Child support is one of the most heavily litigated issues in all of family law. To increase or decrease payments there are specific requirements that must be met to modify a previous child support order. Per Tex. Fam. Code § 156.401 the requirements necessary to modify a prior child support order are:
- The circumstances of the child or an affected party have materially and substantially changed; or
- Three years have elapsed since the order was entered or last modified, and the amount of child support differs from the statutory guidelines by either 20% or $100.00.
The second requirement is self-explanatory. The three-year limitation to file for another modification is for the benefits of the Courts. If there was no three-year waiting period to refill, then every conservator would constantly attempt to modify child support, thus creating endless litigation for clogging the Courts’ dockets.
The first requirement needs more explanation. A Material and Substantial change in the circumstances of the child or an affected party must be clearly shown at trial. Many Courts are meticulous in making the determination of what a Material and Substantial change is regarding the child and the affected party to insure this requirement is not abused for excessive litigation.
To prove a Substantial and Material change in circumstances, a conservator must show evidence at the final hearing of:
- The financial needs/expenses at the time of the divorce or prior modification for the children and the person affected, and;
- The financial needs/expenses at the time of the request for the modification.
If evidence of financial needs/expenses are not submitted and proved regarding both (1) the prior divorce/modification and (2) the recent modification, then no Substantial and Material change can be adequately proved. Further, if the request for modification of child support is predicated solely on one conservator’s increase in earning capacity, absent other compelling evidence, the change in circumstances is not Substantial and Material. Interest of L.R., 416 S.W.3d 675, (Tex. App.—Houston [14 Dist.] 2013, pet. denied.)
If one conservator decides to file a modification of child support within three years just because the other conservative received a better job, it may be dismissed. At the end of the day a Court has broad discretion on determining what is Substantial and Material and may allow the case to be heard and give an unfavourable ruling, but if that occurs you will have the ability to appeal the judgment and request attorney’s fees. It is important to know in any family law case the Judge has extremely broad discretion and interprets case law in a way that he deems fit using the Best Interest Test.
If you are a conservator that meet these requirements above and wish to increase or decrease the child support obligation, be sure to hire an experienced attorney. Nacol Law Firm will always fight for you and your children’s best interest.
Julian Nacol, Attorney
Nacol Law Firm, PC
Call (972) 690-3333
Consider the legal consequences of Trusts regarding the characterization of marital property, especially Trusts created by separate property prior or after marriage. A Trust can be a creative and useful tool depending on the perspective and actual need of the parties. To a spouse owning substantial separate property, an irrevocable Trust may be a safe haven that will guard the separate property and potentially the income from the separate property against property divisions in a Divorce Court. On the other hand, in some cases, a spouse that has no separate property may be defrauded by the other spouse.
The Texas Courts have indicated that separate Trusts created prior to marriage, that are irrevocable spendthrift Trusts are a valid means to shelter separate property of the marriage and the income from the trusts are not subject to division during the divorce proceedings. The beneficiary of the separate Trust (the spouse with the separate trust or beneficiary of a separate trust) do not have a present possessory right to any asset within the corpus of the Trusts. If the spouse is granted a present possessory right to any portion of the trust in the trusts, then the income from the Trusts may be divided in a Divorce Court as community property.
This is an area of concern to the other spouse. If you are married to an unsavory spouse, where separate property assets owned prior to the marriage are put into an irrevocable spendthrift trust, take measure to insure no money or other property acquired during the marriage is siphoned into those separate Trusts. One spouse may siphon community property throughout the marriage into separate Trusts in order to deplete the community estate. This constitutes fraud on the community estate and the innocent spouse may seek adequate compensation.
It is important to hire an experienced attorney that understand the intricacies of Trusts and the part Trusts can play in sheltering community funds from a spouse during the marriage. Many wealthy men or women may abuse the Trust formation to defraud their spouses from fair community property allocation. Wealthy spouses may use irrevocable or discretionary Trusts created prior to the marriage for asset protection instead of using prenuptial agreements or post marriage property agreements. The case law is still not completely settled in Texas regarding irrevocable Trust as they pertain to divorce and it is important to hire an attorney that can help guide you through these complexities and insure you are not being defrauded or taken advantage of in a divorce proceeding.
One the most complicate and transparent ways an individual may defraud a spouse during a marriage is with the use of a trust. A trust is an entity that separates equitable and legal title of all property or money placed within it. Prior to, during, or after marriage, a spouse may create a trust and name the children of the marriage or others, as the beneficiaries. The spouse then may start siphoning community property and separate property into the trust removing the property from the community. This is a tactic commonly practiced when a spouse has failed to sign a pre-nuptial agreement.
Circumstances like this happen in High Asset Divorces because a trust may be used to protect properties from the other spouse. Attack the trust as a party of the case and request an accounting. It takes an experienced lawyer to understand which trusts can be attacked and which trusts are impenetrable.
Trust busting consists of complex and arduous litigation depending on the circumstances. The circumstances of a trust are important in divorce cases. Here are a few questions you should ponder when assessing any trusts during a divorce:
- Determine when the trust was created;
- Determine if the trust is revocable trust or irrevocable trust ;
- Determine who the beneficiary of the trust is;
- Determine who the trustee of the trust is;
- Determine who the settlor of the trust is;
- Determine the type of property or money that is placed within the trust; and
- Determine when the property or money was placed in the trust.
These are just a few inquiries you should make prior to meeting with your lawyer. It will save you time and money. Depending on the answers to the seven inquires stated above, an experienced lawyer may be able to bust the trust opening the property and monies for the final hearing in a divorce case. There are many defenses and unsettled law in connection with trust busting and an experienced attorney must be sought.
Julian Nacol, Attorney
Nacol Law Firm P.C.
December 2016 the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles will start denying motor vehicle registration renewals for parents who have gone at least six months without making a child support payment. The law applies to Office of the Attorney General (OAG) child support cases.
The OAG also has the authority to bar the renewal of professional, recreational and handgun licensed of parents behind on child support payments.
Delinquent Parents will receive a notice from the Department of Motor Vehicles and a letter from the attorney general’s office about two months before their registration is set to expire.
Once parents receive a notice, they must agree to a payment plan with the Attorney General’s child support division before they will be able to renew their registration. This law only applies to motor vehicle renewals. New vehicle purchases are not affected.
A temporary restraining order, commonly known as a “TRO” is used in family law to place injunctions without a full hearing on one or both parties. These injunctions prohibit specific actions that could endanger or prove damaging to the property in a divorce or the children of a divorce. You should have an idea on what the process entails.
A TRO is governed by Texas Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 680 and Texas Family Code § 150.001. If your spouse wishes to file a TRO that immediately excludes you from possession of or access to your children, a notice of this hearing must be given to you prior to the court date. The only exception to this is an Ex-Parte meeting with the judge, which means that only your spouse or her attorney will be present at the preliminary hearing. The judge may order a TRO Ex-Parte only if the TRO clearly demonstrates from specific facts shown by affidavit or by a verified complaint that immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage will result to the applicant or children before notice can be served and an actual hearing.
If you are on the receiving end of TRO and it prohibits you from access to your children, there are some things to keep in mind.
First: a TRO has a time limit, which is 14 days. After 14 days the TRO may be extended by a judge only once for an additional 14 days. Thus at most this TRO may only last 28 days’ absent agreement to an additional extension. A Judge does have the discretion to extend the TRO more than once if it is uncontested (you do nothing or do not appear).
Second: A TRO is NOT a Protective Order. This means that the police cannot kick you out of your house or forcibly arrest you for violating a TRO, absent any related criminal conduct. There are consequences for violating the TRO but not criminal consequence. You may be found in contempt of court by the Judge who ordered the TRO and forced to pay fines or be held to more severe sanctions. Violations will not be good for your case if you intentionally violate.
Third: A TRO must have a signed and notarized Affidavit or a verified pleading attached to the motion. If the opposing counsel did not follow these procedures the order may upon motion to dissolve be found void due to violation of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure.
Fourth: You cannot practically appeal a TRO because it may only last for at most 28 days, if contested. Once you are served with the Ex-Parte TRO, you may request a motion to modify or dissolve the TRO after giving your spouse 48-hour notice and seek attorney fees if the filing was false or frivolous.
TRO’s are civil injunctions that are usually given without notice only if immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage will happen. The proof rules are more relaxed in Family Law Cases. Specific TRO procedures can differ in all counties and in different courts so make sure the check online the rules of each specific jurisdiction.
TRO’s only last 14 days and cannot be enforced by police officers, absent related criminal activity. Do not be distressed if you are served a TRO one day while you are battling your spouse for child custody or property. Take a deep breath call your attorney and set a hearing to modify, vacate or dissolve the TRO.
Many counties have standing orders that issue and are effective as to both parties upon the filing of a Family Law Proceeding. Read such mandatory orders before you file your case.