Family law is a much broader topic than many people realize. Although the majority of family law cases involve typical family disputes like divorce, child custody, and spousal support or child support payments, there are several other situations a family law attorney might have to deal with. Let’s take a minute to look at what a family lawyer does and what circumstances call for a family law professional.
Ask a Family Law Attorney: What Does Family Law Cover?
The overwhelming majority of family law cases involve a divorce. Divorces are rarely started amicably, and it’s even rarer for one to end with everyone smiling for the camera. The most common issue in a divorce case is how to divvy up assets. Texas law makes a distinction between individual property that was brought into the marriage and mutual property that is acquired during the marriage. You would think this makes for a simple task, but the truth is quite different.
Courts can decide to turn individual property into marital property and thus divide it or even give it to the other spouse outright. For instance, a spouse that owned a home prior to getting married could lose it in a divorce if the court considers that the other spouse has a right to it. Property is complex enough, but when children are involved, divorce cases get even more complicated.
Child custody cases in Texas are a frequent event for a family lawyer. Texas takes a unique approach to child custody by defaulting to a 75-25 division. This means that one spouse will, by default, be awarded 75% custody of the children unless the other spouse challenges this and wins in court, or a mutual agreement is reached. Usually, the mother receives majority custody, which means that men looking to retain custody have an uphill battle to fight.
Nevertheless, there is growing pressure on lawmakers to change this statute. Critics claim that it is outdated, puts an unfair burden on women to take care of children after a divorce, and limits the rights of fathers while denying their nurturing role in their children’s lives. Even with alimony and child support payments, many women suffer economically when they have to care for their children full time, and many fathers struggle to work enough to support their children while fitting in very restricted visiting times. With Houston’s top family divorce lawyer on your side, you can get what’s fair, even when the law isn’t.
Speaking of alimony, also known as spousal support, this is one of the most hotly contested aspects of any divorce. After all, the court’s ruling could impact your finances for decades to come. While courts rely on standard formulas to determine alimony, they have the freedom to make their own decisions after examining both partners’ finances. Meanwhile, the duration of the payments is heavily influenced by the length of the marriage. Other factors can be taken into consideration as well.
For instance, the court could call for alimony payments if one spouse is unable to work. This is precisely what happened in one case in El Paso. However, after some time, the ex-husband who had been forced to pay was fed up. He claimed his wife was defrauding the state by pretending to be unable to work. With the help of a local news team, he caught his ex-wife performing a variety of “strenuous” activities.
Another aspect of family law that is often overlooked is that of estate planning. Planning your posthumous finances is an important step to take later in life. However, even great planning cannot account for the unexpected. In an absolutely stunning case, a son who murdered his parents won a case in court to receive the proceeds from his father’s life insurance.
This Houston case was appealed, and the appeals court overruled the trial court by using the “Slayer Statute”. This rule prohibits someone from receiving life insurance when they were the cause of death. The first court clearly made a grave mistake in its ruling, but an experienced family law attorney was able to right the wrong.
Juvenile law blurs the line between family law and criminal law, but given how minors are handled under Texas law, juvenile law situations tend to fall more into the family law category. If your child were to commit a crime or seek emancipation from their family, they would likely need the help of a family lawyer with experience in juvenile law.
While these cases are rare, courts usually aim to keep juveniles out of criminal proceedings, so family attorneys become the first line of defense when a child’s conduct is called into question.
Other Odd Cases
Family attorneys also take care of less common, but still very important cases. For example, gestational surrogacy is legal in Texas, and a family lawyer would draft an agreement for those cases. Family attorneys even handle paternity testing and name changes!
Overall, family law experts have to handle a wide variety of cases. If you think you might need one, make sure you look for the best family attorney.