With so much of our news media focusing on hypothetical situations that involve extremely complicated sets of data and models to interpret that data, I wanted to put out some content that may provide you with some accurate world information that you can utilize today. If you are involved in a family law-related matter- whether it be an active case or orders that relate to an older case- then your life has probably undergone some degree of adjustment due to the coronavirus pandemic.
While there is no shortage of coverage from the media as far as the virus is concerned, there is not much out there as far as analysis and answers regarding issues that directly impact individuals in family law cases. That is where the Law Office of Bryan Fagan comes in. I want to spend some time talking with you all about how to deal with some situations that may be common among most of you reading this blog post. After all, if you are reading this blog, you probably have an issue or question related to the basics of family law.
If what I write about in this blog isn't helpful to you or doesn't touch on the specific question you have, I would recommend that you contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan today. Despite the widespread orders to shelter in place/stay at home, our attorneys and staff are working tirelessly on your behalf from home. Meetings with attorneys can still occur via the phone or over the internet. The bottom line is that we are here to serve everyone we can in our community who has a need.
If there is an emergency going on in y our life, are you out of luck right now?
Every so often, our office will have a case that involves an actual, real-life emergency. For example, if your ex-wife has not returned the kids to you at the agreed-upon time and now you fear that she is headed to the airport with them to take an international flight to a country where you can't get to them, then you have a real emergency in your life. Your ex-husband not paying the kid's doctor co-pay for March is annoying (and a violation of your divorce decree, quite possibly) but is not something that I would term to be an emergency.
In case your safety or that of your children are at risk, you still have the option to have a judge take an immediate look at your circumstances to determine what recourse can be taken to prevent further harm. Typically these sorts of matters call for emergency temporary orders or a temporary restraining order. Courts may even open their doors for you to have a personal hearing with your judge over issues like this.
From what I have heard and seen, your ex-spouse allowing your child to be around people and not limiting their exposure to the virus is not an emergency matter that courts will be willing to swoop into action on. You should seek the advice of an attorney (such as those with our office) before proceeding to file a motion for emergency orders based on coronavirus. There may be circumstances that involve children with medical or psychiatric issues that would justify your doing so, for instance.
Married, filing jointly (but not for long): What happens to those coronavirus relief checks?
You and your spouse may have filed jointly on your 2019 taxes but are not going through a divorce. If your household income qualifies for you to receive a check from the government, you may have some questions about how much you would get if a divorce is in the works.
Based on whose information was provided in the tax return for 2018 or 2019, the spouse whose bank account will likely receive the money from our government. If you all share a bank account, then the shared account will receive the direct deposit (whenever it is made). If both you and your spouse have separate accounts, then you should go back to last year and see which of you received your refund or had money debited to pay your taxes.
However, that doesn't mean that you can leave the issue there and move on. If you have an active divorce case, you and your spouse will need to figure out how to divide that money up between you. Your individual circumstances will come into play, and you can negotiate with your spouse on a split that suits your needs, your spouse, and your family.
Coronavirus and child support- do you still have to pay?
Many people are facing concerns regarding their employment and their future in these precarious economic times brought about by closing down the economy. In an area like ours that is heavily dependent on oil and gas jobs, the downturn in that field had left many Texans feeling the heat of tight economic times even before we knew there was a coronavirus pandemic. If you are one of those people who are concerned about a potential loss in income, then keep reading to find out how your child support responsibilities may or may not be impacted by this current medical crisis.
Just like if you lost your job for any other reason, you would still be responsible for paying your child support as ordered. Unless and until you obtain a written order from a judge stating that you do not have to make your payments or that you may do so at a reduced figure, the current child support orders would remain functioning in your case. There is no coronavirus emergency provision in your final decree of divorce (I'm almost sure there isn't, that is).
What you can think about doing, however, is filing a motion with the court to modify the amount of child support that you have to pay. Keep in mind that getting a hearing date on a request like this will be challenging given the current condition that our court dockets are in due to the coronavirus shutdown. It would be best to consider whether or not you will be out of work for a long while versus only a few months. If you expect the loss in income to be temporary, then it may not be worth it for you even to file the motion.
As always, contact your ex-spouse as soon as you figure out that you are losing your job is the best action plan. Do not let her know of the job loss when May 1st comes around and your child support payment is missing from her bank account. People do not like surprises, generally speaking. This is especially true for pitfalls related to money that was supposed to be in their checking accounts but no longer is.
You will often find that your ex-spouse is more willing to work with you on issues like this than you may have thought previously. Payment plans are standard in situations like this, but an ex-spouse will be less willing to do so if you do not come forward with information as soon as you find out there may be a problem.
Considering the impact on schools closing and your possession schedule.
This week, we have not talked about how schools closing their doors due to the threat of coronavirus impacts your possession schedule—so much of that schedule centers around the school calendar. You are picking your child up on a Friday, dropping the child off at school on Monday morning, and a summer vacation schedule built around the end of one school year and the beginning of another.
The courts in Texas have issued opinions on how the temporary closing of public schools in Texas impacts the possession schedules of parents across our state. Whatever orders you have in place regarding possession of your children should be followed. Regarding determining which parent has the right of possession to your children under one of these orders, you would not have to rely on anything else.
Any changes to your child's schedule due to the various school shutdown orders as well as shelter in place will not impact your court-ordered possession schedule. Even if your movement around the area you live is otherwise restricted, that does not change drop-off/pick-up times and any other elements of your child's possession schedule. There is no inherent modification to court orders for possession just because your child's school is closed for a temporary period.
What does this mean if your ex-spouse is currently in possession of your child during a period that is ordered to be yours? Your child will likely need to be returned to you immediately. However, you should research your particular jurisdiction to determine what, if any, orders have been made by judges in your home county.
Agree with your ex-spouse to avoid problems like this.
As with anything else in family law, you and your spouse are free to negotiate alternative arrangements regarding possession with one another directly rather than waiting for further guidance from a judge. You all (likely) have nothing but time on your hands. You can text, email, Skype, or talk to one another over the phone to determine what alternative possession arrangements may work better for you all, given the dramatic shift in the landscape of parenting over the past few weeks.
You can always fall back on the arrangements outlined in your court orders if you cannot agree on a modification of the orders in your negotiations. Having to rely on a set of one size fits all orders in a time of significant change can be a challenge for any family to have to deal with. You need to understand fully what your responsibilities are as far as your possession schedule is concerned.
Closing thoughts on possession, child support, and family law in the times we live in currently
The challenges that we are all facing right now are significant. There is no way of getting around this. You or a loved one may have the coronavirus and are currently doing everything you can to get better and heal yourselves. Or, you and your family may be battling job loss or job uncertainty where your ability to pay rent, bills, and school tuition is in jeopardy. Whatever it is that you are going through, there are options for you to pursue.
Facts are your friend right now. Do not rely on talk from friends or neighbors on subjects like these. Go to the courts to get information. Read blog posts like this. Take advantage of any opportunity that you may have to ask questions of experienced attorneys who work in the family law courts. We all have ample time to let our minds wander and worry about circumstances that may be out of our control ultimately. All you can control is your attitude and the efforts you make to keep yourself informed. Do this, and you will be in a position to make good decisions for yourself and your family.
Questions about family law in Texas? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
In uncertain times like this, we could all use steady, stable advice from people you can trust. I want to offer the Law Office of Bryan Fagan a group of attorneys who can provide this sort of advice to you and your family. We are offering free-of-charge video and telephonic meetings with potential clients at no cost to you. Six days a week you can get on the phone or your computer and speak to one of our lawyers. Thank you for your time and consideration.
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"
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Other Articles you may be interested in:
- Coronavirus and your Texas family: What you need to know
- Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Texas Marriage
- Non-Marital Conjugal Cohabitation Agreements for the Unmarried Couple in Texas
- Common-Law Marriage and Texas Divorce Guide
- How to get a Common Law Divorce in Spring, Texas
- Am I Married? - Marital Status in Texas
- Can I sue my spouse's mistress in Texas?
- When is Cheating Considered Adultery in a Texas Divorce?
- Six things You Need to Know Before You File for Divorce in Texas
- Common Questions about Texas Prenuptial and Marital Agreements
- Can I pause child support arrears?