How are Texas family laws unique from other states?

If you are about to undergo a familial transformation, you should know that Texas family laws differ greatly from other states in the country. Every state is unique; however, Texas holds some exclusive variations in terms of laws pertaining to divorce, child support and more.

Of course, there are some parallels to the laws of other jurisdictions. For this reason, it helps to have professional assistance when encountering your legal matter. A lawyer can assess how your case will unfold in the applicable authority.

Some of the most prominent departures in the state's family law are within the ambit of child support and property division; however, other deviations exist. A lawyer can help guide you through any unusual procedures.

Child Support

Many states utilize a unique calculation when it comes to determining the child support payment obligation. In Texas, the court considers a percentage of the income by the paying party in making the assessment. However, in several other jurisdictions, the court might consider both parents' income when making a mathematical determination for the child support payment. Moreover, unlike Texas, some states in the country do not add on interest for missed support payments.

Also, some family law courts in other locations ask that provided state funding be paid back through the child support program. For instance, a parent can file for child support and file for state assistance, like a food stamps program or Medicaid. If the government provides assistance to that parent, some other states may require that the paying parent reimburse the money. However, Texas has unique child support laws, which differ drastically from other areas.

Community property differences

Pursuant to a divorce, property division issues are also unique in the state. Community property encompasses assets or property obtained by either spouse during the union and distributable in the divorce. On the other hand, separate property is property owned by either partner before the union or gained through inheritance or gift and not divisible upon divorce.

As opposed to many other jurisdictions in the U.S., Texas is a community property state. Therefore, while other states have different assignments for separate and community property, Texas considers the division of community assets straight down the middle. The property is characterized as either separate or community property, and community property is split equally among parties. There is no equitable (or fair) assessment of individual property pursuant to the division process, as in most other states. Instead, there is a 50-50 allocation.

Spouses may retain separate property, which would not be subject to the distribution. However, deciphering whether certain assets owned by a spouse is considered community property or separate property is a crucial part of the divorce process. In Texas courts, expert witnesses, such as valuation experts or forensic accountants, can assess documents and evidence and provide useful information concerning the characterization of assets.

Pleadings

In comparison to some other jurisdictions, Texas is somewhat unique in the execution of family law pleadings. In civil matters, pleadings have many factual details. However, in family law cases, the particularity of facts is not mandated and sometimes viewed as too tedious by the court. Family law pleadings in Texas are viewed generally. If an attorney fails to follow the traditional format in a Texas court, a judge could discredit his or her approach. This is why it is helpful to retain a legal professional.

Discovery

Many states carry variations in terms of discovery rules pursuant to family law matters. In Texas, almost all information concerning the parents, family or finances is considered accessible in a dissolution matter. For example, bank documents for accounts monitored by either litigant are usually discoverable. Moreover, in a custody case, the medical information of either parent may be discoverable.

This is important, as litigants in Texas family law cases are often surprised that the content of computers may be reviewed in the process. In fact, the content of text messages, emails, websites visited and more can be incorporated into a proceeding. Moreover, some legal professionals note that protests to discovery requests are often dismissed.

The good news is that Texas courts recognize the importance of protecting personal information. As a result, judges will often agree to "seal" a file or enter "confidentiality orders," which can protect the content of the discovered information.

Ultimately, judges are extra sensitive to intentionally hidden information in a divorce, child custody or similar matter. When it appears as though a party is hiding something, a judge may take interest. Additionally, some local professionals argue that challenging the inclusion of discovered information could compromise a matter.

Facts of the case

Texas family law matters are also distinctive in that they are incredibly fact-specific. In other words, just because a matter may sound similar to another, this does not necessarily mean that the ultimate destiny of the legal matters will carry the same result. In fact, small differences in two seemingly similar cases may result in significantly varied results. For this reason, it is imperative to retain a legal professional who can identify key differences and unique challenges.

Unique legal jargon

Texas is almost its own country in its existence. As a result, seasoned lawyers should be familiar with the state's unique legal language. Different from some other authorities, the term "custody" is generally not used in a Texas family law court. Instead, practicing attorneys should be familiar with the words "primary residence," "possession" and "conservatorship."

The law, in general

Texas family law is revised and analyzed every two years when the Texas Legislature comes together. As a result, retaining a professional who is current on the latest laws is essential to success in a family law matter.

Jurisdictional differences among states can make or break a family law case. If you are considering divorcing in the state, you should know what to expect. The law embodies significant variations from other jurisdictions. Moreover, codes are always evolving, and only professionals can identify such changes.

If you are encountering family law issues and need legal assistance, hire a reputable attorney in the area. Do not fight your legal battle alone. Texas has solid legal professionals, who can help guide you through the technicalities of the law.

Written by the Office of Richard T. Bell