If your family is in a state of turmoil due to violence, financial problems or anything in between then you may have concerns about the stability of your family and your ability to provide for your children. Many times mothers and fathers across Texas have additional concerns about how their behavior in trying to protect their children may unintentionally violate a court’s orders regarding custody, visitation, possession or support.
Take a situation that I encountered recently with a client. A woman came into our office with a major concern about the behavior her children’s father was displaying towards the kids. Apparently, this man had been acting inappropriately with both her son and daughter while they were at his home. The kids would come back to our client’s home and report the offensive behavior. Any parent reading this would feel the same sort of shock and betrayal as our client did, I imagine.
This woman was in a tricky situation, however. She obviously needed to report illegal behavior to the authorities and to protect her children in the process. However, she was also bound by the visitation and possession agreements in a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship that she had entered into with the children’s father a year earlier. Within those orders, both parents have set times of the week that each has the right to be in possession of the children. She was thus faced with the choice of abiding by the order and letting her children be exposed to a dangerous person or violate the order and risk the consequences of doing so.
Whether your concerns relate do child custody or child support the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC would like to provide you with information that can assist you with handling issues that relate to these subjects in today’s blog post.
The basis of child support in Texas
The premise that the State of Texas operates under is that every child that lives in our state has the right to be supported by both of their parents. This support includes financial support among other types of support. As such, if you are a parent who does not have the primary responsibility of caring for your children on a daily basis you are probably responsible for paying child support to the other parent of your children.
The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) is the state agency that collects child support on behalf of parents and enforces child support orders for custodial parents. If you are the parent who has primary duties in raising your child then you can work through the OAG in order to begin collecting child support.
Despite what many people think, the OAG does not represent any parent individually. Their actions in representing the State of Texas may allow a parent to receive missed child support payments, for example, but their primary responsibility is to ensure child support orders are followed and to file legal cases in order to enforce those orders.
What can the OAG do for parents and families?
The OAG offers services to families such as establishing paternity, establishing child support orders and locating missing parents.
Does child support need to be paid if you are not a daily caretaker for your child?
Many people, fathers mostly, who come into the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC for a consultation will ask me if they are under any obligation to pay child support to their child’s other parent before a court order is in place. The answer to that question is, no, you do not. If you do not do so, keep in mind that you can be put on the hook for back child support for the time period that you were not paying towards your child’s daily needs.
Making voluntary payments of child support may not be something that you are capable of. First of all, you may be able to buy packs of diapers, formula or other necessities but you may not have the income sufficient to provide for yourself and for a child support payment. Secondly, you may have concerns that you will not be given official “credit” for making off the books payments of child support. I do encourage anyone making informal child support payments to keep an accurate record of those payments in case the issue comes up in subsequent court cases. Acting in this way shows that you have your child’s best interests at heart and can put you in the good graces of a judge.
What about custody and visitation issues?
If you are not married to the other parent of your child and you are seeking court orders regarding custody, visitation or support then you will need to file a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR). This is the mechanism whereby you can establish paternity, child support and anything else related to the well being and best interests of your child.
Maybe the most frequently asked question that is addressed to me is whether or not a parent is obligated to pay child support to the other parent if he or she is being denied visitation. Why pay child support, this person is reasoning, when he or she is unable to see to the child for whom the support is being paid? The other side of this question is whether or not you as the parent who receives child support has to allow your child to visit with their other parent when that parent is not paying child support either fully or on time.
In most cases, unless otherwise ordered by a judge, the payment of child support and the ability to take advantage of visitation with your child are not mutually exclusive. If you have not paid child support in months then you may be in violation of your SAPCR’s orders but your child’s other parent cannot deny you the opportunity to visit with your child on your weekends or other predetermined periods of possession. In the same way, if your child’s other parent has not paid you child support in months you cannot withhold your child from spending the weekend with that mother or father.
In either scenario, the appropriate remedy would be to file an Enforcement suit in the same court that issued your SAPCR. This enforcement suit would seek to have any violations of the order addressed by the court. This means that as punishment for violating the order your child’s other parent could be held in contempt of court. Jail time of up to six months and/or a fine of $500 per violation can be imposed by a judge.
Physical violence with children or a parent and its effect on a SAPCR
If your child’s other parent was violent with you or your children you need to report this to the State. The Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) has a mission of protecting children from abuse or neglect. In addition, you should contact law enforcement to assure that any illegal behavior by a parent is addressed.
As it pertains to your case, courts look very harshly upon parents who are violent with children and/or the other parent. If there are credible accusations of abuse or neglect of a child made against you then it is likely that your visitation with your child would be restricted, at least initially. Having supervised visitation either with a relative or a state-approved business that supervises periods of visitation is the situation that you could find yourself in.
Questions about child custody and child support? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about child custody or child support issues please feel free to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. Our licensed family law attorneys are equipped to answer your questions and directly address any concerns that you may have. We offer free of charge consultations six days a week and provide you with a pressure-free, comfortable environment to speak with our attorneys.
Our attorneys and staff take a great deal of pride in representing the people in our community and in helping them to better their lives and those of their children.
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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, 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 Houston, TX Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.
Our divorce 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 Divorce cases in Houston, 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.