When we use the term “joint custody,” what do we mean, exactly? Custody as a word does not appear in the Texas Family Code even once. We use a term to combine all aspects of parenting after a divorce- visitation, possession, access, and conservatorship.
In yesterday’s blog post, we discussed the concept of joint legal custody, which has to do with the rights and duties that you, as a parent, possess towards your child. At the outset of today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, I would like to talk about the other side of joint custody- physical custody of your child.
Sharing physical custody of your child is referred to as possession in the Family Code as well as in your Final Decree of Divorce. In theory, what joint physical custody allows for is both you and your ex-spouse's ability to continue to grow in your relationships with your child.
Having the ability to interact with your child physically is different from making decisions on your child’s behalf alone. While these rights are important, it is almost like being a stock trader if you only have your child's legal custody. The physical aspects of your relationship are what many parents crave coming out of a divorce. This is likely because parents, yourself included most likely, have legitimate fears about seeing their child as much as they would like as a result of the divorce.
Stability and consistency in your ability to parent your child are important as your post-divorce life begins. Having a regular time to spend with your child means that you are there to ask questions and get direction on the issues that affect them daily. I have heard parents talk about how they fear their child will be losing him or her as a parent after the divorce and that they would do anything to maintain their place in their child’s life. This, I believe, is that joint physical custody offers parents such as yourself.
Potential negatives of joint physical custody
As with everything in life, there are positives and negatives to point out regarding joint physical custody. For starters, the whole concept of shared physical custody of your child hinges on your and your ex-spouse’s ability to co-parent with one another. This is a phrase that often appears in our modern-day language regarding divorce and child custody. Co-parenting is really nothing more than the tenants of joint physical and legal custody combined into one word.
Ideally, you and your ex-spouse can work together to make decisions in real-time that can positively impact your child. If this sounds familiar, it should- it sounds a lot like marriage itself. The downside to consider is obvious: you and that other person spent months trying to rid the other from your life. Now you are expected to bury the hatchet and work with each other on the most important subject to each of you? Sounds like a recipe for bad blood and arguments.
Consider also your child. If your case were to proceed to a judge, he or they would likely order standard visitation times for the parent who is not awarded the right to designate the primary residence of your child. This is done in part because it is thought that an every other weekend visitation schedule with the non-primary parent will negatively affect your child the least. Children thrive on consistency and stability, and a possession schedule that causes your child to have short stays at each parent’s house is unlikely to go over well for some children.
Finally, after a divorce, you and your spouse will need to develop your own individual lives on a practical level. This means that you will need to rent your own apartment or make house payments on a single income. Costs will increase, temporarily at least, while your income goes down.
This is a recipe for financial troubles that can persist long after your divorce concludes if you are not careful. Money troubles may have caused your divorce, and those money troubles will not go away just because the divorce was finalized. Inputting your child into the middle of this can be a potential problem as well.
How do courts set child support in Texas?
If children are half of the divorce equation, and money is the other half, then child support is the one subject that encapsulates both halves. The State of Texas has guidelines that provide child support percentages to be assessed against an obligor parent’s net monthly income. Income means (basically) any money earned due to work performed- wages, tips, salaries, commission, bonuses, etc. One child before the court means that twenty percent of your net monthly income is to go towards child support. Two is 25% and so on until you have can have at most fifty percent of your net monthly income utilized for child support purposes.
The goal of these child support formulas is to attempt to come close to what percentage of your income as an obligor parent would go towards your child's direct support. Of course, if your child were to need a pair of shoes for their basketball season or a new calculator for school, you probably would not bat an eye to pay for these items as well.
However, child support is intended as a bare minimum for you to pay for your child's support every month. If your child has special needs that require medical attention regularly, your child support obligation will likely be higher than the guideline levels we discussed earlier.
In what circumstances could below guidelines levels of child support be ordered?
The most frequently seen example that I can relate to you involves having other children you are responsible for but are not presently before the court. There are reasons why a less than guideline level of child support could be ordered for you to pay. For example, if you have a child from a previous marriage that you pay child support for, a “credit” will be issued in your current child support calculation, meaning that you would only be obligated to pay 17.5% of your net monthly income rather than 20%.
Consider also an example that many parents run into in divorce negotiations if you and your spouse can agree to true 50/50 custody- meaning that you and your spouse share equally in the physical custody of your child then there is more reason to agree on a shallow level of child support to be paid- or none at all. Suppose you and your spouse earn similar incomes. That is another factor that could lead to no child support obligation inputted into your divorce decree.
Keep in mind that if you are the parent who has visitation rights to your child, he or she will have extended periods of possession with you in the summer. You will still be obligated to pay child support to your ex-spouse during these periods. There is nothing in the family code that allows parents to avoid payments for the times that their child is in their possession, other than if the primary conservator makes it known that he or she is allowing an unofficial change to occur in who determines the primary residence of the child.
Child Support Enforcement and College Costs - tomorrow’s blog post topics
If today’s subject matter was of interest to you, we hope you will return to read about more subject matter related to child support. In the meantime, if you have questions regarding these subjects or any other in Texas family law, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. We offer free of charge consultations with one of our licensed family law attorneys.
If you want to know more about what you can do, CLICK the button below to get your FREE E-book: “Child Custody E-Book”
Other Articles you may be interested in:
- 12 Texas Custody & Conservatorship Battle Tips
- Child Custody Basics in Texas
- Do I Have to Pay Child Support if I Have Joint Custody of My Child in Texas?
- Child Custody Basics in Texas
- Are Dads at a Disadvantage when trying to win 50/50 custody in a Texas Divorce?
- Sole Managing Conservator in a Child Custody Case in Texas?
- Help!! My Ex-Spouse Kidnapped my Child
- How Much Will My Texas Child Custody Case Cost?
- When Can a Minor Child Weigh in on Custody Decisions in Texas?”
- Child Custody Geographic Restrictions in Texas
Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas Child Custody Lawyers
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding child custody, it's important to speak with one of our Houston, TX child custody lawyers right away to protect your rights.
Our child custody lawyers in Houston, 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 child custody 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.