iStock-1147846829-300x200Non-parents have limited rights in seeking Texas custody or visitation.  In some circumstances, however, stepparents actively parent their stepchildren.  In a recent case, a stepfather challenged a court order awarding custody of his stepchild to the child’s maternal grandparents after the death of the mother.

Relationship with the Mother

According to the appeals court’s opinion, the mother was pregnant when she started dating and eventually moved in with the stepfather in 2006.  The stepfather was present for the child’s birth in 2007 and acted as a father figure to the child.  The mother filed an Original Petition in Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (“SAPCR”) soon after the birth.  The stepfather was not a party to the case.

The mother married stepfather in July 2007. The stepfather treated the child as his son and was the only father figure in the child’s life.  The mother and stepfather had a biological child together in 2010.

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Atlanta-Property-Division-Attorneys-2-300x198Pursuant to the Inception of Title doctrine, a property’s character is determined when the party acquires their interest in it. This means that property acquired before the marriage will generally be characterized as that spouse’s separate property in a Texas divorce.  In a recent case, however, the court determined that a house purchased solely in the name of the husband before the marriage was the separate property of both spouses.

According to the appeals court’s opinion, the parties started dating in late 1999.  The wife moved in with the husband and his grandfather in 2003 or 2004.  The husband bought a house from the wife’s parents in 2004 as “a single man,” according to the Deed of Trust and Note and both parties moved into it.  They deposited their paychecks into a joint account from which the mortgage and property taxes were paid.  They got married in July 2005 and lived together in the house until 2020.

Divorce Trial

The wife petitioned for divorce and ultimately requested reimbursement to the community estate. She asked for 50% of the community estate and 50% of the husband’s separate property. She argued the house was both parties’ separate property because they had lived together and both paid for it.  The husband argued it should be his separate property.

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iStock-531351317-300x200Texas spousal maintenance is intended to provide “temporary and rehabilitative” support for a spouse who does not have the ability or assets to support themselves or whose ability to do so has deteriorated while they were engaged in homemaking activities.  Courts may award spousal maintenance only in limited circumstances if the parties meet the requirements under the Texas Family Code.

Tex. Fam. Code § 8.053 provides there is a rebuttable presumption that maintenance is not warranted pursuant to Section 8.051(2)(B) unless the spouse exercised diligence in earning sufficient income to provide for their reasonable needs, or in developing the necessary skills to provide for their reasonable needs during separation and while the divorce case is pending.  Even if a spouse otherwise qualifies under Section 8.051(2)(B), they must either show that they exercised diligence or rebut the presumption that maintenance is not warranted.

A husband recently challenged a spousal maintenance award in favor of the wife and an order to pay a reimbursement claim to the community estate based on improvements made to his separate property.

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iStock-170042608-300x200There is a presumption under Texas family law that it is in the child’s best interest to be raised by their parents.  Additionally, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that parents have a fundamental right to make decisions regarding the care, custody, and control of their children.  Courts generally cannot interfere with these fundamental rights of a fit parent.  The fit parent presumption makes it difficult for a nonparent to obtain custody over a fit parent.

A mother recently challenged a judgment naming the children’s paternal aunt and uncle their managing conservators.

Jury Trial

According to the appeals court’s opinion, a mediated settlement agreement named both parents joint managing conservators of their children, with the father having the right to designate the primary residence.  He designated his brother’s home as their primary residence, and his brother and sister-in-law assumed his parenting responsibilities.

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iStock-1139699594-300x200A trial court in a Texas custody case that appoints both parents joint managing conservators must determine which parent will have the exclusive right to determine the child’s primary residence.  The court must also either establish a geographic restriction or specify that there is not a geographic restriction on the child’s residence.  The court’s primary consideration is the child’s best interest.  The Texas supreme court has identified a number of factors to be considered in determining if relocation is in a child’s best interest: reasons in favor of and against relocation; the effect on the child’s relationships with extended family; the effect on the other parent’s visitation and communication with the child; whether a visitation schedule could allow the child and other parent to maintain a full and continuous relationship; and the nature of the child’s age, ties to the community, and educational and health needs.  Lenz v. Lenz.

A mother recently appealed a trial court order naming the father as the conservator with the exclusive right to determine the children’s primary residence with no geographic restriction.  The parties got married in 2014 and had two children.  The husband was an Army officer, stationed at times in Georgia and Louisiana. He was stationed at Fort Hood in 2018 and the parties bought a home in Belton.  The wife started school for nursing in Austin in 2019.  They decided the husband would leave the Army in the fall of 2020.  The wife told the husband she wanted to separate in January 2020.  The husband petitioned for divorce the next month.

The trial court granted the divorce and appointed both parents joint managing conservators, with the husband having the exclusive right to designate the children’s primary residence.  The mother appealed.

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iStock-483613578-300x204A court in a Texas divorce must divide the marital estate in a just and right manner.  A just and right division does not necessarily mean an equal division. Courts may consider a variety of factors in determining the property division, including fault in the break-up, income disparity, the relative earning capacity of the parties, education, age, physical condition, and financial condition of the parties.  A husband recently appealed a disproportionate division of property.

The appeals court’s opinion stated the parties established a common-law marriage in 2015 after living together for 18 years.  They separated in 2018 and the wife petitioned for divorce in 2019, claiming insupportability and cruelty.  In his counter-petition, the husband also alleged insupportability and cruelty and adultery on the part of the wife.  They each requested a disproportionate division of the marital estate.


They reached a settlement on the issues related to the children, so the final hearing addressed only the property division.  The community estate included bank accounts, the husband’s retirement benefits, vehicles, and debt.  The parties had also purchased two homes as tenants in common before they were married.  They each lived in one of the homes after the separation.

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iStock-1175949984-300x200A child custody determination from another state may be registered so it can be enforced in Texas pursuant to Tex. Fam. Code section 152.305.  A request must be sent to the Texas state court with a sworn statement the order has not been modified. The requestor must also identify who was awarded custody or visitation in the determination.  The court will give the people identified in the request notice so they can contest the registration.  To successfully contest the registration, the contesting party must show the prior court lacked jurisdiction, the determination has been vacated, stayed or modified, or they were not given proper notice before the court issued the determination order.  Tex. Fam. Code 152.305(d).  The grandparents of two children recently appealed a court’s denial of their request to register a foreign child custody determination containing their visitation rights.

After the parents divorced in Utah in 2016, the maternal grandparents were given grandparent time and certain related rights pursuant to a stipulation order in 2017.  They later petitioned for modification, but the Utah court found it no longer had jurisdiction because the parties and children no longer lived in the state.  The Utah court dismissed the petition, also noting in the order there had been a separate adoption case and termination of the mother’s parental rights.

Request for Registration

The grandparents requested registration of the divorce decree, stipulation order, and order dismissing their modification petition in Texas.  Their request identified the father as the parent awarded custody or visitation in the custody determination.

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iStock-1147846829-300x200The best interest of the child is the primary consideration in Texas custody matters, but the courts have identified factors to be considered in determining the child’s best interest in certain circumstances.  A mother recently appealed a court’s denial of her request to remove a geographic restriction, arguing the court failed to properly balance the appropriate factors.

The divorce decree gave the mother the exclusive right to designate the child’s primary residence with a geographic restriction.  It also required both parents to provide the other written notice before taking the child out of the country.

The mother married a man who lived in Oklahoma.  She ultimately petitioned for modification and requested removal of the geographic restriction. The father believed she had already moved to Oklahoma and sought the right to designate the child’s primary residence.


While it is not the most comfortable thing to consider before or during the marriage, premarital and postnuptial agreements are critical to establishing each partner’s property and financial rights. Texas law provides a mechanism for couples in a marriage to accomplish the same results that could have been created in a premarital agreement. These post-nuptial agreements are often referred to as “marital property agreements.”

There is a general understanding that there are many reasons why a couple might want to change the character of their marital assets during their marriage. Accordingly, the formalities and enforcement rules for post-nuptial agreements are, in effect, the same as for premarital agreements. However, Texas post-nuptial agreements are often prone to issues surrounding unconscionability and involuntariness.


In one of the more recent published opinions regarding post-nuptial agreements, a Texas appeals court affirmed a trial court’s judgment finding that a post-nuptial Partition and Exchange Agreement (PEA) was not valid or enforceable.

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Valuing a closely-held medical practice during a divorce in Texas requires a complex understanding of the measures of value, methods of valuation, and Texas statutes. Although business valuations do not adhere to precise mathematical processes, general methods, procedures, and principles exist. In Texas, determining the value of medical practice is often a critical and hotly contested aspect of divorce proceedings. Understanding how a court will incorporate the value of medical practice to come to a “just and right” division of property is crucial to securing a favorable outcome in a divorce.


Texas is a community property state, meaning only property created or accrued during the marriage is subject to division during a divorce. Community property may include real estate, businesses, medical practices, cars, money, and retirement accounts. Under the law, courts must make divisions that are “just and right.” It is important to note that “just and right” does not necessarily equate to a 50 percent division.


Medical practices fall under an important caveat of Texas’ property division laws. The Corporate Practice of Medicine (CPOM) doctrine prohibits non-physicians, entities, or corporations from practicing medicine. Thus, a court cannot divide the ownership of a medical practice to a non-physician spouse; instead, the court can only determine and divide the value of the practice.

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