We left off in yesterday’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by discussing issues related to how a court in Texas can enforce a child support order against your ex-spouse when he does not live in Texas any longer. A majority of the time a court will have no problem enforcing the order due to the court having personal jurisdiction over your ex-spouse from his having contacts with Texas in some form or fashion.
In today’s blog post I would like to provide you with some examples of how a court can obtain personal jurisdiction over your out of state ex-spouse.
Obtaining personal jurisdiction over your out of state ex-spouse
The Texas Family Code lays out the methods that a family law court can obtain jurisdiction over your out of state ex-spouse. The most straightforward way to do this is to actually serve your ex-spouse while he is in Texas. Sometimes this situation is portrayed in television or movies by one party tricking or otherwise coercing their adversary to fly or travel to see him or her and then surprising them with a lawsuit. This usually does not happen in real life as it is easy enough to simply coordinate the service of a lawsuit with a visitation period that your ex-spouse has with your child.
There are a handful of other methods that are available to a court for the establishment of personal jurisdiction. For example, if your ex-spouse resided in Texas with your child then he opened himself to the personal jurisdiction of a Texas court. It is very likely that this happened at some point and I would wager that most of you reading this section who have an out of state spouse would be able to establish personal jurisdiction using this method.
More about personal service of a lawsuit in Texas
Personal service in Texas means more than someone shouting to your ex-spouse that he is being sued in regard to back child support. A process server or constable authorized to serve people by your court must hand to your ex-spouse a copy of your motion for enforcement as well as a citation stating the specifics of what has occurred. If there is a pending court date that must also be provided to your ex-spouse. The citation confirms that your ex-spouse was served on a specific date at a specific time. This will allow for the court to have an accurate record that this has been completed.
Can your ex-spouse make himself available to the personal jurisdiction of a court through no action of your own?
The answer to this question is yes. If your spouse is served with your lawsuit when he is not in Texas, but quickly files an Answer to your Motion then he has opened himself up to the personal jurisdiction of the court where your case has been filed. By doing so the court now has the ability to enforce the Texas child support order against him as an out of state parent.
When and how does a parent reside in Texas with a child?
The other method that we mentioned earlier this blog that allows a person to make himself open to the personal jurisdiction of a Texas court would be if he resides in Texas with your child. This means that if your ex-spouse lives in Texas with your child then he has made himself susceptible to the personal jurisdiction of a Texas family law court. However, keep in mind that if your ex-spouse lives out of state and enters Texas simply to visit your child is not in the crosshairs of a Texas court from a jurisdictional perspective.
What if you and your child’s father were never married? What happens in regard to personal jurisdiction?
We have spent our time in yesterday and today’s blog posts discussing issues regarding child support enforcement from the perspective of two married persons. However, if you and your child’s other parent were never married you may still have issues with child support that need to be addressed. Let’s examine a situation that could lead to your out of state opposing party being made available to the personal jurisdiction of a Texas family law court.
Think about the nine months before your child was born. Did the other parent pay for any expenses- doctor’s visits, clothes, diapers, etc.- in relation to your child? Specifically we need to focus on doctor’s visits and medicine that you may have required during your pregnancy. Different pregnancies require different levels of care so it is difficult to apply one standard across the board for prenatal expenses. However, these are basic examples of costs that are associated with getting ready for the birth of a baby.
Next, if your child’s other parent helped to provide expenses like these, we would need to examine whether or not he resided in Texas. If he you can check both of these boxes then a court in Texas is likely able to have personal jurisdiction over him if he lives outside of Texas.
An example of how a court can obtain personal jurisdiction over an out of state father
This is a story that actually happened to former client of ours. It relates to personal jurisdiction, an out of state father and how he wound up being responsible for child support and prenatal expenses of his child’s mother.
Our former client engaged in a one night liaison with a woman here in Texas. He did not live here and had no family here. He was in Houston for a business trip when the incidents in question took place. In having sexual relations in Texas our client made himself susceptible to the personal jurisdiction of the Harris County family law court.
Our client hired us, contacted the child’s mother and she had her attorney provide us with a lawsuit that had more to do with prenatal expenses than it did with child support since the child had not yet been born. This situation is a good example of how a court in Texas can utilize long arm jurisdiction over an out of state party. I told our client that it was likely that because he had engaged in a sexual act with this woman in Texas it would be determined that he would have an obligation to pay child support as a result.
The rationale for this is pretty straightforward. If a Texas court could not assert personal jurisdiction over a parent in this situation it would encourage our client and other people in his position to move to other states in order to avoid responsibilities associated with fathering a child in Texas.
Fortunately, our client was reasonable enough to understand that he did not have a leg to stand on as far as challenging jurisdiction in Texas. Rather, he and our office worked with the mother and her lawyer to negotiate an amount of money to be paid by him to her for hospital costs and doctor’s bills associated with the birth of their child. Secondly, an amount of child support was negotiated as well to go into effect as soon as the child was born. It is not always the case that situations like this are handled so smoothly but because I was able to explain the jurisdictional issues well enough, our client understood them and could move on to more practical matters associated with his case.
Issues regarding child support enforcement affecting you? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC to learn more about this process
If you find yourself in a position where you are needing to either pursue or defend yourself in a child support enforcement case there are no attorneys better equipped to advocate on your behalf than those with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. Our attorneys represent clients across southeast Texas and would be honored to do the same for you and your family. We offer free of charge consultations six days a week here in our office where we can answer your questions and address your concerns in a comfortable environment. Please feel free to contact us today in order to set up a consultation.
If you want to know more about what you can do, CLICK the button below to get your FREE E-book: “16 Steps to Help You Plan & Prepare for Your Texas Divorce”
Other Articles you may be interested in:
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- Child Support Modification in Texas (Part 1)
- What do I do if I have overpaid child support in Texas?
- Child Custody Basics in Texas
- Child Support and College Tuition in Texas
- Texas Child Support Appeals
- In Texas are Child Support and Visitation Connected?
- Texas Child Support – Trust and Annuities
- Special Needs Children in Texas Child Support Cases
- How to get above guideline child support.
- Navigating Texas Child Custody Disputes with Multiple Jurisdictions: A Comprehensive Guide
- The beginning stages of a child support enforcement case