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Do you have a right to a jury trial in a Texas divorce?

Many clients have questions about whether a jury will decide their family law case. In Texas, the Family Code limits the issues that a jury can hear. Jury trials are relatively uncommon in family law cases, and generally, a judge will decide all issues.

A jury trial must be requested by one of the parties.  The following issues are issues that a jury may hear, if either party requests.  Continue reading Do you have a right to a jury trial in a Texas divorce?

No Legal Separation in Texas

In many states, it can be optional or even required for couples to go through a period of legal separation before a divorce.  In Texas, there is no separate status of “legal separation”–until the day a judge signs a divorce decree, a couple is fully married.  This can impact divorcing couples in several ways. Continue reading No Legal Separation in Texas

Why I Don’t Like the Phrase “Full Custody”

One of the first questions I often hear from a new client is, “how can I get full custody?”  Or, “I’m afraid the other parent is going to try to get full custody.”  In Texas law, the term “full custody” means too much and too little at the same time, so I try to avoid it completely.

A Texas order relating to children is generally going to cover the following four topics:

  1. Possession schedule (whether that be the standard possession order, a 50/50 possession schedule, or some other customized schedule that the parents may agree on);
  2. Child support (including payment of health insurance and other health care expenses);
  3. Decision-making (will parents have to agree on certain important decisions, or will one parent have the right to make a decision); and
  4. Geographic restriction (where will the child be able to live).

When most people think of “full custody,” they are likely picturing a possession schedule where the child resides primarily with one parent.  However, under Texas law, children will spend significant time with both parents, unless there are particular concerns about a parent’s safety.  Therefore, our work in any custody case is to negotiate the specifics of each of the four areas listed above.  The term “full custody” implies too much and doesn’t provide the details that we need.

Does ‘Sperm Donor’ Mean ‘Dad’?

The Jason-Patric-assisted-reproduction story has been in the news, and earlier this week, the New York Times did a lengthy story on it.

The actor Jason Patric dated Danielle Schreiber on and off for many years. During a time when they were “off” but friendly, they agreed to use his sperm so that she could have a child, Gus. After Gus was born, they reconciled, and then eventually broke up when Gus was about two years old. Jason sued for custody, while Danielle claimed he was merely a sperm donor with no parental rights.

In a similar Texas case, In re Sullivan, an unmarried man and woman agreed to conceive a child through assisted reproduction, and signed a “co-parenting agreement.”  When the man later tried to claim parental rights, the woman moved to dismiss his case because a donor is not a parent under Texas law.  Continue reading Does ‘Sperm Donor’ Mean ‘Dad’?