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Ask a Family Law Attorney: 9 Family Law Terms You Should Know

Family law attorneys in Houston are generally very much willing to explain terms to you as you go through your divorce and custody case. However, there are certain terms it would be best to know going in so you can understand what’s going on quickly and easily. Below, you’ll find a quick glossary of some of the most important terms you’ll come across in your divorce and, if applicable, custody case.

Ask Family Law Attorneys in Houston: What’s Most Important to Know?

Certain things are important to know when you’re heading into a divorce. For example, check out this site for some of the common questions you should ask a family law attorney when hiring one.

In general, the most important things to know regard asset division, support payments, and child custody, as these will be some of the biggest things you’ll face when deciding the terms of the divorce. The terms for these things can be confusing, but they should be easy enough to understand once you know what they mean in a Texas divorce case.

9 Family Law Terms You Should Know

1. Community Property and Separate Property

Throughout your marriage, you likely have accumulated property with your spouse. Community property refers to this property that is equally owned by you and the person that you’re divorcing.

Meanwhile, separate property is any property that you owned individually before the marriage, property gifted to or inherited by one party during the marriage, or property recovered in a personal injury case (excluding lost earning capacity).

2. Spousal Maintenance

You may have heard the term alimony or spousal support before. In Texas, Spousal Maintenance refers to what in other states is commonly called alimony or spousal support. It’s a payment that one spouse must pay to the other spouse to supplement their income after the divorce. It’s to come from the ongoing income of one spouse and go to the other. The payments are supposed to help the payment-receiving spouse meet their basic needs.

3. Annulment

Not every couple that wishes to separate needs a divorce. Your attorney may help you obtain an annulment instead, if applicable. An annulment is essentially the cancellation of a marriage, declaring it void, as if it never happened in the first place.

4. Qualified Domestic Relations Order

A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) allows a spouse to access the other spouse’s employment plan benefits, such as a pension plan. How this may impact your divorce will vary depending on your situation, and your attorney will discuss it with you if it comes up.

5. Appeal

You may appeal any decision made in the divorce. This means that, after the judge makes a decision, you may appeal it to try and have that decision changed. The decision will not always be changed when you appeal.

6. Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship

A Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR) is an umbrella term used in custody cases. Termination of parental rights, child support, adoption, determining custody, and many other factors may be brought up in SAPCR proceedings.

7. Child Support

One parent may have to pay child support payments to the other parent. In the event of a divorce, the court wishes the child to maintain their quality of life from before the divorce. If child support payments are needed to make this happen, then one parent may be ordered to pay these payments to the other.

8. Sole Managing Conservator

There are several types of custody in a divorce. Sole custody generally describes one parent having sole physical and managing custody of the child. Joint custody may describe both parents having physical and managing custody of the child. However, sometimes both parents may have physical access to the child, but only one is the sole managing conservator.

The sole managing conservator is the parent who gets to make all the important decisions regarding their child. For example, this parent may get to decide where the child goes to school, what doctor they’re registered with, whether or not they can move out of state, and so on. The sole managing conservator is often the parent the child primarily resides with, too.

9. Emancipation

Emancipation describes the point a child comes into adulthood. In Texas, a child becomes an adult at age 18. Custody decisions only apply to the child until the age of emancipation. Once the child is an adult, they can make their own decisions regarding who they live with (if they wish to remain living with a parent) and how often they visit their other parent.

Numerous other terms will come up during your divorce proceedings. Many of these will refer to court proceedings and stages of the divorce case. Your attorney can explain any other confusing terms to you as they arise. However, knowing the terms above will likely be very helpful as you prepare to discuss some of the biggest issues in your divorce case.

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