Thursday, May 29, 2014

Do I Have to Pay Alimony to My Wife?

Generally Texas frowns on the permanent payment of alimony to an ex -spouse after the divorce.  There are two forms of "alimony" in Texas.  One is temporary spousal support and the other is contractual alimony.  For contractual alimony, the parties have to contract and agree to the payment of alimony after the divorce.  This is usually only done when a spouse is a high wage earner and there are tax benefits to him or her in paying alimony.

The other type of alimony is more common, but still only applies in some narrow set of circumstances and usually only for a limited amount of time.  It is designed to help an ex-spouse from a long term marriage temporary support while they gain skills or education so they can be self sufficient after the divorce.

Eligibility is narrow an only applies if:

1.  The spouse from whom payment is sought was convicted of or received deferred adjudication for a criminal offense that also constitutes an act of family violence under Family Code Title 4 and the offense occurred within two years of the date the suit for dissolution of the marriage was filed OR the offense occurred during the pendency of the suit;


2.  The duration of the marriage was 10 years or longer, AND

a.  the spouse seeking maintenance lacks sufficient property, including property distributed under the family code, to provide the minimum reasonable needs, (limited by the Family Code at 8.054), AND

b.  Is unable to be self supporting because of an incapacitating physical or mental disability, OR is the custodian of a child who has a physical or mental disability that requires the spouse not be employed outside the home, OR the spouse lacks the earning ability in the labor market to provide the minimum reasonable needs for that spouse.  Payments shall be for the shortest reasonable time that allows the spouse to obtain a job or skill level so as to reach that spouse's minimum reasonable needs (8.054).

Saturday, May 03, 2014

The Perception of Bias in Family Courts

The Texas Family Code says that in seeking custody of children and rights of a parent, there should be no bias by the judge based on the sex of the party, or of the child. (Sec. 153.003).  That is, the old idea that children should be with their mother in all cases is no longer used in courts.

But what is the law and what is really in the minds of family judges are sometimes two different things.  Fathers who have fought for custody and won still believe that the cards were stacked against them.  One father who won custody still had this to say:

"The courts are heavily biased.  They made me feel ashamed to ask for custody.  Laws seem equitable but are not practiced by older judges as they should be.  They stereotype a lot.  To get custody you have to head and shoulders above your wife.  Fathers don't seem to get custody when the wife is seen as competent."

Fathers complain that they have to spend thousands to protect what is theirs and mothers usually have the upper hand.  It is many fathers' perception that the courts are biased against because of their gender and are at the mercy of an archaic set of values that, though no longer technically exists in Texas, is still exercised by judges.  And the scary part is that these judges have almost limitless power in deciding what is "best" for your children.

Here is where an experienced family law attorney can make all the difference for a father seeking a fair custody or child support order.  The lawyer is a key player not only in providing legal and emotional support, but in setting the overall tone of the case.  With the father's input, an experience attorney can decide which issues to raise in court and how to include the children.  The lawyer can offer impression about the judge's hot buttons and soft spots regarding what is best for children.  And most significantly, the lawyer can give special attention to the impact of any bias that may be held against the father or against the mother.

If you feel you need help or advice with a child custody or child support case in Harris or Galveston county, contact the Palmer Law Firm for a free consultation.  Call 832-819-DLAW(3529) or visit us at  At the Palmer Law Firm, We Can't Protect Your Heart, But We Can Protect Your Rights.