If you are like most people, you know a lot about family, but probably not a lot about the law. As a result, when you have a family law situation come up, you may find it difficult to navigate the issues on your own. Just following the unfamiliar terminology can be a challenge on its own.

At Nordhaus Walpole PLLC, we understand that when you seek out a family attorney, you are looking for someone who can use their knowledge and experience to help you do something you can’t do yourself. In this article, we provide an introduction to some basic family law terms so that you can feel more comfortable when asking an attorney for help.

Divorce, Annulment and Separation

These are three concepts that are closely related, but have very different meanings. In Texas, there are two ways to end a marriage – divorce and annulment. In a divorce, the marriage gets dissolved. This means that the marriage remains legally recognized for as long as it was in effect, but once the divorce is final, the former spouses are no longer legally married. This is contrasted with an annulment, which voids the marriage entirely. When spouses get an annulment, from a legal perspective, they were never married at all.

Texas law does not recognize separation as a way to formally end a marriage. However, married spouses can still separate, and they can enter into an agreement to manage their family and finances while living apart.

Conservatorship and Visitation

If you are familiar with the concept of child custody, then you understand the concept of conservatorship. In Texas, conservatorship is the legal term for child custody. There are two types of conservatorship (managing and possessory), which give unmarried and divorced parents varying legal rights. Visitation refers to a parent’s legal right to spend time with his or her children.


During your divorce, you and your spouse will either agree to terms for conservatorship and child support, or else a judge will decide the terms for you. While the terms you set may work initially, they may become unworkable over time. When this happens, you have the option to file a petition for modification of your current arrangement. Click to see some examples of when parents can file a petition for modification.

Guardianship and Incapacitation

Guardianship refers to a situation where one person has legal authority to manage the affairs and make decisions on behalf of another person who is physically or mentally incapacitated. Incapacitation is a legal concept that describes a person who is unable to make informed decisions, provide for himself or herself, or manage his or her own affairs. Becoming a legal guardian requires court appointment, and guardians can have varying degrees of authority and responsibility.

For More Information, Contact the McKinney Family Lawyers at Nordhaus Walpole PLLC

If you have a family law issue and need help understanding your options, the lawyers at Nordhaus Walpole PLLC are here to help. We offer free initial consultations, and we are happy to take the time to help you make an informed decision about your legal rights. To get started, call (214) 726-1450 or request your free consultation online today.