There is a strong presumption in Texas family law that it is in the child’s best interest for a parent to be awarded custody over a non-parent. In a recent case, a father appealed a judgment naming him joint managing conservator with the child’s maternal grandmother. A central issue in the case was the father’s argument that he should have been appointed the child’s sole managing conservator based upon the parental presumption.
Generally, there must be a material and substantial change in circumstances to justify a modification of a Texas custody order. An appeals court recently considered whether a father judicially admitted the existence of a material and substantial change when he objected to the modification sought by the mother, but petitioned, in the alternative, for different modifications.
Sometimes one or both parents move after a custody order is issued. When parents move, they often want to modify custody and visitation. However, if both parents have moved out of state, issues of jurisdiction may arise. In a recent case, a father sought a Texas custody modification of a North Carolina custody order.
Texas family law has a strong presumption that it is in the child’s best interest to give custody to a parent. Generally, the court must appoint sole managing conservatorship to the parent instead of a non-parent unless it finds doing so would not be in the child’s best interest due to significant impairment of the child’s emotional development or physical health. Tex. Fam. Code § 153.131(a). What if the parent lives in another country? A Texas appeals court recently considered this issue.
What is a Mediated Settlement Agreement?
A mediated settlement agreement (“MSA”) in a Texas divorce is binding if it meets certain requirements. It must state that it is not subject to revocation in bold letters, capital letters or underlined text. It must also be signed by each party and the party’s attorney, if present. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 6.602. Some Texas courts have held that an MSA may be unenforceable if it is obtained by fraud, duress or coercion.
A husband recently challenged an MSA, partly on the grounds that he allegedly signed it under duress.
The parties had been married since 1981. Some of the property acquired during the marriage was held by a limited partnership in which the parties owned a 95% interest. In August 2017, the husband was arrested after the wife reported he had threatened her with a firearm. The wife filed for divorce the very next day.
Texas custody disputes usually involve the children’s parents. When both parents unexpectedly pass away, however, their families may fight over who gets guardianship of the children. Generally, if the parents did not designate a guardian, a grandparent would be awarded guardianship. If multiple grandparents seek guardianship, then the court will appoint one of them, considering the circumstances and child’s best interest. If no grandparent seeks guardianship, then the court will appoint the next of kin, considering the circumstances and the child’s best interests if there are multiple people with the same degree of kinship. Tex. Est. Code Ann. § 1104.052. A minor who is at least 12 years old may be able to select a guardian, if the court finds the selection is in the child’s best interest and approves. Tex. Est. Code Ann. § 1104.054.
When a parent wants to modify a Texas custody order, they generally must show that the change is in the child’s best interest and that there has been a material and substantial change in circumstances since the prior order. Whether a material and substantial change has occurred is fact-specific and varies depending on the circumstances of the case. Recently, a father successfully argued that false allegations of sexual abuse and the resulting investigations constituted a material and substantial change in circumstances justifying a custody modification.
The father petitioned to modify the Order in Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship to give him the exclusive right to designate the child’s primary residence. The previous order gave the mother that right and included a modified standard possession order until the child turned five, at which time the father would begin a standard possession order.
The mother expressed concerns the child may have been sexually abused during the first extended summer visitation with the father under the standard possession order. The father let the child go back to the mother’s home for a weekend because she was homesick. The mother saw bruises on the child’s inner thigh and pubic bone and the child had a urinary tract infection. The mother took the child to a clinic and then for an examination by a sexual assault nurse examiner (“SANE”). She also took her for a forensic interview at the child Advocacy Center.
As a result of his illustrious career, Dr. Dre’s net worth currently sits at a whopping $820 million – but maybe not for long. After 24 years, Dr. Dre’s wife, Nicole Young, is filing for divorce from the producer, rapper, and hip-hop icon. Reports indicate that the couple did not execute a premarital agreement prior to their 1996 marriage, which opens up Dr. Dre to significant financial exposure. In the absence of a premarital agreement, California – a community property state much like Texas – provides that property accumulated during marriage is owned by the community estate. Put simply, all of Dr. Dre’s income during the marriage, from his royalties as a solo rapper to his profits from Beats by Dre, is up for grabs. This means that Dr. Dre could see his hard-earned fortune be split in half right before his eyes in the coming months. Continue Reading ›
On June 26, 2020, the Supreme Court of Texas issued a ruling that is sure to have a major impact on future non-parent custody cases in the state of Texas. In the case of In re C.J.C., the Supreme Court of Texas found that the presumption that it is in the best interest of a child to award possession to a fit parent versus a non-parent extends to modification cases. This decision is certain to be seen as a major win for parents, as the Court reinforced the long-held notion that in most cases, a parent having custody of their child is best for the child.
The case involved grandparents of the child and the boyfriend of the child’s deceased mother attempting to modify the possession of the child and gain at least some court-ordered possession from the child’s father. The trial court found that the boyfriend was entitled to some possession and even some rights, such as the right to consent to emergency medical decisions. The child’s father appealed this decision. Continue Reading ›