Family law matters
Complex property division
Divorce entails dividing the property that you and your spouse have accumulated during your marriage. In addition to facilitating the division, we are adept at confirming and proving our client’s separate property. This involves tracing of community and separate property; valuation of the community assets which may include closely held businesses, partnership interests, retirement accounts, corporate stocks, etc. After we determine the value and extent of the spouses’ community and separate property, we employ our negotiation or collaboration skills in developing options for the best way to divide the community assets for our clients’ benefit, or we present it to the Court in a final trial to obtain the best possible outcome for our clients.
Custody involves obtaining a parenting plan that best suits your children and your family. Rights, duties, and powers regarding the children will be allocated between you and your spouse, and parenting time will be determined for each of you. We have years of experience in litigating and negotiating successful outcomes for our clients which are also in the child’s best interest. Most parents will be named as a Joint Managing Conservator. This does not necessarily mean equal parenting time with each parent. It may be necessary to either negotiate or litigate for a more restrictive schedule due to our client’s concerns.
One parent will usually pay child support to the other parent in a divorce or in a paternity case. The amount of monthly support that the court awards to one parent from the other is typically set by statutory guidelines. However, the parties may agree to any amount without the necessity of a court determination. We can establish support, modify it or enforce prior support orders for you.
Pre-marital and post-marital agreements
Premarital Agreement – A premarital agreement is a legal contract that defines how the future spouses are going to treat the assets and the income from the assets that each person currently owns and that each person may acquire during their marriage. It is meant to protect a person’s separate property (property owned prior to marriage), as well as income or property acquired during the marriage. A premarital agreement will normally prevent a complex and messy property battle in a divorce (or in a probate estate).
Post-marital Agreement – A post-marital agreement is a legal contract that partitions (or divides) the community assets of the marriage to each spouse as his or her separate property (just like a pre-marital agreement, except it is entered into during the marriage). This is often used as a tax or estate planning tool, or, again, to help simplify a divorce.
Access to children
This includes enforcement of parties’ parenting time contained in current divorce decrees or other custody orders.
We have years of experience in obtaining visitation rights or even custody for grandparents of children who have been endangered by the parents either emotionally or physically, or are unable to see their grandchildren for some reason.
Same sex parenting rights
Often, persons in a same sex relationship desire to have a child. Typically, one person in the partnership will either adopt a child, or he or she will have a biological child through assisted reproduction means. If the partners later decide to break up, the non-biological partner may have rights depending on the length of the relationship with the child and the amount of actual care and custody that person has had with the child. We are experienced in developing parenting plans and obtaining legal custody rights for people who have had actual care and possession of children, even if he or she is not a biological or adoptive parent.
Same sex “divorce”
Although divorce is not currently available in Texas for same sex couples, pursuant to the Family Code, there are other types of relief available to unwind the financial relationship of same sex couples. We have experience in helping obtain these “partner dissolutions”.
Because Texas does not recognize same sex divorces, it is critical that same sex couples discuss financial expectations prior to making a long-term relationship commitment and set those expectations out in a cohabitation agreement. It is equally important for heterosexual couples who choose to cohabitate without marriage. These agreements can create rights regarding assets, and also assign responsibilities regarding debts. Also, for heterosexual couples, there is the possibility of creating a common law marriage where it was not intended by one party, and the other party could obtain rights to the assets of the other party as a result. A cohabitation agreement can prevent this.
A paternity case is a lawsuit to determine who the father of a child is. This usually involves genetic testing. Custody, parenting time, and child support will also be determined in a paternity case once the parentage is established.
Termination of parental rights
If it is proven to the court by clear and convincing evidence that a parent has done or not done certain things, the court may terminate (permanently end) the parent/child relationship, such that the parent has no more legal rights to the child. It takes very serious proven allegations to terminate a parent’s rights involuntarily. Also, a parent may voluntarily relinquish his or her rights to the child. This is most commonly done in the context of a stepparent adoption.
Many couples choose to adopt, which means obtaining full legal and moral rights to the child. Hance | Wickham has assisted numerous families with fulfilling the legal requirements, such as ensuring that the parental rights of either one or both of the biological parents are terminated.