Parental alienation is taken seriously by Texas Family Courts

Parental Alienation in Texas

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Divorce can be a difficult time, and you may be feeling a lot of emotions. Disappointment, bitterness, and anger all are common. There are many people you can turn to for support. Friends, family members, and counselors all are good options. However, the options do not include your children. No matter how upset you may be, it usually is not wise to speak critically about your spouse to the kids. For one, it can impact your relationship with your children. It also might end up hurting you in court. So here are a few things to know about parental alienation in Texas. 

What Is Parental Alienation?

Parental alienation occurs when one parent attempts to “turn” the children. The alienating parent says or does things that are intended to make the kids believe the other parent is selfish, bad, dangerous, or does not love them. 

At the same time, the alienating parent also is trying to “win over” the kids. The parent may be looking ahead to the custody battle. He or she may be hoping that the children will “choose” him or her. In extreme cases, the alienating parent may be hoping the children decide they don’t want anything to do with the other parent. 

Is Parental Alienation a Sickness?

The American Psychological Association (APA) defines parental alienation as a child “being manipulated” by one parent to turn against the other. The APA does not formally recognize parental alienation syndrome. They note that there is a lack of scientific evidence. The American Psychiatric Association also does not recognize it. However, mental health professionals are well aware of the dangers of parental alienation in Texas. Some psychologists have called for it to receive greater attention

Is Parental Alienation A Crime in Texas?

The Texas Penal Code does not have a specific law against parental alienation. So you can’t be arrested for it, and you can’t go to jail. But as we will see, there still can be significant consequences for doing it. However, do not think this means that Texas courts do not take parental alienation seriously—in fact, the exact opposite is true. 

What are the Warning Signs of Parental Alienation in Texas?

As noted, there is no specific law against parental alienation. Even so, there may be warning signs of alienation, and many judges are able to spot them. These include: 

  • Openly criticizing your spouse to your children. For example, “Your dad has never been good for anything,” or “This is all your Mom’s fault.”
  • Preventing the kids from communicating with the parent, or interfering with the communication. For example, listening in on their phone conversations or checking text messages. 
  • Preventing the kids from spending time with the parent, or interfering with the visit. 
  • Intentionally excluding your spouse from important events, such as sports or birthday parties.
  • Withholding important information about the children from your spouse. 
  • Making important decisions about the well-being of the children without involving the other parent.
  • Creating situations where your children have to “choose” between the two parents. 
  • Withholding affection from your children because they still care about the other parent. 

This is not a complete list. In short, anything you do that may cause the children to dislike, fear, or hate the other parent may be considered parental alienation. And while your goal may be to get closer to your children, the result may be the opposite. 

What if My Spouse is Committing Parental Alienation in Texas?

The priority of all parents is to care for and raise their children. That includes helping them have the best relationship possible with your ex.

Because there is no specific law, this can be difficult to prove. Judges are cautious in dealing with suspected parental alienation in Texas.

Start by documenting situations where your spouse has done this. You can also speak with anyone who regularly interacts with the child. This would include relatives, adult teachers, or coaches. Ask if they have observed any incidents and if they would be willing to appear in court. Direct testimony can be very helpful. The court may rely on input from a third party, such as a counselor, mental health expert, or legal guardian. 

If your spouse will go along with it, you may have your child speak with a therapist. And if you think the impact on the child’s life is serious enough, you may consider filing a motion to restrict his or her’s parenting time. 

What If I am Accused of Parental Alienation in Texas?

Just as it can be hard to prove alienation, it also can be hard to disprove it. If your spouse has accused you of this, start by doing some self-reflection. Is it possible you really have been committing parental alienation? If so, you can consider openly acknowledging it. Then commit yourself to do better in the future. A counselor or mental health expert may be able to help you. 

If you are not sure, start by asking for details. Have your spouse describe the specific situations where he or she thinks you committed parental alienation in Texas. Family members and friends may be able to affirm that you are a good parent. 

Whatever the outcome, there is one positive thing you and your spouse can do. Make an agreement that you will not use the children as “weapons” in the divorce. Commit yourselves to speaking highly of each other. If nothing else, you should at least staying neutral. 

Can My Child Testify in a Parental Alienation or Child Custody Case?

This depends on a number of circumstances. In Texas, a child must be at least 12 years old before he or she can state a preference as to who they will live with. (The court does not have to honor this request.)

The court is unlikely to put a child on the witness stand. However, the judge may request to meet with the child. A court reporter may be present to prepare an official transcript. If your child provides clear examples of how you have attempted parental alienation, it could impact your divorce. 

False Allegations of Child Abuse Are A Felony

Some parents may be tempted to go beyond these tactics. In an effort to win over the children, they may accuse the other parent of child neglect or child abuse. 

This also can be a form of parental alienation. But it is much more serious. The Texas Family Code states that knowingly making a false accusation of child abuse is a felony. If you are convicted, the punishment can be a fine of up to $10,000 and/or up to two years in prison. 

Of course, these charges won’t help your relationship with your children. Thus, the possible advantages of a false abuse allegation rarely are worth the enormous potential consequences.

A parent acts this way because he or she wants more control. But the consequences for parental alienation in Texas can be serious.  For one, the court is likely to be distrustful of you. The judge may restrict your visitation rights, or give primary child custody to the other parent

The reality is that when you commit parental alienation, you are jeopardizing the very control you are trying to gain. 

Making Your Child the Victim of Parental Alienation Also Can Affect You After the Divorce

Some parents may wait until after the divorce before they try to “turn” the children. For example, a parent may ignore court orders about child custody and visitation rights. This also has legal ramifications. 

If your ex can prove that you are guilty of parental alienation in Texas, he or she may seek to get the custody or visitation arrangements modified. The Texas Family Code calls this a Suit Affecting the Parent Child Relationship, or SAPR. The law states that judges must make custody decisions based on the best interest of the child. This includes modifying a court order when necessary. 

Parental Alienation Can Permanently Damage Your Relationship With Your Children

Of course, it is possible to be an alienating parent without getting “caught.” But in the larger sense, that shouldn’t matter. The question is not whether making your child the victim of parental alienation in Texas will affect your custody case. The question is how it will impact your child. 

When you attempt to “turn” children against the other parent, you are damaging your own relationship with them. One psychologist has called parental alienation “a significant form of harm to children.” He believes that courts should approach it the same as they do child abuse. 

Regardless, your children eventually will figure out what you did. And they may forgive you for being an alienating parent. But they also may resent you for acting against their best interest. The frustrated children may end up concluding that neither parent can be counted on. Or they may end up just turning on you. 

In sum, parental alienation is a terrible thing to do. Your primary concern should always be the same one the court has: Doing what is in the best interest of your children. Period.

An Experienced Attorney Who Can Help You With Your Divorce or Child Custody Case

Whether you have children or not, divorce can be stressful. And if you are concerned your spouse is committing parental alienation, the challenge can be even greater. The law firm of Sean Lynch and Associates has been providing expert legal help for more than 10 years. They are ready to serve clients in Fort Worth, Arlington, and Greater Tarrant County. To schedule a no-cost case consultation, contact our family law practice today, 817-668-5879.

In time of divorce, we always think about cost

What is the Difference Between Hourly, Fixed Cost, and Flat Fee Attorney Billing?

Reading Time: 6 minutes

If you’re considering divorce, you probably have a lot of questions, And one of the biggest might be, “How much is this going to cost me?” The short answer is that the cost of getting a divorce can vary wildly. So let’s answer the question.

If you understand a little about the different types of attorney’s fee structures, you will be better prepared when you meet with a divorce lawyer. You also might be able to save yourself some money.

How Do Attorneys Set Their Fees? Many Factors are Involved.

Texas Law states that attorneys may charge fees that are “reasonable.” But what that means in the real world is not always clear. In fact, attorneys have great leeway in setting their rates.

However, there are a few sensible guidelines an attorney may use to set his or her fee. These include:

  • Experience and training;
  • Rates of comparative local attorneys;
  • Complexity of the case;
  • Reputation and consumer demand;

In addition, metropolitan-area attorneys usually have higher fees than ones in rural areas. Also, if the case has an unusual time urgency, the lawyer may charge more.

Attorney fees depend on many factors including their experience, reputation, training, and the city you reside.
Attorney fees depend on many factors including their experience, reputation, training, and the city you reside in.

The American Bar Association (ABA) states, “The most common billing method is to charge a set amount for each hour of time the lawyer works on your case.”  

Attorneys who use hourly billing usually charge in increments of 1/10th of an hour. In other words, they bill you for every six minutes of work.

Because of the factors mentioned above, it’s hard to identify a “standard” hourly rate.  For example, a lawyer working on his own in a small community might charge $100 an hour, while an attorney working for a large firm in a major city might charge $400 an hour for the same case.

Of course, this can make it hard to do an “apples to apples” price comparison. The ABA makes another point to consider: “More experienced lawyers tend to charge more per hour than those with less experience—but they also may take less time to do the same legal work.”

Something else to be aware of: Lawyers often charge more for time spent in the courtroom than for time spent doing research and preparation.

“Flat fee” means that the attorney sets a rate for the case. For example, if you wanted to have a simple will prepared, the lawyer can tell you his or her flat fee for this work. And once the lawyer and client have agreed to work together, the lawyer can prepare the invoice in a snap.

Flat fees are not based on how many hours are spent on the case, or on the outcome. They also are called fixed cost billing.

Sean Lynch use flat fee billing because we believe it has many advantages. First, it simplifies our billing process. But much more important, it takes a lot of stress off our clients. When people come into our Fort Worth law office, we know they already have a lot on their minds. With our flat fee structure, they can know upfront how much the divorce will cost. It is one less thing for them to have to worry about—and we think it is a big thing.

We also believe flat fee billing works very well for divorce cases. Be aware, however, that it is not useful in all types of law. For example, lawyers who handle complex criminal and corporate cases rarely use flat fees. This is because there are too many uncertainties involved. It’s just too easy for the attorney to end up doing much more work than he or she originally billed.

Are Hourly and Flat Fee the Only Types of Attorney Billing?

Divorce attorneys use either hourly or flat fee billing. There are a few other structures:

Contingency: In this arrangement, the client pays only if the attorney wins the case. The lawyer then takes a percentage of the settlement paid. Contingency fees are more common in personal injury cases, such as automobile accidents and medical malpractice cases.

Retainer: You have probably heard this term mentioned in the movies or on TV. It simply means that a client agrees to pay a sum of money up front to secure the attorney’s services. As the lawyer works on various cases, he or she uses this fund for payments.

Pro bono: This means that the lawyer does not charge the client a fee but they may be compensated from other sources. As you might guess, divorce lawyers rarely work on contingency or retainer.

Hourly and Flat Fee Billing are Only Part of the Attorney’s Costs

In addition to the fees paid directly to your attorney, you will be required to pay other costs. For example, you may have to pay for the cost of filing the lawsuit, for serving the divorce papers to your spouse, or for document delivery services.

We encourage you to be sure to ask if you will be responsible for any other fees. And regardless of whether your attorney bills hourly or with a flat fee, we encourage you to make sure he or she gives you a contract to sign.

Why Are Attorney’s Fees So Expensive?

As with most professional services the cost of your attorney is dependent on his or her history of success and experience.
As with most professional services, the cost of your attorney is dependent in part on his or her experience and history of success.

While fixed-cost attorney billing saves you money, lawyers are still expensive. Did you ever wonder why? Here is a brief explanation.

First, law school is expensive—very expensive. After graduation, lawyers must pay for professional development courses. 

Lawyers also have to pay for routine operating expenses, such as office rent, equipment, and administrative staff. 

Also, attorneys tend to charge more as they become more experienced. This knowledge can help them analyze a case quickly and identify potential issues. It also can help them calculate the cost of your case, and perhaps save you some money. In short, practicing law is a lot like practicing surgery: Education and experience count for a lot. 

What Can I Do to Reduce My Attorney Fees?

The ABA has very simple advice for people hiring an attorney. They suggest, “Answer all your lawyer’s questions fully and honestly. It will save time and help your lawyer do a better job.”

If your attorney is billing you hourly, you can also ask if there are any clerical tasks you can perform. For example, you might make photocopies, or deliver some documents.

There are two other simple things you can do to potentially reduce your costs. First, promptly provide your divorce attorney with all the documentation he or she needs or requests. Remember, if the lawyer is billing hourly, you pay for each minute of time—including time spent making duplicate requests.  

Second, don’t do anything to jeopardize your case. Perhaps you’re considering quietly selling some of your property, or moving out of state. This just makes your attorney’s job harder—and can add to your costs.

Don’t Pick a Divorce Attorney Based Solely on the Cost

What is the Difference Between Hourly, Flat Fee, and Fixed Cost Attorney Billing? In at least one way, the answer is, “Not much.” Divorce attorneys are like any other product or service: You get what you pay for. So while you can buy a car for $1,000, you shouldn’t expect it to perform on a level comparable to a $40,000 vehicle.

TexasLawHelp.com has some very smart advice for people shopping for a divorce attorney. They write, “Remember the most expensive lawyer is not necessarily the best one for you. Nor is a ‘bargain’ rate always a great deal. Look for the best balance of experience and cost.”

Our Law Provides Experience and Award-winning Service at a Great Price

Attorney Sean Lynch understands that fixed cost legal services are a good value to Tarrant County clients.
Attorney Sean Lynch understands that fixed cost legal services are a good value to Tarrant County clients.

The attorneys at Sean Lynch, PLLC, offer some of the most affordable and effective legal representation in Fort Worth and Arlington. We are upfront about our pricing, so you know in advance what you’ll pay in your divorce case. And we ALWAYS have your best interests at heart.

If you need help contact our family law practice today to schedule a no-cost consultation with a top-rated attorney in Fort Worth.

It's usual that spouse try to hide assets in time of divorce

How to Find Hidden Assets During a Divorce

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Some divorces go smoothly. But experienced family law attorneys will tell you it is not unusual for a divorce to get ugly. And one of the things couples fight over most often is assets. This includes cash, houses, buildings, and other assets the couple shares. And some couples fight over assets they don’t share: Sometimes, one spouse will try to hide assets from the other. Attorneys will tell you it takes work to dig up things your spouse is concealing, but it can be done. So here’s what you need to know about how to find hidden assets during a divorce. 

It Is Not Unusual for Divorcing Spouses to Conceal Assets

The first thing to know is that financial “cheating” is common—very common. For example, in a recent survey by the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE), 42 percent of respondents admitted to cheating on their partners financially. 

Part of the reason for this is that Texas is a community property state. This means that, with some exceptions, all property acquired during the marriage is owned equally by both spouses. For some spouses, the idea of having to split the assets equally with their future ex is enough to motivate them to act illegally. 

One of the most common reason for hiding assets, spouse want to minimize the child or spousal support
One of the most common reason for hiding assets, spouse want to minimize the child or spousal support

Spouses also may be motivated to hide assets because they want to minimize the amount of child support or spousal support they will have to pay. Others want to hide behavior that has gone on previously—for example, gambling, drug use, or purchases for a mistress. 

And some people try to hide assets for the worst possible reason: Because they think they can get away with it. 

What Are the Most Common Hidden Assets?

A spouse can try to hide almost anything during a divorce. But generally, they will conceal something of value. Here are some likely hidden assets during divorce:

  • Investment accounts and offshore accounts
  • Real estate
  • Inherited monies and trust accounts
  • Credit cards
  • Fine art and jewelry
  • Bonuses

Family law attorney Sean Lynch notes that dishonest spouses will tend to focus on cash and items that do not create an obvious paper trail.

“Cash makes it harder to trace the individual’s activity,” he said. “And once the money is gone, it’s gone. Judges try to split the assets 50/50, but they can only go off the numbers presented to them.”

Signs Your Spouse May Have Hidden Assets

Lynch said that, while every case is different, some warning signs may indicate your spouse is hiding assets. These include:

  • Being secretive or vague about finances, accounts, etc.
  • Maintaining total control over accounts and finances
  • Having a private PO Box or mailbox
  • Erasing computer records or programs
  • Frequent stock sales
  • Unusual purchases, trips, or activity
  • If your spouse has a safe deposit box

Some people will try to deceive the spouse by constantly complaining about a lack of money. And others will complain about having no money while at the same time seeming to live a lavish lifestyle. 

How Do Spouses Hide Assets During a Divorce?

As you might expect, there is no limit to the number of ways a spouse can conceal the couple’s wealth. Some people will do it by opening new accounts in the name of the children. If asked, the partner may make an excuse, saying it is a fund for the children’s future. Or they can transfer stock ownership to an ally, and then transfer it back later. 

People also try to hide assets by doing business with family or friends. For example, your spouse may sell the family boat to his buddy at a bargain deal, with the intention of buying it back later. Or your spouse may give a gift to a family member, again with the intention of reclaiming it after the divorce.

Lynch added that deceitful people sometimes try to create ownership. For example, the house may be in their parents’ name. “Or we might have a situation where the guy’s wife’s brother bought his truck for him and the payments are going to him,” he said, “Or maybe he is storing his RV at a buddy’s place.”

How Can a Business Owner Hide Assets During a Divorce?

Family-owned businesses provide a convenient way to conceal wealth, making it harder to find hidden assets during a divorce. 

“By running everything through the business, a person can greatly lower his or her personal income,” Lynch said. ”This is especially common when it comes to paying child support. If your spouse hides assets in the business, he or she may be able to significantly lower the payment amount.” 

Here are three ways business owners can hide their wealth:

  • Unreported income: Businesses that work in cash can easily conceal their income.
  • Phony payments: The owner may “pay” friends for products and services they did not actually do, artificially reducing the owner’s wealth. 
  • Nonexistent staff: The owner may be “paying” employees who don’t exist, helping hide total assets. This is another way the owner can appear to be “poor.”

Also, both business owners and regular employees may have offshore accounts. 

“Most clients are very upfront,” Lynch said. “They just want to be done with the divorce. The ones you have to keep an eye on are the people who are approaching the case like a battle they have to win. They often try to show themselves only in the best possible light.”

How to Reduce Your Risk of Losing Assets in a Divorce

In a difficult divorce, an experienced family law attorney can be your best ally. However, even the best attorneys need help. One of the best things you can do to help your attorney find hidden assets during a divorce is to become knowledgeable about your finances.

In a complicated divorce, family law attorney can help you to reduce the risk of losing assets
In a complicated divorce, family law attorney can help you to reduce the risk of losing assets

“It’s not unusual for one spouse to handle most of the finances,” Lynch said. “But if you are getting divorced, being financially uninformed is a real handicap. If the other party is hiding something and you are not aware of it, it makes my job much harder. Initially, have to go off what the other party says.”

Lynch believes being financially informed is good advice for everyone, not just divorcing couples.

“Even if divorce is the furthest thing from your mind, it’s wise to be knowledgeable about your financial affairs,” he said.

How to Find Hidden Assets in a Divorce

So what should you do if you suspect your spouse is holding back on you? Lynch said to find hidden assets, you must take action—and the sooner, the better. 

“If you’re suspicious, the first thing is to get more involved in the day-to-day family finances,” he said. 

You also will want to start collecting documents as soon as possible. That includes bank account statements, credit card statements, loan paperwork, retirement account records, and other information about your assets.

One of the best things you can do is get your own copy of your tax returns. And you should keep a discrete eye on your spouse’s credit reports and spending habits, particularly for expensive items. In extreme cases, you may even need to hire a private investigator.  

“If you suspect your spouse is hiding assets from you, act quickly,” Lynch said.

Last, don’t sign any important documents that you do not fully understand.

If You Think Your Spouse is Hiding Assets, Talk with an Attorney

Of course, if you’re worried about the honesty of your spouse, you probably also are worried about the stability of your marriage. If you are considering divorce, Lynch recommends you speak with an experienced divorce attorney as quickly as possible. And as difficult as it may be, you need to tell the lawyer that you may need help finding hidden assets. 

The attorney will be able to provide good legal advice. In some situations, the attorney may even hire a forensic accountant to help track down hidden assets. 

“If your spouse is hiding stuff, there usually is going to be a paper trail,” Lynch said. “For example, all of sudden, it looks like his direct deposit paycheck is a little smaller. Or maybe they took out a second mortgage on the house.” 

Sean Lynch is a Metroplex Attorney Who is Experienced in Discovering Hidden Assets During Divorce Cases

Attorney Sean Lynch is ready to represent your hidden asset divorce case.
Attorney Sean Lynch is ready to represent your hidden asset divorce case.

Are you concerned that your ex might have a hidden bank account or other assets? Talk with the award-winning family law attorney Sean Lynch, PLLC. He can help you prepare your case and track down the assets that you rightfully deserve a share of.

For a no-cost case review, contact him today or call 817-668-5879.

Always show legitimate reasons to get child custody

How Do I Write A Texas Letter of Intent for Child Custody?

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Imagine wanting to get full custody of your children. Imagine having to go to court to do it. And then imagine having to testify in front of a judge about it. If all that sounds a little intimidating, you are in good company. The good news is, there is an alternative: You may be able to write a letter of intent for custody. Is this right for your case? Here’s what you need to know to help you decide.

What Is A Letter of Intent for Custody?

The letter is essentially written testimony for the judge to review. It is commonly called a declaration. The purpose of the declaration is to formally state your desire to have full custody of your child. The letter includes evidence and reasons why you think you should have custody of your children.

Note that in Texas, the term for “sole custody” is sole managing conservatorship. This means that, in addition to having the children live with you, you also have the sole legal authority to make decisions about their education, health care, and general well-being.

The letter of custody intent will be reviewed by the judge. If your spouse has an attorney, he or she also will examine this letter, and likely will challenge it. Therefore, it is very important to write a letter correctly.

Key Points about the Letter of Custody Intent

While it is important to write this letter correctly, you also should not feel overwhelmed. Remember that the court knows you are not a lawyer, and does not expect you to sound like one. Here are some key things to remember about the letter of intent for custody:

  • Use “bullet points,” to make your key points, as we have done here.
  • State your ideas in plain language, using your own words. Stick with facts. 
  • Avoid calling your spouse names and making any personal attacks.
  • Provide any evidence you have. This may include photos or pay stubs. (If any of your documents have a Social Security number or other personal information, be sure to black it out.) 
  • Make sure your custody requests are reasonable. For example, it’s usually not wise to demand that your spouse be kept permanently from the children.
  • While it’s important to be thorough, try to also be brief. The judge probably will not want to read a 100-page letter of intent for custody. 
  • Acknowledge that you are making these statements under oath and under penalty of perjury. 

Your Letter of Custody Intent Should Address Relevant Issues

In terms of child custody, the judge will decide mom or dad or both will get child custody
In terms of child custody, the judge will decide mom or dad or both will get child custody

Before you write your declaration, make sure you are aware of any other relevant custody documents that have been filed.

For example, in Texas, judges do not make decisions based on who they think is the “better person.” Instead, they make custody decisions based upon what they think is in the best interests of the children. You should try to use this information to your advantage. Use your letter of intent for custody to make clear why it is in the best interests of the children to be with you.

You can also use the declaration to address the objections of your spouse. For example, if your spouse has claimed that the children don’t want to spend time with you, you can cite examples and provide photos to prove this wrong.

An Outline Can Help You Get Started with Your Letter of Intent for Custody

Writing a legal document can feel a little intimidating. To get started, try writing an outline. 

For example, imagine your letter of custody intent could only be five sentences long. To get your point across, you will have to write some very direct sentences. For example,  “For the last five years, I have been the primary caregiver for the children,” and “My spouse has repeatedly stated that she is not interested in helping raise our kids.”

The outline will help you organize your thoughts and clarify the key points you want to make in the letter of intent for custody. It also will make the next step easier. 

Writing Your Letter of Intent for Custody 

Start by introducing yourself. Briefly explain what you are requesting from the court. Example: “Jane Smith and I were married in May 2011. We had our first child in July of 2013, and another in December 2015. I am asking for full physical custody for me and supervised visitation for my wife.

Use the outline to help you expand on your points. What are some simple, specific examples of how you have been the primary caregiver? What are some specific times when your spouse said she was not interested in raising the kids? Has your spouse done anything in the past that endangered the well-being of the children?

Try not to let your emotions carry you away as you write your letter of intent for custody. It does not help to say, “My spouse has never been good for anything.” Instead, stick with the facts, providing as many specific examples as possible. Examples of Factual Statements in a Letter of Custody Intent

“If the children live with me, they will not have to change schools.”

“Last month, the court ordered my spouse to attend anger management classes.”

“On April 10,11, 16, and 18, the school called me because my spouse had forgotten to pick up the children.”

Five Tips for Writing a Strong Letter of Intent for Custody

Your attorney will provide both the legal expertise and the Family Court experience to provide your best shot at successful child custody.
Your attorney will provide both the legal expertise and the Family Court experience to provide your best shot at successful child custody.
  1. Be as accurate as possible. If you don’t remember a specific detail, it’s okay to admit it. Example: “On or about on August 13, my spouse …” Also, do not exaggerate in your declaration. “My husband has never spent a single penny on the kids” probably is not true.
  2. If you wish to include second-hand information, you should make an effort to verify it. You can also have a witness provide a written statement. 
  3. As mentioned above, avoid personal attacks. When judges are making decisions about a letter of intent for custody, one of the things they consider is which parent is most likely to help facilitate the children’s relationship with the other parent.
  4. Tell the truth. If the court finds out you have intentionally lied or withheld key information, the judge may be upset with you. And it could jeopardize your custody request.
  5. Have Someone Else Review Your Letter of Intent for Custody. More on this below. 

And as mentioned, your letter of custody intent should also include any relevant evidence, such as pay stubs or photos. 

How to Have Someone Review a Letter of Intent for Custody

  • Ask the person to check it for spelling, punctuation, missing words, etc.
  • Ask them to review your style. Did you stick with the facts, or did you make petty attacks? Did you ramble on too long?
  • Is the format correct? Many courts require that the form include specific information, in a specific format. In Tarrant County, you can get help by calling 817-884-1111.
  • A trusted friend can review the letter of intent for custody for you. However, we recommend you have your letter reviewed by an experienced divorce attorney. Given the potential complexity and emotions of a custody case, we believe most people will be much better off having the support of an experienced divorce attorney.

The Last Step is to Sign and File Your Letter of Intent for Custody

Your county family court can advise you on the specific procedures for this. But as noted, given the importance of this letter, we recommend you hire an experienced attorney. Keep in mind that, even if you do write a letter, you may still have to testify in court. At the least, the judge is probably going to have some questions for you.

This is another reason why the letter of intent for custody is so important. Before you get to court, you can use it to help organize your thoughts. The letter also can help you stay focused during what might be a very stressful situation. 

Last, keep in mind that even if you write a perfect letter of custody intent, there is always a possibility that the judge may deny your request. However, in the event this happens, you still have an opportunity to file an appeal.

In a Difficult Custody Case, An Experienced Attorney is A Crucial Ally

After decades of successful Texas Child Custody clients, attorney Sean Lynch knows what is needed to fight for your case.
After decades of successful Texas Child Custody clients, attorney Sean Lynch knows what is needed to fight for your case.

Even under the best circumstances, a custody case can be emotional and exhausting. That’s because you’re not just thinking about yourself: You’re also thinking about your children. 

If you are going through a divorce or custody case, don’t risk going it alone. And don’t risk relying on someone who is not very experienced. Attorney Sean Lynch is known as one of the best divorce attorneys in Tarrant County.

The associates at Sean Lynch Law have the skill and experience to help you successfully navigate a difficult divorce or custody case. They offer you a no-cost, 30-minute case consultation. Call them today at 817-668-5879. 

Sean Lynch Named One of Top Tarrant County Attorneys for Fifth Consecutive Year

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This is an exciting day for us. I am honored to announce that Fort Worth magazine has selected me as one of the top attorneys for 2021. 

This award is special to us for two reasons. First, this is the fifth consecutive year the magazine has presented us with this award. This tells us that we are continuing to maintain our high standards of excellence. 

Secondand even more gratifyingthe voting was done by other Tarrant County attorneys. To have your peers recognize you as one of the best family law attorneys in Fort Worth and Tarrant County is truly humbling.

An article announcing the award will appear in the magazine’s December issue. 

A Top-Ranked Fort Worth Family Law Knows What Matters Most

Practicing law in real life is not much like what you see on TV.

For one, most cases are handled without going to trial. And when we are in court, there is almost never a big, dramatic, “gotcha” moment. (In fact, lawyers hate surprises.) 

Instead, most of our job is done at our desk. We gather documents, negotiate with the other party’s attorney, submit more documents. To be honest, a lot of the job is not very glamorous. 

But we don’t mind. That’s because we practice family law for a very simple reason: We love helping people. 

Whether it is a simple divorce, a complicated spousal support case, or an emotional child custody issue, we believe it is a privilege to serve others. 

Without a doubt, it is a great honor to have our work formally recognized by other professionals. But the most gratifying part of this job is having a client quietly and sincerely thank us for our work. For us, this is what matters most.  

We Appreciate Our Outstanding Staff and Our Fort Worth Neighbors 

Sean Lynch working in his law firm office.
Sean Lynch is a family law attorney located in the Fort Worth. He serves clients throughout Tarrant County, including HEB and Arlington.

I want to personally thank Fort Worth magazine for once again presenting us with this award. We know they put great effort into their selection process, and we are grateful for their recognition.  

I also want to thank our team at SeanLynchLaw.com. None of these five awards would have been possible without their hard work and commitment to service. 

In addition, I want to recognize Fort Worth. They do a tremendous job promoting businesses in the area, and we love being a part of this vibrant and diverse community. Simply put, Fort Worth is a great place to shop, dine, liveand work. 

Last but not least, I want to thank our clients. We are honored that you chose to trust us with such a huge responsibility. No matter how many cases we have, we strive to make each person who contacts us feel like he or she is our only client. 

A Fort Worth Family Law Attorney Offering a No-cost Case Consultation

As I said, much of an attorney’s job is not very glamorous. But that does not mean it is not important or meaningful. 

One day we may be helping someone win some badly needed child support payments, and the next we are helping someone protect possessions that are rightfully theirs. And every day, we come to work knowing we have the chance to make someone’s life better. 

And we are ready to help YOU, too. If you are dealing with the prospect of a divorce, child custody case, court order modification, or other family law issue, give us a call today at 817-668-5879. We offer a no-cost, 30-minute case consultation. And you will get to see for yourself why we have once again been named one of the top attorneys in Fort Worth and Tarrant County. 

Thank you again to our many clients and to Fort Worth magazine for presenting us with this important award. 

Sean

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 fiancé 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 fiancé 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 fiancé 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 are ready to represent your child custody arrangement or court order modification case.

Custody cases can be stressful, contentious. and complicated. At Sean Lynch, 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 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 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

Reading Time: 5 minutes

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

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How Social Media Hurt My Divorce

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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 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.