeks to provide the best future for children in every situation. Don't take for granted that you will gain custody of your child or have the visitation access you expect.
Texas Family Law seeks to provide the best future for children in every situation. Don’t take for granted that you will gain custody of your child or have the visitation access you expect.

Before explaining how to win child custody, we need to explain a few things about family law in the State of Texas.  

First, Texas has two types of custody, physical and legal. In a divorce, the court usually orders the children to live most or all of the time with one of the two parties. The person has physical custody, and the court calls him or her the custodial parent

But a parent can also have legal custody. A parent who has legal custody has the right to be involved in making important decisions for the child. For example, the parent has the right to make decisions about the children’s education, medical care, place of residence, and general welfare. 

What Does It Mean to Be a Conservator?

Changes to the family are confusing to children. Don't let your divorce issues become a source of stress for your children.
Changes to the family are confusing to children. Don’t let your divorce issues become a source of stress for your children.

Child custody cases in the State of Texas can be confusing because courts don’t use the term “custody.” Instead, they refer to conservatorship. The court calls the parent with whom the children live the custodial parent, or primary conservator. 

Judges call the other party the non-custodial parent, or possessory conservator. The judge often requires the non-custodial parent to pay child support. 

For example, when the divorced parents have equal decision-making authority, it means they have a joint managing conservatorship. You may also hear the term joining legal custody. And when a parent wants the exclusive right to make decisions, it means he or she is requesting to be named sole managing conservator. This may also be called sole custody, or your friends may casually mention it as “full custody.”

These terms matter because if you tell your family law attorney you want to get custody of your children, he or she is likely to ask, “What exactly do you mean?”

It is Not Easy to Win Child Custody in Texas

As family law attorneys will tell you, it is not easy to be named sole managing conservator. This is because of how Texas Courts operate. The Texas Family Code Section 153.002 states, “The best interest of the child shall always be the primary consideration of the court in determining the issues of conservatorship and possession of and access to the child.

Obviously, this sounds very appealing to a parent—we all want what is best for the children. However, courts are inclined to believe that the children’s “best interest” means having both parents deeply involved in their children’s lives. So if you are wanting to be named the sole managing conservator, it means you are asking the court to parent your ex from having any say in the lives of his or her children. 

Thus, while it is possible to win custody, it is not easy. It will be up to YOU to convince the court that this is in the best interest of your children. And it will not be enough to simply claim that your spouse is a “bad parent.” This is why if you think you will have a custody battle, we encourage you to hire a skilled family law attorney. 

What are the Grounds to Win Sole Custody in Texas?

The Texas Family Code, Chapter 161, Subchapter A defines the requirements for a parent to win custody in Texas. Here is a simplified list of reasons why the court may terminate the custody rights of the other parent: 

  • Was absent for at least three months
  • Knowingly engaged in conduct that endangered the well-being of the child, or knowingly allowed the child to be in a situation that endangered his or her well-being
  • Has abused drugs or alcohol
  • Has been convicted of a serious crime
  • Voluntarily and knowingly abandoned the woman, or failed to provide adequate support, during the time of her pregnancy and through the birth;
  • Is responsible for the child being born addicted to alcohol or an illegal drug;
  • Knowingly refused to comply with court orders
  • Failed to provide adequate support for the child over an extended time
  • Voluntarily abandoned the child with an expressed intent not to return;
  • Has had his or her parental rights terminated in another case

Generally speaking, if you want to win custody in Texas, you need to be able to show that your spouse or ex has put your children in serious physical or emotional danger. 

As we mentioned, this not a full explanation of the grounds for winning a custody case. Every situation is a little different, and it is not always easy to know the best interest of the child. This is another reason why if you are facing a custody battle, we highly recommend you consult a divorce attorney. 

It Is Time-consuming and Expensive to Win Custody

We have already stated that it is difficult to get full custody in Texas. It also can take time. Your spouse or ex is not likely to accept your decision and probably will hire a lawyer. While it is unlikely, a sole conservatorship case can last for years. 

Of course, the longer a case goes on, the more expensive it is. And keep in mind, family law is not the same as personal injury law. Thus, you should not expect the lawyer will only charge you only if he or she wins the case. 

We don’t want to discourage you. If you sincerely believe that terminating your ex’s parental rights is in the best interests of your children, then you should pursue it. We just want each Texas family to be aware of the potential issues that may arise. 

A Parent May Want to Consider Other Alternatives to Full Custody

How important is it to you to get full possession of your children? The court system usually is more open to alternative arrangements. For example, a parent could ask the court to limit the amount of access and visitation rights the ex has. Another option is to ask the court to deny your ex the right to make decisions on specific issues. 

The more things you are willing to negotiate, the more receptive a family law judge may be to your requests. You also may have more success convincing your spouse or ex to go along with your plan. Read our blog about how to change a Texas Court Order for Child Access.

Be aware that even if you win custody in Texas in your divorce, the judge may still award visitation rights to your ex. In addition, if the court gives you sole managing conservatorship, it is possible that your ex will not have to provide any child support. An experienced divorce lawyer can be very helpful in advising you on these matters. 

What if I am at Risk of Losing Custody in Texas?

A parent also must be prepared to consider the other side of the coin: what if your spouse or ex is trying to take the children away from you? Ideally, we all prefer to avoid conflict, and we always want to focus on the best interests of the child. 

But while it’s nice to have an amicable separation, your children are a different matter. If you decide to handle your own conservatorship case, you might make a mistake that gives your ex sole child custody. 

True, you can always request a court modification afterward. But the judge may well wonder why you accepted the custody arrangement in the first place. And if you file an appeal, it is going to cost you more time—and more money. Read our blog about changing a custody order without going to court.

In a Family Law Case, the Stakes are High

Sean Lynch + Associates understand the stress of custody questions and are ready to provide a no-cost case review to help.

Divorce can be stressful. If it involves a custody case, the divorce can be both stressful and contentious. 

At Sean Lynch + Associates, our lawyers are experts in the family code and very experienced in the complexities of a child custody cases. We will fight for your family in court, while always remaining sensitive to the concerns of protecting your child or children. We also offer transparent, affordable pricing, as well as a no-cost initial consultation. 

Your parental rights are important to you, and they are important to us, too. For a no-cost, initial consultation, contact our office or call 817-668-5879. You’ll be happy with your decision to consult with our award-winning Tarrant County divorce attorneys.

Court Ordered Home Sale

Court Order Sale of House in Divorce

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For many people, their most valuable asset is their home. And if you are going through a divorce, your home can become a point of real contention. Should you sell the house or not? And if you don’t sell, who gets to keep it? Perhaps the biggest question of all is, “Can the court force us to sell the house?” The short answer is Yes. But as you might guess, it’s not that simple. So here is a brief explanation of a court order sale of house in divorce.

Why Courts Have the Authority to Order the Sale of a House

Major assets often block divorce resolution.

Texas is a community property state.  This means that, in most cases, any property acquired by the couple during their marriage is owned equally by both spouses.  Ideally, the two spouses are able to reach an agreement on the marital property by working with their attorneys.

But sometimes, the parties cannot agree. One spouse may want to sell the house, while the other wants to stay in the house until the kids have finished school. Or perhaps both parties think they should get to keep the family home. In these cases, the court may get involved.

The court’s goal is to achieve “equity.” This means they want the divorce terms to be fundamentally fair to both parties. The Texas Family Code gives judges considerable authority on how to achieve that fairness. Thus, courts have the authority to order marital property to be transferred from one party to the other. They also can order the sale of the real estate before the divorce is finalized.

The Court May Order the Sale of a House to Help the Couple

The judge can force asset sales if both parties cannot agree to an equitable split.

Finances are another possible reason for a court-ordered sale of a house in a divorce. For example, if the primary breadwinner loses his or her job, the couple may be financially stressed. The couple may be falling behind on mortgage payments and facing foreclosure.

The couple may tell the judge that they do not have a reasonable expectation that their financial prospects will improve any time soon. may order the house to be sold before the divorce in order to help the couple get as much money as possible from the sale.

The court can also retain authority over the property for a set period of time. For example, the couple may agree that one spouse is going to keep the house and pay off the other for the value of the home or refinance the house so that the ex’s name is not on the mortgage.

In the event the person remaining in the home does not fulfill the settlement terms within a designated amount of time, the court can order the sale of the house.

Can a Court Order Sale of a House be Ignored?

No. The terms of a divorce decree, including decisions about the family home, are final. In fact, if the court has ordered the sale of the house, the parties cannot later agree to have one person buy it from the other.

There is one option. In a divorce, both parties have 30 days to appeal a family court decision in Texas. This includes not only real estate but decisions regarding other community property and custody of the children.

You Can Avoid a Court Order Sale of a House in a Divorce

Strong memories of a family home shouldn’t stop you from moving forward to your new happy life.

As we have seen, judges have great authority in deciding the terms of a divorce. And their ruling is basically final. However, it’s relatively easy to avoid a court order sale of your house in a divorce. All you have to do is come to an agreement with your spouse.

In an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse are in full agreement about the key issues. The agreements include custody, child support, and of course, division of assets.

Planning for the Sale of Your House in a Divorce

If you and your spouse agree to sell the house, you will need to be very specific. It’s not enough just to say, “We’re going to sell it.” Following are some details the two of you will need to resolve:

  • How much will you ask for the house? What if you can’t agree?
  • Will we use a Realtor? How will we choose one?
  • Which one of us will be the primary contact?
  • What process will we use when an offer is received?
  • How long will we wait before reducing the price? How much will we lower the price?

If you are looking at the sale of a house in a divorce, no detail is too small. You may even try to draft the description of the property in advance. It’s also a good idea to develop a contingency plan. For example, what happens if one of the two spouses becomes very sick? Can the other party proceed on his or her own? As for when is the best time to sell, we encourage you to read our blog Is It Better to Sell Your House Before or After a Divorce? – Sean Lynch + Associates, PLLC (seanlynchlaw.com)

An Attorney Can Help You Avoid Court Intervention

A divorce attorney can fight for your right to stay in your home after a divorce.

You can sell your house without going to court. You also can do your divorce without an attorney. But we understand divorce can be harder than that—sometimes, much harder. So while it’s admirable for you to think “My spouse and I can work everything out on our own,” sometimes, it just isn’t feasible.

This is particularly true when it comes to questions about property division and child custody arrangements. Both issues can get very complicated, as well as very emotional.

An experienced family law attorney will be very familiar with these situations and can help you anticipate some of the issues that may arise. For example, he or she can help you draft the agreement regarding your community property. A skilled divorce lawyer can help you and your spouse come to mutually satisfactory terms. They also can help you avoid making a mistake or having an unpleasant outcome—such as a court order sale of a house in a divorce.

Fort Worth Family Law Attorneys with Experience and Expertise

Let the award-winning Fort Worth family law attorneys at Sean Lynch + Associates law firm help you prepare your case. We have extensive experience in Texas family law, including cases involving homes and other marital assets. Whether you are expecting your divorce to be simple or difficult, we are ready to serve you. For a no-cost, 30-minute case consultation, contact us today or call 817-668-5879. 

Court Order for Child Custody

Can You Change a Custody Order Without Going to Court?

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If you are a divorced parent, your decree included instructions from the court about child custody arrangements. This court order is legally binding, and both parents must abide by its terms. But life can change, and it’s possible that one or both parents may decide the existing arrangements are no longer practical. So you may be wondering, “Can you change a custody order without going to court?” The short answer is “Yes.” But there’s much more to know, so let’s discuss it now.

Defining Child Custody and Conservatorship

Father and child enjoying time together
Texas courts recognize the critical role both parents play in a child’s happy life.

First, a quick refresher. There are two parts to custody, physical and legal. Physical custody refers to who the children live with. Legal custody refers to having the right to be involved in making decisions about the children. This includes decisions about their health care, education, and well-being.

However, Texas courts do not use the term custody. Instead, they use the term conservatorship. If both parents share custody, it is called joint managing conservatorship. And if only one parent has custody, it is called sole managing conservatorship.

In a divorce case, it is likely your friends and family will use the term custody. But with your attorney and in court, you can expect to hear the term conservatorship. 

How Easy Is It to Change a Custody Order Without Going to Court?

The good news is, it relatively easy to change a custody order without going to court—sometimes. The first step is to talk with your ex. If you both are in agreement on the change, you can get the custody order modified by working with a local mediator. The process can be completed in about X weeks, and you will need to pay a fee.

The second step is for the two of you to review your current custody order and make sure you fully understand it. While unlikely, it’s possible you won’t need to make any modifications to the order.

Third, you will need to be able to provide a compelling reason why you want the custody order changed. 

What Are Some Reasons to Change a Custody Order?

Child Custody Court Orders set out rights and obligations for the welfare of your children including visitation rights.

As noted, Texas requires parents to have a compelling reason for wanting to change a custody order, even if you do not go to court. Usually, this means there has been a significant change of circumstances. Examples of a significant change include:

  • A change in the work schedule of a parent
  • One of the parents is being neglectful, unreliable, etc.
  • The child or children wish to spend more time with the non-custodial parent
  • One parent moves closer to the other
  • One parent wishes to move away

Be aware that Texas courts make custody decisions based on what they think is in the best interests of the children. So you will want to be prepared to address this concern. But as noted, if you want to change a custody order without going to court, the key factor is whether you and the other parent agree on the modification.  

You Can Change a Custody Order without Going to Court, But there are Risks

If you and your ex are on good terms, you may be tempted to work out a new custody arrangement entirely on your own. Clearly, this approach is both quick and much less expensive. But it also has pitfalls.

  1. First, it is alarmingly easy for one or both parents to take advantage of an informal agreement. This can create unnecessary and unfortunate tension for the two of you. For example, your former spouse might request to have the children stay with him or her for an extra day. But the “extra day” turns into extra days. Then you find that these “extra days” become a reoccurring pattern. And then you start considering getting even. 
  2. Second, be aware that if your ex does violate the informal agreement, you have no legal recourse. Your only remedy is to go to court and request a court-ordered modification. Of course, at that point, your ex may not be as willing to agree to the original plan.
  3. Of course, the opposite holds true as well: Your spouse could go before a judge at any time, and you would have no way to prove to the court that the two of you had made an informal agreement. 

If You Change a Custody Order without Going to Court, Be Sure to Do It Properly

Any request to modify child custody needs to be a signed and witnessed court appeal that both parents are in agreement with.

This is why, even if you do not court, we strongly recommend you put your revised agreement in writing. The agreement should be easy to understand, and include provisions for custody, visitation, and child support. 

For example, the new agreement might say, “This custody revision change does not affect the existing child support arrangements in any way.”

You can prepare this document without a lawyer, but as we noted above, there are risks. Therefore, we also highly recommend that you have an experienced divorce attorney write the document or at least review it. Down the road, this could save you a lot of heartache—and expense.

Last, you also will need to sign the custody order change in front of a notary public, who also will charge a fee.

Can You Change a Custody Order without Going to Court if Your Ex Is Opposed to It?

Simply put, no. If your ex does not want to change the custody arrangement, you will need to hire a lawyer. He or she will help you prepare the documents and present them to the court. As previously noted, this is where you will need to provide compelling evidence why the judge should modify the court order, and how it serves the best interests of the children.

Considering a Change to a Custody Order? Our Award-winning Law Firm Can Assist You

S + L attorney Stephanie Sabelhaus plan case work with staff members
Finding the right attorney for you is critical to the success of your family law case.

Child custody arrangements can be one of the most contentious parts of a divorce. Even if you and your ex are in agreement on the need for a modified custody order, it is wise to seek the input of an experienced divorce attorney.  Sean Lynch + Associates, PLLC, our Fort Worth divorce attorneys with more than 10 years of experience. They have successfully handled divorce cases, including issues of child custody and asset division. If you need help, contact our family law practice today to schedule a no-cost consultation with our top-rated attorneys.