Paula Lock Smyth Law Offices
“Train up a child in
the way he should go
and when he is old,
he will not depart
from it.”
Proverbs 22:6

Dallas Family Law Blog

An unbiased, experienced advocate for fathers' rights

Fathers in Dallas County should take heart in the fact that Texas statutes do not discriminate on the basis of a parent's gender with regard to the issues of child custody and visitation. Still, it is an unfortunate fact that some people presume that mothers are more suitable custodial parents than fathers. Although in some individual cases a particular mother may be more suited than a particular father for physical custody, it is simply untrue that mothers are always more suitable custodial parents than fathers.

Last week we described for you the ways a father in Texas can establish paternity of a child in a non-marital relationship. The establishment of paternity is the cornerstone of the rights of fathers in the areas of child custody, visitation and more. The good fathers of Dallas County deserve to be heard when these issues are being decided in family law court. Fathers' rights lawyer Paula Lock Smyth is an unbiased, experienced advocate for the rights of fathers. She is dedicated to ensuring fathers receive fair consideration of their suitability for the custody and visitation of their children.

Ways to establish paternity in Texas

The most basic aspects of the law can sometimes be the most complicated and confusing. Such is the case with the establishment of paternity in Texas. It is important to establish paternity for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which the best interests of the child, and the parents knowing who the biological father is. It is also important for providing support to the child and with any other aspect of the child's growth.

There are two ways to establish paternity. First, is the Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP). This lets parents who are not married establish the child's paternity. When the biological parents sign the AOP and file it with the Texas Vital Statistics Unit (VSU), it means that these are the legal parents of the child. The father will subsequently have all the rights and responsibilities of a parent. That includes his name being put on the birth certificate.

Residency restriction issues can affect Texas parents

When two parents in Texas split up, it raises a whole host of legal issues surrounding the care of their child. Naturally both parents want to maintain a nurturing relationship with their child, and to that end, in child custody cases, Texas courts aim to see that a child is given the opportunity to spend frequent and regular time with both of his or her parents. This means that sometimes the court will put a residency restriction in place when two parents have a child together but have divorced or broken up. What a residency restriction does is keep the custodial parent from taking the child and moving away from the county where the case was filed, or away from any surrounding counties. Of course, the parent is free to move away alone.

If a custodial parent is facing a residency restriction but still wants to take the child and move away, he or she has to seek the court's permission in order to do so. The parent seeking to move with the child has to show the court that he or she has a compelling reason to do so. The court will consider a number of factors in this situation.

Rights of a parent with regard to child custody in Texas

Many people in Texas are parents. While the parents are together, co-parenting and raising a child can be a little simpler. However, when parents divorce or split up, the parenting dynamics change drastically. The children obviously cannot be in two places at one time. In many situations, the children will end up splitting time between both parents' abodes. The parents will also still have to make decisions regarding the child's upbringing.

Whether the parents will share that responsibility, and how, or if only one parent will have that responsibility is determined in a child custody order, or 'conservatorship,' as it is called in Texas. The decision will be made by what is in the best interests of the children. If a parent is granted custody, whether joint or sole, he or she will have certain rights even if the other parent objects in any way.

Why do couples enter into prenuptial agreements?

Planning for a wedding is stressful -- dealing with various caterers, designers and event managers can cause a lot of anxiety between a couple. And, a prenuptial agreement can add further stress pre-marriage.

Texas residents may be aware that a prenuptial agreement is an agreement a couple enters into before getting married that sets how the separation will take place, should a divorce occur. Many argue that it is a recipe for disaster, as a couple is assuming the inevitability of separation, even before a union has taken place. However, for many, it is a practical step to protect not only their own assets and business interests, but also their children.

What is a collaborative law divorce?

Couples may often hesitate to put an end to their marriage because they are afraid of going through the legal system. They do not know how much money and time it will take, the emotional affect it might have on their children and the possibility of having their private information revealed in court publicly may be daunting. For those who want to avoid an uncertain outcome by going through court and talk through their issues effectively without more turmoil, collaborative law divorces may hold the answer.

In a collaborative law divorce, even though a marriage is coming to end, parties recognize that they may continue to play a role in one another's life because of the intermingling of families and businesses and disputes are resolved peacefully and constructively. One of the first states to allow collaborative law divorces in the 1990s, Texas is still working on embracing the alternative to obtaining a divorce through litigation.

What laws apply to property division in a divorce?

Understanding the way property is divided is very important in a divorce. This is often the most disputed issue in a divorce, after child custody.

Every state in the nation has a law about how to divide the couple's property during a divorce. In most states, the law follows a standard known as equitable division, meaning that the division must meet guidelines of fairness. However, Texas follows a different standard known as community property when overseeing asset division in a divorce.

Complete the adoption process this year with our help

Completing or expanding one's family may be a resolution that many Texas families kept this year. As not everyone may be able to do so biologically, there are other options available to couples that would like to have more children and one of them, as discussed in last week's blog, is through adoption.

Whether one adopts a stepchild or someone else, the end result is almost always the same-a family is completed and children are provided with the safety and security of knowing that they are in a protective nurturing environment. Since the process is irreversible, couples and the state both must ensure that the legalities are completed and the parents are fit to take care of the new child.

What should I know about the adoption process?

Making the decision to adopt is a significant and exciting decision. Growing your family through adoption, however, may bring up some questions about the process. Knowing the answers can help ease anxiety as you begin a new phase of your life that includes pursuing the adoption process. It can be helpful to understand the basics of the adoption process.

To begin with, there are different types of adoption. Prospective adoptive parents can work to adopt through an adoption agency or may pursue an independent adoption with no adoption agency involvement. In addition, adoptions can be open or closed which is an important consideration that will impact the amount of contact and involvement the birth parents of the child may have. Choosing an open or closed adoption has an impact on knowing the identity of the birth parents so it should be carefully considered.

How does the collaborative divorce process work?

The collaborative law divorce process is a beneficial process for divorcing couples to consider. Rather than sorting out divorce-related disputes through litigation and contentious exchanges between the spouses, the collaborative law divorce process is one that allows the couple to work together to reach a divorce agreement that saves time, money and bad feelings. Couples will need to resolve property division concerns, as well as spousal maintenance, child support and child custody during their divorce.

The collaborative law process involves negotiation and mediation and the couple working together to resolve divorce-related issues rather than interacting in an adversarial manner to resolve their divorce disputes and concerns. The benefits of collaborative divorce include that it is an informal setting, is less costly than divorce litigation, is less time consuming than divorce litigation, creates a setting that allows for a free exchange of information, focuses on results that work for the couple and also provides a pattern to help couples communicate in the future concerning changes and post-divorce modifications that are likely to arise down the road.