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.
The origin and basis of family law statutes and precedent in Texas were heavily influenced by the predecessor Spanish/Mexican Law prior to the formation of the Texas Republic. Spanish Law required in large measure that a husband and wife share ownership and if a divorce was granted then a 50/50 split of all property would ensue. Though there are exceptions to this, a general tenant of Texas property law states that both spouses will receive half of all the property they accrue during the marriage called “community property”, not inherited or received by gift. The influence of Spanish Law is a primary reason that for many years Texas has not favored any type of permanent alimony (also called spousal maintenance) after divorce.
In 1995 the Texas Legislature passed the first Spousal Maintenance Law that allowed a limited type of alimony. The law has been amended many times but in its current form it allows, upon proper proof, a spouse, under specific conditions to receive post-divorce money from their spouse for future support. The eligibility for Spousal Maintenance in Texas is limited and narrowly constructed.
Texas Family Code 8.051 states the requirements for a spouse to be eligible for Spousal Maintenance (alimony) as follows:
The spouse in which requests the spousal maintenance has been a victim of family violence by their husband or wife and the offense occurred:
- within two years before the date on which a suit for dissolution of the marriage is filed or;
- while the suit is pending
The spouse seeking spousal maintenance:
- is unable to earn sufficient income to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs because of an incapacitating physical or mental disability;
- has been married to the other spouse for 10 years or longer or lacks the ability to earn sufficient income to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs; or
- is the custodian of a child of the marriage of any age who requires substantial care and personal supervision because of a physical or mental disability that prevents the spouse from earning sufficient income to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs.
The qualifications are narrow. Spousal Maintenance focuses on a spouse who has been a victim of family violence, has a mental or physical disability, or has been married for at least 10 years. The amount of money the Court will allow to be paid to a spouse monthly cannot exceed the lessor of 5,000 or 20% of a spouse’s average monthly gross income per Texas Family Code 8.005.
If you are in the process of divorce, and have been a victim of family violence or have been married for at least 10 years, then speak with an experienced attorney about the possibility of obtaining Spousal Maintenance. Spousal Maintenance is not a permanent fix but a temporary solution until you can get back on your feet. Texas Courts are hesitant in granting spousal maintenance because the spouse of a marriage generally receives half of all property accrued during the marriage. If the required extraordinary circumstances are present it is possible to receive some type of alimony for a limited amount of time.
Contact an experienced attorney that deals with matters to inform you if spousal maintenance is possibility. If you have been a victim of family violence or have been a stay at home mom for at least 10 years then you may have the ability to receive a limited form of alimony to help aid you with the daunting task of finding a new job and starting a new life.
The Texas Family Code defines Family Violence as an act by a member of the family or household against another member that is intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or a threat on a family member in danger of imminent physical harm. This abuse is defined as physical injury that results in substantial harm or genuine threat of sexual, intercourse or conduct; or encouraging the child to engage in sexual conduct.
What does “family” include? Individuals related by blood or affinity, marriage or former marriage, biological parents of the same child, foster children, and members or former members of the same household (including roommates).
What about child abuse?
Some very interesting statistics:
A report of child abuse is made every ten seconds
More than four children die every day as a result of child abuse
70% of children that die from abuse are under age of 4
Child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level within all ethnic and cultural lines and all religions and all levels of education!
Approximately 30% of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children
Statistics re: childhelp.org
In Texas (2008 Crime in Texas.com), victims are primarily female (75%) and the offenders are primarily male (77%). The primarily weapon involved in family violence is physical force with the use of hands, feet or fists (78%).
How can you know if child abuse exists in a household?
Look for these most common child abuse indicators in children:
Injuries that are unexplained
Major and sudden changes in a child’s behavior
Return to earlier behavior: such as bed wetting, thumb sucking, and fear of dark or strangers or more serious language or memory problems
Serious fear of going home
Changes in eating or sleeping habits
Changes in school performance or attendance
Lack of personal care or hygiene
New risk taking behaviors
Inappropriate sexual behavior
If you are a family member, friend, teacher, or child-care giver of a child who has started displaying very different behaviors or showing injuries, it is imperative that you contact someone who can either help this child or prevent any more family violence from occurring in this child’s family. This child and family need help now!
The statutory rights of grandparents in response to a child in the State of Texas, absent existing executions, are minimal. The Texas Courts observe the rights of the parents to prohibit visitation and communication of these children from their grandparents if the parents wish. There are however limited circumstances when grandparents of a child may petition the Court to receive an order that forces the child’s parents to let the grandparents see the children on a regular basis. Texas Courts honor the rights of the parents and must presume that a fit parent makes such decisions, as to who the child may or may not see, those decisions are in the best interest of the child.
In order for a grandparent to interfere with a parent’s right to prohibit the grandparents from seeing the child, the grandparent must prove three elements under 153.433 of the Texas Family Code:
a) The Court may order reasonable possession of or access to a grandchild by a grandparent if:
- At the time the relief is requested, at least one biological or adoptive parent of the child has not had the parent’s parental rights terminated;
- The grandparent requesting possession of or access to the child overcomes the presumption that a parent acts in the best interest of the parent’s child by proving by a preponderance of the evidence that denial of possession of or access to the child would significantly impair the child’s physical health or emotional well-being; and
- The grandparents requesting possession of or access to the child are a parents of a parent of the child and that parent of the child:
A) Has been incarcerated in jail or prison during the three-month period preceding the filing of the petition;
B) Has been found by a court to be incompetent
C) Is dead; or
D) Does not have actual or court-ordered possession of or access to the child.
This Statute is limited in application because the Texas legislature gives deference to the parents’ fundamental authority to determine who their child may and may not see.
An example will help clarify this Statute. If a grandparent’s son died in car accident and the grandparent had been helping their son and daughter in-law raise the children, then the grandparents could request visitation rights. The daughter in-law would have to be alive and not have her parental rights terminated. The grandparents would have to prove to the Court by a preponderance of the evidence (more probable than not) that the denial of visitation would significantly impair the children’s’ physical health or emotional well-being. If the grandparents were helping raise the children the grandparents would request some type of visitation for the well-being of the children. These fact situations must be significant because Texas Courts and statutes make it difficult for grandparents to receive any type of visitation or possession if it is not in line with the parents’ wishes.
If you are a grandparent or a mother/father of a child in which the grandparents are attempting to sue you for some type of visitation, it is important to contact a qualified attorney to be informed of your options.
There are times in life when unintentional pregnancy occurs in the context of fatherhood. There are times when an individual believes he is a father but in the distant future discovers that he is not the genetic father of the child. If a divorce results from this union the man that is not the genetic father of a child may not wish to pay child support for this child for up to 18 years. In these circumstances, a man may wish to terminate his parental responsibilities to the child to avoid paying child support on the child that is not his generically.
Under the Texas Family Code 161.005, a father may terminate his parental rights to a child if (1) he is not the genetic father and (2) a signed acknowledgment of paternity or the father failing to contest parentage of a child was due to a mistaken belief that the man was the genetic father of the child based on misrepresentations that led him to that conclusion.
Basically, the man must not be the genetic father and he must have been deceived by misrepresentations made by the mother or other family members in order to successfully prevail in a termination suit. The man wishing termination must file the suit within two years from first becoming aware that he is not in fact the genetic father of the Child. The importance of this two year limitation is that that it begins when “the man first becomes aware that he is not the genetic father of the child”. This means that a man may be adjudicated and considered the father for ten years but after he discovers or becomes aware that he is not the genetic father of the child he will have an additional two years to file suit and terminate his parental rights.
There are certain limitations under Family Code 161.005 that will not allow a man to terminate the legal relationship. These are:
- The man is an adoptive father;
- The child was conceived by assisted reproduction and the man consented to assisted reproduction by his wife under subchapter H, Chapter 160, or
- The man is the intended father of the child under a gestational agreement validated by a court under subchapter I, Chapter 160.
These three areas of adoption, assisted reproduction, and signing of a gestational agreement will prohibit a man from terminating his parental right or attempting to release himself from the responsibility of being a father, which includes child support.
In most instances a man will bring a termination of parental right because he has been misled into believing that the child is his when in actually the man is not genetically related to the child at all. The parental termination will end child support for minor children that are not genetically related.
A parental termination suit should not be filed before careful thought since it will terminate any rights the man has to the child and most importantly the man will relinquish his right for visitation access and decision making. If you are desiring to terminate the parental rights of a child you should contact an experienced lawyer to ensure that you qualify and that the suit proceeds as smoothly as possible allowing the court to make a ruling that favors your termination.