When you go through a family law case in Texas, you are establishing parental rights and responsibilities. In addition, the time that you can spend with your child will also be determined. It is a bit odd to have these aspects of your relationship with your child defined in terms like these by a judge that doesn’t know you from your next-door neighbor, but that is how these things tend to go.
An important part of this process is being able to know what to expect so that you and your attorney can prepare to negotiate and if necessary, litigate your case successfully. Today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan will attempt to provide you with the information that you need to prepare for your own family law case when it comes to a number of the most important issues in Texas family law.
Could you get supervised visitation in your divorce or child custody case?
It is not likely that you will be awarded supervised visitation in your child custody or divorce case. The simple reason for this is that the default position of a family law court is that you and your opposing party should have similar amounts of possession and access to your child. Sure, one of you will be able to choose where your child lives on a full-time basis but otherwise periods of possession are split pretty evenly.
However, if you have a history of abusing or neglecting your child then it is likely that you will be ordered to have only supervised visitation with your child. This means that any time that you are able to be with your child will be directly supervised by another person. These supervised visitation sessions could occur at a restaurant, park, supervised visitation facility or even the other parent’s home.
As time goes by and you display better habits around your child as far as keeping their safety in mind, you may be able to earn periods of possession where your visitation time is not supervised. Every circumstance related to supervised visitation is different so I would advise you to contact our office to speak to one of our attorneys if you have a specific question about your circumstances.
The right to determine the primary residence of your child is typically a heated topic
As I mentioned to you a moment ago, periods of possession allow for you and your child’s other parent to have time with your child once your family law case has concluded. For the most part, the rights and duties that you and your child’s other parent share are fairly equal. However, perhaps the most important difference is that only one of you will have the right to determine the primary residence of your child.
“Determine the primary residence of your child” means that only one of you will be able to have your child reside with you during the school year. One parent will have visitation rights. All of that parent’s periods of visitation will be outlined in your final orders. The parent with the right to determine the primary residence of your child will have visitation at all other times. In a Joint Managing Conservatorship, all other rights and duties are split down the middle, generally speaking.
A limitation to your being able to determine the primary residence of your child comes in the form of a geographic restriction. Basically, a geographic restriction forces you to live within a certain geographic area after your family law case is over with. This is done in order to keep you from bouncing around the country and world wherever you would like, thus forcing the other parent to move with you in order to be able to see their child.
Many parents will agree to use their home county and any county that borders that home county as the geographic area that the primary conservator must reside. Some even pinpoint it further to either the home county by itself or even a school district within the home county. The default setting if you all go to court to have your case decided would be to set your geographic restriction to your home county and any surrounding county. If you would prefer something different then it is up to you to negotiate for that with your opposing party.
Getting child support set up out of your family law case
In addition to be able to determine the primary residence of your child, the primary conservator is able to receive child support. That child support is supposed to go towards the daily support of your child. Food, clothing, shelter, medical care are supposed to be maintained at a basic level. Child support is an important part of this equation because as a parent with only visitation rights you are not able to physically be present with your child to provide for him or her on some days. Child support is supposed to even out the load.
A percentage of your net monthly resources will be assessed for child support purposes. You can take your take-home pay and multiply it by 20% for one child, 25% for two children and on up to 40% for five or more children. That will give you a rough estimate of your monthly child support obligation. You can receive small offsets for having children other than those before the court who you are also responsible for caring for. The absolute maximum that a parent can be expected to pay in child support is 50% of their net monthly income.
There is no difference in the child support that you are obligated to pay, depending upon whether or not you were ever married to your child’s other parent. Your income will be capped at $8,550 for the purposes of calculating child support. This means that if your monthly net income is greater than $8,550 only the first $8,550 is considered for child support.
What are other relevant factors when calculating child support?
If a court believes that the method of calculating child support above is not in the best interests of your child. The age of your child, the needs of your child, your child’s other parent’s ability to earn an income and provide the necessities of life for your child as well as whether or not your child has a disability of some sort all are relevant considerations to make. If your child has a mental or physical impairment that requires additional care it is likely that additional amounts of child support will be added to your total responsibility.
What about medical expenses? Are they a part of child support?
In additional to child support, If you are the noncustodial parent you will also have to pay the medical bills (in part) of your child as well as provide health insurance coverage for him or her. If the child’s other parent pays for their health insurance then you will pay him or her directly for the cost of that policy. You may also pay for a policy out of your company health insurance. The final option that is likely to be relevant here is when you pay back the State of Texas for placing on your child on a public health insurance option.
Wage withholding orders
To ensure that child support is paid on time and in full each month, it is common for wage withholding orders to be sent to your employer. Your child’s other parent will have this form filled out and sent to the judge for their signature. From that point it will be forwarded to your employer for their reference. Every paycheck that comes out a portion of the funds will go towards child support. If you are paid weekly then a smaller amount will be taken out, and if you are a government employee and are paid one a month a larger portion of that check will go towards child support.
Once the money is sent from your employer, it will be processed by the Office of the Attorney General’s Child Support Division. From there, the money will be sent to your child’s primary conservator for his or her usage.
How to change the orders related to child support
If you want to change the way that child support is paid in your case you would need to file a modification petition with the court. A Petition to Modify is the name of the legal document that is filed under these circumstances. A court will be looking to see if there has been a material and substantial change that has occurred in your life, your child’s life in the other party in order to justify a modification request.
Changes in your income, either positive or negatively are a common basis for filing a request to modify a child support order. Another would be if your ex-spouse or child suffered a disability that required more child support be paid to support the child’s medical needs. Either way, if you are considering a request to increase child support it is crucial that you work with an attorney to do so. Child support modifications can be among the most hotly contested
of all family law cases.
How can you start a Texas family law case?
For the remainder of today’s blog I would like to share with you how you would begin a Texas family law case. For example, if you wanted to file for divorce you would need to file an Original Petition for Divorce. Doing so would make you the petitioner in your case. Your spouse would then be the Respondent because he or she would need to respond with an Answer to your Petition.
Before you start to think about any of the actual issues of your case, you would need to consider where your case should be filed. Most people will file for divorce in the county where they reside because that is the only venue that is appropriate. However, if you have recently moved, or plan on moving soon that may not make sense for you.
To file for divorce in Texas you or your spouse would need to have resided in the county where your divorce is to be filed for at least the past ninety days and in Texas (anywhere in Texas) for the past six months.
What are the grounds for your divorce?
A divorce can be filed in Texas for any reason or none at all. I will tell potential clients that you can file for divorce because you don’t like the way that he chews his dinner. You can base your divorce on any reason at all and a court will grant your divorce so long as you meet the procedural rules of doing so. Tomorrow’s blog will begin by discussing the factors that can lead to a divorce being filed as well as the role that these fault grounds can play in getting a divorce started.
Questions about Texas family law cases?
If you have any questions about the material that we discussed today please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys work tirelessly on behalf of our clients to achieve the results that they and their families deserve. We work and live in this community and take a great deal of pride in providing the best representation in the city of Houston and it surrounding communities.
We offer free of charge consultations six days a week here in our office where you can learn about our attorneys, our staff and the services we can provide to you and your family. A half hour can give you a huge leg up when it comes to learning about your case. We thank you for joining us today here on our blog and we look forward to being able to speak to you in the future about your case.