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Texas Family Law: An Overview

Family law covers a variety of legal topics including marriage, divorce, spousal maintenance (also known as alimony), adoption, child welfare and more. Family law cases are common legal issues that occur throughout the Lone Star state. Indeed, divorce cases alone made up 89 percent of all cases filed in Texas state courts in 2014.

LawInfo’s Texas Family Law section includes legal overviews, summaries of state laws and other resources to help you make the right decisions for you and your family. Texas family law attorneys can assist you with any of the following topics (and many more). Attorney listings for most Texas cities and metropolitan areas from Amarillo to San Antonio are available.

Texas Marriage Licenses

Couples who are planning their big day tend to have a lot on their plates from floral decorations to seating arrangements. Among the most important items they need to account for, however, is a marriage license.

In Texas, couples who formally get married in a ceremony must officiate their marriage in the state. A marriage license does this and should be factored into a couple’s schedule early on. Heterosexual or same-sex couples must meet the same requirements, including:

  • Individuals being married must be age 18 or older
    • Individuals aged between 16 and 18 years may apply for a marriage license with parental consent or judicial approval plus a certified copy of their birth certificate
  • Neither individual can be married to another person
  • Neither individual is related to the other

To receive a marriage license, the couple must appear before their local County Clerk, provide the requested information, take an oath and sign the license. Once a license is approved and received by the couple, they must wait 72 hours before marrying in a ceremony. After the waiting period, the license is valid for only 90 days. The couple must marry in a ceremony before the license expires.

Texas Divorce Requirements

Common statistics suggest that nearly half of all marriages in the U.S. end in divorce. It’s a sad fact but divorce is a sobering reality even in Texas. If you feel your marriage has hit a dead end, know that these are the legal requirements for filing for divorce in Texas:

  • One of the spouses must have been a resident of Texas for a minimum of six months AND a resident of the county where the divorce was filed for a minimum of 90 days
  • The divorce is filed on any of the following grounds:
    • The marriage has become insupportable at no fault to either spouse due to discord or a conflict of personalities
    • One spouse is guilty of acts of cruelty toward the other that make the marriage insupportable
    • One spouse committed adultery
    • One spouse was convicted of a felony, was imprisoned for more than one year and has not been pardoned of their felony
    • One spouse intentionally abandoned the other for one year or longer
    • Both spouses have lived apart without cohabitation for three years or longer
    • One spouse was confined in a state or private mental hospital for more than three years and their mental disorder appears to show either no sign of improvement or sign of a probable relapse

There is a multitude of steps and documents couples need to complete to end their marriage. The divorce process can be long and emotionally taxing so it may help to have a divorce attorney represent you or to work with a mediator to avoid unnecessary stress.

Texas Child Support Guidelines

When parents divorce, they still have a legal duty to their child’s financial welfare. Usually the parent without primary custody of the child is court ordered to pay child support to the other parent if requested.

Child support payments are calculated according to several factors affecting how much the Obligor (the parent without primary custody) is able to contribute from their net income. The percent of the Obligor’s net income that’s assigned to child support payments scales with the number of children they are required to support both from their divorce and from another marriage. (See Texas Family Code, Section 154.129 for a grid of child support percentages.)

When Do I Need a Texas Family Law Attorney?

Whether you need a family law attorney depends on a number of factors specific to your case. There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Few couples need a lawyer to get married but attorneys may be required if there’s a prenuptial agreement involved.

Individuals often benefit from hiring an attorney when dealing with divorce, child support, and especially child custody matters. Because emotions can run high during some divorces, hiring an attorney to negotiate and resolve difficult issues can be invaluable.

Many lawyers offer free initial consultations, so it may be worth your time to speak with an experienced Texas family law attorney if you have additional questions.

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