What is the Role of a Trial Attorney?

Symbol of law and justice in the empty courtroom, law and justice concept.

Many people in Texas deal with family law issues. This could involve estate matters or disputes of inheritance, divorce and child custody and a variety of other issues. These legal matters are very important to family members and the outcome of these cases often impacts those involved for the rest of their lives. To this end, it is vitally important that you get the best representation possible for your case. While there are many family law firms available to choose from in Dallas, there is one important and distinguishing factor that may set them apart: their experience with handling trials.

Many of our clients may assume every lawyer understands how to handle a trial, appear before a judge and jury, and argue a case in court. They may be surprised to learn that this is often not the case. In fact, many attorneys, even those with years of experience, may have never actually taken a case to trial or appeared in court to represent their clients. This is likely due to the fact that most civil lawyers, such as those who practice family law, often don’t have to take their cases to trial. Roughly 90 percent of all family law cases are settled out of court. This may be done through a settlement offer that avoids trial or through a less intensive resolution process such as mediation.

Most attorneys encourage making a settlement or going through mediation. There are many reasons for this that do benefit clients. A trial can become very expensive, so avoiding one often saves the client a great deal of money in legal expenses. Trials often prolong a case and may take months or even years to resolve fully. From a family law perspective, a trial is often seen as the most negative outcome, showing that spouses or family members involved cannot come to terms and must have their disputes decided for them.

That said, having a trial lawyer on your side is vitally important. A lawyer and the client may do everything possible to avoid going to trial, but the attorney must always be prepared to go to trial. They must be prepared to argue their case before a judge or jury and represent the client to the best of their ability in court. Since many lawyers have little experience doing this, those who do have the experience and expertise are far more likely to be successful in the courtroom.

The need for a skilled trial lawyer is one of the many reasons to hire an attorney from an experienced firm that does not shy away from the courtroom. Sometimes a trial is simply the best way to resolve a case in the client’s favor. A Dallas Family Lawyer like Robert Thornton has experience as a trial lawyer and will not hesitate to bring your case to the courtroom if that is the best option for you. They will represent you at every step of the process. This means examining your case in its entirety, possibly suggesting means to reach a settlement or mediation and representing you throughout each step. If you have a family law matter to resolve, contact Thornton Law today.

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What happens if my spouse and I can’t agree on Custody of our Children?

Sad little boy hearing his parents arguing in a kitchen about child custody matters

We know you want what’s best for your children, and we can help you achieve an outcome in your favor. Child custody matters are serious and can prove to be complicated and confusing. On top of that, spouses often disagree on custody issues. Drawn-out custody battles can cause unnecessary emotional distress for children. Hiring an attorney like Robert Thornton, who is experienced in family law, can make all the difference in bringing about the best possible outcome for you and your children.

Types of Custody in Texas

In Texas, there are two types of custody: joint and sole custody. Joint custody means that both parents will have equal rights to the child and will share equal responsibility, even if the child or children live primarily with one parent while the other parent has visitation. Custody rights include accessing the child’s records (medical, dental, psychological, educational), being able to consent to any needed treatments, and communicating with the child’s school. The courts often lean heavily toward joint custody in order to preserve family relationships.

There are different types of joint custody in Texas. Joint legal custody means the child or children live primarily with one parent while the other has visitation. Both parents share the decision-making rights. Another type is shared custody. This is when the children live with each parent for at least 35% of the time. Finally, split custody is less common. This occurs when the children are separated, and each parent has full custody of at least one of the children.

Sole custody occurs when only one parent is given the rights and responsibility to the children. This only occurs when one parent is considered unfit for one of many reasons such as drug/alcohol abuse, a history of criminal activity, domestic violence issues, or being absent from the child’s life. Navigating sole custody is especially challenging and is best attempted with the help of an experienced attorney.

What to Do

Obviously, there are several options available for custody. In the end, a judge will make the final decision on what is in the best interest of the children. The court will look for the best home available for the children, each parents’ ability to care for them, the parents’ financial abilities, and many other issues when making a ruling. This is why it’s a good idea to find the right representation for your case in and out of the courtroom. It’s important to get legal help especially when your spouse disagrees with your plan of action. At Thornton Law, we can help you navigate the legal process, prepare you for court, and prepare and file complicated paperwork for the court.

If you’re looking for the best possible outcome for you and your children, we can help. Contact us at Thornton Law; we’re here to help you understand the process and your rights.

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Does Paternity Establishment affect Visitation and Custody?

Dad walking with his daughter in a park - Child Visitation Schedules

Establishing paternity is the first step to getting child custody or visitation rights in Texas. It also carries other rights and responsibilities with it such as requiring the father to provide support for the child and allowing the child to inherit from the father in the event of the father’s death.

It is not necessary to establish paternity if the parents are married at the time of the child’s birth. In that case, it is automatically assumed that the husband is the father’s child, and his name is included on the birth certificate. Paternity can also be voluntarily established at the time of the child’s birth or shortly after. The father simply needs to sign a form called an acknowledgment of paternity.

It is also possible to establish voluntary paternity after the time for signing the acknowledgment of paternity has passed. A Dallas family lawyer may be able to assist parents at this time in obtaining the paternity order. The parents must agree about custody, visitation and health care. The attorney may also be able to assist the parents if the mother’s husband was not the child’s father but the husband was listed on the birth certificate.

Paternity may also be established even if the father is unwilling to acknowledge the child. A mother can get a court order that compels the father to submit to DNA testing. A father can also get assistance from an attorney in establishing paternity if he believes he is the father of a child but the mother is denying him access.

Having a relationship with the father can be critical to a child’s well-being and development. It can also be important for a mother who can draw on the financial help the father is required to provide. For fathers, the process of struggling to get custody or visitation rights to a child when the mother is trying to block access can be heartbreaking. In all of these situations, a Dallas family lawyer such as Robert Thornton may be able to help.

Robert Thornton blends a no-nonsense approach to family law with compassion and works to get the best possible outcome for parents and children. Thornton Law is dedicated to helping parents and children even when the traditional ties of marriage have been dissolved or do not exist, and the firm has a record of positive outcomes in family law cases.

Establishing paternity can mean that the parents share custody of the child, or the child may have a visitation schedule that includes some weekends and weekdays with one parent while living primarily with the other parent.

The office of the Texas Attorney General has more information on establishing paternity. If you are in Dallas, Texas, contact Thornton Law to discuss your case and the ways in which the firm may be able to assist you in establishing paternity and helping you get the best result for your child and your family.

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How long does it take to finalize a Divorce in Texas?

A couple arguing at the end of their relationship

A divorce is the legal end of a marriage which allows both spouses to remarry without committing bigamy. Bigamy is the act of marrying more than one person at the same time. How long it takes to finalize a divorce in Dallas, Texas depends on how cooperative the spouses are in ending their marriage and other factors.

Texas Family Law Requires a 60-Day Waiting Period after the Divorce Petition is Filed

According to Texas family law, it requires every couple filing for divorce to wait 60 days from the day the petition was filed in court. The fastest a divorce can be finalized in Dallas is 61 days. This means the couple waited through the 60-day waiting period and no marriage-related issues slowed the divorce proceedings. It can take longer depending on the court docket. Thus, if a lot of couples are getting divorced at the same time, it may take longer for a family court judge to finalize the divorce. However, it will take a shorter time than if the marriage is contested.

A Spouse can obtain a Divorce even if the other Spouse Contests the Divorce

According to FindLaw, an uncontested divorce is a divorce proceeding where spouses agree to legally end the marriage and on marriage-related issues. These issues arose during the marriage and include child custody, the division of property and spousal support. When a couple cannot agree on these issues such as who keeps the house, their divorce drags on for a longer time. Other factors come into play such as the court’s schedule and the complexity of contested issues. The latter often involves high assets divorce.

One of the most important factors that determine how long a divorce takes to finalize is the conduct of the spouses. A divorce process is an emotional time in a person’s life. It doesn’t matter if the spouse wanted the divorce or not. It takes a lot of time and emotional energy to resolve marital issues. Sometimes, one or both spouses will fight over an issue such as child custody. This takes more time to finalize a divorce. It can take several months or years to finalize a divorce when both parties don’t agree.

This instance, it’s helpful to have a Dallas divorce lawyer to help a spouse resolve issues quickly. For example, if the spouse is intent on punishing their spouse, their lawyer can get them to focus on ending the marriage instead. If it is the other spouse who refuses to work on resolving an issue, the lawyer will work to negotiate a fair settlement.

Understanding the Divorce Process in Dallas

A Dallas divorce lawyer like Robert Thornton has represented many individuals in their divorces. In fact, Thornton Law has helped numerous spouses resolve their marital issues and achieve favorable outcomes for them. No one ever gets married to get divorced. Divorce happens, Thornton Law helps clients understand Dallas divorce laws, how the laws affect the outcome and what their options are to quickly finalize their divorce. Contact Bob today to schedule a case evaluation.

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What is Community Property?

Community Property in Dallas

Texas is one of nine states considered a community property state. This means that in a divorce, most property acquired during the marriage is considered the property of both spouses and must be divided “equitably” under Texas law. Understanding the difference between community and separate property is important to understand how assets and even debts will be divided in a divorce.

What Is Considered Community Property?

As a general rule, property acquired during the marriage is considered as belonging to both spouses equally. Community property may include the family home, the mortgage interest income earned by investments, furniture, and wages earned during the marriage by either spouse. A pension, 401k, or employee benefit plan that accumulates during the marriage is also considered community property.

Separate property is considered any property or debt that was owned prior to the marriage or after the date of separation. Gifts and inheritances received during the marriage are also considered separate property if held separately.

Some property may begin as separate property and become community property during the marriage. For example, some equity in the family home may be separate property if the down payment was provided by one spouse’s separate property prior to marriage but it may become community property as time goes by and assets are mixed. This is also true of an inheritance. While an inheritance is considered separate property, even if it’s received during the marriage, it can become community property if the inheritance is mixed with marital funds and no separation is maintained.

The definition of community property can be changed with a prenuptial agreement or a postnup. By signing a written agreement, some or all community property in a marriage can be made separate property or vice versa.

How Is Community Property Divided?

Texas courts have a goal of dividing community property equitably, which is not necessarily 50/50. A judge may consider each spouse’s earning capacity, which has primary custody of any children, whether there are fault grounds for divorce, the health and age of each spouse, and more. For example, the spouse who is the primary custodian of the children may be awarded the family home in the divorce but the judge may award a larger share of other marital assets to the other spouse to make the arrangement more equitable.

Division of community assets can be quite complicated and contentious. When it comes to a pension or retirement account, for example, each spouse may own a portion of the benefit but these accounts do not need to be divided 50/50 between spouses. If each spouse has their own pension or retirement account, the court may simply award each spouse their own account if they have a similar balance or award other community property to make up for the difference between the two. If the divorce involves a closely held business or even a professional practice, it may be considered community property. Of course, a business can’t be divided like other assets so an appraiser or CPA may be hired to determine the value of the business.

The division of assets is often one of the most contentious and stressful aspects of a divorce. How assets and property are divided can also have a long-term financial impact, depending on the court’s decision. If you are planning to file for divorce, a family law attorney can help you explore your options and protect your best interests. Robert Thornton at Thornton Law has helped many families in Dallas, Texas resolve complicated issues while seeking a favorable outcome. Contact Robert Thornton today to schedule a consultation to discuss your case.

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