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Dallas Family Law Blog

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.

How long will my divorce take?

Once a couple in Texas decides to end their marriage, they often want to do so as quickly as possible, so they can begin to move on with their life. Therefore, one of the main questions they may have during a divorce is how long it will take.

Though there is no fixed time period -- that can vary from case to case depending on the circumstances-- there is a certain way the legal complexities will flow and there is a general chronology that can be outlined of the divorce process.

Can I adopt my stepchild in Texas?

One of the main reasons families decide to adopt a child in Texas is because it gives them the opportunity to complete their family and give a child a loving, nurturing environment for them to grow up in. One type of adoption is a stepparent adoption, in which the spouse of a parent requests the adoption court for legal parental rights of the children of their spouse. The only difference between a regular adoption and a stepparent adoption is that one of the parents is related to the child.

The first thing that is needed for a stepparent adoption to take place is the consent of biological parent that will be relinquishing his or her rights to the child. Consent to adoption means the parent giving consent is giving up all their legal parental rights with regard to the child in question, including child support obligations. The only exception to this rule is if the parent's rights have been terminated due to abandonment, unfitness, failure to pay child support or neglect.

Establishing paternity to facilitate adoption

Last week's blog discussed how unmarried fathers in Texas can assert their rights with regards to their children. As mentioned previously, there are various ways to establish paternity and the benefits include the ability to visit or share custody of children. One of the biggest parental benefit that comes with establishing paternity is the right to object or consent to adoption of the child.

Parents decide to give up their children for adoption for a variety of reasons and in so doing, can help others complete their families and fulfill their dream of parenthood. In order to begin the process of adoption, generally both biological parents must give their consent. In order to exercise this right, fathers must first establish their paternity through either a court order or acknowledgment of paternity form.

How can paternity be established in Texas?

There are certain legal rights and obligations that arise from having children that married couples in Texas take for granted, the most common being the existence of father's rights over his child. However, it is not the same for unmarried couples -- fathers have to establish their paternity in Texas. Father's rights can be established by either signing the Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP) or by petitioning the court.

First of all, paternity refers to the relationship between father and child -- not only emotionally, but more importantly, legally. It creates legal fatherhood. In Texas, paternity must be established by the father to create this legal tie if the parents are unmarried. The fastest and simplest way is by signing the AOP. Both parents must voluntarily sign this form, either when the child is born at the hospital or after. If not at the hospital, the document can be signed at the local child support office, county clerk's office or the Vital Statistics Unit. However, a court order is still needed regarding custody, child support, medical support or visitation.

Creating a viable custody and visitation schedule

Couples in Texas may go through many changes and turbulent times, facilitating the need for the end of the marriage. It is by no means an easy decision for most families, especially when there are children involved.

Despite the end of their legal relationship with one another, parents will usually want to continue a bond with their offspring. The benefits of this to both parties, especially children, have been outlined in a previous post here. Courts in Texas also recognize the importance of both parents spending time with their children after a divorce, therefore often the presumption is that parents will have joint child custody, unless there are some special circumstances that prevent it. This means that both parents will have an equal right to make important decisions about their children's future. This is not to be confused with equal parenting time. Both parents will have a fair share of time, not an equal one.