FAMILY LAW – WHAT IS IT?

In short, most people think of family law as pertaining to three things:

● judicial determination of the legal status of being married or not being married; this is what “being divorced” is about
● what property is the property of the marriage, what property is not the property of the marriage, what is its net value and who is going to get it; this is what is commonly referred to as the “division of property”, and
● children and the determination of their future in terms of:

● are they of the marriage or not;
● with whom will they live primarily;
● what rights, duties, powers, and privileges will each parent have;
● how much time will the children have with the non-custodial party;
● how the children will get back and forth between the custodial parent’s home and the non-custodial parent’s home;
● who will pay child support and how much;
● who will provide health insurance for the child, who will pay for that insurance, and how uninsured health care costs will be allocated between the parents;
● contact between each parent and the children when the children are in the possession of the other parent.

In fact, those three broad areas break down into a long list of litigation types which impact the legal status of people, their property and their children, sometimes involving governmental agencies such as the Attorney General’s Office, the Department of Family and Protective Services, or the District Attorney’s Office (in criminal cases) or segments of the various independent school districts (in truancy cases). Below is a partial list of topics covered by the Texas Family Code which may well impact your life. Headings below which are bolded have been those about which I receive the most calls from clients.

● The marriage relationship itself:

● application for a marriage license
● underage marriage
● the ceremony and return of the license
● the validity of the marriage
● marriage without formalities (common law marriage)
● rights and duties of spouses

● Property rights and liabilities:

● marital property rights and liabilities
● premarital and marital property agreements
● homestead rights

● Dissolution of Marriage:

● suit for dissolution of marriage
● award of marital property
● spousal maintenance (Texas law)
● post-decree proceedings

● Collaborative Family Law

● Limitations of Minority:

● removal of disabilities of a minor
● consent to treatment of a child by non-parent or child
● notice of an consent to an abortion
● authorization agreement for nonparent adult caregiver
● temporary authorization for the care of a minor child

● Parental Liability

● liability of parents for the conduct of a child
● civil liability for interference with a possessory interest in child

● Change of Name:

● change of name of a child
● change of name of an adult

● The Juvenile Justice Code (criminal court for minors):

● proceedings before and including referral to court
● proceedings prior to judicial proceedings
● judicial proceedings
● proceedings concerning children with mental illness or intellectual disability
● appeal
● rights of victims
● records: juvenile justice information system
● progressive sanctions model
● uniform interstate compact on juveniles
● rights and responsibilities of parents and other eligible persons

● Truancy Court Proceedings:

● initial proceedings
● adjudication hearing and remedies
● appeal
● records
● enforcement of orders

● Protective Orders and Family Violence

● applying for a protective order
● temporary ex parte orders
● hearing
● issuance of a protective order
● law enforcement duties relating to protective orders
● modification of protective orders
● uniform interstate enforcement of protective orders act

● Family Violence Reporting and Services:

● reporting family violence
● immunity
● confidential and privileged communications

● Suits Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship:

● rights and duties in parent-child relationship
● uniform child custody jurisdiction and enforcement act
● conservatorship, possession, and access
● child support
● continuing, exclusive jurisdiction; transfer
● modification (custody, possession, and support)
● enforcement (custody, possession, and support)
● withholding from earnings for child support
● uniform interstate family support act
● uniform parentage act (paternity)
● termination of the parent-child relationship (parental rights)
● adoption (including step-parent adoptions)
● (role of the) associate judge
● a friend of the court
● domestic relations office
● child support collection by a private entity

● Title IV-D Services (Attorney General’s Office cases):

● location of parents and resources
● suspension of licenses
● child support review process to establish or enforce support obligations

● Protection of the Child (Department of Family and Protective Services cases):

● investigation of a report of child abuse or neglect

● report of abuse or neglect; immunities

● persons required to report; time to report
● matters to be reported…
● immunities…
● false report; criminal penalty; civil penalty
● frivolous claims against person reporting
● failure to report; penalty
● employer retaliation prohibited
● refusal of psychiatric or psychological treatment of the child

● confidentiality and privileged communication
● investigations
● investigations of abuse, neglect, or exploitation in certain facilities
● protective order in certain cases of abuse or neglect

● procedures in a suit by a governmental entity to protect the health and safety of a child

● taking possession of child
● adversary hearing
● emergency possession of certain abandoned children
● relinquishing a child to obtain certain services

● review of the placement of children under the care of the department of family and protective services

● service plan and visitation plan
● status hearing
● permanency hearings
● the final order for a child under department care
● permanency hearings after the final order
● extended jurisdiction after child’s 18th birthday

● child welfare services

● foster care
● community-based care
● child and family services
● services to at-risk youth
● children’s advocacy centers
● child fatality review and investigation
● court-appointed volunteer advocate programs
● relative and other designated caregiver placement program
● a family drug court program
● permanency care assistance program
● parental child safety placements

● prevention and early intervention services
● medical care and educational services for children in the conservatorship of department of family and protective services

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