A New Judge for the 360th District Court

Does it matter who the Judge is?

As of January 1, 2017, the Judge of the 360th District Court in Tarrant County, Texas is the Honorable Patricia Bennett. Judge Bennett replaces Judge Michael Sinha, who had been the Judge of the 360th and, the prior to that, the Associate Judge of the 360th for years.

Judge Bennett has chosen Matt Riek to be her Associate Judge, and Judge Riek will take the bench on or about January 16, 2017. Judge Riek replaces Judge Cynthia Mendoza.

Both Judge Bennett and Judge Riek are Board Certified in Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, and each has years of experience in divorce, custody, and family law. Additionally, Judge Riek was one of the most sought after and well-respected family law mediators in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex prior to agreeing to accept the position of Associate Judge.

So, with these changes, one might ask: Does it matter who the Judge is?

The short answer, particularly in Family Law is Yes!!!

Family law – meaning divorce, custody, grandparent rights, child support, spousal support, alimony, etc. – is an area of the law that, unlike most areas, is governed by the “discretion of the court.” Under Texas law, the trial court judge has wide discretion in determining a number of items in family law. What that means in simple terms is that you are not entitled to have a jury make the decision, it has to be the judge, and your chances of getting an appellate court to overturn the trial court’s decision are extremely small.

Some of the things that a family court judge gets to decide with little chance of being overturned are:

  1. How the property will be divided in a divorce – Will the property be divided 50/50 or 60/40 or 80/20 or in some other ratio?
  2. What happens to the property in a divorce – Do you get to keep the house? Or does your soon-to-be Ex? Or is there a Court Order to sell it?
  3. Who gets to live in the house while the case is pending?
  4. Who has to pay which bills while the case is pending?
  5. Who gets custody of the children while the case is pending?
  6. How much child support will be paid and by whom to whom?
  7. How much temporary spousal support will be paid, if any, while the case is pending – even if it’s for years – and by whom, to whom?
  8. Does anyone deserve Spousal Maintenance – the Texas version of court-ordered alimony – and if so how much and for how long, within some limits?
  9. What will the rights and duties be with respect to the children? Do you have a say in who the children’s doctor is? Dentist is? Surgeon is? Will there be surgery? Will the children go to a psychiatrist?
  10. On what days and at what times will you be allowed to see your children?
  11. Will you be able to Facetime with your children? Call them? Email them?

These are just a few of the things that family court judges get to decide, and as long as that Judge stays on the bench and as long as the children stay in the county, the same judge will keep deciding these issues regarding your children until they age out of the system.

So what do you think? Does it matter who the judge of your court is?

Understanding No-Fault Divorce in Texas

Fault grounds still exist.

There is a great deal of misunderstanding about “no-fault” divorce. Many people believe that the concept of fault has been eliminated from divorces. That could not be further from the truth.

The passage of the “no-fault” law years ago changed the requirement to allege fault, it did not change the right to allege fault.

Prior to the creation of “no-fault” divorce, in order to obtain a divorce in the State of Texas, one or both parties had to accuse the other of some conduct that amounted to fault. And then the accusing party had to prove it – assuming that the accused did not admit it. The common grounds for fault-based divorces included adultery, mental cruelty, physical cruelty, and abandonment.

The reason for a fault-based system was that the State took the position that it had a vested interest in keeping married people married. If you could not prove a fault ground, the State did not require you to continue to live together, but it required you to stay married. That requirement kept people from being able to marry other people, because doing so would amount to the crime of bigamy.

Now, Texas Family Code Section 6.001 states that “the court may grant a divorce without regard to fault, if the marriage has become insupportable because of discord or conflict of personalities that destroys the legitimate ends of the marital relationship and prevents any reasonable expectation of reconciliation.”

As long as one party of the other alleges that the marriage has become “insupportable,” there is no requirement to allege or prove fault in a divorce. The State looks at marriages almost like a business partnership, when it comes to the right to dissolve it.

If you and a friend went into the business of selling donuts, and after a couple of years your friend decided that he or she did not want to sell donuts anymore, you could not make your friend stay in the donut business. Similarly, in this day and age, if your spouse no longer wants to stay in the marriage, you cannot make him or her stay. If your spouse wants a divorce, he or she is entitled to a divorce.

But, the fact that there is no requirement to allege fault does not mean that fault cannot be alleged. Either or both parties to a divorce can still allege that the break-up of the marriage was due to the fault of the other party. While the Family Code still contains the same list of fault grounds that it used to, typically people now limit the accusations to adultery or cruelty.

So what is the benefit of pleading fault? If it is not needed to get the divorce, why bring it up?

One reason to plead fault is that in a divorce, there is no requirement that the property be divided evenly. The court is required to make a “just and right, equitable division” of the property, and one of the factors that the court can consider is the fault of either party. If one party is guilty of adultery or cruelty, that party may not only get less than 50% of the community estate, he or she may get as little as 40%, 35%, or even less. In fact one Texas Judge has been quoted as saying, “If I find out that a husband has been guilty of actual, physical abuse, I’ll take away everything he’s got, including his dreams!”

While, according to Texas law, even in the most egregious of cases the court cannot take someone’s separate property, it is possible that the court can deprive an individual of the use of his or her separate property for some period of time, under certain circumstances. In one famous case, the court allowed the ex-wife and children to live in the separate property home of the ex-husband, as additional child support.

To find out more about how the system works, call the Beal Law Firm at 817.919.3616 or 214.414.0418, or write us at lawyers@dfwdivorce.com. You can find us on the web at www.dfwdivorce.com.

This is what makes it all worthwhile – Thank you!

Practicing Divorce, Custody, and Family Law is hard. I’ve done it for a long time now. The burden of having so many people’s lives resting on what you do and the decisions that you make, day in and day out, gets extremely stressful.

Sometimes the courts are hard to deal with. Sometimes opposing counsel is hard to deal with. Sometimes you run out of toner at 11:30 p.m. when you’re trying to print the last few pages that you need to take with you to court in the morning.

Practicing law, in general, is difficult. Practicing family law is especially difficult. I know of the comparison because I had a general civil litigation practice, which included family law, for about 15 years.

The one thing that I learned years ago is that one of the hardest things to deal with is ingratitude. When anyone, in any line of work, stresses, sweats, and gives their all to help another person, and the recipient of the help is ungrateful, it provides an additional layer of anxiety to an already difficult task.

But maybe that’s why the unexpected surprises like the one I got in today’s email are so extra nice. It was not just gratitude, it was heartfelt uplifting gratitude:

Thank you so much for taking care of me and my children – I seriously cannot thank you enough….you saved us

much love and forever grateful!

[Divorce and Custody Client] and her [Confidential number] kids!

Thank you Ms. [Confidential]!! You just reminded me why we do this!!


You can reach us at lawyers@dfwdivorce.com or call us at 817.261.4333 or 214.414.0418 or find us at www.dfwdivorce.com.

Beal Law Firm – For Almost 25 Years

Beal Law Firm has been helping clients for almost 25 years. Here’s to the next 25!

May of 1992 was a great time. Beal Law Firm’s founder – Eric Beal – was leaving a prominent Dallas law firm and striking out on his own.

With no money, no clients, a mountain of debt, poor parents, a small child, and several other hurdles to overcome, the law firm was begun. Originally, it was known as The Law Offices of Eric Beal, and its first paying client was a termination and step-parent adoption.

The firm began its existence in the Sunbelt Savings building that essentially shared a parking lot with Wet and Wild in Arlington, Texas. At first it was just Eric, his old computer from law school, a brand new laser printer, and the smallest space available in the building’s executive suites.

Within three months, with the help of a lot of great referrals from some great friends, the firm had moved into the largest office in the executive suites, and from there it was off to the races.

Now, almost 25 years have passed.

As of today, Beal Law Firm has eight full-time lawyers, one Of Counsel lawyer, two full time legal assistants, one administrative assistant, one financial assistant, and an Office Manager – Certified Financial Planner® – Certified Divorce Financial Analyst™.

The time has flown by, and it’s exciting to think about what the next 25 years will hold. Thank you to everyone that has helped to make our success possible.