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If there is such an emphasis on finding alternatives to litigation in divorce and child custody cases, then why are the courtrooms of Dallas and Fort Worth family courts filled with litigants waiting for their case to go to trial?
After pondering this question, I have come up with my short list of “deal killers” in divorce and custody litigation. By deal killers, I mean those factors that, if present, are a major impediment to an agreed resolution to the case.
- Domestic violence. If there is a documented history of family violence, joint conservatorship between parents is just about impossible. The Texas Family Code mandates that where family violence has occurred, certain restrictions be placed on parental access to children. This may be the case even if the abusive conduct was not directed towards a child. It is not uncommon to see a Fort Worth family law judge order supervised visitation for a parent shown to have committed family violence.
- Substance abuse. By the same token, if drug abuse is shown to have occurred, parental access to a child will be limited. A foolish hit on a joint during a weekend without the children can have disastrous results for parents in divorce or custody suits. Clients should know that in Dallas and Ft. Worth, drug testing facilities are within walking distance of the courthouse and if there is so much as a suggestion of drug abuse, family court judges are known to order an “on the spot” drug test. To conclude on the subject, did you know that most CPS workers carry an oral drug swab kit in their purse?
- Financial inequality. Divorce puts a financial strain on both spouses, but if a low earning spouse is left without funds adequate to meet his or her most basic needs, a courtroom battle is imminent. We often see this happen when a stay at home parent is abandoned by an angry ex without money for necessities such as food, gas, and medical expenses. This is why both family law courts in Dallas and Ft. Worth require divorcing couples to each submit a monthly financial statement prior to their hearing. Comparison of the financial statements gives the court an opportunity to “equalize” income and expenses if only for a limited period of time. A non-working spouse can expect to receive temporary spousal support for a number of months until he or she can attempt to enter the workforce.
- Over-valuation of one’s own opinions. This is perhaps the best indicator of whether a case is headed to trial. Parties who are excessively rigid in their beliefs and opinions rarely do well in negotiations. These people are fixated on their opinion being “right” and their spouse’s opinion being “wrong” and cannot see the merit of an alternative view.