Frequently Asked Questions

Learn the facts and get immediate answers to the most frequently asked questions in different legal matters. Feel free to reach out to our team to schedule a consultation.

About Immigration

What if I go to a notary instead of an attorney?

Never go with notaries.  Always consult with an attorney certified in the United States and focused on immigration.  You could lose your case, get deported, and lose thousands of dollars down the line by going with an unlicensed individual.

What are the different types of Visas available to immigrate to the United States?

There are different types of visas available; some of the most common ones are student visas, investor visas, visitor/travel visas, and under each type of visa are different categories which could make you eligible.

Am I eligible for DACA?

In order to be considered for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the applicant must submit evidence and supporting documents of the following: • Be under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012 • Came to the United States before reaching your 16th birthday • Have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time • Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making your request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS • Had no lawful status on June 15, 2012* • Are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a General Educational Development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and • Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

What is a Green Card?

A green card is formally known as a “lawful permanent resident” card. This card once obtained is proof of U.S. residency. There are several ways that one can obtain a green card, either through family, employment or other means.

When and how can I apply for U.S. Citizenship?

Eligibility depends upon a number of factors. Generally, a person will have had to be a lawful permanent resident for 5 years in order to apply (or 3 years based upon marriage to a U.S. Citizen).

I am a victim of abuse, is there a law to protect me?

Under the provisions of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the U.S. provides visas for men and women and their children who are the victims of an abusive relationship. Consult an immigration attorney to learn your options.

Can my landlord require proof of immigration status?

No. The landlord should not ask about your immigration status since no state or federal law currently requires them to do so.

Can I change my attorney if I am not happy with how he/she is handling my case?

There are reasons why you can change your attorney. Suppose your attorney is not answering or returning your calls, if your attorney does not answer your questions, or if you only speak to assistants and never to the attorney.  You have every right to do so if these are the reasons or if you have other reasons.

Do you accept payment plans?

Yes, we have payment plans. Our goal is to work hand in hand with our community according to its needs.

About Family Law

What is Spousal Maintenance?

It is money one spouse pays to the other by court order, or by agreement, for support and maintenance after a separation or divorce.

What qualifies as domestic violence?

The types of domestic violence are as varied as each unique situation. In short, it is any physical or emotional harm to yourself and your family.

How long does it take to finalize a divorce?

In accordance with Texas Laws, a waiting period of 60 days is required. However, the divorce may take longer if the parties are trying to work out the terms of the divorce, such as custody of children, child support, property division, and so on. If an agreement is not reached, either party may schedule a hearing at any time after the 60 day waiting period.

Who will get custody of the children?

Both parents should agree on which party will get primary custody and which will get visitation. If both parties are unable to come to an agreement a judge will rule based on the evidence presented and the best interest of the children. Both parents have the same legal rights to the children until there is a court hearing. Until that hearing, each parent has the right to be with the children. A temporary restraining order is usually issued automatically by the court when a divorce petition is filed that will forbid the parents from changing the kids’ residence or hiding them from the other parent. A temporary restraining order, however, does not award anyone custody.

What is mediation?

Mediation is a formal settlement session in which a neutral person trained in dispute resolution meets with the parties and gets them to talk about the case and their differences. Mediation is preferable to litigation in many circumstances for a number of reasons. Mediation is seen as much less aggressive, saves considerable amounts of money and time for most individuals who choose it over litigation.

How is child support calculated?

Every state establishes numerical child support guidelines. Child support is based on a percentage of the non-custodial parent’s income. It is from this percentage that child support is calculated. The percent of net resources will be 20% for 1 child, 25% for 2 children, 30% for 3 children, 35% for 4 children, and 40% for 5 children. There are caps and other considerations on child support amounts that may affect some individual payors.

What is no-fault divorce?

Definition: A no-fault divorce in Texas implies that the marriage is ending due to irreconcilable differences and neither spouse is specifically blamed for the breakdown of the marriage. It is based on the concept that the marriage has become insupportable because of discord or conflict of personalities that destroys the legitimate ends of the marital relationship.

What is fault divorce?

Definition: A fault divorce is filed when one spouse claims that the other is responsible for the failure of the marriage. Grounds for a fault divorce in Texas include cruelty, adultery, conviction of a felony, abandonment, living apart for at least three years, and confinement in a mental hospital.

What is the divorce process in Texas?

  1. Filing a Petition: The first step is to file an ‘Original Petition for Divorce’ with the local court. This document outlines the basics of the divorce request.
  2. Temporary Orders: Either party can ask for temporary orders from the court to address immediate needs, such as child custody, support, and property issues, while the divorce is pending.
  3. Discovery: This is the information-gathering phase, where both parties exchange information about their finances, property, and other relevant matters.
  4. Mediation and Settlement: Many divorce cases in Texas go through mediation, where a neutral third party helps the spouses negotiate a settlement. If they can reach an agreement, they can avoid going to trial.
  5. Trial: If mediation fails, the divorce will proceed to trial, where a judge will make decisions regarding property division, child custody, and other pertinent issues.
  6. Final Decree: The divorce is finalized when the judge signs the Final Decree of Divorce, legally ending the marriage.

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The Difference Between Community or Separate Property?

A common point of contention in divorces is the status of the marital home. If you and your spouse purchased the home during your marriage, it is likely considered community property. However, if one spouse owned the home before marriage, it is usually deemed separate property, though it may be subject to reimbursement claims.

There are instances where the character of the home is ‘mixed’. For example, if a house is purchased during the marriage using community credit but separate funds are used for the down payment, the house may partly be a community and partly separate property. Determining this mix often requires expert analysis, which is where the expertise of Sandra Gomez can be invaluable.

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What is Child Support?

In Texas, child custody, legally known as “conservatorship,” is decided based on the best interest of the child. The state’s laws emphasize creating a parenting plan that supports the child’s emotional and physical needs while maintaining a healthy relationship with both parents. Here are key aspects under Texas law:

  • Best Interest of the Child: Texas courts prioritize the child’s emotional and physical needs, ensuring their well-being is at the forefront of any custody decision.
  • Joint Managing Conservatorship (JMC): This is the most common arrangement in Texas, where both parents share the rights and responsibilities of raising their child. It does not necessarily mean equal physical custody.
  • Sole Managing Conservatorship (SMC): In cases where one parent is deemed unfit due to reasons like abuse, neglect, or absence, the other parent may be granted sole managing conservatorship.
  • Child’s Preference: Depending on the child’s age and maturity, their preferences may be considered, particularly for children over 12 years old.
  • Parental Ability: The court assesses each parent’s ability to provide a stable and nurturing environment for the child.
  • History of Family Violence: Any history of domestic violence or abuse is taken seriously and can significantly influence custody decisions.

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How do you do a Child Support Claim in Texas?

Divorce can be a challenging process, particularly when it comes to ensuring the well-being of the children involved. In Texas, one critical aspect of this process is the pursuit of child support, a legal obligation that helps ensure the financial needs of children are met post-divorce.

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If I get divorced, do I have to pay spousal support to my spouse?

If I get divorced, do I have to pay spousal support to my spouse? Spousal support can be imposed by the court as part of the divorce decree. This type of financial support is usually ordered when one spouse earns a much higher income than the other. Spousal support is granted for a limited period or indefinitely. For example, to decide whether a member of the divorcing couple qualifies for spousal support, judges consider whether one of the parties sacrificed their professional career to stay at home and care for the children, the couple’s lifestyle while they were married, emotional contributions, financial deficiencies of one of the parties, or the lack of economic independence of the requesting member. Whether you have decided to separate from your partner or are considering other options such as divorce, it is advisable to consult your divorce case with a lawyer who can guide you through the process. You should also consider that you can divorce even if your husband or wife is absent and it is impossible to locate them. To start, you can request a free evaluation from a family lawyer who specializes in divorce law and with experience in your state.

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What documents to bring during my first attorney consultation during my divorce?

Key Documents to Bring

  1. Legal Correspondence: Any documents you have received or prepared with your spouse, such as divorce petitions or ongoing divorce agreements.
  2. Financial Information: For a fair division of assets, your attorney needs to know the exact incomes, assets, expenses, and liabilities associated with the marriage. Bring documents related to:
    • Incomes: Bank statements and proofs of income from employment and investments, financial papers of any family business, recent pay stubs of both spouses and tax returns from the last three years.
    • Assets: Real estate, personal property, other investments, and retirement plans. Provide a list of assets where you or your spouse are listed as owners or co-owners.
    • Expenses: Documents showing regular expenditures like food, education, and child care.
    • Liabilities: Mortgages, loans, including student loans, residential mortgages, car loans, and personal loans.
  3. Prenuptial Agreements and Contracts: If you and your spouse have a prenuptial agreement or other relevant legal contracts, your attorney should review them as soon as possible, as they can significantly influence the divorce strategy.
  4. Documentation Related to Children: If you have children with your spouse, inform your attorney about your desired arrangements for their care and custody. Bring all relevant documents, such as medical records, college savings accounts, health and life insurance policies, and police reports showing negligence or abuse. If a guardian has been appointed for minor children, notify your attorney about this situation.

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How long does a contested divorce last?

In Texas, the duration of a contested divorce can vary significantly depending on several factors. A contested divorce is one where the parties do not agree on one or more key issues such as child custody, property division, alimony, or other matters. Due to the disagreements, these types of divorces typically take longer to resolve than uncontested divorces.

Here are some factors that can influence the timeline of a contested divorce in Texas:

  1. Complexity of Issues: The more complex the disagreements, the longer the divorce process may take. For instance, high asset divorces or those involving complex child custody issues may require more time for negotiation, mediation, or trial.
  2. Court Calendar and Availability: The scheduling and availability of the court can also impact the timeline. If the court docket is full, it may take longer to get a trial date.
  3. Mandatory Waiting Period: Texas law requires a 60-day waiting period from the date the divorce petition is filed before the divorce can be finalized. This is the minimum time frame for any divorce in Texas, but contested divorces often take longer.
  4. Willingness to Negotiate: If both parties are willing to negotiate and potentially reach a settlement through mediation, the process can be quicker. However, if both parties are adamant about their positions and unwilling to compromise, the process can be prolonged, potentially leading to a trial.
  5. Need for Discovery: In contested divorces, there may be a need for an extensive discovery process, where each party gathers evidence to support their case. This process can include depositions, requests for documents, and interrogatories, which can add time to the divorce timeline.
  6. Potential for Appeals: If one party is dissatisfied with the court’s decision, they may file an appeal, which can further extend the duration of the divorce process.

On average, a contested divorce in Texas can take anywhere from 6 months to over a year, and in some cases even longer, depending on the complexity and specific circumstances of the case. It’s important to consult with a qualified divorce attorney who can provide guidance based on the specifics of your situation. Sandra Gomez is an experienced attorney who can offer valuable assistance in navigating the complexities of a contested divorce in Texas.

How long does a uncontested divorce last?

In Texas, an uncontested divorce, also known as an “agreed divorce,” typically takes less time to finalize compared to a contested divorce. An uncontested divorce is where both parties agree on all major issues such as child custody, property division, and alimony.

Here’s an overview of the timeline for an uncontested divorce in Texas:

  1. Mandatory Waiting Period: Texas law requires a minimum waiting period of 60 days from the date the divorce petition is filed before the divorce can be finalized. This waiting period applies to all divorces, including uncontested ones.
  2. Preparation and Filing of Documents: The time it takes to prepare and file the necessary documents can vary. In an uncontested divorce, if both parties are in agreement and prepared to move forward promptly, this phase can be relatively quick.
  3. Signing of Agreement: Both parties must review and sign the divorce settlement agreement, which outlines the terms of the divorce, including division of assets, child custody arrangements, and any spousal support. This process can be expedited if both parties are cooperative and in agreement.
  4. Court Review and Approval: After the paperwork is filed and the 60-day waiting period has passed, a judge must review and approve the agreement. This is usually a formality in uncontested divorces and does not require a court hearing if all paperwork is in order.
  5. Final Decree of Divorce: Once the judge approves the divorce settlement, the court will issue a final decree of divorce, officially ending the marriage.

In general, the quickest an uncontested divorce can be completed in Texas is about 61 days from the date the petition is filed. However, the actual time can vary based on the court’s schedule, the efficiency of the parties in handling paperwork, and other administrative factors. Many uncontested divorces in Texas are completed within a few months.

For those going through an uncontested divorce in Texas, it is still advisable to seek legal counsel to ensure that the process goes smoothly and that all legal requirements are met. An experienced attorney can help ensure that the settlement agreement is fair and that all legal documents are properly prepared and filed.

What is the process of being served?

The process of being “served” in the context of legal proceedings, such as a divorce, is a crucial step. Serving legal documents is a formal way of ensuring that a party involved in a legal action receives the necessary documents related to the case. Here’s an overview of what this process entails, particularly in the context of Texas law:

What Does “Being Served” Mean?

  1. Notification of Legal Action: Being served means that a party to a legal proceeding is officially notified about the action. In the case of a divorce, for example, the spouse who did not file the petition (the respondent) is served with the divorce papers.
  2. Formal Delivery of Documents: This involves the formal delivery of legal documents, such as a summons and a copy of the complaint or petition, to the person being served. The summons informs the recipient that a legal action has been initiated against them and that they are required to respond.

How is the Service Process Conducted?

  1. By a Process Server or Sheriff: In Texas, service of legal documents is typically done by a licensed process server or a sheriff. The person serving the papers must not be involved in the case and, in most situations, must be over the age of 18.
  2. Personal Delivery: The preferred method of service is personal delivery, where the documents are handed directly to the person being served. The server confirms the identity of the recipient before handing over the documents.
  3. Substitute Service: If personal delivery is not possible, the documents may be left with a responsible adult at the respondent’s residence or place of employment.
  4. Service by Publication: In cases where the respondent cannot be located, service might be done through publication in a newspaper. This is typically the last resort and may require court approval.
  5. Proof of Service: After serving the documents, the server completes an affidavit of service, detailing when, where, and how the papers were served. This affidavit is filed with the court as proof that the respondent was properly notified of the legal action.

Importance in Legal Proceedings

Being properly served ensures that the legal process is fair and that all parties have the opportunity to respond and participate in the proceedings. It is a fundamental aspect of due process rights.

Why can't both parties hire the same lawyer?

It’s a common question as to why both parties in a legal dispute, particularly in a divorce, cannot hire the same lawyer. The primary reason is the potential for a conflict of interest, which is a key concern in legal ethics.

  1. Conflict of Interest: In legal terms, a conflict of interest arises when an attorney’s representation of one client is directly adverse to another client’s interests. In a divorce or any adversarial legal proceeding, the interests of the parties are usually conflicting. An attorney cannot impartially represent both sides of such a dispute because it’s almost impossible to advocate for the best interests of two parties who have opposing goals.
  2. Ethical and Professional Standards: Lawyers are bound by ethical and professional standards, which mandate that they must represent their client’s interests zealously within the bounds of the law. If a lawyer were to represent both sides in a divorce, they would struggle to fulfill this duty effectively since what benefits one client may harm the other.
  3. Confidentiality Issues: An attorney-client relationship involves confidentiality, meaning lawyers cannot share sensitive information about a client with third parties without consent. If a lawyer representing both parties in a divorce, maintaining confidentiality would be impractical as the needs and strategies of one client could be detrimental to the interests of the other.
  4. Legal Strategy and Advocacy: Each party in a legal dispute should have an advocate who can develop a legal strategy based on their specific needs, concerns, and objectives. With a single lawyer for both parties, developing such individualized strategies would not be feasible.
  5. Informed Consent and Independent Judgment: Even in seemingly amicable separations, it’s important for each party to have independent legal advice. This ensures that any agreements are made with informed consent and that each party understands their rights and the implications of any legal decisions.
  6. Judicial Perception: Courts may view the representation of both parties by a single attorney with skepticism, potentially complicating the legal process. It’s crucial for the court to see that each party has fair and unbiased legal representation.

For these reasons, each party in a legal dispute, especially in cases like divorce, is advised to have their own attorney. This ensures that the legal rights and interests of each individual are adequately represented and protected throughout the legal process.

What happens when there are children involved in the divorce process?

When children are involved in a divorce process, their welfare becomes a central focus, especially during mediation. Mediation in the context of divorce is a process where a neutral third party helps the divorcing couple reach an agreement on various issues, including those related to their children. Here are some key points about how this process works:

  1. Child Custody and Visitation: One of the primary concerns in mediation with children involved is determining child custody arrangements. This includes deciding who the children will live with (physical custody) and how decisions about the children’s welfare (legal custody) will be made. Mediation also addresses visitation schedules for the non-custodial parent.
  2. Best Interests of the Children: Both mediators and parents work to ensure that any agreements made are in the best interests of the children. This includes considering the children’s emotional, educational, and physical needs.
  3. Child Support: Mediation will also typically involve discussions about child support, which is a financial obligation of the non-custodial parent to assist in the costs of raising the children. The mediator helps the parents come to an agreement on the amount and terms of support.
  4. Creating a Parenting Plan: Mediation allows parents to develop a parenting plan that outlines how they will share responsibilities and make decisions about their children’s upbringing. This plan can cover various aspects, including daily routines, education, healthcare, religious upbringing, and how future disputes will be resolved.
  5. Communication and Co-Parenting: Mediation can also address how parents will communicate with each other about the children post-divorce and establish a cooperative co-parenting relationship.
  6. Reduced Conflict: Mediation aims to reduce the conflict that can arise in a divorce proceeding. A more amicable resolution is beneficial for the children, as it lessens their exposure to parental conflict.
  7. Flexibility and Customization: Unlike court rulings, mediation offers parents the flexibility to create customized arrangements that best fit their family’s unique needs.
  8. Confidentiality: Mediation is a confidential process, which means the discussions and agreements made are not part of the public record. This can be advantageous in maintaining privacy, particularly when sensitive issues about children are involved.
  9. Professional Guidance: In some cases, mediators who specialize in family disputes may also suggest involving child psychologists or other child development specialists to better address the children’s needs.

In summary, when children are involved in a divorce process, mediation serves as a constructive platform to negotiate and agree on parenting arrangements in a way that prioritizes the children’s best interests and well-being.

What happens when there are valuable common assets in their countries of origin? How is that resolved?

When divorcing couples have significant common assets in their countries of origin, resolving their division can be complex, particularly if they are undergoing divorce proceedings in a different country, such as the United States. Here’s how such situations are generally handled:

  1. Jurisdiction and Applicable Law: The primary challenge is determining which country’s laws apply to the division of these assets. This often depends on the location of the assets and the legal jurisdictions involved. In some cases, the laws of the country where the divorce is filed may apply, but in other instances, the laws of the country where the assets are located might be relevant.
  2. Valuation of Assets: Accurately valuing assets in a foreign country can be complicated due to differences in market conditions, currency exchange rates, and valuation methods. It often requires hiring experts who are familiar with the property market in that country.
  3. Legal Representation in Both Countries: The couple might need legal representation in both the country where the divorce is being filed and the country where the assets are located. This ensures that the legal proceedings and asset division comply with the laws and regulations of both jurisdictions.
  4. Negotiation and Mediation: As with any divorce settlement, if both parties are willing to negotiate or participate in mediation, they may be able to reach an agreement on how to divide their foreign assets. This could involve either selling the assets and dividing the proceeds or one party buying out the other’s share.
  5. Tax Implications: Dividing and transferring assets across international borders can have significant tax implications. Understanding and planning for these implications is crucial to avoid unexpected financial burdens.
  6. Enforcement of Foreign Divorce Decrees: Enforcing a divorce decree involving foreign assets can be challenging. The decree made in one country may not be automatically recognized in another, and additional legal processes may be required to enforce the division of assets.
  7. Cultural and Emotional Considerations: Assets in a country of origin may have cultural significance or emotional attachments. This can make negotiations more sensitive and may require a more nuanced approach.
  8. Complex Legal Procedures: The legal process for dividing international assets can be lengthy and complicated, often requiring a thorough understanding of international law, private international law, and bilateral agreements between countries.

Due to these complexities, it’s advisable for individuals in such situations to seek experienced legal counsel that is knowledgeable about international property laws and the specific legal systems of the countries involved. This expertise is crucial for navigating the legal, financial, and emotional challenges of dividing international assets in a divorce.

What rights does a woman have in a divorce in Texas?

In Texas, the rights of a woman in a divorce are the same as those of a man, as the state upholds the principle of gender equality in legal proceedings, including divorce. Here are some key rights that women have in a Texas divorce:

  1. Equitable Distribution of Property: Texas is a community property state, meaning all assets and debts acquired during the marriage are considered jointly owned and are typically divided equally between the spouses. This includes real estate, financial assets, and debts.
  2. Alimony or Spousal Support: In some cases, a woman may be entitled to receive spousal support or alimony, especially if there’s a significant disparity in earning capacity, or if she has sacrificed career opportunities for the sake of the marriage or family.
  3. Child Custody and Support: If there are children involved, a woman has the right to seek custody (both legal and physical). Texas courts focus on the best interests of the child when determining custody arrangements. Additionally, the mother is typically entitled to child support from the father if she is awarded primary custody.
  4. Right to an Attorney: Women have the right to legal representation. An attorney can advocate for their interests, ensuring fair treatment in terms of property division, child custody, and support.
  5. Protection Against Abuse: If there is a history of domestic abuse, a woman has the right to seek protection through restraining orders or protective orders against her spouse.
  6. Division of Retirement Benefits: Women have the right to a fair share of all retirement benefits accrued by either spouse during the marriage.
  7. Decision-Making in Marriage Dissolution: Women have the right to have a say in all aspects of the divorce process, including negotiations and agreements related to property division, child custody, and other relevant matters.
  8. Privacy Rights: During the divorce process, women have the right to privacy, and certain aspects of their lives may be kept confidential, depending on the circumstances.
  9. No-Fault Divorce: Texas allows for no-fault divorces, meaning a woman can file for divorce without having to prove wrongdoing by her spouse.
  10. Fair Trial and Hearing: Women have the right to a fair trial and hearing, where they can present their case and evidence to the court.

It’s important for women going through a divorce in Texas to understand their legal rights and options. Consulting with a qualified attorney can provide guidance tailored to their specific situation, ensuring that their rights are protected throughout the divorce process.

What is the average percentage of child support for minors in Texas?

In Texas, child support is calculated based on a percentage of the non-custodial parent’s net income, and these percentages are set by state guidelines. The exact amount can vary depending on the non-custodial parent’s income and the number of children involved. Here are the general guidelines for child support percentages in Texas for minors:

  1. One Child: Approximately 20% of the non-custodial parent’s net income.
  2. Two Children: About 25% of the non-custodial parent’s net income.
  3. Three Children: Around 30% of the non-custodial parent’s net income.
  4. Four Children: At least 35% of the non-custodial parent’s net income.
  5. Five or More Children: Not less than 40% of the non-custodial parent’s net income.

It’s important to note that these percentages apply to the payer’s net income, which is calculated after taxes and certain other deductions. Additionally, Texas law provides a maximum cap on the amount of income that can be considered for child support purposes, which is adjusted periodically.

The actual amount of child support may also be influenced by other factors, including:

  • The child’s specific needs, such as health care, education, or special needs.
  • The ability of the non-custodial parent to pay.
  • The custodial parent’s income and ability to provide for the child.
  • Any child care expenses that are necessary for the custodial parent to work.
  • Travel costs for visitation.

Texas courts also have the discretion to order amounts that differ from these guidelines if the circumstances warrant a deviation. For instance, if the standard percentage would be unjust or inappropriate under the circumstances, the court may adjust the amount.

For accurate calculations and legal advice specific to an individual’s circumstances, it’s advisable to consult with a family law attorney. They can provide guidance on Texas child support laws and help ensure that the support amount is fair and in accordance with legal guidelines.

Does Texas recognize common-law marriage with the same rights as a marriage?

Yes, Texas recognizes common-law marriage, also known as “informal marriage,” and couples in a common-law marriage have the same legal rights and responsibilities as those in a formal marriage. Here are some key points about common-law marriage in Texas:

  1. Establishment of Common-Law Marriage: To establish a common-law marriage in Texas, a couple must meet the following criteria:
    • Agree to be married.
    • Live together in Texas as a married couple.
    • Represent to others that they are married.
  2. No Minimum Time Requirement: There is no minimum time that a couple must live together to be considered in a common-law marriage. The critical factors are the agreement to be married, cohabitation, and representation to others.
  3. Legal Rights and Responsibilities: Once established, a common-law marriage in Texas grants the couple the same legal rights and responsibilities as a formal marriage. This includes the right to inherit property, the responsibility to support children, and the ability to make decisions for each other in medical situations.
  4. Dissolution of Common-Law Marriage: To dissolve a common-law marriage, the couple must go through the formal divorce process, just like any other married couple. This includes the division of property, child custody arrangements, child support, and alimony where applicable.
  5. Proof of Common-Law Marriage: Proving a common-law marriage in Texas can sometimes be challenging, especially in legal situations such as inheritance or divorce. Couples in a common-law marriage can sign a “Declaration of Informal Marriage” at their county clerk’s office to have formal recognition of their marriage.
  6. Property Rights: In terms of property rights, Texas being a community property state, assets and debts acquired during a common-law marriage are presumed to be community property and subject to division upon dissolution of the marriage.
  7. Children’s Rights: Children born during a common-law marriage have the same rights as children born to a married couple. This includes rights to inheritance and child support.

In summary, Texas does recognize common-law marriage, and couples in such a relationship have the same legal rights and responsibilities as those who are formally married. It is important for couples in a common-law marriage to understand their legal status and how it affects their rights, especially regarding property, children, and in the event of separation.

In what cases is it necessary to go to mediation before getting divorced in Texas, and why?

In Texas, mediation is often required or encouraged before proceeding to a divorce trial, especially in cases involving disputes over child custody, property division, or other contentious issues. Here’s why mediation is used and in what situations it is typically required:

  1. Mandatory Mediation for Contested Issues: Many Texas courts mandate mediation in divorce cases that involve contested issues. This is particularly common in cases involving child custody (conservatorship and visitation) disputes, but it can also apply to disagreements over property division, spousal support, or other aspects of the divorce.
  2. Purpose of Mediation: The primary goal of mediation is to resolve disputes amicably without the need for a lengthy and costly court trial. Mediation provides a platform for both parties to discuss their issues with the help of a neutral third party (the mediator) and reach a mutually agreeable settlement.
  3. Child Custody and Best Interests of the Child: In cases involving children, mediation is focused on reaching decisions that are in the best interests of the child. Mediators help parents understand the importance of co-parenting and the impact of their decisions on their children.
  4. Advantages of Mediation:
    • Reduces Conflict: Mediation encourages cooperation and communication, which can reduce the overall conflict between the parties.
    • Saves Time and Money: Mediation is generally quicker and less expensive than a court trial.
    • Gives Control to the Parties: Unlike a court decision, mediation allows the parties to have more control over the outcome of their divorce settlement.
    • Confidentiality: Mediation is a private process, unlike court trials, which are public.
  5. Cases Where Mediation May Not Be Appropriate: While mediation is beneficial in many cases, it may not be appropriate in situations involving domestic violence, child abuse, or where there is a significant power imbalance between the parties.
  6. Finalizing the Agreement: If an agreement is reached in mediation, it is typically put in writing and can be presented to the court for approval. This agreement then becomes part of the final divorce decree.

In summary, mediation is a key step in the Texas divorce process, particularly for resolving contested issues. It offers a more amicable, efficient, and cost-effective alternative to going directly to court. The requirement for mediation can vary depending on the specific county and court policies in Texas. Therefore, it is advisable for individuals going through a divorce to consult with a legal professional to understand the specific requirements and benefits of mediation in their case.

What does the disclosure process entail, and when does it happen?

The disclosure process in a divorce case is a critical step in the legal proceedings. It involves the exchange of information and evidence between the divorcing parties. Here’s what it entails and its significance:

  1. Purpose of Disclosure: The disclosure process is designed to ensure transparency and fairness in the divorce proceedings. It requires both parties to openly share relevant financial information, assets, debts, and any other pertinent details. The goal is to provide a clear picture of the marital estate for equitable division.
  2. Timing of Disclosure: The disclosure process typically occurs early in the divorce proceedings, often after the initial filing and service of the divorce petition. The exact timing can vary based on the court’s schedule and the specific circumstances of the case.
  3. Types of Information Exchanged:
    • Financial Documents: This includes bank statements, tax returns, pay stubs, investment accounts, retirement accounts, and any other financial records.
    • Property and Asset Listings: Information regarding real estate, personal property, and other assets.
    • Debt Information: Details about mortgages, loans, credit card debts, and other liabilities.
    • Employment Information: Employment status and income details of both parties.
  4. Mandatory Process: Disclosure is not optional; it’s a mandatory part of the divorce process required by law. This ensures that both parties have equal access to information, which is necessary for negotiating settlements or preparing for trial.
  5. Not Linked to Legal Fees: The disclosure process is a standard legal requirement and is not conducted to determine how much to charge a client. Legal fees are not based on the assets or income disclosed but rather on the complexity of the case, the amount of work involved, and other factors related to the legal services provided.
  6. Importance of Full Disclosure: It’s important for clients to understand that incomplete or dishonest disclosure can lead to legal complications, delays, and potential penalties. Full and honest disclosure is crucial for a fair and efficient divorce process.
  7. Use of Information: The information gathered during the disclosure process is used to negotiate settlements, such as the division of property and assets, determination of alimony, and child support. It is not used for any purpose outside of the divorce proceedings.

Understanding the purpose and process of disclosure helps alleviate concerns that clients may have about sharing personal and financial information. It’s a necessary step to ensure a fair and equitable resolution in the divorce process and is standard practice in legal proceedings.

Does a client need to have a social security number to get divorced?

In Texas, having a social security number is not a prerequisite for getting divorced. The divorce process primarily focuses on the dissolution of the marital relationship and the division of marital assets and debts, as well as addressing issues such as child custody and support, if applicable. Here are key points regarding this matter:

  1. Identification Requirements: While a social security number can be used for identification purposes in legal proceedings, it is not an absolute requirement for filing for divorce. Other forms of identification, such as a passport, driver’s license, or state ID, can often be used.
  2. Residency Requirements: More critical than having a social security number is meeting the residency requirements for filing for divorce in Texas. At least one spouse must have been a resident of Texas for a minimum of six months and a resident of the county where the divorce is filed for at least 90 days prior to filing.
  3. Impact on Financial Matters: A social security number may be relevant for financial matters related to the divorce, such as dividing retirement accounts or assessing child support. However, the absence of a social security number does not prevent the divorce process from proceeding.
  4. Non-Citizen and Immigrant Considerations: Non-citizens, including undocumented immigrants, can file for divorce in Texas. The legal process for divorce applies equally regardless of citizenship status, and a lack of a social security number does not bar someone from seeking a divorce.
  5. Legal Assistance: Given the complexities of divorce law and the various requirements involved, it’s advisable for individuals considering divorce to seek legal assistance. A family law attorney can guide them through the process and ensure that all legal criteria are met.

In summary, a social security number is not a mandatory requirement for getting divorced in Texas. The state’s divorce laws focus on residency and other legal criteria related to the dissolution of the marriage. Individuals without a social security number can still initiate and complete the divorce process in Texas.

Can a client get a divorce with a tourist visa, considering that this visa lasts for six months?

In Texas, and generally in the United States, the type of visa a person holds does not directly affect their ability to file for divorce. However, residency requirements are a crucial factor in determining eligibility for filing a divorce. Here are the key considerations for someone on a tourist visa:

  1. Residency Requirements: To file for divorce in Texas, at least one spouse must have been a resident of the state for a minimum of six months and a resident of the county where the divorce is filed for at least 90 days prior to filing.
  2. Tourist Visa Duration: A tourist visa typically allows a person to stay in the U.S. for up to six months. If a person on a tourist visa can establish residency as per Texas law (living in Texas for at least six months), they may meet the residency requirement for filing for divorce. However, this can be complex as tourist visas are generally for short-term stays and do not imply an intention to establish residency.
  3. Intent of Residency: Establishing residency in Texas involves more than just physical presence in the state; it also involves the intent to make Texas one’s home. This can be challenging to demonstrate for someone on a tourist visa, as the visa is intended for temporary visits.
  4. Legal Implications of Visa Status: Individuals on tourist visas should also be aware of the legal implications of their visa status and how divorce proceedings might impact it. For instance, if a person’s legal stay in the U.S. is based on their marriage to a U.S. citizen or resident, getting divorced could affect their immigration status.
  5. Consultation with an Immigration Attorney: Given the potential complexities at the intersection of family and immigration law, it’s advisable for individuals in this situation to consult both a family law attorney and an immigration attorney. This can provide clarity on how their immigration status may be impacted by a divorce and whether they meet the residency requirements for filing a divorce in Texas.

In summary, while holding a tourist visa does not automatically preclude someone from filing for divorce in Texas, meeting the state’s residency requirements and considering the implications on one’s immigration status are important factors that need to be carefully evaluated.

How does failing to pay child support affect moral character for later obtaining permanent residency or citizenship in the United States?

Failing to pay child support can significantly impact an individual’s application for permanent residency (Green Card) or citizenship in the United States due to the requirement of demonstrating ‘good moral character’ (GMC). Here’s how it plays a role:

  1. Good Moral Character Requirement: For both permanent residency and citizenship applications in the U.S., applicants must demonstrate good moral character. GMC is a crucial criterion evaluated by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
  2. Impact of Unpaid Child Support: Failing to pay child support is considered a violation of a legal obligation and can be seen as evidence of bad moral character. It implies non-compliance with court orders and a lack of responsibility towards familial obligations, which can negatively impact the perception of an applicant’s moral character.
  3. Permanent Residency Applications: While unpaid child support can be a negative factor, it does not automatically disqualify someone from obtaining permanent residency. However, it is a significant issue that can be considered in the overall assessment of an applicant’s character.
  4. Citizenship Applications: For naturalization applications, demonstrating good moral character in the five years preceding the application is essential. Failure to pay child support during this period can lead to the denial of citizenship on the grounds of failing to meet the GMC requirement.
  5. Legal Proceedings and Documentation: If there are ongoing legal proceedings or outstanding warrants related to unpaid child support, this can further complicate immigration applications. Providing documentation that child support obligations are being met, or that arrangements have been made for payment, can be beneficial.
  6. Case-by-Case Evaluation: Immigration authorities evaluate GMC on a case-by-case basis. While unpaid child support is a serious issue, other aspects of an individual’s character and history are also considered in determining their overall moral character.
  7. Legal Advice: Given the complexities of immigration law and the consequences of unpaid child support on immigration status, seeking legal advice from an attorney specializing in immigration law is advisable. An attorney can guide applicants on how best to address these issues in their applications.

In summary, failing to pay child support can adversely affect an individual’s immigration applications in the U.S., particularly with regards to the good moral character requirement. It’s important for individuals with child support obligations to understand these implications and to seek professional legal guidance to navigate their specific situations.

For a person who obtained residency through marriage and then gets divorced, what is the prudent time frame to remarry someone else?

When it comes to remarriage after obtaining U.S. residency through a previous marriage, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) does not specify a fixed “prudent time frame” for when one can remarry. However, there are important considerations and implications to be aware of:

  1. Good Faith Marriage Requirement: USCIS requires that the original marriage through which residency was obtained must have been entered into in good faith and not solely for immigration benefits. If a person quickly remarries after obtaining residency or citizenship, it might raise questions about the authenticity of the first marriage.
  2. Scrutiny in Future Applications: If a person who obtained residency through marriage gets divorced and then remarries, especially if it happens in a short period, USCIS may closely scrutinize subsequent applications. This could include a thorough review during the application process for removing conditions on residency (if the person is a conditional resident) or during naturalization.
  3. Naturalization Considerations: For those seeking to naturalize as U.S. citizens, the timing of a divorce and subsequent remarriage can impact eligibility, particularly if the person is relying on their marriage to a U.S. citizen for a shorter residency requirement (three years of permanent residency instead of the usual five).
  4. Removal of Conditions (If Applicable): If the person is a conditional resident (with a 2-year green card obtained through marriage), they must apply to remove the conditions on their residence 90 days before the card expires. If they divorce before this process, they will need to apply for a waiver of the joint filing requirement. Remarrying before this process is completed could complicate their situation.
  5. Documentation and Evidence: In cases of remarriage, the individual may need to provide substantial evidence to prove that both the previous and the new marriage are genuine and were not entered into solely for immigration benefits.
  6. Legal Advice: Given the complexities of immigration law and the potential for scrutiny, it is advisable for individuals in this situation to seek guidance from an immigration attorney. An attorney can provide advice tailored to the specific circumstances, including the timing of remarriage and its potential impact on immigration status.

In summary, while there is no set “prudent time frame” for remarriage after obtaining U.S. residency through a previous marriage, it is crucial to consider how such actions might be perceived by immigration authorities. Those planning to remarry after a divorce should be prepared for additional scrutiny from USCIS and should seek legal advice to navigate their particular situation effectively.

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