One of the most frequent inquiries we receive at The Nacol Law Firm is whether child support obligations are equally applied between Mothers and Fathers. When a parent is considering a divorce or a union break up with the child’s other parent, who pays for child support and medical/dental insurance for the child, for how long and according to what guidelines?
The State of Texas (Texas Family Code Ch 154) Sec. 154.001. SUPPORT OF CHILD. (a) The court may order “Either” or “Both” parents to support a child in the manner specified by the order: (1) until the child is 18 years of age or until graduation from high school, whichever occurs later; (2) until the child is emancipated through marriage, through removal of the disabilities of minority by court order, or by other operation of law; (3) until the death of the child; or (4) if the child is disabled as defined in this chapter, for an indefinite period.
The State of Texas child support laws dictate that children are entitled to financial support from both parents. Texas establishes child support guidelines to determine how much an average child will need. The guidelines provide for a basic amount of support to the parent who receives it based on the other parent’s income and number of children to be supported. However, there may be special circumstances that justify the court’s deviation from the standard amount of child support. Extraordinary expenses can be taken into consideration, including medical expenses or high childcare costs and other specific exceptions.
The State of Texas also supports that a Father and Mother should have the relatively equal rights to the child and should share in the child’s care and support. What does that mean? If Mom or Dad each have standard access and possession 50% of the time, then the Father and Mother should pay guideline support for the care of the child. Yes, Father and Mother.
With a substantial rise of mothers paying child support in the United States, many women are reevaluating their situations, when they find out Dad will not be paying all expenses and child support and be prorated when raising the child 50% of the time. Today’s mothers are the primary breadwinners in four out of 10 U.S. families (Pew Research).
Texas statutes dictate specific Child Support guidelines and, like it or not, other than rare exceptions, neither parent can escape this obligation! Many mothers will plea that they cannot work because of their obligation to the care of the child or will under-employ to try to escape paying their rightful share of the child’s support. But in today’s world many parents either share 50/50 time with their child or father may be the primary custodial parent.
If the mother refuses to pay court-ordered child support, there may be several enforcement options. A contempt of court action can hold the mother civilly or criminally liable for not obeying the court’s mandate. If found guilty, the mother may be required to post a bond equal to the amount of child support in arrearages or may have to serve time in jail for contempt. Other actions include suspending the mother’s driver’s license or professional license, intercepting tax refunds or federal payments, denying passports, placing liens on property and reporting the debt to credit bureaus.
CHILD SUPPORT GUIDELINES BASED ON THE MONTHLY NET RESOURCES OF THE OBLIGOR:
- 1 child 20% of Obligor’s Net Resources
- 2 children 25% of Obligor’s Net Resources
- 3 children 30% of Obligor’s Net Resources
- 4 children 35% of Obligor’s Net Resources
- 5 children 40% of Obligor’s Net
- 6+ children Not less than the amount for 5 children
(3/5/2019 FAMILY CODE CHAPTER 154. CHILD SUPPORT https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/FA/htm/FA.154.htm 20/47)
For more information on Texas Child Support Guidelines, please go to the Texas Attorney General Child Support Website at: https://csapps.oag.texas.gov/monthly-child-support-calculator
Nacol Law Firm
It is 2019 and many fathers are facing a regrettable and inevitable DIVORCE! Either through Mom’s decision or Dad’s, it may be the end of a joint family life that includes both parents in one residence. No one is ever happy, but by doing some research and trying to make reasonable decisions, fathers will persevere and hopefully you will be able to maintain your loving relationship with your children and family.
Some things to remember:
- Your children love you and just because you are no longer living with their mom, doesn’t change your love. You keep your opinions to yourself and not share all your adult thoughts with your children. YOU LOVE THEM AND ALWAYS WILL! NOTHING HAS CHANGED IN YOUR INTEREST OR LOVE FOR YOUR Children. Mom is no longer in your home and love with the children. She has her own relationship with the family now.
- You do have definite rights to your children. When the decision has been made to file for divorce, employ an experienced attorney to help guide you through this process. Negative statements, even when true, ARE NOT HELPFUL! Uninformed opinions from your soon to be ex, concerning your rights with the children, are suspect, since you now are on opposing sides. A very knowledgeable Fathers Rights Attorney is up to date on all current issues in Fathers Rights domestic litigation and the courts, and this is who you should listen to for guidance.
- As the divorce proceeds and behaviors by the divorcing couple become hostile and estranged, just remember that self-control and acting rationally, without anger, will help in eliminating future ammunition to be used against you in the divorce and custody case. Self-control in your behavior and attitude will help you keep an upper hand in the Divorce proceeding and help the outcome.
- Finally, you are not the victim! Don’t lay down dead and let Mom run over you! There is life after the death of a marriage and you will learn that not only may your life be better, but your life with your children will be enhanced! The children will have watched you act like an adult and parent who loves them and wants the best for them, but also wants a good life with them in the after-divorce life.
Now the Divorce process has begun. Either you or your wife have “Lawyered Up” and the Legal Process has begun! Some very good advice to consider following at the beginning of a Divorce:
- Get your financial documents in order: Review our blog “Prepare for Your Divorce” to start getting ready in the financial part of the divorce. Subject to the outstanding standing order of the court, be sure to protect all joint bank accounts and open new ones for your individual use. Also, if indicated and necessary, delete spouse from all your credit and charge cards.
- Depending on the age, meet with your children and discuss what is happening to your family. Make sure they know that your relationship with them will never change and you will always be their father and show this by loving actions and affections. Confirm that you are divorcing their Mother, not them.
- Stay on your best behavior during this stressful time. Watch your consumption of alcohol intake and try to stay in good company. You need to show that you are not the aggressor. Never let Mom provoke you into a stressful situation where you may engage in a public spectacle with any form of emotional, physical or sexual abuse against Mom or others. The Judge or jury would not be impressed!
- If you have not hired an attorney, now is the time to “lawyer up”. You need to find a competent attorney who has a good reputation dealing with fathers and their rights to their children. Look on legal websites and blogs to see if an attorney relates to your legal needs. Check on fathers’ rights blogs and see if an attorney has answered questions about a similar family situation as yours and has suggested good solutions to help resolve the issues. Give this attorney a call and set up a consultation to see if he/she would be a fit for your legal need.
- If life and divorce pressures are making you depressed, search out for help with supportive family or friends, clergy or professional counselors. Studies have concluded that Divorce is one of the most stressful events in an individual’s life. Get the support you need to be able to make wise decisions and to promote honest interaction with others during this most stressful time.
Like death, Divorce is one of life’s worst events. Know that this difficult time will someday be over, but also along this path there will be unknown surprises and events, that will test your honesty and dignity as a father and a parent. But in the end, you will make it and still be the father that you need to be to your children.
Stay Calm. This too shall pass….
Nacol Law Firm P.C.
Dallas Fathers Rights Attorney
Summer Visitation and Divorce? Your Sharing Attitude Will Be the Happy Force for your Children and Family!
We are approaching the end of the school year and the beginning of the long Summer Visitation! You have probably received the letter/ email from your EX requesting the setup for the Summer Visitation with the children.
Usually this is not a happy time for the primary care giving parent, but from personal experience, you need a break and letting the children spend some extended time with the other parent will give them a chance to share time and experiences with this parent and make them happy. Remember your children love you and nothing will change that fact!
From practicing family law for a long time now, I believe there are elements in divorce that will never change:
- You cannot make someone love you and stay with you if they choose not to.
- The only person that you can be completely responsible for in behavior is YOURSELF!
- If you choose to have a bad attitude and try to hurt your EX by alienating your children, then not only are you not winning the divorce game, but you are causing serious damage to your Children. Even if you win, you are a loser. The Kids didn’t ask for this Divorce, they are often stuck because Mom and Dad couldn’t be happy together!
After considering these ideas and deciding no, your children were not the case of the divorce, try giving some effort to help make your children happy during Summer Visitation with their other parent and not worry about you.
Here are my “New Divorce No No Rules” that will make the Summer Visitation happier for the entire family including your EX:
- No talking bad about the other spouse! This is your battle, not the kids! The kids are still related to their other parent and love that parent.
- Make this Summer Visitation an adventure for the kids. Mommy and Daddy are not together anymore, but the children should feel that they are going to spend this special time with their other parent without you acting mad or hurt. Never let the kids know that you are unhappy about the Summer separation and may not love them if they are happy! Let the kids look forward to a wonderful summer adventure with their dad or mom and don’t look back!
- Get with your ex-spouse and determine the Summer visitation schedule. Share this schedule with the kids so they will know what is going on and what time will be shared with both parents. Meanness will not be tolerated, be nice!
- Talk with the children on their ideas for the Summer Visitation. Maybe share these ideas with your EX. Remember: this is not about your feelings, it is about the love and needs of your family.
“The more you give in to the love of your family, the better you will feel in your heart.”
You, my friend, will eventually get over this hurt of the Summer separation with the kids and maybe get a little rest yourself. Before you know it, the kids will be back, school will start and your family’s live will go on, but it is always the decisions you make to help your children cope with this family split that will determine your true character as a parent and a person.
Hoping you and your family will have a wonderful Summer and this blog has help to put a smile on your face! —-Mark A. Nacol
Many professions create impositions on conservators making a standard possession order inapplicable and unworkable. The Court may deviate from a standard possession order if the order is inappropriate or unworkable in reference to the schedules of both the conservators and the child. Unique professions and irregular school schedules for children allow the Court to have flexibility to deviate from a standard possession order that is in the Best Interest of the Child. There are multiple ways in which the Court may depart from a standard possession order to fulfill the needs of all parties involved with the custody of the child.
First, the Family Code § 153.254 states that the Court will be allowed deference to modify the standard possession order if work schedules of either conservators or the school schedule of the child is irregular. The Court must attempt to narrowly tailor the modifications to keep the new possession order as similar to the standard possession order as possible. This instance most commonly occurs when the Managing Conservator and the Possessory Conservator cannot reach an agreement and one of the two Conservators has a unique profession such as a firefighter, police officer, or airline pilot. The working hours of these jobs allow the Court to modify the standard possession order even if both of the parties do not comply with the changes. The modifications must be made only if it is in the Best Interest of the Child.
Secondly, the standard possession order may always be modified if it is by the mutual agreement of both the Managing Conservator and Possessory Conservator. Family Code § 153.007 is the Agreed Parenting Plan Statute and allows for both parties to agree on a standard possession order for the child. This statute was passed to promote amicability in settlement for child custody issues and to give flexibility to the parents if they are willing to agree on custody terms. The Agreed Parenting Plan must be in the Best Interest of the Child for the Court to approve. If the Court grants the Agreed Parenting Plan then the Managing or Possessory Conservator will have a remedy as a matter of law for any violation of the agreement committed by either party.
Finally, both Conservators may enter into a Mediated Settlement Agreement under Family Code § 153.0071. A Mediated Settlement Agreement is the only time in which the Court will NOT look at the Best Interest of the Child when granting the custody agreement.
The Mediated Settlement Agreement § 153.0071 must be:
- In bold, underlined, and capital letters that the agreement is NOT REVOCABLE
- Signed by Both Parties to the agreement
- Signed by the lawyers (if represented) of each party
The Mediated Settlement Agreement is binding and not revocable so if the Conservators wish to go this route they must understand that what is in the agreement will be held as binding. This method can be used to modify or change a standard possession order and the Court will not look at the Best Interest of the Child regarding the agreement, unless there exists a credible threat of domestic violence.
These are the methods in which a unique possession order may be obtained to accommodate irregular schedules or working hours of both the conservators. Any possession order must be correctly drafted and all future contingencies must be accounted for. An experienced lawyer must be contacted to safeguard an individual’s custody rights of their children and to make sure that a fair custody arrangement is obtained.
Divorces with children are painful and emotional under the best of circumstances, but a divorce with a “Special Needs Child” is usually a very complex and mentally stressful situation for all family members involved.
The main goal in a “Special Needs” divorce is that all decisions affecting a child with disabilities must be in the “Best Interest of the Child.”
What is the “Best Interest of the “Special Needs Child”? Often this is the very reason that the parents are divorcing. The parents cannot agree on the existence of a disability or the best approach needed for care and support for their special needs child. Many times a medical/neutral professional will need to be involved to help the parents transition the new “after” divorce life of the child and parents.
When working with parents of a “Special Needs Child”, our attorneys focus on the most critical issues impacting the child and the family unit.
Some of these important issues are:
- Keeping the relationships between the family members agreeable in making the necessary decisions concerning visitation and transitions between both parents’ homes. You child needs contact with both parents unless there is an abuse or addiction issue or the other parent’s home is an unsafe environment for the “Special Needs” Child.
- Agreed upon health and medical care issues including special therapies to address the child’s needs. Let the child know that both parents are in agreement on the care for the child.
- Special social and recreational opportunities and appropriate educational programs are available for the child and her/his disability and should be agreed upon by both parents, if possible.
- Coordinate structured and regular visitation dates with same place drop off points. Give your child a calendar with visitation dates and let her/him be prepared to visit the other parent.
- Helping the parent to find a support group of family, friends, counselors and neighbors to help your family with your “Special Needs” Child. This help may come in many forms, mental and physical support, financial planning or just a good hug to say “you are ok”.
What is very important in a “Special Needs” Divorce is to realize what is “normal” in most divorces may not be the norm here. There are many important situations that will have to be resolved before the divorce can be finalized. The divorced parents of the “Special Needs” Child will continue to have to work together for what is best for their child.
Other serious considerations to settle:
- The transitions after a divorce on living arrangements and visitations for the child. It will be difficult to use a standard visitation schedule and a special parenting plan will have to be agreed upon to meet all of the child’s needs.
- The divorce decree will have to be custom designed to make sure the needs of the child will be met for the child’s entire life. The final divorce decree may have to be modified for the child’s benefit.
- Be knowledgeable of the financial aspect of your “Special Needs” Child. What type of care will be needed on a daily basis and will one parent have to give up all monetary benefits from employment outside of the home to take care of the child.
- List all expenses of raising this child: medical costs, food for special nutritional diets, special medical equipment needed for use of child, special schooling and transportation needs. This is very important to make sure the needs of the child will be met.
- Spousal Maintenance/Alimony: this amount must be worked out to ensure the caregiving parent will be able to afford all need of the child and their household. Many times this parent will not be able to work out of the home because of the constant care for the child. This will usually continue for the entire life of the child, so the divorce decree will have to reflect this continued support and cost of living changes.
When choosing a qualified lawyer for your “Special Needs” Divorce, it is important that the lawyer is familiar with what is involved with this type of divorce and understands the importance of tailoring a custom decree that will fit the best interest of the child and family situation for the duration of the child’s existence. It won’t be easy, but if the parents will work together, it can be achievable!