Quick Glossary of Family Law Terms


An award in a suit for dissolution of a marriage of periodic payments from the future income of one spouse for the support of the other spouse. (Texas Family Code § 8.001). Also referred to as “Spousal Maintenance”.


An attorney appointed by the court in a suit, other than a suit filed by a governmental entity, whose role is to provide legal services necessary to assist the court in protecting a child’s best interests rather than to provide legal services to the child. Texas Family Code § 107.


A court may grant an annulment of a marriage to a party to the marriage if the other party used fraud, duress, or force to induce the petitioner to enter into the marriage; and the petitioner has not voluntarily cohabited with the other party since learning of the fraud or since being released from the duress or force. Texas Family Code § 6.107.


A written agreed parenting plan containing provisions for conservatorship and possession of the child and for modification of the parenting plan, including variations from the standard possession order.


The best interest of the child shall always be the primary consideration of the court in determining the issues of conservatorship and possession of and access to the child.


Community property consists of the property, other than separate property, acquired by either spouse during marriage. Courts presume property is community.


The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. CPS investigates and prosecutes cases of abuse, neglect, and exploitation of children, adults with disabilities, or people who are elderly (65 years or older).


(See Family Violence) The “Dating Relationship” means a relationship between individuals who have or have had a continuing relationship of a romantic or intimate nature.


“Disposable earnings” (§ 101.010.) means the part of the earnings of an individual remaining after the deduction from those earnings of any amount required by law to be withheld, union dues, nondiscretionary retirement contributions, and medical, hospitalization, and disability insurance coverage for the obligor and the obligor’s children.


An act by a member of a family or household against another member that is intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or a threat that reasonably places the member in fear of imminent physical harm. The law excludes the reasonable discipline of a child and defines abuse as physical injury that results in substantial harm or genuine threat; sexual contact, intercourse, or conduct; or compelling or encouraging the child to engage in sexual conduct.


Joint Managing Conservator as defined by Section 153 of the Texas Family Code. This does not mean joint physical custody.


A confidential settlement process where parties to a dispute meet with a neutral person, called a “mediator,” to try to resolve areas of conflict. The parties, their attorneys and the mediator discuss the goals of each party and the reality of each party’s position. If the parties reach a settlement, the mediator drafts a binding agreement that reflects the negotiated settlement.


A person who applies to or petitions a court or judge for a ruling in his or her favor.


Noncustodial parent.


Person required to pay child support or spousal support.


Person who receives child support or spousal support.


The movant in a divorce or child custody case.


The term Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) is used to describe the order that divides some, but not all, retirement, profit-sharing, and other such qualified plans. See 26 U.S.C. § 414(p)(1)(A); 29 U.S.C. §1056(d)(3)(B)(i); Tex. Gov’t Code §804.001(4).


The non-movant or counter-petitioner in a divorce or custody case.


Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (called a SAPCR) can be filed by a parent or other authorized person to ask for a child custody, visitation, child support and medical support order. It can be used as a part of a divorce case or in connection with a case to establish paternity.


Property owned or claimed by the spouse before marriage; property acquired by the spouse during marriage by gift, devise, or descent; and/or the recovery for personal injuries sustained by the spouse during marriage, except any recovery for loss of earning capacity during marriage.


Standard Possession Order as that term is defined in Section 153 of the Texas Family Code.


The purpose of a suit of this type is to terminate the parent-child relationship between the child and the parents or the father whose rights have not been adjudicated. Generally, a termination decree divests the parent or alleged father and the child of all legal rights and duties with respect to each other, except that the child retains the right to inherit from and through the child’s divested parent unless the court provides otherwise. See Tex. Fam. Code §161.206(b).


Child custody determinations of other states may be enforced under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), which is contained in chapter 152 of the Family Code.


If two or more marriages of a person to different spouses are alleged, the most recent marriage is presumed valid as against each marriage that precedes it until one who asserts the validity of a prior marriage proves the validity of the prior marriage. Tex. Fam. Code §1.102.


Withholding means the document issued by the clerk of a court and delivered to an employer, directing that earnings be withheld for payment of spousal maintenance or child support.






Texas Family Code:

Sec. 153.001. PUBLIC POLICY. (a) The public policy of this state is to:

(1) assure that children will have frequent and continuing contact with parents who have shown the ability to act in the best interest of the child;

(2) provide a safe, stable, and nonviolent environment for the child; and

(3) encourage parents to share in the rights and duties of raising their child after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage.

(b) A court may not render an order that conditions the right of a conservator to possession of or access to a child on the payment of child support.

It seems pretty clear cut but despite that folks seem to line up to pay us good money to help them figure out how to get along.  Texas has a presumption that parents will share rights and duties for care of their children.  This can mean a lot of things legally but what it boils down to is that  you may have joint legal custody but lack primary physical custody (the parent with which the child resides).  That’s normal and accepted down at the Courts.  Many people think only fathers can be noncustodial parents, but that is not the case. In Texas, about 10 percent of noncustodial parents are mothers and there isn’t a presumption one way or the other.  You may not agree on custody but at least you can set some realistic parameters going into any custody situation.  Ultimately, if there is a custody fight, the best interest of the child shall be the primary consideration. TEX. FAM. CODE ANN. § 153.002.

Call me if you want to discuss this further.  (713) 780-9595




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My name is Carl Selesky. I am an experienced Houston divorce lawyer, serving clients in over 25 Texas Counties since 1994.   

Carl J. SeleskyMy firm provides comprehensive legal advice and representation to individuals from all walks of life. 

We’ve chosen to focus on all aspects of divorce and family law but also have extensive experience in a range of legal matters before Texas State and Federal courts, government agencies and alternative dispute resolution forums. 

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