May 2011 News: The Houston Family Law Blog

The Houston Family Law Blog

May 2011 Archives

Class Action Suit Over Texas Foster Care System Moves Forward

Many people see the Texas foster care system as inadequate due to thousands of children staying in state custody for a time period that is longer than necessary. Critics say many children in Texas foster care are forced to be transferred from placement to placement because of the heavy workload given to caseworkers and the lack of foster homes that are available.

This is why the organization Children's Rights has filed a class-action lawsuit against Texas Governor Rick Perry and other state officials, alleging that the state has not done enough to get the children in state custody into permanent homes.

Nikki Araguz's Marriage to Thomas Araguz to Be Declared Void

It looks like Nikki Araguz probably won’t be entitled to any money of her deceased husband’s estate, as a Texas judge is expected to declare her marriage to Thomas Araguz void. This can be seen as sad news for the transgender community in Texas, but Araguz isn’t walking away from court without a fight. She has stated that she will take this case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if she has to.

Thomas Araguz died last year while battling a blaze as a firefighter, reports Associated Press. Since the firefighter’s death, the mother of the victim has filed a lawsuit, arguing that Nikki Araguz shouldn’t receive any death benefits because Nikki Araguz is a transgender woman, who was born a male. Because same-sex marriage is illegal in the state of Texas, attorneys representing the mother have argued that the marriage between Nikki and Thomas Araguz is invalid and that the entire $600,000 should go to Thomas Araguz’s two young sons, who he had from a previous marriage.

Study: Long Commutes Can Lead to Divorce

Can long commutes on work days destroy a marriage? A study in Sweden shows that a long-distance commute for a job will reduce available family time for the commuter, which will mean that a commuter's spouse will take on a larger share of household duties. This type of routine can, of course, can cause tension in any type of relationship and even lead to divorce.

The study found that the risk of divorce actually goes up by 40 percent for commuters, reports Daily Mail. To no surprise, the risk of divorce or separation is the highest in the first few years of commuting to work. After several years of commuting, families will often adjust and become accustomed to the extended period of time away from the home.

Nikki Araguz Gets Reality Show Highlighting Marriage Equality

The case involving Thomas Araguz’s death benefits has not yet been forgotten. His $500,000 estate was supposed to be divided between his wife Nikki Araguz and his two young children that he fathered with another woman. Yet because Nikki Araguz is a transgendered woman, born a man, some are arguing that her marriage to Thomas Araguz was not legitimate and that it should be annulled. Hence, some people in the Araguz family are arguing that Nikki isn’t entitled to any of her deceased husband’s money.

ABC News reports that this case is far from over and that the state of Texas has not yet decided how death benefits should be awarded. One thing is certain though and that’s that this legal case has made Nikki Araguz famous.

ABC News reports that there's a growing number of people in this country who are choosing to sign cohabitation agreements. This might not be too surprising, considering that marriage rates are declining and that more non-married couples are choosing to live together.

Over the past 20 years, the number of non-married couples living together under the same roof has reportedly increased by 85 percent. Hence, there's a need for many people living together to legally define financial responsibilities within their relationship and to define which pieces of property belong to whom.

The Same-Sex Divorce Debate Continues in Texas

There's been a great deal of confusion as to whether or not the state of Texas allows for two people of the same sex to get a divorce in the state. We all know that Texas does not allow for same-sex marriages, but state appellate courts in Austin and Dallas have given conflicting opinions on whether a same-sex couple is allowed to divorce if they were legally married in another state.

In both of these cases, the Dallas Voice reports that the district judges ruled to allow for the same-sex divorces, which both times prompted Attorney General Greg Abbott to intervene. With the Dallas case, the divorce between two men (referred to as J.B and H.B in the media), was overturned. However the Austin divorce case, between same sex couple Angelique Naylor and Sabina Daly, was upheld by the 3rd court of appeals.

Marital Stress Can Affect A Baby's Sleep Habits

Married couples with children might need to consider the effect of their arguments even on their very youngest child. According to Time, a new study published in Child Development finds that marital stress or instability when a baby is nine-months-old can be connected with a baby's sleep problems when the child becomes just a bit older.

The study suggests that even babies can detect when there is parental strife. With this study, marital stress was assessed through questions asked to married couples, mostly to middle-class, white, educated individuals. If a couple had a great amount of marital instability in their relationship based on the questions, they were more likely to report that their children had sleep problems. Examples of these problematic sleep habits can include falling asleep, staying asleep or frequent night wakings.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver Announce Separation

Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and television correspondent Maria Shriver may have always seemed like an odd couple. He is a Republican and former bodybuilder, while she's a journalist and member of the Kennedy family. Yet many people would say that separating after 25 years of marriage was at the very least, unexpected.

The celebrity couple announced their plans to separate, reports The Los Angeles Times, earlier this week. In a joint statement, they wrote to the Times stating that, "After a great deal of thought, reflection, discussion and prayer, we came to this decision together. At this time, we are living apart while we work on the future of our relationship."

Houston Ranked as Top City For Single Men

Where's the best place in America to live if you're a single man? Rent.com states that Houston, Texas, is the most attractive city to live in as a bachelor because of its affordability and variety of hotspots for a first date.

So whether you've recently become single due to a divorce, or if you've been looking for love for a long time, perhaps Houston is a good destination. CBS Money Watch reports that 47 percent of single men pay a mortgage, 39 percent rent a home, and another 14 percent are living rent-free with family or friends. Hence, the rental housing industry is one of the key factors that plays into the Rent.com city ranking for best quality of life among single men.

Recognizing May as National Foster Care Month in Texas

Each year, Americans recognize the month of May as National Foster Care Month. This is a time where community organizations and social workers will encourage people to adopt a child out of foster care. These types of adoptions can be especially rewarding because the children in foster care have often been abandoned, orphaned, or abused. Hence, many people feel that these children need parents more than anybody else.

On April 29, President Barack Obama declared the month of May as National Foster Care Month in a proclamation, which stated that “we all have a responsibility to remain persistent in the charge to provide the best care possible for children when they cannot remain in their own homes.” Now is the perfect time of year to learn more about adoption and a good time to recognize the people around you that dedicate themselves to improving the lives of children in foster care.

OCSE Using Workers' Comp Data to Track Down Deadbeat Parents

Now it's even easier for the Texas government to track you down if you are delinquent on child support. This is because Commissioner of Workers' Compensation, Rod Bordelon, recently signed a data sharing agreement with the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE), according to ClaimsJournal.com. The agreement will assist with the identification of individuals in the state who owe child support to one or more children.

The Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers' Compensation now has the new task of providing all the information necessary to allow for the federal child support agency to identify the individuals receiving workers' compensation indemnity payments as well as the insurance carriers making those payments. OCSE will then take the information and hand it over to the state agencies responsible for enforcing child support, including the Texas Office of the Attorney General's Child Support Division.

Getting an abortion in Texas could be a bit more difficult with the passage of Senate Bill SB 16. Houston Press reports that state senators passed the bill this week, which would require any woman seeking an abortion in the state to undergo a sonogram 24 hours before the abortion operation. The bill now heads to the House, where a swift passage of the bill is expected.

As we reported in an earlier blog post, supporters of the bill the purpose of such a law would be to give pregnant women more information about their unborn child. SB 16 would also require doctors to inform the patient of alternatives to an abortion procedure. This includes providing information on new mother services, adoption agencies, and child support.