If you’re facing a difficult crossroads and believe you may need a family lawyer, you shouldn’t hesitate to reach out for legal guidance. The sooner you consult with a practiced family law attorney, the better protected your rights will be. Even if your concern doesn’t progress into a legal case, you’ll have a better idea of what to do if the need arises in the future.
Family law cases address important concerns, and seeking the professional legal counsel of an experienced Austin family attorney early in the process is always to your advantage.
Common Family Law Concerns
Family law is a broad arm of the law that addresses legal concerns affecting the family. Common examples include all the following concerns:
Child custody arrangements, including parenting time
The division of marital property
Alimony or spousal maintenance
Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements
Child protective services
Family law addresses wide-ranging matters, and if any one of these has become a concern in your life, reach out for the help provided by dedicated family law attorneys in Austin, TX.
Finding the Right Family Law Attorney for You
If the legal matter you’re facing involves your family, it’s a highly personal matter, which means you need a family law attorney who prioritizes your comfort. To fully protect your legal rights and achieve a favorable case outcome, you’ll have to open up to your attorney. This consideration should motivate you to find an Austin family lawyer with whom you feel at ease.
Do Your Research
Instead of simply calling the first family law attorney you stumble across, it’s a good idea to do some research, which can include all the following actions:
Asking trusted family members and close friends for recommendations
Asking any attorneys you know or whom you’ve worked with in the past for recommendations
Doing some online investigating that focuses on well-crafted websites, compelling client testimonials, and reviews that resonate with you
Reaching out to learn more – many reputable family law attorneys offer free consultations in family law cases
Know What to Look For
In order to find the right family lawyer for you, you need to know what you’re looking for. It may be helpful to keep an eye out for some of the primary attributes that distinguish skilled family law attorneys from the rest of the pack:
They have considerable experience, which often translates to being in the business for decades.
They come highly recommended.
They’ve successfully handled thousands of cases and have helped thousands of clients.
They offer emergency appointments for emergency legal matters. Sometimes, a legal concern can’t wait.
They take a hands-on, personalized approach that makes you feel heard.
They offer free initial consultations that allow prospective clients like you to gain a better feel for whether they’re a good fit.
When a family court attorney’s experience, skill level, and legal insight inspire your confidence, it’s a very good sign.
Divorce and the Terms of Divorce
A cornerstone of family law is divorce. Family lawyers specializing in divorce cases can help resolve the specific terms of divorce, post-divorce modifications, and child custody and child support terms between couples who were never married.
Divorce is the dissolution of the marriage contract, and it comes with considerable legal complications. Because protecting your parental and financial rights throughout your case is key, you are advised to work closely with a seasoned Austin family law attorney.
Child Custody Arrangements
Child custody in the State of Texas is determined in relation to both legal and physical custody. Legal custody addresses parental responsibilities and decision-making authority. These decisions go beyond everyday decision-making concerns and focus on the following primary issues:
Where your children attend school or daycare
The health care your children receive
Where your children make their primary home
Your children’s religious upbringing
The travel and extracurriculars your children participate in
Options include both of you making these decisions together, one parent having tie-breaking authority, one parent having sole legal custody, and both of you dividing these decisions between you according to category.
Physical custody addresses what most people think of as visitation and determines when the children will be overnighting with you and when they’ll be overnighting with their other parent.
There are two basic options for physical custody. You and your divorcing spouse can divide your time with the children equally or nearly equally. Alternately, one of you can become the primary custodial parent, who has the children for the majority of overnights, while the other has a visitation schedule.
It’s important to note here that the state focuses on the best interests of the children when making decisions about child custody arrangements. Prevailing wisdom finds that children’s best interests are best served when the amount of time they spend with each parent is maximized, and this guides the State of Texas’s child custody orders.
Divorce does not alter a parent’s financial responsibility to their children, and child support payments are designed to balance this ongoing responsibility between both parents. Many variables guide the child support calculation, but the most important issues are the time each parent has the children and each parent’s earnings. Even when parents divide their parenting time equally, the child support obligation generally falls to the parent who earns more.
The Division of Marital Property
The assets a couple comes to own over the course of their marriage are classified as marital property. In the event of a divorce, this property must be distributed fairly between the two spouses in relation to the prevailing circumstances.
Separate property refers to assets that either spouse owned prior to the marriage and kept separate throughout the marriage. When a spouse successfully keeps an asset separate, it remains the original owner's property upon divorce.
When the dividing line between marital and separate property is blurred – such as when assets become entangled – the separate nature of a separate asset can be similarly blurred. Additionally, any increase in the value of a separate property over the course of the marriage may be considered marital. In other words, the issue of separate property can be complicated.
Alimony – or spousal maintenance – comes into play only in those divorces that lead to significant financial discrepancies. When one ex doesn’t have the resources to continue supporting himself or herself at or near the lifestyle achieved during the marriage and the other ex has the financial means to help, alimony may be ordered.
How to File for Divorce in Texas
The divorce process in Texas is challenging, and proceeding without the direction of an accomplished attorney leaves you vulnerable to inferior results.
Getting a divorce started in the State of Texas involves filing the petition for divorce and having your divorcing spouse served. However, official service isn’t required if your spouse signs off on it.
Many people believe there is an advantage to being the spouse who files, but this isn’t necessarily the case. The most important point to keep in mind is that – whether you’re having your spouse served or they’ve already served you – protecting your rights from the outset and carefully strategizing the best path forward is paramount. A savvy family law attorney can help.
Adoption is the process of becoming the legal parent of a child who is not biologically yours. While adoption is a complex legal matter, the outcome affords you all the legal rights and responsibilities that any other parent has.
Stepparents often step in as parents and enjoy that special bond without the legal protections. When a child’s other parent is out of the picture, relinquishes their parental rights, or has their rights terminated by the court, stepparent adoption may be an option. If you’re a stepparent looking to adopt a stepchild, contact an Austin family lawyer to get started on your case.
An annulment stops a marriage in its tracks and – essentially – makes it disappear. Annulments are based on preexisting reasons that invalidated the marriage to begin with. Annulments aren’t common, but they can play a very important role in highly specific situations. The grounds for an annulment in Texas include the following situations:
One of the spouses was under the age of 18 at the time of the marriage.
One of the spouses was under the influence of alcohol or a narcotic at the time of the marriage.
One spouse is permanently impotent, and he or she didn’t inform the other spouse.
The marriage was based on fraud, duress, or coercion.
One spouse didn’t have the mental capacity to consent.
One spouse was already married.
The marriage occurred less than 72 hours after the marriage license was obtained.
If a child was conceived or born during the marriage or if you purchased property together, it can complicate the matter of an annulment.
Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements
More and more couples are implementing prenuptial and postnuptial agreements – not because they’re hedging their bets in case of divorce but because it’s a way to address potential divorce issues from the outset. This agreement takes a lot of the guesswork out of the equation and can lead to an even stronger sense of commitment to one another.
Prenuptial agreements are created before marriage and go into effect upon marriage, while postnuptial agreements are created and executed during the marriage. These contractual agreements must be based on financial transparency. Fraud, coercion, or extremely lopsided terms can void them.
Primary concerns that often prompt prenuptial and postnuptial agreements include the following circumstances:
One spouse comes into the marriage with significantly higher assets or significantly higher debts than the other.
A spouse has family property to protect.
A spouse wants to protect the inheritance rights of a child from another relationship.
One spouse enters into a risky financial endeavor, and the other spouse seeks financial protection.
The couple simply wants to know what a divorce would look like for them.
Child Protective Services
Child Protective Services Austin (CPS Austin) becomes involved in family law concerns when the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services reports allegations of child abuse or neglect. Such issues are naturally very serious matters, and the State of Texas treats them as such.
If your family law case involves either child abuse or neglect, it’s important to know that you’re not alone – a compassionate Austin family lawyer is standing by to help.
While Texas addresses parental rights impartially – without giving the mother any additional advantages – many fathers believe their rights as parents take a backseat to those of the mother. Keep in mind that nursing infants need their mothers to fill an important role, which will affect the court’s parenting time ruling. However, this doesn’t mean that the schedule won’t evolve in response to the child’s growth and development.
The other perceived advantage that mothers sometimes have is that they are more likely to put their careers on hold to raise the children. When courts make custody determinations, they look to best interest factors, including how well the status quo is working for the children.
In other words, if your children’s mother is their primary caregiver and their current situation – in terms of their home, school, and community – is serving them well, it can affect the parenting time orders.
As a father, it’s essential that you take the matter of child custody seriously from the start. A formidable family lawyer can help you in this pursuit.
Turn to an Experienced Austin Family Lawyer for the Help You Need Today
If you need guidance related to family law in Austin, Texas, Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard is an esteemed family law attorney with an impressive track record of helping clients like you protect their rights and obtain advantageous case outcomes. Learn more by contacting us online or calling us at (254) 781-4222 today.