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Custodial and Noncustodial Parents: Answers to frequently asked questions

Many parents in Texas who have a child together but are not married end up going before a family court judge to have child support orders set up. That process may have been started by the Office of the Attorney General if you applied for government benefits for your child.

The government will want to make sure that child support is being paid in the event that your child is also receiving food stamps or Medicaid. Likewise, either you or your child’s other parent can file a child support case on your own by hiring a private attorney or doing it yourself.

Even after going to court and having orders set up for you and your child’s other parent, you may still not know exactly how the orders work. All you know is that you are either paying or receiving child support and that you have a better idea of when you are able to see your child now. While these are good things- having a more predictable schedule of when you have to pay child support and when your child gets to come and see you- it is not a good plan to have no clue about anything else in your order.

That is where our blog post today from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan comes into play. I would like to provide you with some basic information that can make you feel a whole lot more confident in your knowledge that your family court orders actually say. It's one thing to have an order, it's another thing altogether to know what those orders expect of you. Over the course of today's blog post, I am going to share with you some tips on what your order likely says and what it means for you and your family.

As always, I will tell you also that I do not know exactly what your court orders say. If you have a question about what I’ve written in this blog post or believe that your orders say something different altogether than what I am saying here, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan.

Our licensed family law attorneys will be more than happy to sit down with you in a free of charge consultation and answer your specific questions. Bring in your court order and you can go through it together with one of our lawyers.

What are the rights that you as a parent have at all times in regard to your child?

Whether you are the noncustodial or custodial parent, you have the right to be able to:

  • Speak with your child's other parent before making important decisions regarding the health, education, and welfare of your child. What sort of surgery should your child have regarding a chronic condition? Should your child be held back a grade- or moved up a grade? Should your child be tested for a learning disability? Should your child receive therapy through the school counselor? These are the sort of questions that you and your child's parent should be asking one another. They are rights that you have under the court orders
  • Gain access to your child’s medical and school records. This means that if you want to take your child to a new doctor, you have the right to request their old medical records from a prior doctor’s office. Likewise, if you want to review how your child has been doing in school or if you need access to their school records you can go to the school and fill out a request to obtain them. It doesn’t matter if you are the noncustodial or custodial parent
  • Receive information about your child’s health, education and well being from your child’s other doctor. I hear from parents all the time (especially noncustodial parents) that the other parent will not give him or her updates on how the child is doing at the doctor, at school or with a particular counselor. This can be extremely frustrating and top it all off, it shouldn’t be happening. Read your court orders. It’s likely that you can and should be able to access this sort of information- no matter if your child lives with you full time or not
  • Be listed as an emergency contact for your child at their doctor and school. This is an especially tricky move that parents will sometimes play on the other one. I'll give you an example. You are a father and your child does not live with you. Your child's mother has a new boyfriend who has moved in to live with your son and his mother. The mother goes to school and changes out the emergency contacts for your son by removing your name and placing her boyfriend in your place. She may also remove your name from a list of persons that are eligible to pick your child up from school. You may not find out about it until you go to school, only to find that you can't take your son home one day. This is not allowed under your family court order. As your son's parent, you have the right to be listed as an emergency contact for him
  • If your son or daughter needs some sort of medical procedure for an emergency condition where their immediate health and safety is in danger you can consent to it. I know that I said earlier you have the ability to confer with your child’s other parent on making decisions regarding the health of your child, but if they are at risk of serious harm or even death you can make the decision yourself and not confer with their other parent first

What duty do you have to share information about your child with their other parent?

I have been practicing in family law long enough to know that many parents are uncomfortable sharing information about their child with the other parent. The reason for this hesitancy usually has to do with avoiding a negative reaction from that parent. However, you do have the duty and are required to tell the other parent about any important information regarding your child’s health or education. Most court orders require this of you unless there is some sort of confidentiality provision in your orders stemming from past incidents of abuse.

What does “important” mean for our purposes, however? For one, do not play games with your child’s other parent when you move. You should tell him or her about any new address that you have. This is important for emergency purposes and can complicate your lives if you do not disclose your new address. I know it may seem like it would be easier or better if the other parent couldn’t find you easily, but the same goes for a situation where an emergency with your child takes place.

For example, I know of a situation where a child had to call their mother because something happened at their father's house when she was spending the night. The daughter reached out to her mother, but because the mother didn't know where the father lived she was not able to intervene and provide immediate help.

For emergency purposes, you need to let your other parent know if you are moving and your new address. The same goes if you get a new phone number. Don't be petty. Don't think you are getting one over on your child's other parent. Be a grown-up and share this information. Your orders require you to if nothing else.

Just from experiences that I have had as an attorney, it may be a good idea for you to bring your court orders with you to school or your child’s daycare and ask that a copy be kept in your child’s files. That way if you go up there one day and ask for something the administration cannot tell you that it is not allowed because your child’s other parent told them it was not. This is a big issue for many parents and leads to court cases all the time. You can potentially avoid this situation by having the court order handy for easy reference.

Possession and parenting

Possession is a pretty straightforward concept to wrap our minds around. You possess something when you can hold it in your arms. You are in possession of your child when you can hold him in your arms. When your child is staying with you at your home it is said that you are in possession of him. These opportunities are part of the precious moments that you have with your child that every parent wants to take advantage of as much as possible.

If you are reading this blog post as the noncustodial parent, your time is especially precious with your child because you have less of it than the custodial parent. Your possession order will likely allow you to take possession of your child on the first, third and fifth weekends of each month. You will also have a weeknight visit during the week (assuming that you live within one hundred miles of your children) for a quick dinner after school. Holiday visits alternate from year to year.

What rights will you and your child’s other parent have individually?

While you will share many of the rights and duties associated with your child with their other parent, some rights and duties can only be held by you individually. The most notable of these rights is the right to determine the primary residence of your child. In other words, your child can only live primarily with you or your child's other parent.

The parent with whom your child lives primarily will be in possession of your child on a greater basis and will also have the right to receive child support payments.

On the other hand, if you do not have the right to receive child support payments you will have the duty to pay child support to the child’s other parent. Otherwise, under most court orders the rights and duties that you have in relation to your child will be shared on an equal basis with your child’s other parent.

How to proceed if you do not know where your child lives?

This is a problem that primarily fathers run into in regard to children that they have with women they were never married to. If you are not able to be a part of your child’s life because their mother has removed them from your home, your neighborhood and even your town that is a huge problem. As I mentioned earlier, most court orders in Texas require that you update your child’s other parent as well as the court on changes to your address when you move.

If you do not know where your child is living right now you can obtain a copy of your court order and it may contain information that will help you locate where your child is living.

In the event that the other parent of your child moves without telling you where, would you know what to do? If you don’t please read tomorrow’s blog post and I will share information related to that subject with you.

Questions about Texas family law? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material that we covered in today’s blog post, please contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys will work with you to schedule a free of charge consultation here in our office. Your questions can be answered there and we can provide you with direct feedback about your specific circumstances.

Our attorneys and staff take a great deal of pride in being able to help the people that we call neighbors, people like you. We are in the family courts of southeast Texas every day and we do our best to advocate for our clients and represent them and their families to the best of our ability.

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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Tomball, Texas Divorce Lawyers

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's important to speak with one of our Tomball, TX Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.

Our divorce lawyers in Tomball TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact 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 Divorce cases in Tomball, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, 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.

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