Dallas Texas Lawyers > Dallas Family Law Lawyers

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Dallas Family Law Process

Divorce and disputes concerning children children can be traumatic. To help you through this troubled time, you need an experienced family law attorney or divorce lawyer. The first step is to find a lawyer. You should look at the family lawyer's or divorce lawyer's qualifications, credentials, past record, compatibility of yourself and the attorney, and the fees the lawyer charges. If you meet certain financial criteria, you may receive free legal services from Legal Services of North Texas (214-748-1234). Other Dallas Family Court telephone numbers (click here)

Divorce in Family Court

Family law attorney files paperwork with District Clerk.

District Clerk collects filing fees and issues certified copies of court pleadings

Associate Judge hears evidence and makes recommendations to the District Judge during the first hearing, also known as the temporary hearing. The recommendations of the Associate Judge are enforceable as orders of the court. The Associate Judge can decide on many matters, including living arragements for your children, schedule of parental contact with the children, child support, spousal support and use and posession of assets. The Associate Judge may also recommend services(for more info on services provided, click here) to help resolve the conflict.

Family District Judge presides over the final hearing. If the two parties or their lawyers have worked out an agreement, the attorneys will submit the proper papers, and the final hearing will be an uncontested hearing, where the Family District Judge signs the prepared Decree of Divorce, and the divorce is official. The signed orders will specify the final arrangements for your children, including access for the parents, support, property settlement and any other special needs for your case. Each party is given a copy of the Decree of Divorce.

If there is no agreement between the two parties, the final hearing will be a contested court hearing in front of the Family District Judge, and possibly in front of a jury. Because of busy court schedules, delays of six months and longer are not uncommon for contested cases.

When the final Decree of Divorce is signed, each party receives a copy from their lawyer. the Decree of Divorce serves as the guideline for possession and access of children, the parental rights and duties, child support and property distribution. Only the Court can modify or enforce these orders.

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Dallas Family Court Decides On:

Paternity suit

In a paternity suit, also known as a parentage suit, the Court determines a childs biological parent and determines the child's legal relationship with that parent. The court also decides on custody, visitation, child support and reimbursement for pre- and post-natal expences, and support dating back to child's birth. A paternity lawsuit can be instigated by birth mother, the alleged father, the child or a government agency. If parties involved in a paternity suit cannot agree on the parentage of the child, the court will order DNA testing to determine biological parentage.

Guardian Ad Litem - Termination of parental rights

The Court appoints an Attorney or Guardian Ad Litem for a child when a suit is filed by a government agency requesting termination of the parent-child relationship or to be named managing conservator of the child. The Court must appoint an Attorney Ad Litem for indigent parents when a suit seeks termination of their parental rights.

Child Custody

One of the most important functions of the Dallas Family court System is determination of child custody. Custody can be determined by the judge, or if either party requests, by a jury. The family court's main decisions relate to which adult will have child custody, periods of possession each party will have with the children, and what amount of child support will be paid.The Court may award one parent sole custody, or may give joint custody to both parents. The presumption is that joint custody by both parents is in the best interest of the child.

Child Support

The Court decides on child support paid by one parent to the other parent, and this child support will continue until a child is 18 years old or graduates from high school. There are general guidelines (click here for guidelines) the Court follows in determining the amount of child support. The court may also consider the financial resources available to each parent and the needs of the child or children. In Texaws, a parent is not permitted to withhold possession of children because the other parent has not paid child support, also, a parent is not allowed to withhold child support because he/she has been prohibited from seeing the child.

Child support - Dallas County Child Support Office

Parents usually pay child support through the Dallas County Child Support Office, which records the date and amount of each payment and forwards the support to the child's custodian.

Child support - Guardian Ad Litem

Under the Guardian Ad Litem system of child support payments used by some courts, the Guardian Ad Litem fulfills a similar role as the Dallas County Child Support Office. Additiionally, if a payment is missed, the Guardian Ad Litem automatically begins collection proceedings against the person who failed to make the payment.

Child support - Garnishment

The Court may order child support payments be witheld from the wages of the individual ordered to pay child support. The payments are automatically deducted from an individuals paycheck and sent by an employer to the proper agency. The employer may also deduct an additional five dollars for administrative costs.

Alimony

In very limited circumstances, Texas has court ordered alimony, or periodic support payments from one spouse to another, referred to as maintenance. Parties may also agree to alimony called contractual alimony.

In the absence of disability, maintenance is limited to three years. Within certain guidelines, the amount of alimony is discretiionary with the court, and is based on the amount needed to provide for the minimum reasonable needs of the recipient.

Modification

A court order can be modified by the Court. A modification consists of a change of one or both parents' rights and or duties from what was originally ordered by the Court.

DALLAS FAMILY LAW COURT NUMBERS AND INFORMATION

District Clerk's Office (214) 653-7786

Family Court Services (214) 653-7674

Dispute Mediation Service of Dallas (214) 754-0022

Child Welfare -Texas Department of Protective & Regulatory Services (214) 951-7902

Dallas County Child Support Office (214) 653-7167

Texas Attorney General's Office (214) 742-8944

Dallas Family Law Court Support Services

Dallas Family Court Services include mediation, social study and visitation counseling.

Mediation

Mediation is a dispute resolution service allowing parents to discuss issues in a neutral setting in order to develop a mutually acceptable plan for their children's living arragnements.

Persons ordered to mediate with Family Court Services go through an orientation process, then begin mediation sessions. Sessions will be scheduled at the times agreed upon by the involved parties. Mediation at Family Court Services is a free service.

Social Study

The social study provided by Family Court Services is a process of gathering and assessing information through interviews with adults and children and written or personal contact with community resources. A repaor is filed with the court about 60-90 days after orientation. There is a nominal fee for the social study.

Visitation Counseling

In order to make sure the court ordered visitation schedule goes smoothly, Family Court Services offers visitation counseling. This counseling helps the parents learn to better communicate with one another so the visitation is a positive experience for the child.

Child Support Guidelines

The State of Texas has established guidelines for persons paying child support. The guidelines are based on a percentage of the person's first $6000 monthly net resources.

One child requires 20%, two children 25%, three children 30%, four children 35%, five or more children requires no less than the amount for four children.

If the person paying child support has a child or children from another relationship, the percentage may be decreased.

The person paying child support is responsible for paying health insurance premiums for the children. Uninsured or unreimbursed health care expenses are usually allocated between the parents.

Directory of Family Courts

George C. Allen, Sr. Courts Building
600 Commerce
Dallas, Texas 75202-4606

COURT JUDGE ASSOCIATE JUDGE COURT PHONE FLOOR
254TH Jeff Coen Mary Brown 214-653-6136 5th
255TH Craig Fowler John Elder 214-653-6159 5th
256TH Brenda Green Lewis Nicholson 214-653-6449 6th
301ST Susan Rankin Beth Maultsby 214-653-7385 5th
302ND Frances Harris Christine Collie 214-653-7375 5th
303RD Richard Johnson Richard Beauchamp 214-653-7611 5th
330TH Marilea Lewis   214-653-7207 5th

Support Services Offices

Child Support Office
Dallas County Government Center
600 Commerce Street, First Floor
Dallas, Texas 75202-4606
214-653-7167

District Clerk - Family Division
Dallas County Government Center
600 Commerce Street, First Floor
Dallas, Texas 75202-4606
214-653-7786

Family Court Services
Dallas County Government Center
600 Commerce Street, Seventh Floor
Dallas, Texas 75202-4606
214-653-7674

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