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Houston Business and Family Law Blog

Child custody considerations for same-sex couples

If you're divorcing as a same-sex couple in Texas, you may be worried about how the law may apply to your situation, especially when it comes to child custody. The fact is that since the law has changed so much in recent years, many divorcing same-sex couples face unchartered territory, especially when their divorce is particularly complex.

While divorcing and arranging custody can be stressful and overwhelming, doing your research beforehand and taking things one step at a time can go a long way toward a smooth experience. The following are some key considerations for child custody arrangements as same-sex parents.

The holidays are coming: Don't panic over the custody schedule

It's already October, and that means that divorced parents everywhere are about to go through than annual ordeal surrounding custody and visitation during the holidays. While your parenting plan may have established some ground rules and a schedule, that doesn't necessarily mean that things will work according to plan -- or that you even want it to work that way.

Divorced parents of young children, in particular, may have difficulty with the holiday visitation schedule. After all, no parent wants to miss out on their child's first Halloween costume. Nor is it pleasant to have to tell the kids' visiting grandparents that they can't see them at Thanksgiving because it's your ex-spouse's holiday on the parenting plan.

What's a 'managing conservator' in Texas?

When parents go through a divorce, they usually have lots of questions related to their children -- particularly regarding the rules about custody. In Texas, one of the most important things divorcing couples need to understand is the role of the "managing conservator" in their children's lives.

Managing conservatorship is the term given to the right a parent hold to make most major decisions for their children. Following a divorce, the court can award either joint managing conservatorship -- giving both parents equal say -- or sole managing conservatorship which gives only one parent the right to make those calls.

What's the best approach for your visitation plan?

One of the most important aspects of your divorce will be deciding what happens with your kids. You know that the terms of your final order will affect your kids for years to come, and this is why it is important to have a custody and visitation plan that allows for stability and security. When you are creating a parenting plan, it is in your interests to think about the kids' needs above all else. 

Crafting a parenting plan with a soon-to-be-ex-spouse is complex and emotionally challenging. It's not easy to set your own feelings to the side, but the reality is that your temporary feelings probably do not represent what is truly best long term. This is one reason why it's helpful to have the guidance and support of an experienced Texas attorney as you think through these issues and pursue a reasonable final order.

Meeting with a divorce attorney by video? Use these tips

Once upon a time, it would seem very strange to discuss your personal matters with an attorney on a video call, but things have changed. Doctors, therapists and attorneys are all using Zoom and other video conferencing tools to handle meetings with their clients.

If you're making inquiries about a divorce, however, you want to take certain steps to manage your privacy. If your spouse doesn't know your intentions, you certainly don't want to be overheard. Even if your spouse does know your plans, you should still take steps to preserve the privilege you enjoy with your attorney so that you can freely discuss all your concerns.

Can you resolve your divorce without going to court?

Divorce is never an easy process, but there are times when a Texas couple may want to simplify their divorce as much as possible. When a couple is amicable and willing to work together on resolving disputes and making important decisions, it is possible to resolve a divorce out of court. This can be easier and less stressful than a litigated divorce, during which an impersonal family court may make decisions that will affect every member of the family for years to come.

It is also possible to avoid the courtroom in situations where a couple cannot come to an agreement on every issue. Through alternative dispute resolution, two opposing parties can work through issues and come to a meaningful, sustainable agreement. This option is typically easier and faster than litigation or the traditional divorce process. 

Can you renegotiate a prenuptial agreement?

When you got married, your intended asked for a prenuptial agreement. You weren't surprised. You were marrying someone of significant means, and they had a lot that they wanted to protect. Maybe they'd even been burned in the past by a former relationship. The terms seemed fair enough, so you signed.

Now, it's 10 years down the road, and you've been through quite a lot with your spouse. You've proved your mettle as a partner in life, and your circumstances have changed quite a bit. The terms in that old prenup no longer seem so fair.

Who knows what's best for your child?

Who has your child's best interests most at heart, you or someone else?

If you automatically feel that you are the right person to decide what's best for your child, the Texas courts will agree -- thanks to a landmark ruling by the Texas Supreme Court back in June. The ruling, which reversed a lower court's decision to grant a non-parent visitation rights to a child over her father's objections, had been closely watched by family law attorneys throughout the state because it was poised to have a significant impact on parental rights.

How are assets treated in a Texas divorce?

Whenever a couple heads for a split, both sides are usually concerned about their property rights. Questions can range from things like, "Who gets to keep the furniture?" to "What happens to the retirement fund?" The more assets you have at stake, the bigger your concerns likely are.

Here's what you should know if you're getting divorced in Texas:

Same-sex domestic violence: It's not as rare as you might think

When people think about domestic violence, they generally have the stereotypical image of a large, aggressive man bullying, threatening and outright abusing a much-smaller woman. But this stereotype doesn't really hold true when they're examined carefully -- and it doesn't begin to apply to same-sex relationships.

Studies indicate that people in same-sex relationships suffer intimate partner violence as often or more often than those in heterosexual couples. Yet, there's very little acknowledgment that domestic violence can be a factor in these relationships. Partially, that's because the research into those relationships is still limited -- in 2015, for example, studies on same-sex domestic violence represented just 3% of the total research on the subject.

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