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Impending ruling in contentious child custody battle

When a marriage ends, parents in Texas must often find a way to co-parent together despite their feelings toward one another. Unfortunately, some parents, for a variety of reasons, struggle to come to an agreement regarding the best interests of their children, requiring a court to make decisions for them. For example, the parents involved in an out-of-state child custody case involving two countries are now awaiting a ruling in their ongoing battle.

The couple has two daughters together. When they divorced, the father was named the primary residential parent. However, the mother requested a permit to leave the country with the children. The permit was granted, but the woman allegedly did not return after the permit experienced.

The father asked Argentina, the country where the girls were taken, to help. After several years of delays, an Argentinian court ordered the woman to return the children. Since then, they have lived primarily with their father but spend 30 percent of their time with their mother without supervision. Recent court proceedings are a result of the mother’s request to relocate with the children.

Two child experts who have observed the children claim that the move would be detrimental to them. They argue that the girls have established relationships with friends and teachers, and a move would deprive them of access to both parents. The woman claims that she left with the children because her former husband was abusive. He was once arrested for domestic abuse, but those charges were dismissed. He was later arrested for violating a restraining order when he allegedly returned to his house to retrieve his personal property; however, he claims that his ex-wife gave him permission to do so, then called the police.

Many parents are able to create a child custody plan that is agreeable to all parties. For those who are unable to do so, court intervention may become necessary. Because most people in Texas have little experience with family court, seeking the guidance of attorneys who do can help them navigate proceedings, ensuring that their voices are heard.

Source:, “Colorado International Child Custody Battle Nears End“, Jacob Maslow, Oct. 17, 2016

Divorce ruling prevents father from talking religion

In most cases, parents in Texas reserve the right to expose their children to religion in the way they deem appropriate. As a result, one out-of-state judge claims that the court typically does not make any rulings prohibiting a parent from discussing religion with his or her children. However, a divorce case that occurred in the same state reportedly dealt with extenuating circumstances that required special consideration.

The case involved a woman who left her husband in 2013. She made the decision after one of her three children was hospitalized after suffering what court papers described as a psychotic episode. The father’s threats of damnation and accusations against the mother of being a demon reportedly caused all three children to suffer anxiety. His behavior was severe enough to be deemed child abuse.

The original judgment granted the divorce, but the parenting plan prohibited the father from discussing religion with the children. He reportedly told a social investigator appointed by the court that he used Bible passages to justify harsh punishments intended to control the children’s behavior. An appellant court in Florida recently argued that the lower court’s decision did not violate the father’s rights because it was made in order to preserve the best interests of the children.

Often, a parent must make decisions that may be difficult but ultimately benefit one’s children. While the inclination may be to stay together for the children, a divorce may be in their best interests, especially if there is a history of child abuse. In order to best protect their children, many in Texas seek the guidance of an experienced attorney who can help them put appropriate provisions in place.

Source:, “Dad Barred From Talking Religion With Kids”, Jeff D.Gorman, Oct. 12, 2016

Location matters in divorce

News shows are abuzz with the news of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s split. While most people cannot relate to their lifestyle, there are many who have found themselves working to separate their lives and making decisions regarding their children. Because Pitt and Jolie have several different residences, a decision regarding which state to file for divorce likely had to be made prior to filing — a decision that some in Texas also face.

The state where divorce proceedings are filed can have a major impact on the outcome of a case. Perhaps most important to division of assets is whether the state is a community property or equitable distribution state. Community property states view property gained during marriage as equally owned. Equitable distribution states consider the property’s acquisition and how it is titled before a determination regarding distribution is made.

Some states may also be more willing to grant spousal support, a factor that may impact some couples, especially if one spouse has given up a career to stay at home. Before filing, it is important to consider a state’s residency requirement for divorce purposes. If there are children involved, there may be less flexibility regarding where to file due to the Uniform Child Custody and Jurisdiction Enforcement Act. This law states that child custody cases must be heard in the state where the children have resided for the prior six months. Courts will make a determination regarding jurisdiction if the family has ties to more than one state.

For many people in Texas seeking a divorce, making a determination concerning where to file may be difficult. Fortunately, an experienced attorney can examine the details of a case and help make decisions regarding the most appropriate state to file. While the end of a marriage may be a difficult time, hiring such a professional can provide confidence to those ending a relationship with the knowledge that someone is looking out of their best interests.

Source: USA Today, “Divorce tips from the Brangelina breakup“, Kelli B. Grant, Sept. 25, 2016

Federal judge seeks divorce after 45 years of marriage

There are some couples in Texas who realize relatively quickly that their marriage is not working. For other couples, however, it is only after they have raised children and have spent several decades together that they decide they would be happier if they sought a divorce. One out-of-state couple, married for 45 years, has recently announced their intention to end their marriage.

The couple actually separated several years ago. They claim that their separation was amicable and their divorce will be so as well. In fact, they claim that they recently vacationed together with their son and his family.

The couple, a federal judge and the former governor of Pennsylvania, say that they still work together due to the non-profit organization they began together. They have even stated that the organization will be launching a new project in the near future. In 2011, they reportedly promised their friends that their split will not be awkward and indicate that nothing has changed since that announcement.

It seems that the only divorces that gain a significant amount of media coverage are the ones that are filled with contention. However, many couples in Texas are able to make decisions that separate their lives in order to ensure that they are able to transition out of the marriage as smoothly as possible. By doing so, couples are often able to gain a divorce faster and with less expense. For those considering divorce, an experienced divorce attorney can help them better understand their options and initiate legal proceedings if appropriate.

Source:, “After 45 years, Rendells to divorce“, Claudia Vargas, Sept. 7, 2016

Soldier locked in child custody battle

Those from Texas who choose to join the military are willing to make a great deal of sacrifices. Many military members ultimately sacrifice their lives, and most have to sacrifice time with their families and friends. In fact, one serviceman has found himself embroiled in a child custody lawsuit with the mother of his daughter.

The man claims that he briefly dated the woman who would become the mother of his child in 2009. He learned of his impending fatherhood just days before he was deployed to Afghanistan. Although he claims that he struggled to make phone calls home due to his situation, he was able to go online and see pictures of his daughter.

He further claims that he and the woman exchanged letters while he was overseas but that there was a drastic change in the relationship when he returned. In fact, he claims that the woman sought a restraining order against him. Following a hearing to reverse the order, he was able to meet his daughter for the first time.

Reports indicate that the man sought joint custody of his daughter but was shipped to Germany before an arrangement could be finalized. He claims he attempted to stay in touch by sending letters, but they were all returned, marked “return to sender.” Then, before he went back to Afghanistan, he received notice that the mother of his child was seeking to have his parental rights terminated to allow her new husband to adopt her. While he was protected from legal action temporarily by the Service Members Civil Relief Act, a judge granted the adoption request once he returned. The adoption, however, has since been delayed by an appeals court; it ordered the lower court to review whether the man did, in fact, fail to meet his parental obligations.

An attorney representing the woman claims that the man is connected to violent threats and drug abuse and that he did little support his daughter financially or establish a relationship. Unfortunately, there are many parents who differ regarding the best interest of their children. When parents in Texas cannot agree, it often becomes necessary to ask a judge to step in and make a determination. During such cases, having an experienced attorney on his or her side can help ensure that a parent’s voice is heard during child custody proceedings.

Source:, “Military custody battle and the dad fighting to see his daughter“, Kim Shepard, Aug. 24, 2016

Lessening the emotional impact of divorce on children

It is no secret to Texas readers that the end of a marriage is often hardest on the youngest members of the family. Parents often cite the well-being of their children as their number one concern during divorce, but they may not have a full understanding of how this life event takes a toll on their kids. When parents divorce, it will have an impact on children that may manifest in many ways.

Children react to the news of their parents’ divorce by displaying certain behaviors, showing signs of anxiety or simply shutting themselves off from what is happening around them. These are all normal ways that kids react, depending on their age and maturity level. While the impact is real, parents may be encouraged to know that there are things that they can do to minimize the negative toll that a divorce can take.

One of the best ways to minimize negativity is by allowing regular visitation with the non-custodial parent, even during separation. Children do best when they can maintain a strong relationship with both parents, and parents should strive to never speak negatively of the child’s other parent when around the kids. This may be difficult, but a practical visitation schedule and custody order can provide stability and security, thus protecting kids from undue emotional harm.

Parents should dialogue with the kids, allowing them to ask questions, express concerns and understand the major life changes that they will face. Children should never be made to feel responsible for a divorce, and parents will find it beneficial to be open and sensitive to their child’s emotional needs. It requires a concerted effort, but a Texas parent can protect the emotional health of their child during this trying time.

Source:, “Effects of Divorce on Children“, Lesley Foulkes-Jamison, Aug. 14, 2016

Prenuptial agreements help ease the divorce process

Couples who are considering marriage are often overwhelmed by their emotions. These emotions can cloud their judgment, including potential signs that the relationship may not be compatible in the long-term. Those in Texas who take the time to plan ahead by ensuring they fully understand their options in regards to prenuptial agreements can often ease the process should the relationship end in divorce.

A prenuptial agreement has many important functions. Despite some of the feelings that may be attached to the creation of such a document, they are a commonsense way for couples to come to a full understanding of each person’s assets as well as debts. While some people believe that such agreements are only needed for celebrities, they can be beneficial for any couple in which one person earns significantly more than the other, among other scenarios.

Prenups can include a range of agreements. For example, one can stipulate that the couple will go through mediation if they choose to divorce. While such an agreement can determine who will get the family pet, they can not be used to make determinations about child custody arrangements or child support.

Prenuptial agreements are not documents that can be created and set aside. Because it is important that all details are clear and without ambiguity, some family law professionals recommend updating them approximately every five years. Having an experienced attorney to help those in Texas with the creation and revision process can help ensure that an agreement is fair and enforceable.

Source:, “Plan For A Successful Divorce Before Your Wedding Day!“, Jim Halfens, July 22, 2016

Responding when child custody is denied by a parent

Marriage is often difficult. When most begin to struggle, many couples in Texas take actions to save their marriages. However, even the most dedicated couples often come to the conclusions that remaining together is in neither’s best interest. Despite divorces, couples with children must, in most cases, continue to work together for the good of the children. Unfortunately, co-parenting issues can arise, raising the question of how to respond if one parent refuses to allow the other access to the children in defiance of a court-ordered child custody arrangement.

Such a denial could especially be a hot-button issue in the summer when children are out of school and parents attempt to schedule vacations. Some professionals with experience in family law advise that even one instance of refusing to allow a scheduled visit should result in action. They argue that allowing a refusal could encourage a parent to continue refusing custody.

In the face of a refusal, remaining calm could help ensure that no actions are taken that are not in the best interests of a child. Afterward, however, ensuring that the instances are properly documented and filing a motion for contempt may be appropriate. If a child refuses, seeking counseling is an option. Additionally, a refusal could be an indicator that an attempt is being made to deliberately alienate a parent.

Many parents in Texas are able to overlook their differences in order to co-parent together. In some cases, however, child custody issues arise that require additional court intervention. An experienced attorney can help those experiencing such issues understand their options.

Source:, “Shared child custody refusal during summer months“, Tess Hill, July 18, 2016

Child custody ruling bans child from playing golf

Every parent in Texas hopes that their child will excel in some activity that he or she loves. According to one member of the Professional Golfers’ Association, one out-of-state little girl is an exceptionally talented golfer. In fact, he claims she is in the top 10 percent in the country. A judge, however, in the case involving child custody has recently ruled that she can not compete in golf tournaments for a year.

The case for custody of the now 10-year-old has lasted for seven years. The child’s mother currently has sole custody — both legal and physical — of the child. Her father claims that the young girl’s career is progressing, claiming that of the 33 tournaments she played over the course of the last two years, she won 23.

According to a recent ruling, she can only play one round of golf or 5 hours each week. Additionally, her father, who plans to appeal the ruling, must take anger management classes, and the ruling prevents her from taking lessons with a golf professional other than her father. He says that he believes that the judge mistakenly believes that the young girl is playing golf several hours each day, which is not the case. The judge in the case declined to comment on the rationale for the ruling, but some legal analysts claim that because judges are required to make decisions that are in the best interests of children and because the decision followed a full hearing, there is likely much more to the story than is publicly known.

While not all child custody cases in Texas are contentious, it sometimes becomes necessary for the court to step in and make decisions. Regardless of whether parents are working together to compromise or if a judge must step in and issue a ruling, an attorney with experience with child custody can help ensure that a parent’s voice is heard. Additionally, an attorney can help prevent the parent from entering into an unfair agreement that he or she may ultimately regret.

Source: ABC News, “10-Year-Old Golf Prodigy Ordered to Stop Playing Tournaments Amid Parents’ Custody Battle“, July 4, 2016

Judge upholds original child custody agreement

When a couple in Texas divorces, they are often left to decide what is in the best interest of their children. For one out-of-state man, that includes preventing his former wife’s boyfriend, a convicted sex offender, from having contact with his children. While this child custody provision was included in their original divorce agreement, the mother has recently made an unsuccessful attempt to have the provision overturned.

The couple divorced in 2015 and have two young children together. At the time, the woman was dating a man who had been convicted of criminal sexual conduct in 1994. As a result of the conviction, he is to be listed on the state registry of sexual offenders until 2020. At the time of the divorce, the woman claims that their relationship was not serious and that the man was planning to move away; however, they are now reportedly intending to marry, prompting her quest to have the provision removed, a move that has been challenged by her ex-husband.

The father of the young children, argued that the mother’s change of circumstance does not merit a change in the original agreement, arguing that it should only be changed if it is in the best interest of the children. Although he questioned the children’s safety, several friends of the boyfriend testified that they did not consider him a threat to their children. Ultimately, the judge ruled in favor of the father, saying there was no good reason for a change.

When creating an agreement regarding child custody and divorce, it is often important to consider the long-term implications of certain provisions. In many cases, changing circumstances can result in provisions that become inconvenient but are difficult to change. Having an experienced family law attorney in Texas provide advice regarding such agreements can provide insight into the sometimes unexpected consequences of such provisions.

Source:, “Judge upholds divorce banning ex-wife’s boyfriend from children“, Jameson Cook, June 21, 2016

Higdon, Hardy & Zuflacht, L.L.P. 12000 Huebner Rd #200 San Antonio, TX 78230 Telephone: (210) 349-9933 Fax: (210) 349-9988
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