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Child Support and Shared Custody Arrangements

What are the goals that you have for your child custody case? Do you want to maximize the amount of time that you can spend with your child? Most, if not all, parents in your position want to do exactly that. This goal can be accomplished in several ways. However, taking a path that has the least amount of resistance and the greatest benefit for your child is the preferable road to take. In today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we will discuss how to accomplish a shared custody plan in Texas that works for everyone. 

With shared custody comes the normal concerns that every family has regarding how their child is going to be cared for. It’s no secret that life is getting more and more expensive. Set aside concerns regarding buying a house or saving for college. Have you seen the price of groceries these days? Unless you grow and raise all your food in the backyard then I’m guessing you have. Each trip I take to the store these days has me shaking my head at something new as far as the price or portion of the food that is being sold to me. 

Navigating Child Support in Shared Custody Cases

Shared custody means figuring out how your family will share those same costs that we are all encountering right now. For the most part, that means child support. In the world of Texas family law, there is no subject more contentious than child support. Just when you think that the family law case is the final interaction that you and your co-parent must have together, child support comes in and rears its ugly head. Whether you are the paying or receiving parent, child support almost always causes concerns at some point for families. 

Take these issues seriously and you will be well on your way to a successful child custody case. Neglect these issues or assume that your attorney will handle it all for you, and you will find that the results of your case do not end up being what you wanted them to be. A family law case is like anything else that you involve yourself with in life- the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. Stay with us here on our blog at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan and you will gain valuable perspective into how to balance the issues of child support and shared custody arrangements

How do families share custody in Texas?

It all sounds nice and peachy when you hear the term “shared custody.” Unfortunately, a family law case rarely ends up with a peachy ending. The middle of family law cases are especially not peachy most of the time. What do you need to know about how families share custody during and after child custody cases? Enough to make sure you have a firm base of knowledge when it comes to negotiating this subject with your co-parent. Here are some of the essentials. 

Parents in Texas almost always end up as joint managing conservators. A conservator is a person who has a legal responsibility to care for another person. In this case, you are a conservator of your child. You have legal rights to make decisions on behalf of your child as well as a duty to care for your child. Balancing these rights and duties is what you have done your entire time as a parent. The only difference is that now those rights and duties are going to be written down in the shape of a court order. 

Parents share rights and duties before, during, and after a child custody case. The specific legal name given to the shared custody arrangements that you and your co-parent are likely to share is known as a joint managing conservatorship. The two of you will jointly manage the affairs of your child as co-parents. The law presumes that this arrangement is best for your child. It will put you in a position where you will need to work with your co-parent on making decisions on behalf of your child and raising him. His emotional well-being, physical development, and safety are at the top of the list when it comes to determining the best interests of your child.

Understanding Rights and Duties in Child Custody Cases

Of all the rights and duties that are discussed within a child custody case, two of them are going to be central to our blog post today. The first of those is the right to determine the primary residence of your child. Under a joint managing conservatorship, one parent is named as the primary conservator of your child, and the other is named as the possessory conservator of your child. The primary conservator has the responsibility to determine the primary residence of your child. This means that your child will live with the primary conservator throughout the year. 

If you are named as the possessory conservator, then you will have visitation rights to be able to spend time with your son. In conjunction with a Standard Possession Order, you and your co-parent will determine the time that your child will spend with you away from their primary residence. For many families, this could look like visitation on the first, third, and fifth weekends of each month. This is a hallmark of the Standard Possession Order. The purpose of an SPO is to be as equal as possible in terms of dividing up time between you and your co-parent. 

Once you and your co-parent understand what your role is as far as conservatorship is concerned, the question of child support will also be answered for you. Child support reflects a belief held by the State of Texas that both parents should play a central role in the care and maintenance of a child. This care and maintenance require money and the child support ordered in your case will see to it that a proper balance is struck. 

Calculating Child Support and Ensuring Compliance

There are many ways to calculate child support. You and your co-parent are free to come up with your method, but just keep in mind that whatever child support figure you arrive at, a judge will need to determine that the award is in the best interests of your child. For the most part, however, families in your position will use the guideline levels of child support as outlined in the Texas Family Code. These guideline amounts are calculated by determining your net monthly income and then applying a percentage against your income based on the number of children you have before the court. 

Once you all have arrived at a number for child support, it will be inserted into your custody orders and then utilized until modified in the future, if at all. This is the amount of child support that you will either pay or be paid until your child turns 18 years old or graduates from high school whichever occurs later. There are procedures on how to pay child support which we will go over shortly. For now, just understand that there are significant consequences for you and your child if child support cannot be paid on time and in full each month. 

How child support and shared custody interact in the real world

What we have covered so far in today’s blog post is a sanitized and streamlined overview of a complex subject. When you get right down to it, sharing custody with a co-parent with whom you are not on the best of terms may be the challenge of a lifetime. Co-parenting forces the two of you to set aside your differences and focus your time and money on doing what is in the best interests of your child. Sometimes you will succeed at this as a team, and sometimes you will fail at this as a team. 

The real question is how these two subjects, child support, and child custody, interact in the real world. We can make everything seem very hygienic here on the blog for a family law office. That won’t do you much good if you are unprepared for the challenges of a world where you and your co-parent have competing interests, schedules, and ideas about how to raise a child together. It is easy enough to mediate on these subjects during a child custody case but once the case is over that is the real test of how these subjects will interact with one another. 

Navigating Shared Custody: Tips for Success

For starters, it pays for you to know your child custody orders backward and forwards. That way there will be no confusion about what your responsibilities are and what your co-parent’s responsibilities are. I can’t tell you how many times a parent in your shoes has accused their co-parent of a violation of the court orders which was not even accurate. Even well-meaning parents can read responsibilities into court orders that aren’t there. With that said, make sure you know what you are signing after your custody case, and then keep a copy of your orders handy. 

Shared custody is not something that you and your co-parent are going to be able to succeed at without some trial and error. It is an uncomfortable arrangement to have to check in with a parent that you used to be in a relationship with as you try to do what is best for your child. Nobody is going to argue with you that co-parenting is tough. However, bear in mind that your child is the one who can stand to benefit tremendously from your ability to make a concerted effort to improve your co-parenting skills. 

Shared custody means accountability, dependability, and patience

There are two situations that I would like to illuminate for us as we conclude today’s blog post. When it comes to sharing custody of your child with a co-parent, invariably the most frequently mentioned reason why problems arise in that relationship has to do with visitation and possession. When you come to your co-parent’s house to pick up your son for a weekend of visitation that means that you need to be prepared, at the correct time and place to retrieve him. Likewise, your co-parent needs to have your child ready (with everything he will need for that weekend) at the correct time and place for you to come get him. 

Unfortunately, it does not always work out that way in the real world. Work runs late, traffic can be terrible, and kids sometimes do not want to go see their father even though he drove across town to come get him. You and your co-parent will probably experience several situations like these and many more that I haven’t even mentioned today. The question that we need to ask ourselves is how are the two of you going to handle these types of situations together as co-parents?

Enhancing Communication and Cooperation in Co-Parenting

Answering that question will help determine the degree to which you all can succeed as co-parents. Basic courtesies can go a long way when it comes to one-in-a-while issues like being late to pick up your son for a weekend of visitation. If you find out that you are going to encounter bad traffic on a Friday evening, then you should let your co-parent know about that as soon as you can. That way she can perhaps prepare a small meal or take other measures to make sure your son is fed while they wait for you to come get him. 

By the same token, extend to your co-parent some patience if your son is not ready right at 6:00 on Friday to be picked up. There may be circumstances beyond her control that led to a delay. Your son may not be in the mood to come see you and he may be dragging his feet in preparing his overnight bag. Whatever the case may be, you should be careful about jumping to conclusions when it comes to your son and your periods of visitation.

Of course, if these types of issues become commonplace then you will need to think about talking to your co-parent directly about them. If you cannot get anywhere or if she does not show any kind of remorse about being late or not packing enough clothes for your child, then you may need to think about filing an enforcement lawsuit to protect your rights under the court order. By the same token, you are protecting your son and his ability to get as much out of the visitation experience as possible. 

Child support- on time, in full, or there may be problems

When it comes to child support issues, there is no wiggle room when it comes to following those court orders. Grey areas and child support do not mix. The child custody orders that you signed are straightforward when it comes to child support. You will be told exactly how much money you are to pay each month and the deadline by which to make those payments. There isn’t too much “lawyering” that can be done if it becomes apparent that child support payments are not being made. 

These payments are important to your co-parent because they are built into the budget that she uses to help maintain a home for your child. When payments are missed that can put her in a bad spot as far as fulfilling her obligations to care for your child. Rest assured; she will notify you immediately if a child support payment is missed. If that happens while you are working, you should notify your payroll department to make sure that the wage withholding order is being followed. There can be issues that arise that you did not cause but you are nonetheless responsible for attending to. 

Proactive Communication to Navigate Work Disruptions

However, if you experience disruption in your work then it is a good idea to be as proactive as you can be as far as communicating updates to your co-parent. You can make her aware of what is happening, so she is not surprised when payments are missed. Failure to do this over time can result in an enforcement lawsuit being filed against you for child support owed. It may be possible to inform your co-parent of updates regarding this issue so that an enforcement case regarding missed child support does not have to be filed. 

Life tends to come at you fast in the time after a family law case. During all the hustle and bustle of your daily life, you need to keep in mind that challenges are normal when we talk about managing shared custody and child support circumstances. Above all else, remember that the sacrifices and struggles are all to benefit your child. Remember this and you will be well on your way towards being an effective co-parent. 

Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material contained 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 in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as how your family’s circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce, child custody lawsuit or shared custody in Texas. 

  1. Child Support and Shared Custody Arrangements
  2. How to Prepare for a Custody Battle Across State Lines 
  3. Father’s Fight: The Right Age for Custody Battles in Texas

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