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How to negotiate and not litigate child support issues in Texas

In yesterday's blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we spent some time discussing issues related to negotiating child support in Texas family law cases. There are a few issues that are more polarizing and difficult to discuss than child support when it comes to divorce or child custody cases.

I've found that just about nobody, moms or dads, is completely satisfied with how much they will either pay or be paid in child support at the end of a case. The exchange of money from parent to parent just makes this a particularly emotional subject. However, that doesn't mean that there aren't ways to approach child support that more readily can lead to a fair settlement.

This isn't a fantasy world- take into account real-life circumstances

One thing that we discussed yesterday was the idea that children should be able to lead very similar lives before and after a divorce. To that end, child support must help make up that difference if a parent can afford it. So, if you're soon to be ex-spouse is a high-income earner then he will be expected to pay more in child support. Millionaires are likely going to be made to pay child support according to a millionaire's capabilities, not according to the capabilities of a person that earns $120,000 per year.

With that said, you should not negotiate according to reasonable expectations of what will happen in a trial. Ultimately, you and your opposing party are balancing your preferences versus what is likely to be the result if you were to go to trial. If you are likely to win on an issue in trial you can afford to be a little more aggressive in negotiations. Likewise, if you are likely to lose on that particular issue in the trial it would be wise to not push the envelope too hard in negotiations.

Since most people tend to live beyond their means, or at least very close to that point you need to negotiate for child support with this in mind. You and your ex-spouse may have to live a little more frugally after your divorce even if you are used to having a very strong household income. Budgeting is more important, minimizing transportation costs becomes essential and less time to work because of an increase in solo-parenting time should lead you towards minimizing costs and negotiating for a reasonable amount of child support.

Financial decisions associated with post-divorce life are really difficult for most people. Even if you can negotiate for a sizeable amount of monthly child support, you may not be able to escape the reality that your child may not be able to do all of their activities as they have become accustomed to. You may want to talk to your child about this ahead of time to help her focus on the activities that are the most important to her.

I have seen many parents walk into mediation for final orders like a child on a shopping spree. With a wishlist a mile long, these parents will act as if the mediation is a holiday of some sort. It is not. Do not think that just because you are going to be the parent who is paid child support that this means an unlimited amount of room to negotiate. Having a high-income spouse is a nice benefit in the situation you find yourself in, but a judge is not likely to respond favorably if he or she believes you are initiating a cash grab in their courtroom.

How can we put a bow on this topic, then? Well, you can start by figuring out what activities your child has always been involved with. These are the costs that you should ask your spouse to take into account when determining child support. Do not use mediation to bring up the fact that little Johnny expressed an interest in going to a theater camp in upstate New York for the first time. Adding costs that do not already exist into divorce during a trial is not a winning game-plan.

Finally, you should have a budget handy for reference. The mediator does not know your case that well. He or she will only know what your attorney has told him or her. It is wise to have a budget available to show how you are justifying your requests. Operating on a budget is a good idea, anyway, and something that I would recommend you do for now and in the future. Use it during your family law case to negotiate child support that is both appropriate and well thought out.

What do you want to accomplish in your case when it comes to negotiating child support?

If your goal is to settle a child support case for an amount of money that is perfectly in line with the guidelines outlined in the Texas Family Code, you should not experience any issues in your child custody or divorce case. The reason is that it is more likely than not that a judge would order that anyways in your case barring extreme circumstances like your child suffering from a disability or needing to attend a special school.

Otherwise, if you are trying to negotiate for an amount of child support that is higher than the guideline amounts, I think that it is easier to do so when you begin your analysis from the perspective of what your goals are for your kids rather than how much money do you need to get there. We can sometimes get sidetracked in our analysis if we are constantly thinking about things in terms of dollars, cents, and paychecks. However, if you approach things with your children's needs coming first you are unlikely to lose track of why you are doing all this in the first place.

Why is this the case? I think the main reason is that parents want what is best for their kids. Even if you disagree with how your spouse expresses this desire, you will likely admit that he or she does what they do because they love your kids. We are all willing to sacrifice to one extent or another for our children, as well.

Parents on both sides of the child support equation will have to make sacrifices in some way once their case is over. Providing a lifestyle for your kids that is stable and loving can be accomplished, but you need to focus on this goal instead of only thinking about your child in terms of how much money can you get in child support.

Long-term goals for your children are crucial. What you want your child to be doing as far as their education, sports, extracurriculars, and other activities will drive how you negotiate for child support. Your own goals for your child and the goals that your child has for him or herself are crucial to being able to successfully negotiate child support. If you have an endpoint in mind that is half the battle.

The next thing that you need to consider is what is your road map going to be for your child to arrive at their goals? Extra coaching, tutoring, equipment, and the aforementioned summer camps are a part of many childhood routines. Once you have these two questions answered, it would be wise to put pen to paper and figure out how much all of this is going to cost not only in a year but for the duration of your child's pre-college years.

If you and your spouse find that you agree when it comes to your goals for your child, then you will be in a strong position to negotiate child support. Shared goals and aspirations mean that your child will not only have your emotional support but will have your financial support as well. A family law case does not have to be a negative, fruitless endeavor. You can choose to make it a moment in time where you and your spouse put your heads together and helped create a plan for your child's life that you can both work on.

Be as honest and transparent as possible

You want to be in a situation where you can trust your opposing party and their attorney enough to engage in real negotiations with them on child support. If you mistrust one another then there is no way that you will be able to work with them on achieving whatever goals, you have about child support.

Here, you should make sure that your attorney is not fudging the numbers or doing something less than transparent, you should question him or her about it. Your goal is not to engage in shady dealings in mediation in hopes of squeezing a few dollars more out of your spouse. The point of negotiations is to allow everyone to operate with the same information to make good decisions for your child.

The worst situation that you and your attorney can put yourselves in by not being fully honest with the other side is when you attempt to hide things from the other side, and those things eventually are discovered. You are not only acting unethically, but you are ruining any chance at engaging in good negotiations because the other side is never going to trust you all moving forward. Do not shoot yourselves in the foot in the long run just to accomplish a short-term goal.

Be receptive to the advice of your attorney

No matter what side of the equation you are on, the parent who will receive child support or the parent who will be paying child support, you need to listen to the advice of your attorney. He or she has much more experience than you do in both negotiating child support matters and also taking those same issues to trial. You may have feelings or instincts that are telling you to take a particular position, but the attorney has experience on their side. I was once told that a man with experience is not at the mercy of a man with an opinion.

You may be taking a position in negotiations that has no basis in reality and is sure to lose in the trial. Although this is your case and if you want to negotiate a certain way your attorney cannot stop you, it is wise to at least listen and consider the advice of your attorney. After all, isn't that why you hired him or her in the first place? Your attorney can do a good job of representing you by coming up with creative solutions to your problems, even if that means providing you with some blunt truths along the way.

Listen to your attorney's advice and consider the strengths and weaknesses of your case. I believe that if you do this it will become apparent that settlement rather than a trial is your best route to take. The less you have to spend on attorney's fees and court costs, the more money you will have to spend on your child and your family after your case is done and over with.

Questions about family law issues in Texas? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

The attorneys and staff with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan would like to thank you for taking the time to read our blog post today. We write unique and original content every day and post them online, right here. We hope you will join us again tomorrow when we will be sharing more insights into Texas family law.

In the meantime, if you have any questions about the content of today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week where we can listen to your questions and provide you with direct feedback and answers.

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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas Child Support Lawyers

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding child support it's important to speak with one of our Houston, TX Child SupportLawyers right away to protect your rights.

Our child support lawyers in Houston TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles Child support cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, and surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County, and Waller County.

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