Ask an Attorney: Family Law and Holidays


Text by Ann Del Llano

Have you ever found it difficult to get reliable information about family law without spending a small fortune? Here, you can ask your question and get an answer from an experienced family law attorney. My goal is to demystify basic components of family law and offer tools that will help you decide what course of action will best serve you and your family. Although I do not advise that anyone go to court in Travis County without the right attorney, many things can be achieved outside of the court process. Please send in your question, and let’s figure out how you can move forward with confidence.

With the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays coming up, I’d like to make plans with the children that are different than the schedule that our court orders dictate. I have three young children. Their father and I have been separated for a year and we are not on great speaking terms. We only communicate by email as needed about the kids. Our court orders say that we are Joint Managing Conservators. What are my options?

A lot of parents who are living under custody orders in Texas don’t realize that they have the option to agree to changes in the children’s schedule anytime. Most court orders affecting children in Texas use some version of the “Standard Possession Order” which spells out which parent has the right to possess the children on any given day. The Standard Possession Order has a phrase similar to this near the beginning:

“The conservators shall have possession of the children at times mutually agreed to in advance by the parties, and, in the absence of mutual agreement, the conservators shall have possession of the child under the specified terms set out in this Possession Order.”

This means that you have the three following basic options: (1) make an agreement with your children’s other parent that is different from the court orders, (2) follow the orders, or (3) modify the orders.

The order does not typically require a written agreement, so you could talk with the children’s father over the telephone or email to arrive at an agreement to change the children’s schedule over the holidays.

If you do not want to follow the court orders but cannot arrive at an agreement, another option is to modify your orders. Modifying orders involves hiring an attorney and asking the court to change your orders. In theory it can be done without an attorney, but most people find the process too complicated to navigate without a family law attorney.

Looking beyond this holiday season, your children are young, so you have many years of scheduling ahead. It will pay off in the future if you and their other parent can establish a relationship now that allows both of you to be flexible with the children’s time. There will be days that he needs to switch the schedule also, and he will be relieved that you are opening the door to this conversation.

I’ve been living with my boyfriend for a few years now in Austin and we have a child. We have never been officially married, but my friends say we are common law married. Are we common law married?

Texas law defines common law marriage, which is when the law considers a couple married even when they haven’t had an official ceremony or marriage license. Legally, there are three criteria (following) that you must meet in order to be married under the common law in Texas: (1) co-habitating under the same roof for any length of time, (2) holding yourselves out to other people as “husband” and “wife”, and (3) forming an agreement between the two of you that you are married.

It does not matter how long you have lived together, it could be one or two days. It also does not matter whether you have a child together. Even though you are co-habitating, you are not considered married unless you and your boyfriend have agreed that you are married, and you are telling other people that you are married and that he is your husband.

If you are common law married in Texas, the law provides you with all of the benefits and rights that other married couples enjoy. It also requires you to file for an official divorce in the event you decide to end the marriage, just like a couple that has an official marriage license.

Please feel free to send your family law questions to For more information about Ann del Llano visit her website at

Comments are closed.

All text, photographs, content, including underlying HTML code, designs, and graphics used and/or depicted herein are protected under United States and international copyright and trademark laws and treaties, and may not be used or reproduced without the prior express written permission of Wholesome Generation Magazine and Whole Lifestyle Magazine.

Whole Lifestyle Magazine is owned and published by Wholesome Generation Magazine LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this e-publication and community may be used without written permission from the Founder and Editor.