Within a child custody or divorce case, the subject of child support is often a contentious one. In some ways, this makes sense, and in other ways, it does not. It makes sense because the subject of child support relates to you having to pay money to your child's other parent. For married people, this would be a strange arrangement given that you live in the same house. When you are getting a divorce or are not married to your child under other parents, this can still be a strange arrangement given that you and that Co-parent may not be on the best terms. As a result, the paying of money to that person can oftentimes be awkward.
The other thing that makes paying child support a little strange is that the money is intended to support your children but does not directly go to your children. Rather, Child Support is paid through the Texas attorney general's office who distributes the money to your Co-parent. The Co-parent then has the responsibility to utilize that money in a way that benefits your child and is in their best interest. However, there is no oversight provided in this regard, and your ex-spouse or Co-parent can essentially spend the money however they want. As more than one person has asked me in the past, there is no mechanism for the court to keep a lookout to see how your money is being spent.
On the other hand, child support is a pretty straightforward issue because most cases end up following the state guidelines on child support as recommended within the Texas family code. A percentage of your net monthly income would go towards the support of your child each month. Amounts of support can vary depending on your specific circumstances, but the vast majority of families typically pay child support on these guidelines contained in the Texas family code. This could make child support a relatively straightforward issue to deal with in a child custody or divorce case.
Child support is based upon a standard possession order
the most typical Visitation, possession, and access schedule followed by periods after a child custody or divorce case is a standard possession order. If you are a person who has never been involved in a family court case before then, you probably are still familiar with a standard possession order. This is the plan that sees a possessory conservator have Visitation with children on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekends of each month. A weekly dinner from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM and alternating Holidays with the other parent are the hallmarks of a standard possession order. Longer periods of Visitation are prescribed for the summer months.
When you look through the state guidelines for child support, you should keep in mind that those figures, percentages, and the like are based on Visitation and time spent with the children as conceived of in a standard possession order. About 55% of a child's year is spent with the primary conservator, while 45% is spent with the possessory conservator. When lawmakers created these guidelines for child support, this was what they had in mind as far as the possession breakdown.
This can work pretty well for most families in most circumstances. Still, if your family has a different sort of custody arrangement, then you may find yourself not wanting to rely upon these guidelines completely. Either the money to be paid would be insufficient or maybe too much based on your relative incomes. In that case, you may be asking yourself whether or not parties going through a divorce can determine their future when it comes to The payment of child support? Let's explore that question in greater detail.
Negotiating child support in a Texas child custody or divorce case
if you are going through a child custody or divorce case, you will very likely be tasked with coming up with a plan for determining a child support figure appropriate for your family. As all of us know, there are many different realities that we could be living through as far as our finances are concerned. Whether you are doing well financially or are struggling, you should know that there is still likely to be a child support obligation for you that has to be met in your family law case.
The real question is what sort of obligation it will be and how it can change depending on the custody arrangement with your Co-parent. You and your Co-parent can negotiate with one another on any subject impacting your family law case. Child support certainly is among the topics that are subject to negotiation. Consider that for most families, the guideline levels of child support are typically followed closely in a standard family law case. Unless a circumstance in your household demands greater attention, then the guideline levels of support as outlined in the Texas family code will likely be followed closely.
What are the circumstances that I could envision occurring in your life that causes you to question whether or not the guideline levels of support are appropriate would be if you have lost your job this year due to the virus or regarding one of the government lead safety measures instituted to prevent transmission of the virus? If this describes you and your situation, you may be curious about whether or not you even have to pay child support if you have no income. Let me be the first to tell you that, yes, even if you aren't unemployed, you will need to pay child support due to your being a parent in Texas.
But wait. If you don't have a job in this have any income, how could child support even be calculated if part of the equation considers your net monthly income? No income means no child support, right? While this would seem to be an obvious response to the problem of not having any income, the state of Texas doesn't exactly see it that way. Look at it from the state's perspective: if you and your spouse were still married and we're living in the same residence, then your duties support your children.
For that reason, a family court judge would input your income as that of a person earning minimum wage when determining child support. Therefore, you will have a baseline level of income that will go towards calculating child support in your case. This means that you will not be better off remaining unemployed for the duration of this pandemic. You're better off taking jobs that allow you to earn as much as you can, even if your preferred line of work is out of commission for the time being. Either way, you will end up having to pay child support.
Another factor to consider when it comes to paying child support is being underemployed. This refers to your leaving more profitable work in high paying in favor of a job where you would earn less money. The purpose of doing so would be not to be responsible for paying the same child support levels and instead would only be responsible for paying a lesser figure every month. Many people attempt to go this route during their child support case and think there being subtle when they do so. However, I would caution against going this route.
It will likely be pretty obvious when a judge figures out that this is your motivation for being underemployed. Consider that if you are a person with a college degree and are purposely working jobs that underpay you, then a judge will not have to do much digging to determine that your motivation in being under-employed is to avoid paying a full range of child support. If you go to a hearing or trial on this subject, then it is likely that the judge could bypass the typical equation for determining child support and instead base your child support on reasonable earnings that you could be making were you not to be unemployed or underemployed. For this reason, you are better off working a job that pays you a fair wage based on your level of education and experience.
What is joint custody?
Joint custody refers to a breakdown in the relationship between how you and your co-parent share custody rights to your child. The vast majority of parents in Texas that are not married or living together share custody along these lines. In the Texas family code, this arrangement is known as a joint managing conservatorship. This is the default assumption that judges make and believe that it is in the best interest of a child that both parents can share nearly equally in raising your child. A joint managing conservatorship is the most common method of dividing up conservatorships rights and duties to a child.
If, however, the circumstances of your case demand a different type of conservatorships arrangement, then that may be considered as well. A sole managing conservatorship means that either you or your child's other parent would hold a majority of the rights and duties about them while the other parent would have far fewer rights and duties. This could be the case if either one of you has had a history of problems with the legal system, an addiction to drugs or alcohol, or any similar types of problems. Essentially, a judge would need to find that you or the other parents cannot make best interest determinations for your child. In that case, to protect the well-being of your child, a Judge could order a sole managing conservatorship for your case.
Do conservatorship rights and duties matter in the long run? Isn't time with your children more important?
The best answer to these questions is that both times with your children and the ability to make decisions on their behalf are both important. Parents tend to focus much more on the time aspect of this equation than on the decision-making aspect. However, I think that as much of a focus, if not more, needs to be on the decision-making portion. Keep in mind that spending time with your children is crucial to building a relationship with them but being able to make decisions on their behalf and have responsibilities as far as caring for them can make a difference in their lives both in the short and long term.
I have seen parents willingly give rights and duties to their Co-parent that are not necessary. Keep in mind that you want to play a role in the decision-making with your children as far as their education, their religious upbringing, and healthcare-related decisions. Even if you do not see yourself pushing for primary conservatorships having a basic level of input in these areas, every child's life is crucial to their development. Willingly taking a back seat to your Co-parent when necessary is not something that I would recommend.
Basically, in a joint managing conservatorship, all rights and duties are shared fairly equally other than the right to receive child support and the right to determine the child's primary residence. This is where differences can occur between a possessory conservator and a primary conservator. Do not underestimate the role you can play in your child's life, and do not make agreements or settlement offers based on temporary circumstances or a willingness to do so only to complete your case sooner rather than later. Think long term when it comes to negotiating over conservatorships rights.
What if you and your Co-parent share custody of your children equally?
This is a question that I received from parents on a pretty frequent basis. You may be wondering whether or not you have to pay child support if you and your Co-parent share possession time with your children pretty much right down the middle. In that case, when no parent sees the child more than the other, would child support still have to be paid? In some cases, yes, it would be; in other cases, no, child support payment may not be necessary.
It may not be necessary if you and your Co-parent agree to that in settlement negotiations. Keep in mind that most family law cases are settled in mediation rather than decided in a trial. As a result, you and your Co-parent have a great deal of power when creating the final orders of your case. If you all agreed to a possession schedule that is fairly even and does not wish child support to be a part of the case, then you may agree to that. A judge will review your decisions at the end of the case, but as long as your circumstances justify no payment of child support, then this is a possibility in your case.
On the other hand, even if you all share custody of her children evenly, child support may still be necessary in some cases. This is especially true if one of you earned significantly more money than the other parent. To even up the costs of raising your children, the calculation may be done where it is determined what either of you would pay in child support based on your income and the number of children you have, and then the difference in those two numbers would be paid to the parent who earns less money annually. This would align with the goal of evening up the costs in creating a more equitable situation for both parents.
Whatever your specific circumstances are, I certainly recommend having a family law attorney represent you once you go before a court or begin a child custody or divorce case. We have touched on many of the issues related to custody and child support in today's blog posts, but we have only scratched the surface of what they could mean to you and your family in the future. Furthermore, I don't know anything about your specific circumstances, and he would be best off having the advice from the perspective of an experienced family law attorney before proceeding.
Questions about the material contained in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
With that in mind, I would recommend that you consider your options for hiring an attorney. If you have any questions about what we discussed in this blog post, please contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan today. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultation six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law and your circumstances.