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When jurisdiction is present over the children, a dissolution decree must dispose of the issue of child custody. Texas follows the "best interests of the child" standard in making a custody award. The child's preferences and the cause for the dissolution of the marriage may also be considered. In contested custody matters, an attorney may be appointed to represent the minor child, at the expense of the parents. Disputed matters are referred to the Family Relations Office for mediation and/or a custody evaluations. Texas has a statutory presumption in favor of joint custody when the parents agree to it. Visitation is generally arrived at using the same "best interests" standard applicable to custody. Child support Texas Family Law requires both parents to support their children in accordance with their respective abilities. The published guidelines are required to be considered in each case. Division of Marital Estate The court also must consider the value of the homemaker's services in dividing assets. In marriages of relatively short duration, the court will often attempt, as nearly as possible, to restore the parties to their pre-marital financial state. In relatively long marriages, the property distribution usually is closer to 50-50, although that result can vary widely depending on the court's analysis of the twelve factors. Disclosure of Finances Each party to a dissolution in Texas must make complete disclosure of his income, expenses, assets and liabilities. All of the traditional litigation discovery tools are at the disposal of the parties' counsel: interrogatories, depositions and requests for production of documents, among others. In most relatively simple cases, discovery is limited to exchange of tax returns and W-2 forms. Discovery of business proprietors and others who are in a position to conceal or manipulate their income may involve extensive (and expensive) procedures by accountants and actuaries. Mediation and Settlement Agreements Probably more than 90% of all dissolution cases are settled prior to trial in Texas. The traditional means of memorializing a settlement is a writing called a "Mediation Agreement" or a "Settlement Agreement". These agreements, drafted by the parties' counsel, and then executed and acknowledged by the parties, provides for all of the financial arrangements (spousal maintenance, child support, real and personal property, counsel fees, etc.) to which the parties have agreed, as well as for the custody and visitation of children, waiver of rights in future property (including estate rights), and other matters. Free Consultation If the parties have settled their case by
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