Wednesday, December 21, 2011

How is an Annulment different from Divorce in Texas?

A divorce legally terminates a marriage. While you are no longer married, the marriage was legally valid at the time.
An annulment dissolves a voidable marriage by declaration that it was legally invalid. From a legal perspective, after an annulment, it is as if the marriage never existed.
There is also a difference between a “voidable” marriage and “void” marriage. A voidable marriage is valid and recognized until it is annulled and declared legally invalid. On the other hand, a void marriage was never valid or recognized. For example, a marriage is voidable and can be annulled if one of the parties was under the influence of alcohol or narcotics at the time of the marriage. However, this marriage will be valid unless an annulment is sought. A marriage is void if, for example, one of the parties is currently married to a third party at the time of the marriage. This marriage is invalid and will not be legally recognized.
Texas law allows an annulment only in very specific circumstances and only if the party seeking the annulment can prove certain necessary facts.
Because seeking an annulment is asking the court to declare that the marriage was void and never existed, seeking an annulment rather than a divorce can affect the processes people typically associate with a divorce such as the division of property, and all potentially affected aspects should be carefully considered.
The articles following later this month will discuss the specific grounds for an annulment in Texas.
References: Texas Family Code 6.101 – 6.206

Article by Sarah F. Berry, Attorney

Friday, December 2, 2011

Can I Seek Custody of Someone Else’s Children?

Blended or complex households may involve raising step-children or even the children of friends and other non-relatives, often for a variety of practical economic and social reasons. But typically a non-relative does not have the legal right (called “standing”) to seek a court order for custody or to be appointed as that child’s conservator.

However, the Texas Legislature has recognized that, under certain circumstances, a non-relative can have enough involvement in a child’s life to be entitled to seek rights typically reserved for that child’s parents or other relatives.

Specifically, a person who has “actual care, control and possession” of a child for at least six months can file a petition to seek to be appointed as that child’s conservator, even when the child is not related by blood or marriage. The petition must be filed within 90 days of the child leaving the applicant’s actual care, control and possession. In this situation, “actual control” means that the applicant had power or authority to guide and manage the child.

So, for example, if the child of a friend has lived with you during the past year while attending school with your own children, and that friend is unable to return to care for the child (due to death, illness, financial misfortune, or other circumstances), you would have standing to file a petition asking the court to appoint you as the child’s managing conservator. Often, this arrangement can be temporary and does not involve terminating the rights of the child’s actual parents, but provides you with legal rights and authority (as described in the court’s order) related to the child’s care, possession and upbringing.

Article by Cindy Veidt.