March 2016 Archives

Mandated Counseling in Texas Divorce

Did you know counseling could be mandated during the Texas divorce process? Couple's counseling is generally a good investment to make before and even during a marriage. Before the wedding it can help future wives and husbands to learn more about one another's personalities and what issues might arise in a marriage.  And better yet, how to best handle them- and one another. Counseling can also help couple's broach often uncomfortable issues before they become a thorn in the union. Marriage counseling can help you resolve issues you never thought would be a part of your journey. Who knew when you first tied the knot that you had different ideas on how to deal with extended family, debt and teenagers (to name a few hot button issues)? In America today, only about 2/3 of all couples make it to their 10th anniversary. Counseling is also a great last resort to help save a faltering marriage. It is a wise stop before divorce proceedings when nothing else seems to be working. Under Section 6.505 of the Texas Family Code, a judge may have the right to mandate counseling during the divorce process in Texas. You might be thinking I want a divorce, what right does anyone have to tell me to stay married?  A judge might see it differently and think they have a valid reason why a divorce might not be necessary. Examples include, if neither spouse seems to truly want a divorce, the judge clearly sees options that could resolve the couple's dispute other than divorce, or it would benefit a child greatly for the couple to remain married. Though court mandated counseling does occur in Texas divorce proceedings, it is rare. If court mandated counseling does occur, there is a 60-day waiting period in which the couple needs to schedule a session with a court-appointed counselor. The counselor is to report back their findings and decide if the couple has a chance to reconcile their differences without a divorce. "In the report, the counselor shall give only an opinion as to whether there exists a reasonable expectation of reconciliation of the parties and, if so, whether further counseling would be beneficial." If counseling is ordered and there are children under the age of 18 years, counseling will include, "issues that confront children who are the subject of a suit affecting the parent-child relationship." If the counselor's report states that a reconciliation is not at all reasonable, the divorce proceeding will continue after the 60-day waiting period. If the counselor finds that there is a reasonable chance of reconciliation, the court can order more sessions with court-appointed counselor for a period no longer than an 60 days. If the couple still wants to continue divorce proceedings after 60 days then they are free to do so. So, a court can order counseling but they can't make you stay married. This all being said, therapy is a great resource for spouses and the children during this time, court mandated or not. Children can especially see the benefit as they adjust to their new life without their parents together. Hopefully, before divorce proceeding a couple has exhausted all other avenues including counseling. A good Texas divorce lawyer might see that marriage counseling or other alternatives can benefit you in the long run. Contact Puhl Law Group, P.C. if you are ready to consult with a Board Certified family law attorney now.

The How To On Child Custody Modification

Child Custody battles. It's one of the main reasons many people need a divorce lawyer in the first place.  Once the custody orders are settled it is important for both sides to stick to them for the benefit of the child(ren).  But as you know some things don't go according to plan, especially in divorce. So how can you make a child custody modification? There are many reasons why parents would want to make a child custody modification in the first place. A move- a common reason for a child custody modification is that one parent is planning on moving out of the area. For example, a parent gets a great job in a different state. If the parents share custody that would be difficult, if not impossible, and might require a custody modification. Child safety- One parent may think the child is endangered either physically or emotionally at the other parent's house. That parent will have to provide proof to the court that change is better for the child. Under the Texas law there are a fairly limited amount of circumstances in which a parent can modify a custody order. 1.    The child is 12 years or older and says they want a custody change 2.    The custodial parent has voluntarily given the child's care to someone else for six months or more 3.    The child's or parents circumstances have materially and substantially changed The easy way to a child custody modification- both parents agree If both parents agree to the requested custody changes, the process is relatively easy. A lawyer can draft the agreement, both parents sign it and a judge will approve the agreement. If the child doesn't want to change the arrangement that can change things. The court doesn't usually like to force children to change residences. This holds true especially for kids 12 and over. The hard way to a child custody modification- parents don't agree If both parents can't agree on the custody modification it's time for court. A lawyer will file a petition or motion with the court. A hearing will be scheduled. The parent requesting the modification must prove in the Texas family court a situation that would qualify as, "material and substantial change," in the circumstances of a child or parent affected by a custody order. This means the conditions of the child's life have changed significantly enough for a court to make a different decision regarding a child's best interest. Examples of a "material and substantial change" include a parent's arrest for criminal offenses, a medical condition that adversely affects the way a parent can function, and failure to return children, abuse of a child, or a residence change that makes visiting prohibitive for the other parent, among others reasons. If your family's circumstances have changed so significantly that the previous custody order no longer fits, it might be time to make a custody modification. It's a good time to talk to a family lawyer who has experience with child custody cases and modifications.

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