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Frequently Asked Family Law Questions And Answers

There is a lot of fear and uncertainty accompanying nearly any family law case – especially those involving child custody determinations. Below, we’ve provided answers to common questions that will hopefully ease some of your concerns. After reading, feel free to contact us with your own questions.

Who is an attorney ad litem? How are they used?

Everyone deserves qualified legal representation during important court proceedings, but not everyone is able to hire their own counsel (such as children, for instance). An attorney at litem is an attorney appointed by the court to provide legal services and advocate for the interests of the person they are assigned to. This could be a child, an adult or an adult with disabilities, to name just a few examples. They are not used in all court proceedings or in every case, but they are commonly used for things like child custody (conservatorship) matters, adoptions and CPS cases.

Who is an amicus attorney? How are they used?

In a private family law case, an amicus attorney is assigned to protect an individual’s best interests, but the amicus attorney works for the court and not for the client (in contrast to an attorney ad litem).

An amicus attorney might be court-appointed to protect your child’s best interests in a custody case, for instance, but the attorney provides services for the court. He does not have an attorney-client relationship with you or your child.

What is mediation, and how is it used?

Litigation (a trial in court) used to be the only way to handle matters like divorce and child custody. But this process can be unnecessarily adversarial and expensive. Since the mid-1990s, an alternative has existed in Texas: mediation.

Mediation is a series of negotiation sessions between the two parties and their respective attorneys, facilitated by a neutral third party (the mediator). The goal is to reach agreement on disputed matters through negotiation and to write down those terms in mediated settlement agreement. If the mediation is unsuccessful in reaching an agreement, the parties can take their case to trial.

Texas judges have the authority to order couples to try mediation before they can litigate, and many judges do require this.

What is a child custody evaluation, and how is it used?

Judges can choose to appoint a professional to evaluate the home life of children and, more importantly, the strengths and weaknesses of each parent. The results of this evaluation will then be used to inform custody decisions. Custody evaluations are not always needed or ordered. In some cases, guardians ad litem are used in place of custody evaluators, and sometimes they are used in cooperation with custody evaluators.

What is a child custody calendar? How is it used?

These are calendars we frequently offer to our clients that they can use to keep track of significant co-parenting events such as custody exchanges and late pickups. They can be highly important in your case or in seeking a modification to the custody order.

In one case, a parent was granted 120 visitation days a year. The spouse kept records on a calendar showing that the parent only utilized about 75 of those days. Because of this evidence, we successfully petitioned the court to reduce the parent’s possession and access.

How long does the divorce process take?

The duration of the divorce process in Texas can vary significantly depending on each case’s specific circumstances. The mandatory 60-day Texas waiting period applies from the filing date before your divorce can be finalized.

Suppose the divorce is contested or involves complex legal family matters like child custody, property division or spousal support. In that case, the process can take much longer, as it may require extensive negotiations, mediation or even a court trial to reach a final resolution. Uncontested divorces, in which the spouses come to terms on all the terms, can be resolved more quickly, usually within a few months.

What should I do to prepare to file for divorce in Texas?

Preparing for a successful divorce in Texas involves some important legal steps, including:

  • Gathering all the relevant documentation
  • Developing a detailed budget outlining your current and anticipated expenses after the divorce
  • Reviewing and understanding the assets and debts acquired during the marriage and those owned before the marriage
  • Consideration of child-related matters
  • Consulting with an experienced divorce attorney

Like other Texas family legal processes, early preparation can help you know your rights and develop a legal strategy to boost your case’s outcome.

How is property divided in a Texas divorce?

Texas is a community property state, meaning all assets and debts you acquired during marriage are considered community property and are subject to division during divorce. The division is based on a “just and right” standard, which takes into account the following:

  • Each spouse’s earning potential
  • Fault in the breakdown of the marriage
  • The needs of any children involved
  • The financial condition and each spouse needs

Separate property, which includes assets owned before the marriage or acquired via inheritance or gift, is generally not subject to division. However, the court may consider the effects of separate property on the community estate when making a just and right division.

Get Answers To Your Questions In A Free Consultation

Ruiz & Associates, PLLC, is pleased to offer free initial consultations to prospective clients. To schedule yours, call our office in San Antonio, Texas, at 210-899-4853 or fill out our online contact form.