Family law has many complexities and facets, and is influenced by legal, social and economic factors. Laws affecting relationships continue to evolve as traditional attitudes are altered. Because these laws are complex and ever changing, the following is intended to provide general information only; it is not a substitute for legal advice.
Ending a marriage may be a particularly upsetting event, involving many uncertainties and emotions. If divorce or separation is unavoidable or in your best interest, a lawyer can guide you in protecting your rights and get you through the transition in your life.
Ending a Marriage
Various procedures may be used to end a marriage that breaks down, including declaration of invalidity (also known as annulment), legal separation and dissolution (also known as divorce).
Annulment is a court-ordered finding of an invalid marriage. Technically called a “Decree of Invalidity,” it nullifies a marriage from its inception and is granted in situations where no valid marriage exists because of some legal defect.
A legal separation may be formalized with a legal contract and decreed by a court as a “Decree of Legal Separation.” A legal separation may be preferred to a dissolution for religious, economic or other reasons. It is more common now to find couples staying together for insurance coverage, for example. A couple may decide to live apart while attempting to save a faltering relationship, or the separation may be an interim step toward termination of the marriage. There is no legal requirement for actual separation before dissolving a marriage.
Oral or written understandings concerning property disposition, arrangements for children, maintenance, or other agreements made while separated may become part of a dissolution proceeding.
Both parents have a duty to support their children. Child support is based on the Texas Child Support Schedule which takes into consideration the total cost of providing a home for the children and of taking care of them in all ways, and for each parent’s respective share of that cost, in accord with their incomes.
Child support is subject to periodic modification to meet changes in the needs of the children, as well as changes in each parent’s ability to pay. Child support payments are usually required until a child is 18 years old, or graduates from high school, whichever occurs last, although circumstances may affect the duration of the support obligation. For example, if a child under the age of 18 gets married or otherwise becomes emancipated or self-supporting, the court may terminate the parental obligation for the support.
Spousal maintenance may be awarded where there is need on the part of one spouse and ability to pay by the other.
Once called “alimony,” spousal support is now referred to as “maintenance.” It will not be awarded or withheld as punishment for marital misconduct. The duration and amount depend upon the facts and circumstances of each case.
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