At the Lyttle Law Firm, PLLC, we handle a wide range of family law matters in Texas, including contested divorces, uncontested divorces, paternity matters, child custody and child support issues, modifications to orders, and the enforcement of existing orders. Our principal, Daniella Lyttle, received a Rising Stars Superlawyer award in 2018. She is a member of The College of the State Bar of Texas, which means that she is among the best-trained attorneys in the state. Attorney Lyttle can meet with you at her Austin or San Marcos office to develop a strategy for your needs.
Family law matters can affect ex-spouses, parents, and children far into the future. It can be stressful to undergo a divorce or face another family law dispute, and sometimes people who face court proceedings alone wind up making decisions that they later regret but cannot easily undo. Retaining a dedicated divorce attorney in the Austin area can take the pressure off your shoulders and ensure that all of your rights are thoroughly protected and asserted.Uncontested Divorce
The spouses must agree on all of the aspects of the divorce to get an uncontested divorce. For example, you cannot disagree about who will live in the marital home or whether or not spousal support should be paid. When there are no minor children involved, it may be possible to get an uncontested divorce within 60 days of the original filing. When children are involved, an uncontested divorce is also possible where the parties have reached agreements pertaining to custody, possession, child support, and health care for the children. Sometimes, couples can agree on most issues but still need to work out a few differences. It is possible to attend mediation and settle a case without litigation. Our firm also offers representation in the Collaborative Law model. Like mediation, collaborative law is an an alternative to the traditional litigation track.Contested Divorce
Contested divorces can arise in two different situations. First, it may mean that one spouse disputes the other spouse's reason for the divorce and tries to stop the divorce from going through. Second, it can mean that both spouses want a divorce, but they are unable to agree on one or more aspects of the divorce, ranging from property division to custody and visitation to the repayment of marital debts. In a typical contested case, one spouse will file a petition in a district court in the county where at least one of the spouses lives. At a brief hearing (called temporary orders hearing), the judge will be asked to make temporary orders in connection with visitation, child support, spousal support, and the use of assets and temporary division of monthly debts. The matter will proceed to discovery. Eventually, if the parties are unable to agree on one or more aspects of the divorce, these issues will go to trial (called a Final Hearing). Consulting an Austin divorce attorney who is familiar with the applicable rules and procedures can make a huge difference in the outcome.Paternity
In Texas, there is a presumption that the mother's husband at the time of birth is the father of the baby. However, many child custody and child support cases require one parent to prove biological paternity through a paternity suit. People who can establish paternity in such a suit include a mother, a man claiming paternity, the child, or the state government. When there is no presumed father, a paternity suit can be brought at any point in time. When there is a presumed father, the paternity suit should be filed within four years of the child being born, with certain exceptions. One exception would be if the presumed father and mother did not have sex during the period when the baby was conceived. Another exception is when a presumed father is falsely told that he is the biological father. The court is empowered to order blood tests in a paternity suit to determine the biological father.Modifications
Family circumstances can change after a divorce or separation of an unmarried couple. If you wish to modify certain orders, such as those related to child custody, child support, or spousal support, you may be able to do so with the assistance of a divorce lawyer in the Austin area. For example, if you are a parent who wants to modify a child custody order, you will need to show that your child is 12 years old and wants to change the primary caregiver, or the other parent or you had a change in your situation that is substantial and material, and the proposed modifications are in the child's best interests. When a child is under 12 years old or is over age 12 and does not want to alter which parent serves as the primary caregiver, the only way to modify the order is through a substantial and material change in circumstances. An example of a material and substantial change could include job relocation, the disability of a parent, negative changes in the child that are significant, or child abuse.
Enforcement proceedings are those that are brought to force an ex-spouse to obey a court order. These proceedings may concern visitation, property division, child support, or post-divorce spousal support. Many court orders are enforced through contempt proceedings, but to do so, the order needs to be clear, specific, and unambiguous, and it must use language that commands rather than leaves discretion. For example, if what is at issue is a visitation order, the court order must command whoever has the children to give them to the other parent when the visitation period starts and identify where the kids are to be exchanged, as well as the exact visitation start and end times. When a person is found in contempt of a court order, a judge can punish him or her through a fine and jail time.Child Support
Both parents have an obligation to financially support their children. Generally, how much time a parent spends with a child will determine who makes child support payments. In most cases, the noncustodial parent or whichever parent has less time with the child pays child support to the other parent. Payments are determined based on the Texas Child Support Guidelines and based on a percentage of a non-custodial parent's net monthly income, which includes salary, wages, commissions, overtime, bonuses, and tips. However, there are factors that can lead a court to adjust support amounts to be greater or less than what is recommended under the guidelines.Child Custody
Child custody is also called conservatorship in Texas. There are possessory conservatorships and managing conservatorships. The managing conservator may be a sole managing conservator or a joint managing conservator. In Texas, the court presumes that the parents should be joint managing conservators. However, the court determines conservatorship based on the best interests of the child. Factors included in an analysis of the child's best interests include what the child wants, the child's emotional and physical needs, any danger to the child, the parents' abilities, the stability of the home environment, each parent's plans, any domestic violence, and whether either parent falsely reported child abuse. An Austin divorce lawyer can use evidence of domestic violence or child abuse to rebut the presumption of a joint managing conservatorship being in a child's best interests and make sure that your child is safe.Common Law Marriage
Texas recognizes common law marriages. Under the Texas Family Code, a common law marriage is created when a couple agrees to be married, lives together in Texas as husband and wife, and represents to others that they are married. A common law marriage can raise more issues of proof during a divorce, since it is possible that a partner with greater income and assets will claim that there was no common law marriage. In Texas, all possessions acquired by a couple during the marriage are considered marital community property, which means that the presumption is that they should be divided equally during a divorce.Same Sex Marriage and Divorce
Same sex marriage has been legalized in every state in the country, including Texas. Same sex couples can enter into either common law or formal marriages. Although same sex married couples are entitled to the same rights as other married couples, there can be some unique issues that arise during a same sex marriage or divorce. Specifically, the Texas Department of State Health Services Guidelines do not address whether same sex parents who are not married can get a birth certificate reflecting both of them being parents. When a same sex couple gets a divorce, and only one is a biological parent of the child, the other may encounter difficulties in connection with conservatorship. It can be especially important for same sex couples to think through in advance how they wish to formalize a parent-child relationship so that both same sex parents have equal rights to the child in the event that there is a divorce down the road.Consult an Experienced Divorce Attorney in Austin or Surrounding Areas
If you are concerned about a divorce or another family law matter on the horizon, you should discuss your situation with a skilled and compassionate advocate. The decisions made during family law proceedings can affect you for many years into the future, so it is critical to take the time to find capable legal counsel. From offices in Austin and San Marcos, Daniella Lyttle serves people in Travis, Hays, Comal, Williamson, Bell, Caldwell, Burnett, Llano, and Guadalupe Counties. Contact us at 512.215.5225 or via our online form.
Daniella Lyttle earned a J.D. with honors from The Michigan State University College of Law. She also has a B.A. with honors in Psychology and Gerontology from The University of South Florida. Ms. Lyttle is a member of The College of the State Bar of Texas, an honorary society of lawyers who are among the best trained attorneys in Texas…