What is a social study?

When parents can’t agree on who the kids will live with the Court will normally order a social study be conducted. This allows for a non-party, a trained professional, to look at the situation, the concerns of each party, and make a recommendation to the Court.  That recommendation is the social study.

This expert will interview each party as well as watch the interactions between the parties and the kids. They will normally also interview other children or adults that are living in the residences of the parties (should there be any) and do a home visit of each parties home to make sure it is appropriate / safe for the children.

Once the expert is done, they draft the social study. In some jurisdictions, only the attorneys and the judge will see the result.  This is because there have been times when parties have not liked the results of the social study and either share them with the children or even take out their frustrations on the children.

If you are going through a social study, be honest, participate fully, and make sure you comply fully with any requests. Talk with your attorney if you have questions.

A quick overview of the process in Dallas County can be found here.

Wage Withholding for Contractual Alimony – No longer!

A Texas Court of Appeals held that a wage withholding order cannot be used to collect contractual alimony.  This adds yet another difference between court-ordered spousal maintenance and contractual alimony for both clients and lawyers to know about and discuss.

The full opinion can be found here.

The most interesting part is that this invalidates Texas Family Code §8.101(b) to the extent it authorized wage-withholding for contractual alimony.  The basis?  Unconstitutional under Texas Constitution Article XVI, §28, which states that current wages for personal service are not subject to garnishment, except for the enforcement of court-ordered child support or spousal maintenance!

Want to Change Child Support? Know the A, B, C’s…

Changing a child support payment (whether your’s or your ex’s) is certainly possible, just make sure that all the bases are covered.  Let’s look at the first group of steps needed, which can be found in Texas Family Code section 156.401(a).

  1. A “material and substantial change in circumstances” is needed.  Here, we need it to be a financial change (either earning power or monetary need).
  2. Those circumstances must relate to the child or a person affected by the order.
  3. The change in circumstance must have occurred after the signing of the order.

With the above set of facts, changing that child support payment becomes possible.  At the hearing, the above must be shown.  Simple testimony is not always enough.  The best way would be to show tax returns or pay stubs showing income at the time of the signing of the order, then current tax returns or pay stubs.

For an interesting case showing this process, look at In the Interest of C.H.C. by clicking the name of the case.

Fraudulent Marriage – Annulled!

Ever hear of a marriage based on lies and deceit?  I think everyone has, but never have I seen it laid out as clearly as is done in the opinion below:

Montenegro v. Avila

In this case, a man and woman met on an internet dating site.  The man initially claimed to be an engineer in Florida while the woman honestly stated she lived in El Paso.  The man finally, after they began to talk about meeting, told her that he could not visit her in Texas because he was in Bogota, Colombia, and could not get a visa.  The couple met in Mexico, where the man proposed.  He was turned down, but did get $200 to make his way back home. Later that same year, the woman traveled to Colombia, was proposed to, and accepted.

Man, now Husband, gets woman, now Wife, to apply for a visa for him.  He gets to the United States, get Wife to open bank accounts in both of their names, and begins withdrawing funds.  He doesn’t work until almost a year later, but instead begins the residency process.  On and on it goes…

Then Husband finds out about the Violence Against Women Act and how it can be twisted to circumvent the typical visa/residence restrictions.  The same day he learns about this he turns himself into a domestic violence center and reported he was being abused physically, verbally, mentally, and sexually.  He eventually leaves with the money he’s taken and other ill-gotten goods and moves to another city.

Wife filed for annulment, he filed for divorced.  Guess who won?  Wife – the marriage was annulled on the grounds of fraud.  Very interesting.  I’m not an immigration attorney, but I’ll bet that if that marriage visa was based on fraud, as could be concluded by the annulment being granted, he would probably have to leave the country, hence his need to appeal and our ability to read a very interesting appellate decision describing this case!

What Effect Does Use of Pornography have in Child Custody Cases?

Very little to none.  This answer might surprise you, but at least one Texas case is directly on point.  That reasoning is that if the child does not see it and is not exposed to it, the child is not affected by it, and that argument supports even to what may amount to distasteful or deviant sexual practices by a parent.  For an interesting read and case on point, click on Wolfe v. Wolfe, below.

Wolfe v. Wolfe

If you think the actions of a spouse ARE affecting your children, please consult with your attorney and see if they can better bring this side of the case to light for the Judge.

Dallas County Online Records

Ever wonder how we can know so much about your existing case or prior order when you call us the first time?  The trick is knowing where to look.  Most counties keep online court dockets now, and Dallas County also keeps many of the pleadings and orders online.  So when you give your name and your case is out of Dallas County, I go to the website, find your case and the cause number, and then plug that cause number into the online records database.  I can also search marriage licenses, property records, and criminal records off of this same site.  The link is below:

Dallas County Online Records

Is your case out of Collin, Denton or Tarrant?  These counties also have online records, but require a fee to access them.  While we pay to have access, that does not make much financial sense for the typical client with one case.  We use the records to catch up when we are brought into a case after it has already started or to look back at an order that the client wants modified or enforced.

Law firms also have the resources to pay for access to other databases as well as knowing about other websites and ways to get information.  That is one reason to consider getting professional help in a case – we do this for a living, so whether it is getting information on a spouse’s or potential party’s business, knowing about their vehicles or bank accounts, or many other aspects of someone’s life, we tend to know how to get that information and use it to your benefit.

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