When it comes to a military child custody or divorce case, child support is the most frequently debated topic. Even though, for many families, child support is an issue that is almost entirely related to the guideline levels of support outlined in the Texas family code, in some circumstances, it can be a major point of contention in a Texas family law case. As a result, it will be helpful to go through some common problems associated with family law cases in Texas. Additionally, we can walk through some solutions to those problems that I discovered during my time as a practicing family law attorney.
When it comes to making child custody cases work after the cases come to a close, I can think of no more important subject than visitation and possession. Namely, what many people fail to understand who have gone through child custody cases is that even though you may have created a visitation or possession schedule that works perfectly on paper, you all need to be comfortable with the logistics of ensuring that both you and your Co-parent can fulfill your obligations under the order in terms of dropping off and picking up your children on time. This is true no matter if you are the primary conservator of your children or if you are the possessory or nonprimary custodian.
The tough part for you and your spouse, our Co-parent, is that there is no silver bullet or magical cure for coming up with a plan that works exactly right for your family. What may work well for one family may work very poorly for yours. As a result, you and your Co-parent will have to become creative in reaching solutions to problems that may rear their ugly heads during a child custody or divorce case, namely, that the plans you have created may not work well in reality. In the Houston area, reality means traffic, congestion, and problems with getting your child two in from each other homes every weekend as scheduled.
You and your Co-parent will have to work on these problems together with your attorney. There is no specific right or wrong answer. You all will need to be creative in coming up with solutions to better your family. Otherwise, you may have the most creative possession and visitation schedule around, but if you cannot get your child to and from each other's homes on time every time, then it does not matter. For that reason, the logistics of dropping off and picking up your children in each setting need to be at the forefront when you came up with possession and visitation schedules.
Whatever you ultimately decide upon with one another, it must be spelled out in clear, plain language in your final orders. There is no sense in beating around the Bush unclear with each other. Number one, you stand the risk of confusing your selves with the language that you use. For another, you put yourself in a position where you're unclear final orders cannot be enforced by a family court judge later on. This would make your final orders unenforceable and not worth the paper that they are printed on. Nothing could be more deflating or frustrating for a person to go through a family law and child custody circumstance.
For the most part, the noncustodial parent is responsible for transporting your children two in from each other's homes for periods of possession. However, it may be that your family circumstances landed to be easier for the primary conservator of your children to be someone who takes care of transportation or that a split in these transportation responsibilities is considered. Either way, you need to focus on having these decisions with your Co-parent before the beginning of a family law case. Your failure to do so may result in problems down the line and hurt feelings on both sides. Remember that the easier you make drop-offs and pickups, not only do you improve your life but that of your Co-parent and especially your children.
Long-distance drop off and pickups
Many of you may have come to this blog post after having moved recently. The move could have been due to the pandemic, employment changes, or as a result of the family law case that you have just gone through. Either way, statistics show people moving less and less towards major cities and more and more towards rural and suburban areas. If you have recently moved outside of a metropolitan area, then you're pick-up, and drop-off logistics could be much more complicated as a result. If this is true, you probably need to figure out how to manage your drop-off and pick-up times with your Co-parent. It is much better to figure out these things now than to somehow wait until after your family's case has already come to a close.
If you and your Co-parent live a considerable distance from one another, the most reasonable solution may be to negotiate on a midpoint to perform drop off and pickups. This would minimize the time that your children would have to be in a single car for a long period. Also, it would allow both parents to share in the transportation associated with kids' visits. There are many scenarios where this type of drop-off and pick-up may make sense.
For instance, if you all live a considerable distance from one another, then the parent who 'cause the long-distance may want to concede this reality and assist more frequently with dropping off and picking up your children. If you are the primary conservator of your children, then you may be reading this blog post and wondering how this is fair or would appeal to you. After all, if the responsibility for dropping off and picking up your children falls with the nonprimary parent, why should you attempt to assist in this endeavor. The reality is that you may be interested in doing something like this even if you are not necessarily responsible as the primary parent. Your motivating factor could be that unless you assist with drop off and pick up, your child will not have normal possession or visitation. This will result not only in your child being harmed but in you having to spend more time going back to court to enforce a court order or otherwise assisting your Co-parent in establishing a routine with visitation.
What happens regarding missed visitation time?
Sometimes, missed visitation is an unavoidable reality for you and your family. For instance, it may be that you all have conflicts that come up at the last minute and do not allow for alternative plans to be put into place regarding visitation. For instance, someone may have an issue with work obligations, family issues, or other problems that arise and leave you unable to fulfill the obligation to do normal dropping off and picking up. If that is the case, I don't know that you have a long-term problem on your hands but rather a one-time issue that can be worked through by coordinating a schedule with make-up time based on your lives moving forward.
Otherwise, if do you have a problem with your co-parent consistently missing visitation or position times. You may have two resort to other options to take care of this problem before it becomes a long-term issue. Notably, if your court orders are not working for you and your family, then you may have to go forward and make additional changes.
When either you or your Co-parent violates your court orders, the issue is that and enforcement will need to be filed in the same court where your child custody or divorce case was handled. The enforcement lawsuit would seek to specify when the violation occurred and any pertinent details that need to be disclosed to the judge. Through an enforcement case, you seek to have a judge address these violations and instead help receive make-up time or go through other steps to address their wrong full denial of visitation, missed visitation, or other problem related to visitation.
There are a couple of ways to handle a situation like this. For one, you may be able to work out a solution with your Co-parent between the two of you rather than immediately involving the courts. For instance, you all could work out an informal agreement where if your Co-parent is more than an hour late to pick up your children for visitation and does not provide a warning of this that the visitation is scheduled to occur may be canceled by you via a phone call, email or text message. This would give your Co-parent some warning as two need to be more attentive to any needs for drop off and pick up to occur on a different schedule. This is as opposed to showing up late consistently for visitation.
From the parent's perspective, waiting for the other parent to arrive may put you in a precarious spot. I say this because while an agreement like this would help you avoid court, it would not put you in a position where you are much better off in many ways. For starters, you would still be left waiting for your Co-parent on many occasions. An informal agreement like this does not put you in a position of strength but rather still requires you to wait on your Co-parent and risks there not being any accountability from them that is always late. However, if you avoid court and do not have to go through the time, money, and trouble associated with the court, this may be an option that you wish to take advantage of.
On the other hand, addressing an issue like this could be a good faith showing to your Co-parent that you are willing to give them a chance to rectify any problems before going to court. Many times, by immediately filing an enforcement lawsuit as soon as issues arrived with visitation or possession, you may put yourself in a position where you eliminate any chances don't work on solutions together rather than with your attorneys in court. You would need to discuss this as an option with your Co-parent rather than assume it would work out well. As always, consult with your experienced family law attorney during a family law case to determine whether or not informal agreements like this are likely to work well if future violations occur.
Makeup time for missed visitation
On the other hand, if visitation opportunities are missed due to the primary conservator wrongfully withholding the children or for any other issue, then you and your Co-parent need to be comfortable with negotiating for make-up periods of possession. Given that your weekends are pretty closely mapped out, you all will not have much of an opportunity to change things unless you all have a good plan in mind. For instance, switching weekends work well if you have a fairly straightforward schedule. However, the more complicated complex or court orders are, the more creative you may need to become when arranging makeup visitation periods.
What about mobilization and deployment issues?
As with any military family, mobilization and deployment issues can be abundant depending on the time of year and the branch of service that your military member is serving in. If you believe that you or your spouse may be deployed shortly, you should consider your options and do what is best for your children as far as arranging for make-up periods of possession in alternative schedules that may work for your family based on changes in your lives.
When you are in the process of negotiating for periods of possession, visitation orders, and custody arrangements, then you may need to think about including language in your final decree of divorce or custody orders that allow four of your children to be accounted for. this may require some negotiation and consideration of your specific circumstances. What may work for one military family may not work for yours. However, that does not mean that you and your Co-parent cannot work together to create beneficial circumstances for your family and that of your Co-parent.
Many parents in your position would like to be able to provide a range of additional persons who could step in and take advantage of custody time with your children if a deployment or otherwise issue occurs with the visitation of your children due to military responsibilities. For example, if you could not take advantage of your time with your children, you could designate a third party who could intercede and spend that time with them in your place.
What about child support issues for military service members?
The reality is that child support works the same for the military family as it does for a civilian family. If you are the parent who is responsible for paying child support, then your net monthly income will be calculated, and a percentage of it will be paid in child support. This is important because you and your attorney will need to spend some time calculating your income based on any number of factors such as additional types of pay that you receive and side benefits through the military that may be counted as income based on your particular circumstances.
Otherwise, the reality is that you need to get a firm grasp on child support and how child support will be paid by the time your family law case is over with. If you can do so, then you will have positioned yourself well to ensure that not only are your children well taken care of but that you minimize the need to return to family court in the future. The last thing you want to do is go through a difficult child custody or divorce case only to find some issue with child support that was not yet taken care of. In that case, you may need to return to family law court sooner than you would like to deal with the consequences of your inaction during the initial family law case.
In tomorrow's blog post from the law office of Brian Fagan, we will discuss some FAQs by military families and provide you with answers to those questions. Hopefully, the general information provided in these blog posts will be impactful for you and your family as you head into your family law case.
Questions about the world of Texas family law? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations can be helpful as you attempt to learn more about the world of Texas family law and in terms of learning how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.