Adoptions Attorney Leslie Barrows
Holiday Divorce Tips: Making new traditions and keeping a sense of family 
 

Divorce and family law matters can add pressure and anxiety during the already stressful holiday season. One constant in our lives is change. We all think back to the best years and holidays we shared with our families and friends, and even when you reunite the same people and recreate holiday traditions from year to year, we all get one year older every year and every holiday season is unique. When we recognize every new holiday season allows us an opportunity to make new memories, we can open the door with a sense of optimism and anticipation of great things to come.

The following list of suggestions can make the holidays easier on everyone involved in divorce and family law matters who still need to wear a smile.

  1. Plan and prepare for the anxiety moments. Hiding from and ignoring upcoming holidays and spending time in solitude might sound easier than seeing people, but it can only lead to self-pity and when drugs and alcohol are available, some really negative outcomes are possible. Instead, make your plans well ahead of time to know exactly who will be going where, what may be discussed and how people may react to news about the divorce or related matter, which often involves children. Make a list of all the possible questions people could ask, and write down some simple answers to satisfy others, acknowledging them and their concern for the situation, and then moving on to another topic. By preparing for anxiety ahead of time, the actual holiday event might not be as scary.
  2. Remaining flexible in scheduling is important to ensuring people get to where they need to be without any unnecessary confrontation. Most of the time a temporary orders hearing in a divorce or child custody matter already states which parent will have what time with children. Prepare to tell yourself and children that the spirit of the holiday and what it means is the important part, and the exact date upon which everyone celebrates is flexible. Children are happy when their parents are happy, and nothing gets in the way of happiness more than a battle over holiday logistics.
  3. Creating new and special traditions can be a fun way to create something new, something special that can be enjoyed by parents and children when the traditions and conditions of past years are no longer possible. Focus more on creating a new tradition or activity as opposed to when it takes place, because schedules and availabilities can change. Even the choice of food at holiday celebrations can be part of a new tradition, a new family history.
  4. Celebrate holidays together as a co-parenting family, with your ex-spouse and children. If it is possible that mom, dad and kids can all be together in the same room without trauma, a civilized holiday event can give everyone involved a sense of unity and awareness of who stands where and how interfamily relationships work now and in the future. The “family” celebration does not need to be the focal point of the holiday, it can be a new tradition, like going out together for a move, bowling or a sporting event; neutral locations often keep us all on our best behavior.
  5. Spend more time with your friends and other family members when the kids are not there. Sitting home alone on holidays is healthy if that is what makes you really feel the best. It is normal to not want to be a burden on others, but reaching out to other people and friends and asking them what they are doing for the holidays might lead to an invitation to do something fun and take attention away from any holiday awkwardness.
  6. Take some great pictures of you and your family and share them with others to let people know things are okay, even if you have to fake it. You and your other family members can focus on a picture and say how good everyone looks and that may be easier than digging down to talk about sensitive topics and risk upsetting someone.
  7. Make a list of statements to read and consider in the face of anxiety over the holidays:
    1. The holidays are not about you. Everyone is trying to get through them;
    2. The holidays are not about winning or losing compared to your ex-spouse;
    3. This holiday will never be like the last nor exactly like future holidays;
    4. Before you know it, the dinners and celebrations are over and a new day comes.

The attorneys at The Barrows Firm wish everyone a happy and civil holiday season, filed with joy and hope. We all understand these times may be difficult and feeling like a real person is important. Hopefully these holiday tips are helpful, even if reading them makes you think, “I can do this!”

If you would like more information about The Barrows Firm, P.C., please contact the firm by calling (817) 481-1583. The Barrows Firm is located downtown Fort Worth at 500 East Belknap Street, near the Tarrant County Courthouse and the Tarrant County Family Law Center.

 

 

November is National Adoption Awareness Month 
 

National Adoption Day, while officially observed on November 21, 2015, is celebrated in Texas counties at adoption events all November long. Thursday November 20th is the Tarrant County National Adoption Day at the Tarrant County Family Center, where starting at 8:00 a.m., more than 40 families will adopt children into their families. Many of the adoptable children are step and foster children who are already living with happy, safe and nurturing families and the legal adoptions makes these children permanent family members. Texas has an increasing number of young children removed from birth mothers, into the foster system, because of drug addiction and other threats to children. These children need and deserve the stability of loving families and proper homes.

Child adoption in the State of Texas and the Gladney Center for Adoption in Fort Worth

Texas Department of Family and Protective Services oversees foster care and adoption programs, its Texas Adoption Resource Exchange website offers information and resources about adoption.  Texas adoption law allows a mature and financially stable and responsible adult, age 21 or older to adopt any child age 12 years and younger, without consent (children 12 and older must consent), so long as the adopting adult satisfies criminal background and social services checks and investigations. There is a six-month (may be waived) home residency requirement before finalizing adoptions, which is usually satisfied where the children are foster or step children living with the adopting parents. After the background check and home study there is often, a training and education conducted for the new family to assess the fit and whether adoption is best for the family.

The Gladney Center for Adoption in Fort Worth, Texas recently celebrated 125 years in leading as a pioneering voice for improving the lives of children, adoptive families and birth parents. Founded in 1887 as Texas Children’s Home and Aid Society, the organization has placed at least 30,000 orphaned children with new families. The Gladney Center’s namesake is the late Ms. Edna Gladney, who served as the Superintendant of the Texas Children’s Home and Aid Society and was instrumental in her efforts to help Texas pass a 1936 bill legally removing “illegitimacy” from birth records, and in 1951, helping Texas give adopted children the same inheritance rights as biological children.[i]

Texas adoption procedures and the role of the adoption attorney in representing adopting parents

An adult may petition the local court in their county of residence to adopt a child who may legally be adopted. A child may be adopted if the parent-child relationship as to each living parent has been terminated in a separate legal action or an action for termination is joined with the action for adoption.[ii] The attorney representing the adult petitioning to adopt will file the appropriate petition and arrange for service of legal process of the adoption action upon any legal parent of the child with legal parental rights, subject to termination in the adoption action. In cases where a spouse of a parent seeks to adopt a stepchild, the court is first asked to appoint a nonparent as a managing conservator with authority to consent to adoption of a child.

Once an adoption case is allowed to proceed by the court, a social study is ordered. The social study evaluator conducts interviews, observes, and investigates home environments and the world of people with whom the adoptive child will have contact. The petitioners seeking adoption usually pay for the social study, which also includes a review of the financial and general stability of the petitioners to ensure the best interests of an adoptive child will be met. The adoption is ready to be scheduled for a prove-up before the court, after the social study is concluded along with any remaining court requirements, if any, such as the included report of an Amicus Attorney, appointed by the court to determine the best interests of the child.

For more on Texas adoptions and procedures, listen to the podcast interview, Adoption laws and procedures in Texas with Attorney Leslie Barrows.

The Barrows Firm attorneys are active in supporting the cause to increase awareness about adoptions and juvenile matters generally. If you would like more information about The Barrows Firm, P.C., please contact the firm by calling (817) 481-1583. The Barrows Firm is located downtown Fort Worth at 500 East Belknap Street, near the Tarrant County Courthouse and the Tarrant County Family Law Center.

 

[i] Gladney Center for Adoption, website – Our Heritage

[ii] Texas Family Code Sec. 162, Adoption

Adoption laws and procedures in Texas with Attorney Leslie Barrows 
 

The Barrows Firm Law Review is a monthly Internet radio show podcast featuring information about Texas family, criminal, juvenile, probate and estate planning law and events. Attorney Leslie Barrows is our featured guest today as she shares insight and information about adoption law and procedures in Texas.

Adoption laws and procedures in Texas with Attorney Leslie Barrows

  • Who is eligible to adopt children in the State of Texas and what are the requirements?
  • What are the different types of adoption circumstances through which we can adopt?
  • Choosing an adoption agency is a new experience for many, what do you recommend?
  • What training is required by the State of Texas before an individual or couple is clear to adopt?
  • How do you work with adoption clients as their attorney and what is your role in the process?
  • What can people seeking adoption expect with respect to local county courts and procedures?
  • How can we take advantage of National Adoption Day on November 20th to support adoptions?

Leslie Barrows is the principal founder of The Barrows Firm in Fort Worth, Texas. In her firm’s main practice areas of family law, criminal defense and juvenile law, Leslie is consistently challenged with dynamic cases and clients. When winning is what matters, many in the Fort Worth area go to The Barrows Firm based on their reputation an winning track record over the past decade. Leslie Barrows earned her undergraduate degree from Sam Houston State University and she earned her law degree from the Oklahoma City University School of Law. She is a member of numerous organizations primarily focused in Tarrant County. To speak to Leslie Barrows please call (817) 481-1583.

Pitfalls of social media in divorce and family law 
 

A significant amount of divorce and family law cases involve the use of social media evidence to prove allegations and win in court. There is an irony in the design of social media, to help us meet and attract people, while the counter balance involves people becoming angry, jealous, upset which can lead to losing relationships and being isolated from others. The ability to cyber stalk one another opens the door to misunderstandings, assumptions and real evidence of good or bad conduct. When social media evidence is introduced in divorce and family law cases, the credibility of the people involved can be inferred from social media activity.

Social media activity may lead to divorce. “A recent study has found a correlation between relationship health and Facebook use that may cause more people to want to switch off the computer and smartphone in favor of spending more time paying attention to their spouses.[i]” Being addicted to social media and our devices can lead to consequences. Jealous spouses or family members might start investigating one another and could create unnecessary problems or make a discovery that changes the nature of a relationship.

Do you know or remember what content is out there, and what stories could be told about you?

Being proactive is important. It is always a good practice to review your social media sites every now and then, to scrub for any posts or content that might be taken the wrong way or lead to unfortunate innuendo. Memes and quotes from others can be inferred to mean just about anything when another person is looking for a fight. Remember, however, when scrubbing or eliminating content on your social media, there may all be a permanent record of it somewhere. We have no idea who may screen shot and save our pictures and posts, especially if one person anticipates a divorce or family law action in the near future.

Social media is used in evidence introduced to prove allegations in divorce cases.

A petition for divorce could be based on no-fault allegations but it could also be based on the fault allegations of adultery, cruelty or abandonment, for example. There is a financial incentive to allege fault because the wronged party may be entitled to more money in the division of the marital property and assets. Social media posts are used with increased frequency to prove the allegations in the petition. In allegations of adultery and dissipation of marital assets on a paramour, the pictures on Facebook or check-ins at an out of the way happy hour stop can and are often accepted as evidence of an affair. A judge or jury reviewing social media evidence is going to have impressions of the credibility of the parties involved in divorce. Being ready to be defend your social media use is imperative to success in a contested divorce case. Being transparent and honest is always recommended. Lying to a judge or your lawyer is a bad idea because the truth most often comes out and your credibility is at stake.

The best interests of children in contested custody can involve social media evidence.

In contested child custody cases, social media can be useful for the judge or jury considering the best interests of children and how children in particular cases appear, in joy or sorrow. The customs and standards of living and lifestyle in a family can also be proven through a history of consistent social media content. While social media can be helpful, it can also be threatening in custody cases. When one parent alleges the other engages in wrong behavior, social media posts may be collected and used to tell a persuasive story about the other parent or their family or friends who may also have an influence on children. Imagine a custody hearing or trial where several witnesses testify about what was really happening in the pictures at little Billy’s birthday party; things can get rather heated.

Adopting best social media practice is always good for credibility, even if you are not in litigation.

Many social media experts and personal coaches agree that the people engaged in social media presume a level of truth in what people see and post online. Because so many people have smart phones and technology to capture everything around them, it is a best practice to assume that every time you leave the house, everyone around you could be recording audio, video or capturing pictures that may need to be explained later. When it comes to divorce and family law matters, the use of social media in litigation is here to stay and will likely continue to increase. As the rules and laws adopt to address social media and the use of our technology and devices, divorce and family law attorneys will need to counsel clients on their use and history on social media. Every day is a good day to practice good social media etiquette, and not have to worry as you may meet someone special and start a family or terminate your relationships with others.

The Barrows Firm attorneys frequently counsel and defend clients whose social media is introduced in their family law or divorce case. If you would like more information about The Barrows Firm, P.C., please contact the firm by calling (817) 481-1583. The Barrows Firm is located downtown Fort Worth at 500 East Belknap Street, near the Tarrant County Courthouse and the Tarrant County Family Law Center.

[i] HG.org Legal Resources, Facebook has Become a Leading Cause in Divorce Cases.

Family Violence and Protective Orders in Texas 
 

The Barrows Firm Law Review is a monthly Internet radio show podcast featuring information about Texas family, criminal, juvenile, probate and estate planning law and events. Attorney Leslie Barrows is our featured guest today as she shares insight and information about popular areas of the law affecting many families in Texas.

What to expect when someone seeks a protective order alleging family violence, an overview with Attorney Leslie Barrows

  • What is a protective order and how is one designed to protect against family violence?
  • The Texas Family Code now allows presumptions of family violence in certain circumstances.
  • What is the legal process and procedure involved in obtaining protective orders?
  • What are the concerns of men or women against whom a protective order is sought or obtained?
  • When is it appropriate in a divorce or custody case to seek a protective order?
  • How can people protect themselves from further harm or liability if protective orders issue?
  • Any examples of what not to do or examples of how things go wrong with protective orders?

Leslie Barrows is the principal founder of The Barrows Firm in Fort Worth, Texas. In her firm’s main practice areas of family law, criminal defense and juvenile law, Leslie is consistently challenged with dynamic cases and clients. When winning is what matters, many in the Fort Worth area go to The Barrows Firm based on their reputation an winning track record over the past decade. Leslie Barrows earned her undergraduate degree from Sam Houston State University and she earned her law degree from the Oklahoma City University School of Law. She is a member of numerous organizations primarily focused in Tarrant County. To speak to Leslie Barrows please call (817) 481-1583.

Rodriguez v. United States: Police need reasonable suspicion to extend traffic stops to conduct a drug dog sniff 
 

Motorists in Texas have added constitutional protections during traffic stops after the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) tightened the law on April 25, 2015, in the 6-3 opinion in Rodriguez v. United States,[i] stating that police need reasonable suspicion to extend traffic stops to conduct a drug dog sniff. The holding in the case is: “(1) Absent reasonable suspicion, police extension of a traffic stop in order to conduct a dog sniff violates the Constitution’s shield against unreasonable seizures; and (2) The determination adopted by the District Court that detention for the dog sniff was not independently supported by individualized suspicion was not reviewed by the Eighth Circuit. That question therefore remains open for consideration on remand.”

“The Rodriguez case started when a Nebraska police officer saw a Mercury Mountaineer driven by Dennys Rodriguez veer onto the shoulder of a state highway just after midnight. The officer, Morgan Struble, performed a routine traffic stop, questioning Mr. Rodriguez and his passenger and running a records check. He then issued Mr. Rodriguez a written warning. That completed the stop, Justice Ginsburg wrote. But Officer Struble then had his drug-sniffing dog, Floyd, circle the vehicle. Floyd smelled drugs and led his officer to a large bag of methamphetamine. About eight minutes elapsed between the written warning and Floyd’s alert.”[ii]

The SCOTUS opinion in Rodriguez limits officers to the initial stop unless they have reasonable suspicion a crime is being committed.

In accordance with the law pursuant to Rodriguez, a police officer is not allowed to detain an individual in a traffic stop beyond the amount of time it takes to investigate and elect whether to issue a citation to a driver or make an arrest. Extensions of traffic stops often involve further investigation as to whether a vehicle might contain illegal contraband and drugs. In Rodriguez, like in many traffic stops, the police detained the motorist longer than the time it took to write a ticket or make an initial arrest, had a crime been committed, so that the drug dogs could come to the scene to sniff the vehicle and surrounding area. If the trained dog indicates a positive presence of drugs it smells, the police then search the vehicle claiming probable cause that there are drugs based on the drug-sniffing dog’s response.

The law following the Rodriguez requires a law enforcement officer to have reasonable and articulable suspicion that the motorist was engaging in criminal activity, before they may extend the traffic stop to bring in a nearby drug dog if they otherwise do not have one with them. Even if the officer effectuating the stop has a drug dog, its use to sniff a vehicle must not take more time than it takes to complete the underlying traffic stop. If the law enforcement officer decides to make a motorist wait for other officers to bring a drug dog to the scene of the traffic stop, the officer must be able to specifically articulate their exact reasonable suspicion that the motorist was engaging in criminal activity.

Reasonable suspicion is determined based on case law and the facts of each individual traffic stop.

What gives rise to being reasonable suspicion depends on the facts and circumstances of each traffic stop. An appearance, odor, or indication that a motorist has or is under the influence of illegal drugs may be sufficient reasonable suspicion to detain someone and ask for the drug dog. However, every traffic stop is unique and it is the job of a criminal defense lawyer to review the evidence and charges to make sure the state proves its case within the requirements of the law. In some cases, individuals represent themselves before the court, without an attorney, which can be challenging if the individual is not well educated on criminal law and procedure.

Many legal scholars and writers are saying they believe this restraint on police stops, and enhancement of an individual’s constitutional shield might be in response to frequent protests and riots in certain U.S. cities like Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland. The Barrows Firm follows legal decisions that affect Texans who often consult with the Barrows Firm attorneys on traffic stops and cases involving criminal charges.

If you would like more information about The Barrows Firm, P.C., please contact the firm by calling (817) 481-1583. The Barrows Firm is located downtown Fort Worth at 500 East Belknap Street, near the Tarrant County Courthouse and the Tarrant County Family Law Center.

[i] Rodriguez v. United States, No. 13–9972, 575 U.S. ___ (2015), slip op. at 2–4.

[ii] New York Times, Justices Rule That Police Can’t Extend Traffic Stops, by Adam Liptak, Apr. 21, 2015.

New Texas law on family violence and protective orders 
 

A protective order is granted to a petitioner, “if the court finds that family violence has occurred and is likely to occur in the future.[i]” As of September 1, 2015, there are additions to the law under Texas House Bill 1782[ii] The additions to the protective order for family violence law include presumptions that family violence is present under certain circumstances and that presumption allows the court to grant the petitioner’s request for a protective order based on a presumption of family violence when certain facts are alleged. As the Texas legislature clarifies the conditions of the law on family violence and protective orders, more victims of family violence can seek and obtain the legal protection they need for their safety.

About family violence and protective orders.

A protective order is a civil order of a family court in Texas, governed by the Family Code[iii]. When the individual family member(s) asking the court for a protective order they must prove the necessary elements of family violence are necessary for the court to grant the protective order. The power of a protective order is police power to immediately arrest and bring before the court a named individual who violates the terms of the protective order. When a court issues a protective order upon finding family violence occurred or is likely to occur, the order lists specific activities that another individual is not allowed to do. For example, the respondent may not be allowed to be physically present within a certain distance from other members of the family. The order can also prevent someone from showing up or making contact with others at a school, place of work or worship. Phone calls, emails, text messages and social media contact can also be requested to be addressed in a protective order.

If a protective order is violated, call the police immediately. When the named individual in a protective order violates its terms, they may be arrested and jailed until they can see the judge for violating the order. The police power behind a protective order and threat of being jailed should deter people from threatening or committing family violence, however, the protective order is just a piece of paper and individuals with clear intent to do harm may not be dissuaded from violating the order, so it is important to take safety precautions.

The new law for protective orders includes presumptions the courts can use to grant a protective order.

If you request a protective order, the court may grant the order to the petitioner if a presumption that family violence has and is likely to occur in the future, under the new law, changed by House Bill 1782 if the following conditions are present:

  • If the respondent is convicted or placed on deferred adjudication with community supervisions for any of the following offenses against the child for whom the petition is filed;
    1. An offense under Title 5, the offenses against other persons as provided by the Texas Penal Code, in a situation where family violence was determined to have taken place; or
    2. An offense under Title 6, the offenses against family members as provided by the Texas Penal Code;
  • The respondent’s parental rights have been terminated; and
  • The respondent is seeking or attempting to seek contact with the child.

The new changes to the law for family violence protective orders may make it easier for some petitioners to obtain an emergency 20-day order (which can be extended to two years)[iv], which can cause increased liability for the people against whom protective orders are issued. Attorneys can provide legal assistance and counseling for Texans seeking protective orders as well as those who have protective orders naming them and controlling their behavior. For more information about family violence and protective orders, contact The Barrows Firm.

If you would like more information about The Barrows Firm, P.C., please contact the firm by calling (817) 481-1583. The Barrows Firm is located downtown Fort Worth at 500 East Belknap Street, near the Tarrant County Courthouse and the Tarrant County Family Law Center.

[i] TEXAS FAMILY CODE, SECTION 81.001, Entitlement to Protective Order.

[ii] TEXAS HOUSE BILL 1782, Effective Sept. 1, 2015.

[iii] Texas Attorney General, Crime Victim Services, Protective Orders.

[iv] See HNiii above on protective orders.

Changes to Texas Spousal Maintenance Law 
 

Among the new laws taking effect this month is House Bill 901, containing changes to the Texas spousal maintenance law. There are additional eligibility conditions in the additions to the current spousal support section of the family code. The new law also includes updated maximum amounts and duration. Further changes clarify the legislative intention and order when certain conditions are present, for example, when the spousal maintenance recipient is also the primary care giver for a disabled child. H.B. 901 streamlines the process of reviewing and calculating maintenance eligibility, amount and duration, adding more certainty in Texas divorce cases.

Spousal Maintenance Eligibility[i]

To qualify for spousal maintenance, the court must make the finding that the maintenance-seeking spouse cannot provide for their minimal reasonable needs because they lack the sufficient property (money/income), and one of the following conditions must be present:

(1) While the divorce is pending or within two years before filing, there was a proven offense of family violence against the seeking spouse;

(2) The seeking spouse cannot earn sufficient income due to incapacitating physical or mental disability, was married more than 10 years and generally lacks ability to earn sufficient income, or is the custodian of a child of the marriage requiring supervision due to mental or physical ability, which impedes the ability of that spouse to earn income.

Among the list of factors the court reviews in determining the nature, amount, duration and manner of spousal maintenance payments now includes some additional occurrences such as an expanded clarification of marital misconduct to include adultery and cruel treatment by either spouse. A history or pattern of family violence is also a factor in maintenance determinations.

Maximum Amount of Spousal Maintenance[ii]

The new law increased the maximum amount of spousal maintenance the court may award to being a monthly amount not greater than either $5,000 per month or 20 percent of the paying spouse’s average monthly gross income. The previous maximum amount was $2,500. The new law also identifies exactly what money is calculated in determining gross income.

Duration of Spousal Maintenance Order[iii]

Likely the biggest change to the spousal maintenance law is the extended duration of maintenance, with options for the court to grant maintenance not only for a maximum period of three years, but for five, seven or 10 years, depending on the length of the marriage. The law still follows the general rule that maintenance should be limited to the shortest reasonable period of time that it may take for the spouse seeking maintenance to earn sufficient income and get necessary skills training, if reasonable.

Clarification: Contempt of Court for Failure to Pay[iv]

The new law adds clarification to the provisions for enforcing the court’s maintenance order or an agreement by contempt. While the court may use a finding of contempt of court to enforce a maintenance order against the maintenance obligor, the court may not enforce any provision of an agreed order for maintenance that extends maintenance further beyond the court’s options stated in the Family Code. In addition to provisions covering failures to pay, the new law also adds a section to control the matter of overpayments and repayment procedures[v].

Modification of Spousal Maintenance

Leslie Barrows, family law attorney and founder of The Barrows Firm, offers her insight when asked how she is prepared to assist spouses with maintenance orders, who have concerns that the change in the law might affect them, “If spousal maintenance was awarded in the Final Decree of Divorce, I would take a few minutes and see if you are eligible for a modification of your current spousal support order.  You may even be eligible to collect past due payments and possibly terminate your spousal support order depending on the current living situation of your former spouse.”

The Barrows Firm in downtown Fort Worth, Texas, also with offices in Arlington and Trophy Club, represents families with legal issues in the area of divorce and family law, as well as juvenile, criminal, probate law and estate planning. You may make an appointment to meet with an attorney in the Fort Worth or Trophy Club office by calling (817) 481-1583 or by contacting The Barrows Firm through the website. The Barrows Firm is also active on social media, on Twitter and Facebook.

 

[i] Texas Family Code Sections 8.051 and 8.052.

[ii] Texas Family Code Section 8.055

[iii] Texas Family Code Section 8.054

[iv] Texas Family Code Section 8.059

[v] Texas Family Code Section 8.0591

Estate Planning For Everyone: Wills, Estate Planning and Probate Law and Litigation with Attorney Tylene Di Sciullo 

The Barrows Firm Law Review is a monthly Internet radio show podcast featuring information about Texas family, criminal, juvenile, probate and estate planning law and events. Attorney Tylene Di Sciullo is one of our featured hosts from The Barrows Firm, who shares insight and information about popular areas of the law affecting many families in Texas, and today we are talking about wills, estate planning and probate law in North Texas.

Estate Planning For Everyone: Wills, Estate Planning and Probate Law and Litigation with Attorney Tylene Di Sciullo, of counsel to The Barrows Firm in Fort Worth, Texas

  • Who needs a will, what can a will accomplish, and what happens if you pass without a will?
  • How can we protect the interests of biological children and other members of blended families?
  • When do we need durable or healthcare power of attorney documents and authorizations?
  • How does probate litigation work, what can we expect, and can we avoid the court process?
  • Identifying major life occurrences that require updates estate-planning documents and plans.

Tylene Di Sciullo is of counsel to The Barrows Firm in Fort Worth, Texas and her practice is focused on wills, estate planning and probate law and litigation. When not in court or counseling clients, Tylene Di Sciullo is a competitive swing, country western and ballroom dancer who takes all the steps, with style and grace, both on the dance floor and in law practice. When winning is what matters, many in the Fort Worth area go to The Barrows Firm based on their reputation an winning track record over the past decade. Tylene Di Sciullo earned her undergraduate and Master’s degrees in Business Administration from the University of Texas at Arlington and she earned her law degree from Texas Wesleyan School of Law. She is a past Texas Wesleyan School of Law Alumni Board of Director and Officer. She was also Chairman of the Habitat for Humanity Committee for one year with the Tarrant County Bar Association. To speak to Tylene Di Sciullo please call (682) 708-4158.

 

Jury trials in Texas divorce and family law 
 

The Texas Family Code identifies several elements of a divorce and family law case that can be tried before a jury, seeking a verdict that the court will not overturn, involving a variety of issues. Family law attorneys addressing a jury panel have the opportunity to artfully tell their client’s story and explain how and why the jurors should return a verdict in their client’s favor. Some people prefer a jury to a judge if they are concerned the judge will not have a good impression of them. While there are several issues that can be litigated with a jury, the judge is the only one who can rule on other issues, as determined by the Texas Family Code and laws.

The status of a marriage is an issue in divorce cases that can be decided by a jury.

A Texas jury may decide the grounds for divorce, whether a marriage is void, and certain grounds for annulments of marriages.[i] While many people petition for divorce based on the no-fault grounds, proof of fault-based divorces may be a good match for an impartial jury. A jury can also hear a trial on the issues involved with common law marriages in Texas[ii]. Whether a couple effectively represent themselves as married can be a surprising disagreement between the parties when one wants a divorce from the other who says they were never married in the first place. On the other side of the coin, some people get married with a prenuptial agreement, something that also may go to a Texas jury to determine whether the agreement is valid and enforceable.

Juries can render verdicts on child custody and residential matters.

Texas is unique, in being the only state where juries can render verdicts controlling the custody of children and their primary residence. Specifically, the family code specifies that a Texas jury can determine the appointment of a managing conservator (custodial parent), joint managing conservators and possessory conservators.[iii] The role of the conservator is to make decisions for the child and manage their care and daily life. Another right the conservator may have, which can be determined by the jury, is whether there will be any geographic restrictions on where the child may live, for example, limited to a certain county or defined area.[iv] The Texas jury can decide which parent may determine where a child will live.[v] These are a few of the common decisions that can be made by a judge or a jury, if one of the parties makes a jury demand.

A trial by jury may be used to determine the status of property, values and distribution.

Issues involving property can be very complex. While Texas is a community property state and marital assets are generally divided equally, there can be issues involving inherited property, business interests, and that which is otherwise argued as separate property not to be included in the marital estate. These are all issues that juries may determine.[vi] Additionally, the jury can hear the testimony of experts, review evidence, and make determinations of the dollar value of property in the marital estate.[vii] Issues of ownership and agreements concerning who gets what are generally fitting for a Texas jury.

The judge can determine anything a jury can, but the judge has exclusive authority over certain matters in which the jury may not render a verdict. For example, the enforcement of court orders, adoption, paternity, visitation and child support are not matters where Texas law allows the option of a jury trial.

The Barrows Firm attorneys frequently answer questions about the process involved in divorce and family law cases. For more information about the options for a trial by judge or jury, contact The Barrows Firm using the links below, or by phone at (817) 481-1583.

The Barrows Firm in downtown Fort Worth, Texas, represents families with legal issues in the area of divorce and family law, as well as juvenile, criminal, probate law and estate planning. You may make an appointment to meet with an attorney in the Fort Worth or Trophy Club office by contacting The Barrows Firm through the website. The Barrows Firm is also active on social media, on Twitter and Facebook.

 

[i] TEX. FAM. CODE §§ 6.001-6.007; TEX. FAM. CODE §§ 6.105-6.110

[ii] TEX. FAM. CODE § 2.401

[iii] TEX. FAM. CODE § 105.002 (c)(1)(A)-(C)

[iv] TEX. FAM. CODE §§ 105.002 (c)(1)(E)-(F)

[v] TEX. FAM. CODE § 105.002 (c)(1)(D)

[vi] Cockerham v. Cockerham, 527 S.W.2d 162, 173 (Tex. 1975)

[vii] Archumbault v. Archambault, 763 S.W.2d 50, 51 (Tex.App.—Beaumont 1988)