Family Law FAQ

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Houston Divorce Lawyer

Edward Burwell

Q: What are the legal requirements for a ceremonial marriage in Texas?

A: A ceremonial marriage in Texas is valid if the parties have the capacity to marry, consent to marry, and are in substantial compliance with the formal requirements for a ceremonial marriage. The formal requirements for a ceremonial marriage are a marriage license issued by a county clerk, a marriage ceremony performed by an authorized person, and the return of the marriage license to the county clerk after the ceremony.

Q: What duties does each spouse have to the other spouse?

A: In Texas, each spouse has the duty to support the other spouse, and a spouse who fails to discharge the duty of support is liable to any person who provides necessaries to the spouse to whom support is owed. Family Code § 2.501. There is no precise definition of “necessaries,” but whether goods provided are necessaries is typically determined by consideration of the “condition and station in life of the parties.” Daggett v. Neiman-Marcus Co., 348 S.W.2d 796, *799 (Tex.Civ.App.1961).

Q: What is a suit for dissolution of marriage?

A: In Texas, a “suit for dissolution of a marriage” includes a suit for divorce, for annulment, or to declare a marriage void. Family Code § 1.003.

Suit for divorce. In Texas, the court may grant a divorce without regard to fault if it finds that the marriage has become “insupportable” or in favor of both spouses if the spouses have been living apart without cohabitation for at least three years. Family Code §§ 6.001, 6.006. A court may grant a divorce in favor of one spouse if the other spouse has incurable insanity or is guilty of cruelty, adultery, a felony (imprisoned for at least one year). Family Code §§ 6.007, 6.002, 6.003, 6.004.

Suit for annulment. A suit for annulment may be based on underage marriage, marriage under influence of alcohol or narcotics, impotency, fraud, duress, force, mental incapacity, or concealed divorce. A suit for annulment may also be initiated if a marriage took place less than 72 hours after issuance of license in violation of Family Code § 2.204. Family Code § 6.702.

Q: How is child support determined?

A: In Texas, child support is calculated based on a guidelines provided by statute. Under the guidelines, child support is based on the monthly net resources of the parties and the number of children, and it is expressed as a percentage of the obligor’s net resources. Family Code § 154.125(b). The court may order periodic child support payments in an amount other than that established by the guidelines if application of the guidelines is not in the best interest of the child to the extent a variance from the guidelines is justified.

Q: Can parents agree to child support that is different from the amount provided in the guidelines?

A: In Texas, parents can come to an agreement concerning child support that varies from the child support guidelines provided by law. If the agreement is in the child’s best interest, the court shall render an order in accordance with the agreement, and the order may be enforced by all remedies available for enforcement of a judgment, including contempt. If the agreement is not in the child’s best interest, the court may request a revised agreement or render a child support order of its own design. Family Code § 154.123.

Q: What is a medical support order?

A: In Texas, parents have a duty to provide medical support (health insurance) for their children. While medical support is a child support obligation, any payment ordered by the court for healthcare coverage is in addition to any amount ordered under the guidelines for child support. An action to enforce a medical support order may be enforced as an action to enforce a child support order. Family Code § 154.183(a).

When issuing a medical support order, a court is generally required to consider the cost and quality of available health insurance plans and give priority to those plans that can be obtained through the parents’ employment. Family Code § 154.182(a).

Q: What is collaborative law?

A: In a proceeding for the dissolution of a marriage in Texas, the parties and their attorneys can agree in a written collaborative law agreement to conduct the proceeding under collaborative law procedures. Family Code § 6.603. Under collaborative law procedures, the parties and their attorneys agree to use their best efforts and to make a good faith attempt to resolve their dissolution of marriage dispute without the court’s intervention.

Q: What is a legal separation?

A: A legal separation deals with property distribution and child support and custody issues without ending the marriage. While most states have some form of legal separation, Texas does not. In Texas, temporary orders concerning marital issues can be granted while a divorce is pending, but there is no provision for an indefinite legal separation.