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
Times have changed! Mothers’ having primary custody of the children is not always the accepted social presumption as in the past. Courts, legislatures and juries are becoming more aware of the vital necessity of father’s being involved in the lives of their children. Children with positive father involvement have fewer behavior problems, higher levels of sociability, and perform better in school.
Recent research suggests that father involvement is essential to a child’s social, moral, and physical growth during the adolescent period. A father’s involvement during pregnancy affects multiple areas of child development and family well- being, from prenatal care, to the likelihood that the father will provide ongoing financial and emotional support. This body of research is gaining momentum. Local and regional governmental agencies are focusing more and more on parental father involvement in the lives of children.
As a result of the continuing evolution of fathers’ rights, Courts are now recognizing a father’s ability to care for his children as an equal to that of the mother. Starting out on an equal plane, the Court may look to which parent is more stable, has a superior income, has a parenting plan in place for the child and is capable of providing proper child care and spending more quality time with the child.
As a father, how can you increase your chances of getting child custody in Texas? You must be a good father and spend time with your children by involving yourself in their daily lives. You need to be responsible and reliable to the needs of your kids. Know and participate in all aspects of their lives. This includes school activities, doctor’s appointments, extracurricular events and getting to know and bonding with their friends.
Reflect on your own personal experiences as a child growing up and think about what was really important to you and your parent’s interaction during that period.
If a father voluntarily gives up rights to his children based on prejudices of the past in the Court system, he will feed a mother’s confidence and sponsor unnecessary ongoing litigation. The number one mistake made by fathers in the court system today is a failure to take the time to learn how the system works. Failing to learn how the family law system works may doom your case. Once you have learned the ins and outs of the family law system you will need to form a viable plan, set goals and never relent in enforcing your rights as a father.
Five of the biggest mistakes men make in a legal action are: 1) failing to respond to the legal action itself; 2) obtaining incorrect legal advice (from friends and family rather than a legal expert); 3) signing a settlement agreement that is not in agreement with and later deeply regretting it; 4) failing to perform under the actual settlement agreement signed; and 5) getting frustrated and/or acquiescing to unreasonable demands and orders.
Some of the things you may want to consider as you prepare for the custody battle are as follows:
- Who has the financial ability to best care for the child(ren)? Be sure to have income tax verification, W-2 Forms and other financial information available.
- Form a parenting plan (child care, after school care, transportation, pediatrician, etc.).
- Who is more stable and/or can provide the best home for the child (ren)?
- Where has the child (ren) been attending school? Is it possible to keep the child in the same school district?
- Prepare a chronology of events leading up to the divorce including treatment of the child(ren), time spent with the child(ren), activities with the child(ren), the child(ren)’s schedule.
- Consider if a home study should be prepared regarding each home of the child.
- Consider whether a psychological evaluation should be done on the mother?
- Is drug testing necessary? (Be sure to request hair follicle drug testing.)
- Is there an alcohol or other addiction problem in the home?
- Who can provide the best moral upbringing for the children?
- Is there evidence such as pictures, video tapes, etc. that may help your case?
- Avoid unnecessary compromising photos or data on Facebook or other social networking sites.
List any other relevant issues you feel may be important to your child custody case before you meet with an attorney about your rights as a father.
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
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.