In Hanten & Associates, we are dedicated to the practice of family law including divorce, legal separation, property division, custody, child and spousal support, paternity, litigation, pretrial litigation, mediation, pre-marriage issues, and post-divorce issues.
- High net-worth divorce
- Collaborative law and mediation
- Marital property division
- Spousal support
- Child custody & visitation
- Modifications to family court orders
- Child support
- Move-Aways and Child Relocation
- Child support defense
- Domestic violence
- Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements
We fully understand that our clients who are facing the breakdown of a family unit are going through the emotionally and financially devastating process. We take this situation seriously and put all our efferds to help the client to resolve it. We are committed to fighting for your rights while limiting your family law problems.
Why Hanten & Associates?
Hanten & Associates Lawyers approach each case with a high level of personal attention, continuity, responsiveness, and cost efficiency.
We have an experience in analyzing complicated financial situations, particularly complex tax and business valuation issues. We handle custody and visitation issues with skill and sensitivity, excel at negotiating and drafting premarital, postnuptial, and settlement agreements.
Negotiation and settlement are almost always preferable to trial. To that end, the firm takes a determined approach to resolve legal issues during settlement conferences.
Solid legal research, responsiveness to client needs, and our ability to effectively communicate with opposing counsel can often break through roadblocks to settlement. In case of a trial, clients can be confident they will receive strong representation in court.
If client’s case does not go as expected at the trial level, we also offer litigation at the appellate level.
We help our clients to resolve a wide range of family law issues that arise during the divorce process.
Starting from contesting prenuptial agreements to establishing property division and child custody arrangements, our lawyers can guide you through the process of divorce. We provide quality representation in the following:
- Child custody: Child custody, visitation and child support are among the most sensitive issues within a divorce. It is very important to realize that while this time is difficult on you, it is exponentially traumatic for your children. Courts examine many factors when determining child custody, with the goal of protecting and promoting the best interests of the children.
- Property division: In Texas, all property and debt that was acquired from the date of marriage until the marital cut-off date will be split equally by the District Court if the spouses are unable to reach an agreement. We can help ensure your interests are taken into consideration.
- Alimony/spousal support: As with property division, many aspects are taken into consideration when determining whether spousal support should be awarded. Spousal support is not required in all instances. It is intended to provide financial stability to the dependent spouse. The court focuses on the need of the parties and the ability to pay.
Divorce – Family Law – FAQ
Does Texas have an age requirement for marriage?
Yes. Both parties must be at least 18 years old to obtain a marriage license. If either party is under 18 years of age, parental consent or a court order is required.
Can I legally marry someone of the same sex?
In Texas, you may not marry someone of the same sex.
What is a “licensed marriage?”
A “licensed” or “ceremonial marriage” requires a marriage license and is performed by an authorized official (minister, priest, rabbi, judge, etc.).
What is an informal marriage or “common-law marriage?”
An informal marriage (sometimes called a common-law marriage) can be created when a man and woman sign and register an official document of marriage at the county clerk’s office. A man and woman may also enter into an informal marriage if they agree to be married, live together in Texas as husband and wife, and represent to others in Texas that they are married. There is no minimum time period necessary to create an informal marriage, and living together, by itself, is not enough to create one. An informal marriage may not be entered into if either party is less than 18 years old.
Is there a “common-law divorce?”
No. If the parties to a non-registered informal marriage separate and live apart for two (2) years or more, the parties may or may not need a divorce depending on the circumstances. Parties to a registered informal marriage must be divorced the same as parties who were married in a ceremony with a marriage license.
Is an annulment different from a divorce?
Yes. An “annulment” is a proceeding to have a marriage declared void as if it never took place. A “divorce” is the proceeding to end a valid marriage. In both an annulment and a divorce, the court will divide property and issue orders regarding any children.
What are the grounds for an annulment?
An annulment will be granted if (1) the parties are related, by blood or adoption,or (2) either party was previously married and the prior marriage has not been dissolved.An annulment may be granted if at the time of the marriage one party to the 7 marriage was (1) underage, (2) under the influence of alcohol or drugs, (3) impotent, (4) mentally incompetent, (5) forced to marry by fraud or duress, or (6) was misled about a prior divorce. In most cases, the law requires that the person seeking an annulment must stop living with the other party once the problem is discovered.
Must fault be found against a party for a divorce to be granted?
No. In Texas, a divorce may be granted without either party being at fault. However, a divorce may also be granted when one party is found to be at fault in the break-up of the marriage.
How long must I live in Texas to get a divorce here?
Before filing, one of the spouses must live in Texas for at least six (6) months and in the county where the divorce is filed for at least ninety (90) days.
Is this different if I am in the military?
Not really. Time spent by a Texas resident outside of Texas, while
Do the rates charged by attorneys differ?
Yes, attorneys set their hourly rates based upon their knowledge, experience, qualifications, and the complexity of the case.
How do I begin my divorce suit?
A petition for divorce must be filed in the district clerk’s office and the required fees paid.
What if there are children of the marriage?
If there are children born, adopted, or expected during the marriage, the suit for divorce must also address matters of custody, visitation, and child support. If a wife has given birth to a child or is expecting a child since the time she married, but the child is not or may not be the biological child of her husband, that information must be given to the court as soon as possible. If the wife is pregnant or becomes pregnant while the divorce action is pending, the parties must wait until the baby is born before the court can grant a divorce. This is true regardless of whether the husband is the baby’s father.
Who is the “Petitioner” and who is the “Respondent?”
The party who files for divorce first is called the “Petitioner” and the other party is called the “Respondent.”
Does my spouse get notified after I file my petition?
Yes, if you make certain the proper steps are followed to notify your spouse.
How is my spouse notified?
– By receiving a copy of the petition from a sheriff, constable, or court approved private process server after you have made the request and paid the required fees; or
– By certified mailing from the district clerk’s office; or
– If the parties agree, the non-filing spouse may, after the petition has been filed, sign and notarize a document called a “Waiver of Citation,” which indicates that the non-filing spouse is accepting service of the lawsuit; or
– If your spouse cannot be located, notice can be published in a Court-approved newspaper or other Court-approved publication.
What is a temporary restraining order?
A temporary restraining order is a court order that sets forth the acts which either one or both parties are prohibited from doing immediately after the petition is filed. Sometimes this order is called a “TRO.” A TRO usually prohibits bad acts such as committing family violence, harassment, hiding money from the other spouse,attempting to hide a child of the parties, etc.
Can I get a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) without notice to my spouse?
Yes, if the court approves the request for a TRO; however, it is effective only for a limited amount of time before you must go before the judge at a court hearing and ask that the TRO be put into effect until the divorce is granted. What happens if the TRO is violated? A person who violates a TRO, or any other court order, can be held in contempt of court and punished by a fine and/or a jail sentence.
Can my spouse ask for a divorce also?
Yes. The Respondent may file his or her own request for divorce in a document usually called a counter-petition for divorce.
What happens if I reconcile with my spouse?
You may dismiss your divorce proceedings by filing a request for nonsuit.
How soon can the court grant a divorce?
A petition for divorce must be on file with the court for at least sixty (60) days before the court can grant a divorce.
How long does it take to get a divorce?
If the parties are in agreement, a divorce proceeding can be finalized soon after the sixty-day waiting period is over. If the parties are not in agreement, the time it takes will depend on the court’s schedule and the complexity of the case. From start to finish, the divorce process may go through a number of phases which might include temporary orders, exchange of financial information, psychological evaluations (in custody cases), alternative dispute resolution, trial, and appeal. A divorce in which the parties are not in agreement on some or all issues will usually take several months and up to one year if a trial is necessary.
How do I know when my case is set for trial?
The court will issue a scheduling order that will inform you of all the deadlines you are expected to follow. Each party must make sure that the court and other parties are notified in writing at their current address, so that each will receive the scheduling order and other notices.
Alimony In Texas – Family Law – FAQ
What is alimony?
Alimony is a periodic payment of money from one spouse for the support of the other spouse.
Does the State of Texas have court-ordered alimony?
Yes, but it is referred to differently depending on whether it is ordered while a divorce is pending – “temporary spousal support”; or, agreed upon by the parties as part of the terms of a final court order – “contractual alimony”; or, court-ordered in a divorce decree – “maintenance.”
Under what circumstances would the judge order maintenance in a final decree of divorce?
The judge can order maintenance if either one of the following two circumstances exist:
• A spouse has been convicted of a crime or received deferred adjudication for a crime that can also be considered an act of domestic violence and this has occurred within 2 years of the filing of the suit or while the divorce is pending;
• The parties have been married at least 10 years and the financial resources (including any property received by the requesting party in the divorce) of the requesting spouse are limited. In this situation, the spouse asking for maintenance must also be able to prove one of the following:
a. They are unable to support themselves because of a physical or mental
b. They have custody of a child of the marriage of any age who requires
substantial and continuous care and this makes it impractical for them
to work outside the home; or
c. They clearly lack the ability to earn a living which would meet their
minimum reasonable needs.
ow long can court-ordered maintenance last?
The judge can set a time not to exceed 3 years, unless the spouse receiving maintenance cannot become self-supporting in that time period due to an incapacitating physical or mental disability or is the custodian of a child of the marriage of any age who requires substantial care and personal supervision because of a physical or mental disability.
How does the judge determine the amount of maintenance to be ordered?
The amount of maintenance will either be $2,500.00 per month or 20% of the paying spouse’s average monthly gross income, whichever is less.
Can the judge order that maintenance payments be withheld from the paying spouse’s income?
Yes. Just like child support, the judge may order that the maintenance payments be withheld from the paying spouse’s paycheck. However, they cannot be taken from a person’s unemployment insurance benefit payments.
Can the judge order that contractual alimony payments be withheld from the paying spouse’s income?
No, unless the contract specifically permits income withholding or the alimony or maintenance payments are not timely made under the terms of the contract.
If my spouse doesn’t pay the alimony, what can I do?
Depending on the type of alimony, you may do one or more of the following:
• ask for a wage-withholding order as described above;
• sue to enforce the contract if the alimony is contractual;
• sue for enforcement by contempt of the court’s order; or
• seek a money judgement if the alimony is maintenance ordered by the court.
Custody – Family Law – FAQ
When do I need a court order concerning my children?
You should obtain a court order for custody when you are separated but not divorcing, when you are divorcing, or when a paternity or legitimization suit has beenfiled.
What exactly does “custody” mean?
In Texas, “custody” or conservatorship is a term that is used to define the rights each parent will exercise for the benefit of the children and specify who will make certain decisions on their behalf.
Is this different from who has possession of the child?
Yes. There will be either an agreement or a court decision as to what times the children will spend with each parent.
Will one parent have more control over the children than the other parent?
Except in extreme circumstances which must be discussed with an attorney, each party will have certain legal rights as a parent. The legal rights each parent has do not determine how much time that the parent will have with the child. Some legal rights belong to both parents at all times (such as the right to consult with the child’s school or doctors); some legal rights belong to both parents and apply only when the child is with them (such as the right to discipline the child or provide emergency medical care); and some legal rights will be given to only one parent (such as the right to say where the child will live or to consent to surgery that is not an emergency.) In some cases the court may determine a specific area where the child will live (i.e., a particular county, such as Harris County) or which school the child will attend.
Does joint custody (or Joint Managing Conservatorship) mean the child lives half of the time with each parent?
No, conservatorship, generally, is not a question of time with the child. Jointbmanaging conservatorship is a sharing of the rights, duties, and powers parents have concerning their children. The specifics should be discussed with an attorney. It is now the preference in Texas; however, there can also be orders naming a sole managing conservator instead. The difference between sole and joint custody should be discussed with an attorney.
Where will my child live after the divorce?
More than likely, your child will live the majority of the time with the parent who is given the legal right to decide the child’s place of residence.
Will the type of custody (sole vs. joint) affect a parent’s time of possession with the child?
Generally, “no.” No matter what the custody arrangement is called, the court’s goal is to keep the child in a stable environment while encouraging a relationship with both parents. There are guidelines for visitation between each parent and the child, which make provisions for weekends, spring break, Father’s day, Mother’s day, summer, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. These guidelines are called a “standard possession order.” The times with the child are shared, especially during the holidays. There are guidelines for visitation if the parties live within 100 miles of each other and another set of guidelines if the parties live further away. The second set of guidelines are sometimes called “long distance visitation” and they provide extra time at spring break and in the summer. There can also be provisions for other religious holidays such as Hanukkah or Ramadan. The parents can always make their own agreements about visitation. The court will order specific times in case the parties cannot agree.
Is there an age when a child may decide for himself where he will reside?
No, but at age 12 a child is allowed to sign a document which can be filed with the Court stating what that child desires. The “choice” filed by the child is not binding on the Court, and is only one factor the Court looks at in deciding with which parent the child will live.
What if I have to move after the order is signed by the judge?
If the child lives with you under an order restricting the county where the child may live and you have to move outside that area, you must receive permission from the Court before the child can move.If the court has not restricted where the child lives, you may move and you must give notice of your plans to move to the other parent.
How much child support will I receive or will I have to pay?
Child support is set according to a formula and the specifics should be discussed with an attorney. Generally, however, under Texas law, child support is presumed to be proper if set at the following percentages:
– 20% of net resources for 1 child
– 25% of net resources for 2 children
– 30% of net resources for 3 children
– 35% of net resources for 4 children
– 40% of net resources for 5 children
Not less than 40% for 6 or more children. Net resources include salary, commissions, overtime, tips, bonuses, dividend income, self-employment income, net rental income, severance pay, retirement benefits, pensions, trust income, annuities, capital gains, social security benefits, unemployment benefits, interest income, gifts, prizes, spousal maintenance, and alimony.
In determining net resources, the court will take the total amount of money received from all sources and deduct social security taxes, federal taxes using only one deduction, state income tax, union dues, and the cost of the child’s health insurance.
The court will consider if the parent paying support has other children to support, which will usually entitle the paying parent to a discount. The court may also consider other factors when setting a child support amount, which should be discussed with an attorney.
The court will order health insurance to be provided for the child. The parent paying child support will probably be the parent ordered to provide health insurance. Both parents are usually ordered to share payment of the medical costs that are not paid by the insurance company.
How will the child support be paid?
Normally, the court will order that the child support be paid monthly or semimonthly. Unless the parties agree or the court finds a good reason not to, the child support will be deducted from the pay-check of the parent paying support. This is called wage withholding.
Will the child support be paid directly to me?
In most cases, child support is ordered to be paid through the state child support disbursement office. It is helpful for both parties to keep records of child support paid or received, as the case may be, either through the child support office or if paid directly to the receiving party.
What if the support is not paid?
You can ask the court for help in enforcing the order. Enforcement of court orders is discussed in a later section of this handbook.
What is a typical possession order?
There is no standard possession order for children under the age of 3 years old.However, for children over the age of 3, Family Code Chapter 153 Subchapter F outlines what periods each parent may have throughout the year. There is a presumption that parents will have a standard possession order and that it is in the best interest of a child for the “non-custodial” parent to have periods of possession which comply with a Standard Possession Order.
In very basic terms a Standard Possession provides for weekend time on the 1st, 3rd and 5th Fridays of each month at 6:00 p.m. until the following Sunday at 6:00 p.m.; on Thursdays of each week during the regular school term beginning at 6 p.m. and ending at 8 p.m., or at the election of the noncustodial parent, made before or at the time of the order granting periods of possession, begining at the time school is recessed on Thursday and ending at the time school resumes on the following Friday; 30 days in the summer; and every other holiday period.
The standard possession order is divided into two sections based upon whether or not parents reside within 100 miles of each other or not. Furthermore, the Standard Possession Order provides for periods of possession during school and during the summer as well as for holidays. The Standard Possession Order also provides for general terms and conditions for conservators to abide by when exchanging the child. See Texas Family Code 153.316.