Sorting Out Separate and Community Property in a Galveston Divorce Case

By | Divorce

For most Galveston couples seeking a divorce, the main contested issue is division of property. Texas law presumes that any property acquired by either spouse during the marriage (except as a gift) is “community property.” Conversely, any property acquired by either spouse individually prior to marriage is classified as that spouse’s “separate property.”

But what about property that a spouse holds through a separate business entity, such as a corporation or limited liability company. In those situations, the property itself belongs to the entity, and is not considered either community or separate property. However, any subsequent distributions of property or income from the entity to the spouse may still be considered community property.

Wife’s Attempt to Transfer Property from LLC to Herself Backfires

Here is an illustration taken from a recent Texas divorce case. The couple in this case sought a divorce following a brief marriage. Before the marriage, the wife acquired approximately 2 acres of real property, which she used to build and operate (ironically enough) a wedding and planning center. The husband contributed a good deal of his own money to help the wife build-out the property.

In July 2014, about two months before the couple’s marriage, the wife conveyed the land and its improvements to a limited liability company (the LLC). The husband filed for divorce in 2016. After the divorce filing–and after she separately filed for bankruptcy–the wife transferred the property from the LLC to her. She then attempted to claim the property was part of her “homestead” and thus exempt from the bankruptcy proceeding.

Earlier this year, the Texas court overseeing the divorce held the 2-acre property was properly classified as “community property.” The Court of Appeals agreed with the trial judge. As the appeals court explained, in addition to the husband’s “significant loans and contributions toward capital and noncapital improvements” on the property, the wife’s attempt to shift the property in-and-out of the LLC worked to her detriment. Although the land was unquestionably her separate property at the outset–as she purchased it before marriage–once she placed it in the LLC, it ceased to be either separate or community property.

But by transferring the property back from the LLC to herself, that constituted a “distribution” from the limited liability company. And when, as here, such distributions are made during the marriage, it must be considered community property under Texas law. So the trial court was correct to treat the property as part of the couple’s community estate.

Speak with a Galveston Divorce Lawyer Today

There are many cases where spouses think they can cleverly work around Texas community property laws by moving assets around. But the law frequently anticipates such moves. This is why you need to work with an experienced Galveston divorce lawyer who can assist you in doing things the right way. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates if you are thinking about divorce–or have already been served with papers–and would like to speak with a member of our team about what steps to take next. Call us today at (281) 843-9776. 

Divorce, Informal Marriage, and the Legal Status of Same-Sex Couples Under Texas Law

By | Divorce

Texas is one of a minority of states that continues to recognize common-law marriage. The Texas Family Code actually refers to these unions as informal marriages. These are marriages that enjoy legal recognition in Texas despite the fact the couple never obtained a marriage license. Under the Family Code, there are two ways to establish the existence of an informal marriage:

  • The couple signed a written “declaration of their marriage”; or
  • The couple–still defined in the statute as a “man and woman”–agreed to be married and, pursuant to that agreement, lived together and “represented to others that they were married.”

If an informal marriage exists, it still must be dissolved via divorce. This is important because divorce is necessary to resolve certain issues like property division, child custody, and spousal support. Of course, a couple that merely lived together–or even had children together–may not be legally married if they do not otherwise meet the requirements for informal marriage described above.

Texas Courts Remain Unclear on “Retroactive” Application of 2015 Supreme Court Ruling

Texas laws regarding informal marriage and divorce present unique challenges to same-sex couples in the Galveston area who may have been living together prior to the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. In that case, the nation’s highest court held the federal constitution prohibited states from denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The Court further held that “same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry in all States.” In other words, same-sex marriages performed outside of Texas must be recognized by this state. This also means that same-sex couples living in Galveston may file for divorce under Texas law.

But as a recent decision by a Texas appeals court illustrates, the Obergefell decision did not resolve all outstanding legal questions regarding same-sex couples, marriage, and divorce. The Fifth District Court of Appeals in Dallas was asked to grant relief to a man who contesting a divorce proceeding on the grounds he was never legally married to his same-sex partner. Before the trial court, the partner alleged he was in an informal marriage with the petitioner. The petitioner, however, said the relationship ended prior to June 2015–i.e., before the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell–and that decision should not be “applied retroactively with respect to informal marriages.”

The trial court denied the petitioner’s motion to dismiss on these grounds. The Court of Appeals subsequently denied the request for extraordinary relief–known as a writ of mandamus–holding there was no “abuse of discretion” by the trial judge. As the Fifth District noted, “The legal question of whether Obergefell is retroactive has not been determined by the Supreme Court of Texas or by the U.S. Supreme Court.” The trial court therefore did not fail to correctly apply the law, as the law remains unsettled on this point. And in any case, the question of whether or not a couple was informally married is one of fact that must be decided on a case-by-case basis.

Get Advice from a Galveston Divorce Attorney

If you are in the process of ending a same-sex relationship, it is a good idea to consult with a qualified Galveston divorce attorney to learn more about how the law may apply to your situation. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates to speak with a member of our team today. Call (281) 843-9776. 

 

Can I Be Convicted of Domestic Violence Even if the Accuser Recants in Court?

By | Domestic Violence

It is often said that Galveston domestic violence cases are “he said/she said” affairs. But there are many situations where the accuser changes her story. Sometimes the accuser is afraid of publicly confronting their abuser. In other cases, the accuser fabricated the initial allegations to “get back at” the defendant for some reason. But regardless of why or how the accuser changes her story, the question remains: How does this change affect the defendant’s rights at trial?

Appeals Court Upholds Conviction, 1-Year Sentence Despite Change in Accuser’s Testimony

You might think that if an accuser recants her story on the stand–when she is under oath–that would be enough to create “reasonable doubt” in the minds of the jury. But that is not how the criminal justice system works in Galveston and other parts of Texas. Juries may rely on other circumstantial evidence, including the accuser’s original story, and still convict the defendant of criminal charges related to domestic violence.

Here is a recent case on point, Zuniga v. State. This case began with a 911 call. A woman–the accuser–told the operator she had been assaulted by the defendant, who was the father of her children. A police officer dispatched to the scene interviewed the accuser. The officer recorded this interview, in which the accuser again stated the defendant assaulted her, using his body camera.

But testifying at the defendant’s trial, the accuser recanted. Under oath, she admitted she “lied” about the assault. Rather, she was upset the defendant had attempted to end their relationship “for good,” and out of anger she said she injured herself and called the police to get the defendant in trouble.

Despite this testimony, the jury still found the defendant guilty of “assault-bodily injury” with a finding of family violence. The trial court sentenced the defendant to one year in jail and ordered him to pay a $2,000 fine. On appeal, the defendant challenged the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the jury’s decision.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the verdict, however, explaining the jury was entitled to find the accuser’s “spontaneous” statements to law enforcement on the night of the alleged assault was “more credible” than her subsequent testimony at trial. The appeals court noted that “[i]t is not uncommon for victims of domestic violence to recant their accusations.” Ultimately, it was “up to the jury to accept all, some, or none” of the testimony offered and reconcile any conflicts as it saw fit.

Taking Galveston Domestic Violence Charges Seriously

It may seem unfair that a person could be sent to jail on the basis of recanted accuser testimony. But cases like the one above illustrate just how serious any domestic violence accusation is for the accused. If you have been charged with family violence of any kind, you need to act quickly to assert your constitutional and legal rights–starting with contacting an experienced Galveston criminal defense attorney. The Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates helps individuals throughout the Galveston area deal with domestic violence allegations. Call us today at (281) 843-9776 if you need immediate assistance.

Should I File for Fault-Based or No-Fault Divorce?

By | Adultry, Divorce

For Galveston-area couples looking to get a divorce, it is not necessary to assign legal fault to either spouse. Texas law authorizes a judge to grant a divorce on the grounds of “insupportability,” which is just another way of saying no-fault divorce. However, a spouse may still seek divorce based on the other spouse’s fault, which includes grounds such as adultery.

Galveston Court Rejects Wife’s Adultery Allegations, Grants Divorce Based on “Insupportability”

However, a judge can still decide to award a no-fault divorce if the accusing spouse fails to support an adultery claim. This subject actually came up in a recent Galveston divorce case. The parties married in October 2011. They separated four years later. The wife sued the husband for divorce, on both the grounds of insupportability and adultery. In support of the latter, the wife testified that her husband made telephone calls and sent “love notes” and text messages to another woman “with whom [he] claimed to be in love.” The wife introduced evidence in the form of “photos of messages,” but otherwise offered no proof that her husband ever engaged in extramarital sexual relations with this other woman.

The husband denied committing adultery. He specifically testified that he never engaged in a “physical relationship” with the woman identified by the wife. The trial judge ultimately decided to grant the wife a divorce on no-fault grounds.

The wife appealed, arguing she was entitled to a fault-based divorce on the grounds of adultery. The Texas 14th District Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court. It noted the trial judge has the “discretion to choose between insupportability and fault-based reasons when deciding whether, and on which grounds, to grant a divorce.” And in this case, the judge did not abuse that discretion, given that the wife did not actually prove adultery.

Indeed, from a legal standpoint, adultery requires more than “suggestion and innuendo,” the Court of Appeals observed. The wife need not personally witness her husband having sex with another person. But there must still be some “direct or circumstantial evidence” to prove there was sexual intercourse–not simply an exchange of messages professing love. Furthermore, even if the wife had presented such evidence, the trial court could still have chosen to grant divorce solely on “insupportability” grounds.

Our Houston Divorce Lawyers Can Help You

The inherent difficulty of proving adultery–not to mention the emotional toll it can take on the parties and their families–often leads jilted spouses to seek a no-fault divorce instead. That’s not to say there aren’t good reasons to seek a fault-based divorce. If proven, adultery can affect how a Galveston judge divides the couple’s marital property or determines spousal maintenance. And there may be personal or cultural reasons for wanting to prove a spouse’s infidelity–in the case discussed above, the wife alleged she could not obtain a “religious divorce” unless her husband cheated on her.

Whatever your situation, before you head into court you should always consult with a qualified League City divorce attorney who can help you decide whether it is better to seek a fault-based or no-fault divorce. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates at (281) 843-9776 if you need to speak with an attorney right away.

 

Domestic Violence and Family Pets

By | Domestic Violence

Domestic violence in the Galveston area does not just affect partners and children. The family pet may also be a target of family violence. For this reason, Texas law authorizes judges to extend protective orders to pets. A person subject to such an order may, for example, be barred from “harming, threatening, or interfering with the care, custody, or control of a pet, companion animal, or assistance animal.”

Houston Court Upholds 5-Year Prison Sentence for Man Who Cut Girlfriend’s Dog

In addition to the penalties for violating such a protective order, harming a family pet can also lead to criminal charges under the Texas Penal Code. Section 49.092 classifies “cruelty to nonlivestock animals as “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly” killing or causing “serious bodily injury” to any domesticated animal without the owner’s consent. This means that if you get into a fight with your partner and decide to take out your anger on her dog, you may be prosecuted for a felony.

Here is a recent example. In August 2018, the Texas First District Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over Galveston, upheld the state-jail felony sentence of a man who previously pleaded guilty to violation Section 42.092. According to the evidence introduced at the defendant’s sentencing hearing, he “physically abused” his domestic partner for a period of two years. One evening, the defendant stabbed his partner’s dog with a kitchen knife, causing serious bodily injury to the animal.

There was some confusion as to what prompted the defendant’s attack. A pre-sentencing investigation report indicated the defendant had been fighting with his partner, and that “he threatened her with a knife” before turning his ire against the dog. But the partner later filed an affidavit suggesting the dog bit the defendant–outside of her presence–and he stabbed the animal in retaliation.

But as the First District noted, it doesn’t matter which account was true, as the defendant pleaded guilty to the offense. And since he “used and exhibited a deadly weapon” to commit the offense, he was subject to a sentencing enhancement. Ultimately, the trial court sentenced the defendant to 5 years in prison.

In affirming this sentence, the First District rejected the defendant’s argument that the sentencing enhancement was inapplicable since there was “insufficient” evidence he displayed or used the weapon against a human. Under previous decisions by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, a deadly-weapon finding does not apply “under circumstances in which the sole recipient or being against whom a deadly weapon was used or exhibited was a nonhuman.” In this case, however, the First District said the plaintiff already pleaded guilty to the deadly-weapon enhancement, and in any event the evidence suggested he did use the knife to threaten his partner in addition to her dog.

Get Help from a Galveston Domestic Violence Attorney Today

If you are the subject of a protective order, you need to obey all of its terms, including those applicable to animals. And if you are charged with a criminal act arising from alleged abuse to a family pet, you need to contact an experienced Galveston domestic violence defense attorney right away. Call the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today at (281) 843-9776 if you need immediate assistance.

How Do I File for Divorce If My Spouse Lives Outside the U.S.?

By | Divorce

Divorce is not a private matter. It is a type of litigation. This means one spouse must sue the other to obtain a divorce, even if the parties amicably agree to do so.

And as with any lawsuit, the spouse filing for divorce must legally serve the other spouse. This usually is not too difficult to accomplish if both spouses live in the same area. But what about a situation where, say, you live in Galveston and your estranged spouse has moved to a foreign country following your separation? You can still file for divorce here in Galveston, but how do you serve your spouse abroad, particularly if you don’t know his or her exact address?

What Is “Citation by Publication,” and How Does It Apply to Divorce Cases?

The short answer is that you publish a notice in the newspaper. This is known in Texas law as “citation by publication.” Basically, you file an affidavit with the court explaining that you conducted a diligent search to find your spouse and failed. You may need a court order before actually proceeding with citation by publication.

If the other spouse responds to the notice–or you subsequently locate and serve them the divorce lawsuit–then the case proceeds like any other. But if the other spouse fails to respond, Texas civil court rules require the court to “appoint an attorney to defend the suit” on their behalf. This is known as an “attorney ad litem.” The attorney ad litem will then represent your spouse in the divorce case as if they had been hired by them directly.

Note that the appointment of an attorney is mandatory, not optional. A Texas appeals court recently affirmed that point in a case, Jackson v. Jackson involving a scenario like the one hinted at above. Here, a husband and wife married while living in the Asian country of Kyrgyzstan. Shortly after the birth of the couple’s son, the husband relocated to the U.S. and has not seen his wife or child since.

Three years later, the husband filed for divorce in a Texas court. He attempted to serve the lawsuit on his wife at her last-known address in Kyrgyzstan. When he did not receive return of service–an acknowledgment that she received the lawsuit–he filed an affidavit for citation by publication. However, when the wife never responded to the notice, the Texas court granted the husband a default judgment.

The wife appeared in court afterwards and moved for a new trial on the grounds the judge failed to appoint an attorney ad litem as required by the Texas civil rules. The judge denied this motion, but the Court of Appeals reversed, noting the trial court “failed to comply with its mandatory duty to appoint an attorney ad litem.” The wife was therefore entitled to a new trial.

Let Our Houston Divorce Lawyers Help You

Like any legal process, divorce requires you to complete certain tasks in a particular order. An experienced Galveston divorce attorney can make sure you do not make any critical mistakes along the way. If you need help with any divorce-related legal matter, contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates in Galveston and League City today by calling (281) 843-9776.

Military Spending Bill Creates Separate UCMJ Offense for Domestic Violence

By | Domestic Violence

The Galveston area is home to many U.S. military service members and their families. Although the vast majority of those who serve in uniform do so honorably and with distinction, there are unfortunately many cases where a member of the military is accused of a crime. And even when the accuser is a civilian, the serviceman is still subject to court-martial under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).

On August 13, H.R. 5515 was signed into law. This is the annual bill appropriating funds for the U.S. Department of Defense. The signed bill includes a provision amending the UCMJ–effective January 1, 2019–to define domestic violence as a separate offense under military law.

According to the Military Times, the armed forces “have prosecuted such crimes in the past, but under more general justice categories such as assault.” This means that under current law, the military does not “separate domestic abuse crimes separately from other assaults in their record keeping.” So in many cases, civilian authorities are not made aware of a current or former service member’s domestic violence record.

This can have tragic consequences. Last year, a former airman in the U.S. Air Force shot and killed 26 people at a church 30 miles east of San Antonio. A court-martial previously convicted the gunman of domestic violence, but “civilian authorities were not properly notified of the crimes that would have disqualified him from buying firearms,” according to the Military Times.

This incident prompted legislators to introduce the domestic violence amendment as part of H.R. 5515. The amendment adds a new section to the UCMJ that defines a separate category of assault offenses to cover any person who “commits a violent offense against a spouse, an intimate partner, or an immediate family member of that person.” The amendment also clearly prohibits violating an existing domestic violence protection order issued by civilian authorities, or taking any action designed to “threaten or intimidate” a protected individual, including harming their property or pets.

H.R. 5515 also expands efforts to help victims of military domestic violence. For example, the law directs the Secretary of Defense to “establish a standardized expedited transfer process” for any service member who is the “alleged victim of sexual assault” or “physical domestic violence committed by the spouse or an intimate partner of the member.” This includes situations where the abusive spouse or partner is not a member of the military themselves.

Get Help from a Galveston Domestic Violence Defense Attorney Today

Whether it takes place in a civilian or military court, a domestic violence conviction can have serious consequences for your freedom and civil liberties. This is why you need to be proactive when defending yourself against all such allegations. If you need assistance from an experienced Galveston domestic violence lawyer, contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates to schedule a consultation with a member of our team today at (281) 843-9776.

Texas Appeals Courts Tackle Excessive Domestic Violence Sentences

By | Domestic Violence

In the zeal to prosecute individuals accused of domestic violence in the Galveston area, prosecutors and judges often run roughshod over the constitutional rights of defendants. Everyone agrees that domestic violence is a serious offense and should be punished. But any such punishment must be in accordance with the law.

Double Jeopardy

Here are two recent Texas domestic violence cases where state appellate courts identified key errors in the defendants’ respective sentencing. In the first case, Isreal v. State, the trial court violated the defendant’s constitutional protection against “double jeopardy.” More precisely, the judge allowed the jury to find the defendant guilty of three separate offenses arising from the same alleged act of domestic violence, something the Court of Appeals found unacceptable.

Prosecutors charged the defendant with attacking his on-again, off-again girlfriend following an argument. The defendant essentially confessed his guilt to the police during interrogation. At trial, the judge instructed the jury as to the following three categories of domestic violence punishable under Section 22.02 of the Texas Penal Code:

  1. aggravated family violence assault causing serious bodily injury with a deadly weapon;
  2. aggravated family violence assault with a deadly weapon; and
  3. aggravated family violence assault causing serious bodily injury.

The jury found the defendant guilty on all three counts. The Court of Appeals ruled this was a mistake, however, since the second and third charges were “lesser-included offenses” of the first charge. In other words, the defendant did not commit three separate acts of domestic violence–he committed one act against one person. It was possible for the jury to find the defendant not guilty of the first charge but guilty of the second or third counts, but not all three simultaneously.

Felony vs. Misdemeanor

The second domestic violence case, Holoman v. State, involves a slightly different situation. Here, the state accused the defendant of choking “a member of his household.” Normally, a person commits a Class A misdemeanor when they “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly cause[] bodily injury to another.” But the offense is elevated to a Class C felony if the victim is a member of the defendant’s household and the offense involves choking or the defendant has a prior domestic violence conviction.

In this case, the jury acquitted the defendant of the felony charge and convicted him on the lesser-included misdemeanor. The trial judge, however, decided to sentence him for the felony charge. This makes a big difference: a misdemeanor only carries a maximum sentence of 1 year in jail, but the judge ordered the defendant imprisoned for 25 years.

The Court of Appeals said this was improper. The jury clearly acquitted the defendant with respect to the allegation he choked his accuser. And there was no evidence introduced at trial regarding any prior domestic violence conviction. Therefore, there was no grounds to sentence the defendant for the felony.

Have You Been Charged with Domestic Violence?

As you can see, trial courts often make critical errors when handling domestic violence cases. This is why it is important to work with a qualified Galveston domestic violence and assault attorney whenever you are facing criminal charges. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today at (281) 843-9776 if you need legal advice or assistance.

What Happens if a Judge Makes a Mistake in My Divorce Case?

By | Divorce

Nobody is perfect. This applies to judges as much as anyone else. Sometimes judges issue a factually incorrect judgment. For example, say you and your spouse are getting a divorce. You manage to reach a settlement regarding the division of your property and present it to a judge for approval. The judge then approves the divorce, but the terms contained in the final decree do not match the terms of your settlement. Can you ask the judge–or even an appeals court–to correct that mistake?

Wife Waited Too Long to Assert Her Rights Under Settlement

The short answer to this question is “yes,” but you need to act quickly. Under Texas court rules, a trial court has the power to “modify, correct, or reform” its own judgment within 30 days after signing said judgment. Once this 30-day period expires, however, the court loses jurisdiction over the divorce–and it cannot be restored, even if both parties agree there was a problem. Furthermore, the 30-day rule applies even in cases where it was clearly the judge, not the parties themselves, that made the original mistake.

A recent Galveston divorce case illustrates how this rule works in practice. In this case, a wife sued a husband for divorce. They reached a mediated settlement agreement (MSA) regarding the division of their property. Among other terms, the MSA said the husband would pay the wife $750 per month for 12 months, as well as give her $201,000 from his 401(k) retirement account.

A few weeks later, the wife presented the MSA to the divorce court for approval. The husband chose not to participate in the hearing. The judge ultimately granted the divorce–but in the final decree, she did not include the 401(k) distribution to the wife, and she only required the husband to make a single $750 payment to the wife. Furthermore, the decree clearly stated that it overruled the MSA in the event of a conflict.

The court entered the decree on November 23, 2015. The following April, the wife sought to modify the judgment to correctly reflect the terms of the MSA. The judge granted this motion and modified the judgment with respect to the cash payments and the 401(k). The husband objected to this, noting that the court “lost jurisdiction” once 30 days elapsed following the entry of the final decree.

The Texas 14th District Court of Appeals agreed with the husband. It held the trial court’s modified order was void as a matter of law. While trial courts have the authority to “correct a clerical error in the record of a judgment” at any time, that does not apply to situations, like this one, where the judge “renders judgment incorrectly” and the final order “precisely reflects the incorrect rendition.” In other words, once the judge signed a decree that she incorrectly believe reflected the MSA, it was up to the wife to challenge that mistake within 30 days. Since she waited past that point, she was now out of luck.

Let a Galveston Divorce Attorney Help You

The potential for critical legal mistakes like the one in the case above emphasizes the importance of working with an experienced Galveston divorce lawyer. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today if you live in the Galveston area and need legal assistance with any divorce-related matter or call (281) 843-9776.

When Can a Texas Court Modify a Child Custody Order?

By | Divorce

When it comes to child custody disputes in Galveston, divorce is not always the last word on the matter. Texas courts have the authority to modify orders regarding “conservatorship or possession and access” with respect to a minor at any time post-divorce for good cause. Specifically, the parent proposing the modification must demonstrate there has been a “material change” in circumstances since the divorce and modifying the parent-child relationship now “would be in the best interest of the child.”

There is no fixed guidelines regarding what constitutes a “material change.” It may include the remarriage of a parent, the “poisoning of a child’s mind” by one parent against the other, a change in the child’s living situation, or a change in the parent’s ability to properly care for the child. In addition, if the parent with primary custody–the “managing conservator” in legal terms–attempts to unduly restrict the other parent’s access in accordance with the original divorce decree, that may also constitute a material change in circumstances.

Court Shifts Custody to Father Due to Mother’s Post-Divorce Actions

Here is a practical illustration of how Texas courts apply these general principles. This is taken from a recent Texas appeals court decision where a father successfully sought a modification of a divorce decree. Previously, the court granted the mother the “exclusive right” to determine the primary residence of the couple’s child. But a year later, the court found there was a material change in circumstances that justified transferring that exclusive right to the father.

Here is what happened. At the time of the divorce, the mother and child lived in the formal marital home. The wife’s job required her to work during the day, so the child was placed in daycare. The father was also granted a “few hours in the evening” with the child each night.

Several months later, the mother’s job moved her to an evening shift. The child still spent the days in daycare, but now the child stayed with the father on those nights the mother worked. This arrangement changed yet again when the mother sold her house to the father and moved in with her own mother, the child’s maternal grandmother. When the mother subsequently returned to the day shift at her job, the grandmother babysat the child during the day.

The father objected to the grandmother’s role caring for his child. Before the court, the father introduced evidence of the grandmother’s “history of drug abuse” and her use of profanity in the child’s presence. The father also objected to the mother imposing additional restrictions on his access to the child after she moved in with her mother. For example, the mother refused the father access during court-ordered visitation hours if he was “between 1 to 17 minutes late.”

The trial court found this evidence sufficient to modify child custody in favor of the father. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial judge, noting there had been several material changes in the child’s circumstances, including moving in with the grandmother despite her drug history, the sale of the house, and the mother’s interference “with father’s right to spend time and bond” with the child.

Get Help from a Galveston Divorce Attorney Today

Just because one parent is designated as a child’s managing conservator in a divorce, that does not give said parent license to do whatever they wish. Any material change in the parent or child’s situation may justify a court revisiting and modifying the original custody order. If you are a parent on either side of such a dispute and need assistance from a qualified Galveston divorce lawyer, contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates or call (281) 843-9776 today.