Issues in Texas Family Law You Need to Be Aware of Before Your Case Begins

Yesterday’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan delved into the essential aspects of family law issues in Texas cases, central to child custody or divorce proceedings, emphasizing their significance. The challenge for many embarking on a case lies in their limited awareness of these fundamental factors that profoundly influence their situation. Often, individuals rely on hearsay from acquaintances, which may not provide accurate insights into family law matters.

What I want to help you avoid is being in a position where you head into your own family law case with mistaken ideas about what to expect, what the law is and how these factors will impact your case and your life. We left off yesterday discussing child support and we will pick up there today. 

Child Support Calculations: Where do the numbers come from?

To calculate child support, we consider the first $8,550 of your ex-spouse’s monthly net resources. Once we establish their net resources, we determine a percentage of their income for supporting your children. The Texas Family Code outlines guideline percentages ranging from 20% for one child to 40% for five or more children.

Keep in mind that if you are negotiating for child support directly with your spouse or go to see a judge to have that amount established, that a greater or lesser amount of support can be justified based on your specific circumstances. If your soon-to-be ex-spouse earns significantly more than $8,550 per month, and you can demonstrate that a higher-than-guidelines amount of child support is in your child’s best interests, the court can order it accordingly.

What about parents who are not working? Do they not have to pay child support?

An interesting question that many parents have in situations like this involve the parent who is most likely to pay child support not having a job/income. Without an income to base child support on will that parent not have to pay child support?

The answer to that question is: no. If you are the noncustodial parent of a child in Texas, then you will have to pay child support in most every situation. If you’re a parent who, for any reason, chooses not to work and has no intention of seeking employment to avoid paying child support, I have news that may disappoint you. What a judge will do is presume a minimum wage net monthly resources and then calculate child support based on how many children you are responsible for. 

How does health insurance factor into the discussion on child support?

Another piece of information that I want you to be aware of in advance of your child custody or divorce case is that for most cases, health insurance for your kids will be provided by the parent who also pays child support. Health insurance can mean insurance provided by that parent’s employer, a private plan purchased in the health insurance marketplace or the reimbursement of the state for providing Medicaid. Parents typically share the costs of medical care not covered by health insurance.

What about providing proof of how the child support is being spent?

Trusting the other parent with child support funds, even amid strained relations, can seem peculiar, as it entails expecting them to utilize the money for the children’s benefit. Stories circulating about child support funds being diverted to non-child-related expenses often raise concerns. While it’s natural to desire transparency regarding fund usage, obtaining a detailed account or monthly breakdown of expenditures typically isn’t part of the child support arrangement. However, if genuine concerns about misuse exist, exploring legal avenues to address the issue is advisable.

Well intentioned parents have asked me this question more times than you could imagine. The answer is, either fortunately or unfortunately, no. It’s unfortunate if you are the type of person who likes to exert a little control over your circumstances. Receiving child support as a parent and believing it’s not the other parent’s concern how the money is spent can be seen as fortunate. All in all, the costs associated with raising a child on a full time basis are likely much, much higher than any amount of money that you pay monthly in child support. 

What does joint custody mean?

Many clients (mostly fathers) will come into our office and tell me that their goal is to win joint custody of their kids. Most of these dads don’t know exactly what joint custody means, but they do have a foggy idea that it roughly means splitting time with their child’s mother. For a well intentioned father this is, in their mind, the reasonable solution to the custody issue. Most dads assume that they will not be able to win primary custody of their child (for some reason), so splitting custody is probably the best they can do, right?

It may surprise you to learn that the term “joint custody” does not appear anywhere in the Texas Family Code. Therefore, it is not a legal term. It has gained traction inside and outside of the legal community because we all know what custody refers to and “joint custody” has the connotation of sharing time with your child. 

Joint custody is often compared with sole custody as different ends of the parenting spectrum. Sole custody to most people means that one parent gets the child 99% of the time (if not more so) and also makes all of the educational, medical and other important decisions in that child’s life. 

Your attorney may not fully understand your intentions if you use terms like “sole custody” or “joint custody” without clarification, leading to potential misunderstandings in your family law case. It’s essential to define your goals clearly from the outset to ensure effective legal representation. In court, any decisions regarding your child will prioritize their best interests, determined by various factors. While we won’t delve into these factors here, you can find more detailed information on our website.

Parental rights and duties in Texas child custody

For our purposes today, however, let’s assume that what is in the best interests of your child is whatever will benefit his emotional, physical and mental development the most. The correct term when discussing the issue of raising a child after a divorce or child custody case is conservator. A conservator is responsible for making decisions and holding rights associated with the child. Conservatorship does not specifically have anything to do with splitting time/possession of your child. 

In Texas, parents are usually appointed as joint managing conservators of a child. This means that you and your child’s other parent will share in the rights and duties associated with raising your child. This applies regardless of the amount of possession time awarded to each parent.

These rights encompass receiving information from doctors and teachers, accessing medical and school records, communicating with professionals about your child’s well-being, attending school functions, being an emergency contact, and consenting to medical treatment. Duties include caring for, controlling, and protecting your child, including discipline and providing essentials like clothing, food, shelter, and healthcare. Additionally, one parent typically determines the primary residence, while the other may receive or pay child support.

Possession of your child is separate from conservatorship

When it comes to your ability to spend time with your child after the conclusion of the family law case, we are talking about possession. Possession is its own separate topic. The state of Texas has a goal to promote continued contact between parents and children. The presumption is that it’s in the best interests of your child to have the opportunity to build a relationship with both parents.

The core of your family law case lies in addressing all these issues amidst strained relations between you and the other parent. There are usually feelings of anger, betrayal, jealousy and bitterness simmering at the top of a family law case. Yours may be no different. It is not easy to look past these emotions and get down to what is in your child’s best interests. Your attorney, if he or she is doing their job, will work to advise you on these issues to help you look past your fleeting emotions and instead focus on what is best for your child. 

What happens when one parent breaks the rules associated with possession of your child?

In the event that your child’s other parent decides to break the orders associated with possession of your child, then what can happen depends on the circumstances of your case. For example, if your child’s father does not pick your child up for weekend visitation then you cannot force him to do so. He is not obligated to see your child for a weekend if he chooses not to be there.

You can enforce the terms of the order if your child’s father consistently brings your child home later than he should under the court order. This involves filing an enforcement lawsuit to bring the violations to the court’s attention. It would be your responsibility, then, to provide evidence to the judge regarding those violations. 

One other piece of information on possession of your kids before we conclude today’s blog post that I wanted to share is that if your ex-spouse is not paying your child support, you are not legally able to withhold possession of your child. Likewise, if your ex-spouse is not allowing you time with your child you cannot then withhold child support as a response. One bad act does not justify another. You both would be committing violations of the court order. 

Conclusion

Understanding the intricacies of family law issues is paramount for anyone navigating the complexities of child custody or divorce cases in Texas. As highlighted in our discussion, the lack of awareness surrounding these core principles can significantly impact the outcome of legal proceedings. By shedding light on these essential aspects, our aim is to empower individuals with the knowledge needed to make informed decisions and effectively advocate for their rights. As you continue on your legal journey, remember that seeking reliable information and guidance from experienced professionals can be invaluable in achieving favorable outcomes in family law matters.

More basics of family law will be covered in tomorrow’s blog post

If you have any questions about the material that we covered in 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 answer your questions and provide you with direct feedback about your specific circumstances. 

Other Related Articles:

  1. A Closer Look at DFPS and Family Law
  2. Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act: Its Impact on your Texas family law case
  3. Mediation and Negotiation- the bulwarks of Texas family law
  4. How to file for divorce when there are child support or custody orders already in place
  5. Do You Still Have to Pay Child Support If Your Ex Remarries Someone Else?
  6. Is Overtime Pay or Bonus Pay Considered for Texas Child Support?
  7. When Paternity is Uncertain in a Texas Child Support Case
  8. How much will your child support enforcement case cost?
  9. How to Approach a Deposition in a Texas Family Law Case
  10. How to file for divorce when there are child support or custody orders already in place
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At the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, the firm wants to get to know your case before they commit to work with you. They offer all potential clients a no-obligation, free consultation where you can discuss your case under the client-attorney privilege. This means that everything you say will be kept private and the firm will respectfully advise you at no charge. You can learn more about Texas divorce law and get a good idea of how you want to proceed with your case.

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