There are many common misconceptions about issues in family law. When involved in a legal issue, being as informed as possible can be powerful. Here are a few common myths about issues in family law and additional information to clear up the confusion:
1. Mothers always get custody of their children
Texas law clearly emphasizes in Section 153.003 of the Texas Family Code that the court should consider the parties regardless of their sex, marital status, and the sex of the child. Therefore, there should not be discrimination based on marital status or sex in determining custody agreements. The court should primarily consider what will be in the child’s best interest.
2. In Texas, you can be legally separated from your spouse
In other states, a legal separation has many of the same functions of a divorce without terminating the marriage. Texas does not recognize legal separation, so you cannot get a legal separation instead of a divorce. Until the parties are divorced, the laws of community property apply to the married couple. However, Texas Law Help states that temporary orders, protective orders, and separation agreements can achieve some of the same goals of a legal separation.
3. You cannot get a divorce unless there is a fault or cause
In Texas, divorces can occur on fault-based grounds and no-fault grounds. Chapter six of the Texas Family Code states that the court may grant a divorce on no-fault grounds if the marriage becomes insupportable due to conflicts that reasonably prevent reconciliation. A no-fault divorce means that no party is necessarily at fault, differing from divorces on fault-based grounds in which divorce is granted in favor of one spouse due to instances like adultery, cruelty, or abandonment.
4. Child support must be continued while the child is in college
According to Texas Family Code Section 154.001, unless otherwise agreed, child support must be continued until the child turns 18 years old or graduates high school (whichever comes later), the child is married, the child is emancipated through the removal of disabilities by court order, the child dies, or if the child is defined as disabled for an indefinite period as outlined in the family code. Texas Law Help adds that usually, child support situations end based on the child turning 18 or graduating high school, but may last longer if the child has a disability. Further, if back child support is owed, payments will continue after the child turns eighteen until the debt is paid.
5. You can’t get divorced in Texas if you weren’t married in Texas
Texas courts have jurisdiction over the divorce if either spouse has lived in Texas for at least six months before the filing of divorce. The Texas State Law Library states that the divorce should be filed based on where the parties reside. The spouse filing for divorce can live outside of Texas, or even outside of the country, and still file the suit in the Texas county where the other spouse resides as long as that spouse meets the residency requirement of living in Texas for at least six months prior to the filing of the suit.
6. The child can decide who to live with
This is false as the court may consider the child’s preferences but the judge will ultimately decide the circumstances of conservatorship based on all of the facts of the case. As the conservatorship ruling is to be made in the child’s best interest, which includes the desires of the child, preferences may be considered but are not the only deciding factor. Chapter 153 of the Texas Family Code states that if a parent or attorney requests that the judge interview a child 12 years old or older, the judge must interview the child. For children under 12, it is left up to the judge to decide whether or not to interview. The judge should also try to determine if the child’s wishes are due to a parent’s unwarranted influence like through bribery or constant insults of the other parent. Ultimately, children can only make the decision on who to live with once they are 18 years old or emancipated. Until then, the court will rule the circumstances of conservatorship based on the child’s best interest and the facts of the case.
With legal information often seeming dense or unapproachable, it is important to dismiss these myths. If you need help with a family law case, consider contacting a family law lawyer. More information on these issues can be found in the Texas Family Code, Texas Law Help, and the News and Events page of the Brandy Austin Law Firm.