Determining what is in the best interests of your child
As a parent, you likely have the belief that you know what is in the best interests of your child. Under most circumstances, our legal system would agree with you. You can decide what church your child attends, the clothes she wears to school, and the dinner that they eat in your home.
However, if your child becomes the subject of a family law case, then you are ceding the right to make that call to a judge. It is they that will ultimately determine what is in the best interests of your child, not you or the child's other parent.
The law in our state on what is actually in your child's best interests is incredibly vague. This allows your judge to decide on that subject based upon your case's particular facts and circumstances. A judge may consider the following factors, however:
-What your child would like to see happen
If your child is over the age of 12, he shall have the opportunity to speak to the judge privately about what he wants to see happen to determine their primary residence. That doesn't mean that the judge has to place a certain amount of weight on what they say, but the law allows a child over the age of 12 to state their opinion to the judge if a party to the case requests it.
Children younger than 12 may do the same, but it is not open and shut. The judge would have to assess the rationale for the request and determine whether or not to allow a younger child to voice their opinion in this way.
-Your child's current and future emotional/physical needs
Every child is different and needs other things to be safe, happy, and productive. A judge will need to determine what your child needs from a physical and emotional standpoint to thrive.
You and your child's other parent may offer starkly different options for the judge to decide about. Suppose you or the other parent are shown not to provide a healthy environment, either emotionally or physically. In that case, the judge is unlikely to name that party as the primary conservator of your child.
This is undoubtedly the factor that will cause the most terrific uproar amongst many people; if you are a parent, I can say with certainty that you believe that you are a good parent. A parent that listens to your child and does what is best for your child. It's pretty unlikely that you do not believe yourself to be a good parent.
The judge may have a different perspective, however. Your parenting abilities will be judged to determine what living situation is in your child's best interests. This means that your history of raising this child will be reviewed.
If you were primarily an absentee parent who now only contributes money to your child every so often for the most basic of necessities, it would be shown pretty quickly that your parenting abilities are not all that strong.
Finally, one of the most critical factors that a court will use to determine your child's best interests is to evaluate the stability of your home and the home of your child's other parent. If you live with another person who would not be viewed favorably by a judge or if it can be proven that you use drugs or any other illegal substance, then your home may not be considered in all that stable. This is sure to work against you in a custody determination.
How does a court determine your income if your income is not known?
Suppose that you do not attend a court hearing on child support- or do attend but cannot show a judge what you do earn- how is it that a court can determine a level of child support justified under the law?
The simple answer is that the judge can attribute a level of child support based on the income earned by a person who works a minimum wage job forty hours a week. If you make more than this or achieve nothing at all, this will be the formula that a court uses to assess your ability to pay child support.
What happens if you want to pay more or less than the guideline levels of child support outlined in the Texas Family Code?
You may find yourself in a situation where you feel appropriate to either pay more or less than the amount of child support as outlined in the Texas Family Code. It would be best to voice this opinion to the judge during any hearing to allow for potential modification.
Evidence must be shown that justifies a deviation from the average amount of child support to be paid based on your net monthly resources and the number of children you are responsible for (both before the court and not involved in this case). Ultimately the judge will need to decide based upon what is in the best interests of your child.
A judge may decide not to order you to pay an amount greater than or lesser than the guideline level of child support based on the factors I listed a paragraph ago. The age and health of your child will play a role in the judge's decision-making. Also, what childcare options are available to your child's other parent, as well as how much time your child spends both with you and the other parent to make a final determination.
Remember- all of these issues can be agreed upon in advance by you and your child's other parent. As long as the judge believes your agreements to be in the best interests of your child, then those agreements will be made into orders from the court.
When does your responsibility to pay child support end?
From the date that your child support order goes into effect until the date your child turns eighteen or graduates from high school (whichever occurs later) will be the lifespan of your commitment or responsibility to pay child support.
Your court order will ultimately determine the expiration date of this responsibility, so you are advised to keep a copy of your order handy to be able to refer to it when you need to.
Do you also need to pay medical support for your child?
Medical support and child support are not the same. You will likely be required by your court to provide medical insurance for your child in addition to child support.
If the custodial parent provides medical insurance, you will have to compensate them for doing so. Otherwise, you will need to provide the medical insurance yourself or pay the state for providing your child with Medicaid.
What happens if you lose your job and cannot pay child support? Find out tomorrow
In our final blog post on this subject, I will write about what happens if you lose your job while obligated to pay child support. This is a subject that many parents encounter but may not know the answer to. Come back tomorrow to learn more about this subject.
Questions about child support or family law, in general, can be addressed to one of our licensed family law attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. Contact us today to set up a free-of-charge consultation. We can meet with you six days a week.
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:
- Defining a material and substantial change in a child support modification case
- How to correctly calculate child support in Texas
- Is Overtime Pay or Bonus Pay Considered for Texas Child Support?
- Child Support in Texas: What is the most you will have to pay, and what are the exceptions to that rule?
- The Dirty Trick of Quitting Your Job to Avoid Child Support During a Texas Divorce
- Can I get child support while my Texas divorce is pending?
- Do I Have to Pay Child Support if I Have Joint Custody of My Child in Texas?
- Can I Sue My Ex for Retroactive or Back Child Support in Texas?
- Child Support and College Tuition in Texas
- Texas Child Support Appeals
- In Texas, are Child Support and Visitation Connected?
- Why Ignoring Child Support Obligations is a Bad Idea in Texas
- Can I get child support and custody of my kids in Texas if we were never married?
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 essential to speak with one of our Houston, TX, child support lawyers 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, Houston, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County, and Waller County.