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.
Texas law requires trial courts to divide the estate of the parties in a manner that is just and fair having due regard for the rights of each party and any children of the marriage. Tex. Fam. Code Ann. 7.001. A disproportionate division must have a reasonable basis. Smith v. Smith, 143 S.W.3d 206, 214 (Tex. App. – Waco 2004, no pet.). The trial court has broad discretion in determining the disposition of property in a divorce action. If there is some evidence of a substantive and probative character to support the division, the trial court does not abuse its discretion if it orders an unequal division of marital estate. However, the division should not be a punishment for the spouse at fault. There is a difference between making a just and right division of the property with due regard for the children of the marriage and punishing the errant spouse. In general, the trial courts in Texas have perceived this distinction.
Generally, in a fault-based divorce, the court may consider the conduct of the errant spouse in making a disproportionate distribution of the marital estate. Young v. Young, 609 S.W.2d 758, 761-62 (Tex. 1980). This does not mean that fault must be considered.
The Texas Family Code sections 3.02 and 3.07 provide six circumstances when a divorce decree may be granted in favor of one spouse. These include the traditional fault grounds for divorce of cruelty, adultery, and abandonment. These sections were codified by the Legislature into the Family Code along with section 3.01 which provides for “no-fault” divorce based on insupportability because of discord or conflict of personalities that destroys the legitimate ends of the marriage relationship and prevents any reasonable expectation of reconciliation.
Texas courts have considered the following factors when equitably dividing a community estate:
- fault in breakup of the marriage;
- the benefits that the innocent spouse would have derived had the marriage continued;
- disparity in the spouses’ income and earning capacities;
- each spouse’s business opportunities;
- differences in the spouses’ education;
- physical health and need for future support;
- the relative ages of the parties;
- each spouse’s financial condition and obligations;
- the size of each spouse’s separate estate and any expected inheritance;
- the nature of the spouses’ property;
- the rights of the children of the marriage;
- waste of community assets or constructive fraud against the community;
- gifts by one spouse to the other; and
- tax liabilities.
The court need not divide the community estate equally. Smallwood v. Smallwood, 548 S.W.2d 796, 797 (Tex. Civ. App. – Waco 1977, no writ). The court has a broad discretion in making a just and right division, and absent a clear abuse of discretion, such decision will not be disturbed. Murff v. Murff, S.W.2d 696, 698-99 (Tex. 1981); Boyd v. Boyd, 131 S.W. 3d 605, 610 (Tex. App. – Fort Worth 2005, no pet.)
When there is no evidence or insufficient evidence to support the property division or an award of attorney’s fees, the appellate court must reverse or remand such decision for a new trial. Sadone v. Miller-Sadone, 116 S.W.3d 204, 208 (Tex. App. – El Paso 2003, no pet).
A party who seeks to assert the separate character of property must prove that character by clear and convincing evidence. Clear and convincing evidence is that measure or degree of proof that will produce in the mind of the trier of fact (judge or jury) a firm belief or conviction as to the truth of the allegation.
In a popular decision Phillips v. Phillips, 75 S.W.3d 564 (Tex. App. – Beaumont 2002, no pet.), Chief Justice Walker opined that because legislature has now authorized “no fault” divorce, fault could no longer be considered in dividing community estate. However, In Re Brown, 187 S.W.3d 143, 2006 Tex. App. LEXIS 686 (Tex. App. Waco 2006) states that what is “just and right” in dividing the property should not depend on the ground on which the divorce is granted; the just and right division of property is separate from the dissolution issue. If one spouse’s conduct causes the destruction of the financial benefits of a particular marriage, benefits on which the other spouse relied, a trial court should have discretion to consider that factor in dividing the community estate – regardless of the basis for granting the divorce.
To prove a disproportionate division of assets in a divorce case, counsel must put on clear and convincing evidence. Without such support, there will be no disproportionate division of community estate. The circumstances of each marriage dictate what factors should be considered in the property division upon divorce.
Are you to the point of no return in your marriage? Nothing left of feelings, just apathy or indifference. Do you feel you must leave this place now or die trying? What about your financial security after the divorce? Divorce is an emotional roller-coaster. How will you take care of your debt, bills, and your children’s needs?
Time to grab your laptop or pad of paper and start thinking smart about “the first day of the rest of your life. If your “I need a divorce” decision is now made, start work on learning your current family financial situation and what needs to be done to secure your financial security for Post-Divorce life!
Here is a list of some of your most important Financial Information that you need to address before the Start of the Divorce
- What are the Community and Separate Property Laws in Texas?
Under the Texas Family Code, a spouses separate property consists of 1) the property owned or claimed by the spouse before marriage; 2) the property acquired by the spouse during marriage by gift, devise, or descent, and 3) the recovery for personal injuries sustained by the spouse during marriage, except any recovery for loss of earning capacity during marriage.
The terms “owned and claimed” as used in the Texas Family Code mean that where the right to the property accrued before marriage, the property would be separate. Inception of title occurs when a party first has a right of claim to the property by virtue of which title is finally vested. The existence or nonexistence of the marriage at the time of incipiency of the right of which title finally vests determines whether property is community or separate. Inception of title occurs when a party first has a right of claim to the property.
Everything you and your spouse have earned in your marriage except for personal gifts or property from devise or descent will now, absent fault, be divided equally in the divorce. This could make a big difference in your post-divorce financial life! Gather all financial statements: income tax returns, insurance policies, bank statements, Investment Accounts summaries, Retirement Account balances, Bills, anything in your marriage that can show who owns separate assets or what constitutes the community property in this marriage.
2. DEBT: Deal With it NOW!
Are you and your spouse in a bad financial situation? Do you both have to work to pay the bills or just barely make ends meet? Now you want to get a divorce and HOW IS THAT GOING TO WORK? How can you be Post Divorce Happily EVER AFTER when you may not even be able to afford a down payment on an apartment?
ORDER A COPY OF YOUR CREDIT REPORT now to see where the damage may exist. You will be able to see what credit cards, loans, and other debt you all have created. If you and your spouse have be leading “separate lives” for a while, you may be surprised when there is more debt incurred for entertainment you never knew about.
Review this CREDIT REPORT carefully. Find out whether you are a joint owner or just an authorized user. Except for your home, usually the DEBT will be in existing credit card accounts, personal loans, and car loans. If possible, try to get as much debt as possible paid off before finalizing the divorce. Remember that joint debts remain both spouses’ legal obligation to the lenders, even when the divorce settlement states that only one spouse is responsible for the debt. If the responsible ex-spouse defaults on the payments, it will show up on both ex-spouse’s credit history.
Some good advice? Get your own credit card in your name only. If you keep other credit cards take your spouse’s name off the credit card Now! Get your name off any credit card that your spouse uses NOW! Divorce causes financial upheaval to a family’s budget so protect yourself, so you don’t have to pay or be legally responsible for your soon to be EX’s Bills!
3. Bank Accounts
Most married couples have at least one joint bank account. Many will have joint checking and savings accounts. You need to get a record of every family bank account in existence. Make sure you have copies of all monthly bank statement for 3 years.
Review these carefully and see if there has been a constant drainage of money from the accounts.
Now open a new account in your name. It is critical to establish your own financial identity when you divorce.
If your spouse does business with the bank in a business capacity or you have car/personal loans with the bank, you need to open a personal account with another bank of your choosing.
4. What About Our Home?
One of the hardest assets to deal with in a divorce. This is where the couple lived as a family, with or without children. If there are children involved, their little lives have centered around their schools, churches, sports teams and friends. It is heartbreaking to the entire family, but this decision is usually the final family break.
If the decision is for one spouse to take over the homestead and debt, the ideal situation is for such spouse to refinance the home in only their name. The single spouse will be responsible for the debt on the house and full title on the house. Otherwise if the spouse can’t afford to refinance the house, both spouses will have to work out a co-owner agreement and continue to have both names on the title and share the large financial burden. In such event, frequently, sale of the home is the best option.
This is one of the most serious real estate problems we encounter in a post-divorce situation. Times get tough and the ex- spouse, who took over the house debt, cannot afford to pay the mortgage and the property falls into foreclosure, affecting both ex- spouses’ credit. Sometimes it is better, if one spouse cannot refinance the house loan, to sell the house and divide the proceeds.
Other “To Do” Items to Address Before the Start of the Divorce
- Make sure your assets are protected. Check that your car, health, and homeowner’s insurance is up to date and enough for your and your children’s needs. Also start the process of changing beneficiaries on all life insurance policies/annuities and retirement accounts (IRA / 401k at work) you own from your ex-spouse to your heirs or other designees.
- Change all passwords on your online accounts and all banking and credit card accounts. Time for some personal privacy!
- Time to start thinking about your digital assets that you as a couple developed and shared? This is a community state and how will this affect this type of asset?
- Think about reviewing your will and other estate planning documents. We suggest that when the divorce is final, you need to have a new will in place that will be only your heirs minus your Ex.
- Very important! Establish your own credit in your single name
This list will give you a start on the financial items that you must be addressed immediately in an upcoming divorce. Be prepared before the divorce and know where you stand financially. This will hopefully give you time to talk with financial and legal experts so you can make wise decisions on addressing the financial aspects of the divorce for you and your other family members.
The Nacol Law Firm P.C.
What about a Texas Father’s Summer Visitation? The Standard Child Possession Order – Texas Family Code
When parents are battling over divorce issues and child custody, they often times do not understand that the Texas Family Code has expanded the standard child possession order to make joint managing conservators with more equal rights and duties and possession of the child. It is important to keep in mind that, under certain circumstances, and depending on the age of a child, a judge may alter the standard possession order in any way that serves the best interest of the child.
The following is an example of a standard possession order for a parent who lives within 100 miles of their child under the Texas Family Code.
IT IS ORDERED that the conservators shall have possession of the child at times mutually agreed to in advance by the parties, and, in the absence of mutual agreement, it is ORDERED that the conservators shall have possession of the child under the specified terms set out in this Standard Possession Order.
PARENTS WHO RESIDE UNDER 100 MILES APART:
Except as otherwise explicitly provided in this Standard Possession Order, when Possessory Conservator resides 100 miles or less from the primary residence of the child, Possessory Conservator shall have the right to possession of the child as follows:
Weekends that do not occur during the regular school term, beginning at 6:00 p.m. on the first, third, and fifth Friday of each month and ending at 6:00 p.m. on the following Sunday.
2. Extended Summer Possession by Possessory Conservator—
With Written Notice by April 1—If Possessory Conservator gives Managing Conservator written notice by April 1 of a year specifying an extended period or periods of summer possession for that year, Possessory Conservator shall have possession of the child for thirty days beginning no earlier than the day after the child’s school is dismissed for the summer vacation and ending no later than seven days before school resumes at the end of the summer vacation in that year, to be exercised in no more than two separate periods of at least seven consecutive days each, as specified in the written notice, provided that the period or periods of extended summer possession do not interfere with Father’s Day Weekend. These periods of possession shall begin and end at 6:00 p.m.
Without Written Notice by April 1—If Possessory Conservator does not give Managing Conservator written notice by April 1 of a year specifying an extended period or periods of summer possession for that year, Possessory Conservator shall have possession of the child for thirty consecutive days in that year beginning at 6:00 p.m. on July 1 and ending at 6:00 p.m. on July 31.
Notwithstanding the Thursday periods of possession during the regular school term and the weekend periods of possession ORDERED for Possessory Conservator, it is explicitly ORDERED that Managing Conservator shall have a superior right of possession of the child as follows:
2. Summer Weekend Possession by Managing Conservator—If Managing Conservator gives Possessory Conservator written notice by April 15 of a year, Managing Conservator shall have possession of the child on any one weekend beginning at 6:00 p.m. on Friday and ending at 6:00 p.m. on the following Sunday during any one period of the extended summer possession by Possessory Conservator in that year, provided that Managing Conservator picks up the child from Possessory Conservator and returns the child to that same place and that the weekend so designated does not interfere with Father’s Day Weekend.
3. Extended Summer Possession by Managing Conservator—If Managing Conservator gives Possessory Conservator written notice by April 15 of a year or gives Possessory Conservator fourteen days’ written notice on or after April 16 of a year, Managing Conservator may designate one weekend beginning no earlier than the day after the child’s school is dismissed for the summer vacation and ending no later than seven days before school resumes at the end of the summer vacation, during which an otherwise scheduled weekend period of possession by Possessory Conservator shall not take place in that year, provided that the weekend so designated does not interfere with Possessory Conservator’s period or periods of extended summer possession or with Father’s Day Weekend.
PARENTS WHO RESIDE OVER 100 MILES APART:
If the possessory conservator resides more than 100 miles from the residence of the child, the possessory conservator shall have the right to possession of the child as follows:
1. Summer Possession:
(A) Gives the managing conservator written notice by April 1 of each year specifying an extended period or periods of summer possession, the possessory conservator shall have possession of the child for 42 days beginning not earlier than the day after the child’s school is dismissed for the summer vacation and ending not later than seven days before school resumes at the end of the summer vacation, to be exercised in not more than two separate periods of at least seven consecutive days each with each period of possession beginning and ending at 6 p.m. on each applicable day; or
(B) Does not give the managing conservator written notice by April 1 of each year specifying an extended period or periods of summer possession, the possessory conservator shall have possession of the child for 42 consecutive days beginning at 6 p.m. on June 15 and ending at 6 p.m. on July 27;
2. If the managing conservator gives the possessory conservator written notice by April 15 of each year the managing conservator shall have possession of the child on one weekend beginning Friday at 6 p.m. and ending at 6 p.m. on the following Sunday during one period of possession by the possessory conservator under Subdivision (3), provided that if a period of possession by the possessory conservator exceeds 30 days, the managing conservatory may have possession of the child under the terms of this subdivision on two nonconsecutive weekends during that time period, and further provided that the managing conservator picks up the child from the possessory conservator and returns the child to that same place; and
3. If the managing conservatory give the possessory conservator written notice by April 15 of each year, the managing conservator may designate 21 days beginning not earlier than the day after the child’s school is dismissed for the summer vacation and ending not later than seven days before school resumes at the end of the summer vacation, to be exercised in not more than two separate periods of at least seven consecutive days each with each period of possession beginning and ending at 6 p.m. on each applicable day, during which the possessory conservator may not have possession of the child, provided that the period or periods so designated do not interfere with the possessory conservator’s period or periods of extended summer possession or with Father’s Day if the possessory conservator is the father of the child.
Holidays Unaffected by Distance
Notwithstanding the weekend and Thursday periods of possession of Possessory Conservator, Managing Conservator and Possessory Conservator shall have the right to possession of the child as follows:
Father’s Day Weekend—Father shall have the right to possession of the child each year, beginning at 6:00 p.m. on the Friday preceding Father’s Day and ending at 6:00 p.m. on Father’s Day, provided that if Father is not otherwise entitled under this Standard Possession Order to present possession of the child, he shall pick up the child from the other conservator’s residence and return the child to that same place.
General Terms and Conditions
Except as otherwise explicitly provided in this Standard Possession Order, the terms and conditions of possession of the child that apply regardless of the distance between the residence of a parent and the child are as follows:
1. Surrender of Child by Managing Conservator—Managing Conservator is ORDERED to surrender the child to Possessory Conservator at the beginning of each period of Possessory Conservator’s possession at the residence of Managing Conservator.
If a period of possession by Possessory Conservator begins at the time the child’s school is regularly dismissed, Managing Conservator is ORDERED to surrender the child to Possessory Conservator at the beginning of each such period of possession at the school in which the child is enrolled. If the child is not in school, Possessory Conservator shall pick up the child at the residence of Managing Conservator at 6:00 p.m., and Managing Conservator is ORDERED to surrender the child to Possessory Conservator at the residence of Managing Conservator at 6:00 p.m. under these circumstances.
2. Surrender of Child by Possessory Conservator—Possessory Conservator is ORDERED to surrender the child to Managing Conservator at the residence of Managing Conservator at the end of each period of possession.
3. Return of Child by Possessory Conservator—Possessory Conservator is ORDERED to return the child to the residence of Managing Conservator at the end of each period of possession. However, it is ORDERED that, if Managing Conservator and Possessory Conservator live in the same county at the time of rendition of this order, Possessory Conservator’s county of residence remains the same after rendition of this order, and Managing Conservator’s county of residence changes, effective on the date of the change of residence by Managing Conservator, Possessory Conservator shall surrender the child to Managing Conservator at the residence of Possessory Conservator at the end of each period of possession.
If a period of possession by Possessory Conservator ends at the time the child’s school resumes, Possessory Conservator is ORDERED to surrender the child to Managing Conservator at the end of each such period of possession at the school in which the child is enrolled or, if the child is not in school, at the residence of Managing Conservator at [address].
4. Surrender of Child by Possessory Conservator—Possessory Conservator is ORDERED to surrender the child to Managing Conservator, if the child is in Possessory Conservator’s possession or subject to Possessory Conservator’s control, at the beginning of each period of Managing Conservator’s exclusive periods of possession, at the place designated in this Standard Possession Order.
5. Return of Child by Managing Conservator—Managing Conservator is ORDERED to return the child to Possessory Conservator, if Possessory Conservator is entitled to possession of the child, at the end of each of Managing Conservator’s exclusive periods of possession, at the place designated in this Standard Possession Order.
6. Personal Effects—each conservator is ORDERED to return with the child the personal effects that the child brought at the beginning of the period of possession.
7. Designation of Competent Adult—each conservator may designate any competent adult to pick up and return the child, as applicable. IT IS ORDERED that a conservator or a designated competent adult be present when the child is picked up or returned.
8. Inability to Exercise Possession—each conservator is ORDERED to give notice to the person in possession of the child on each occasion that the conservator will be unable to exercise that conservator’s right of possession for any specified period.
9. Written Notice—written notice shall be deemed to have been timely made if received or postmarked before or at the time that notice is due.
10. Notice to School and Managing Conservator—If Possessory Conservator’s time of possession of the child ends at the time school resumes and for any reason the child is not or will not be returned to school, Possessory Conservator shall immediately notify the school and Managing Conservator that the child will not be or has not been returned to school.
Again, a Judge may under varied circumstances change any provision of a Standard Possession Order.
Effective September 1, 2019 The Texas Child Support Division of the Attorney General increased the Maximum child Support under the Texas Child Support Guidelines from $8,550 to the “new cap”of net monthly resources to $9200 annually. This change in the law will increase the amount of maximum child support from of $1,710.00 to $1,840.00 monthly (20% of $9200. For one child)
Texas Family Code §154.125(a)(1) requires that every six years the presumptive amount of net resources to which the child support guidelines apply shall be reviewed and adjusted for inflation by the Texas Office of the Texas Attorney General (OAG). That section sets out the formula for doing so based on the consumer price index. The last adjustment was done in 2013 when the current amount of $8550 per month was established.
How does the “cap” work and what could this mean for you? If your net monthly resources are less than $8,550, the child support obligation will not change on Sept. 1. You are under the “current cap” and lower than the “new cap”. All stays the same.
If you are currently going through litigation and your net monthly resources exceeds $8,550 and the Court orders child support prior to September 1, 2019, Texas Child Support Guidelines will mandate that the Court apply the appropriate child support percentage to the first $8,550 in net monthly resources based on the number of children. But, if the Court orders child support after September 1, 2019, it will apply the new appropriate child support percentage to the first $9,200 in net monthly resources.
Child support under the guidelines is determined by applying the applicable percentage, beginning at 20% for one child and increasing incrementally for each additional child, to the net resources amount. If a child support obligor has monthly net resources over $9200, a party seeking above the guideline’s child support has the burden of proving to the court that additional support should be ordered according to factors set out in Texas Family Code §154.126.
Important to Know: The new “cap” increase of September 1, 2019 will not automatically increase the obligor’s existing child support obligation. Any change in child support standing before September 1, 2019, can only occur through the court with a modification order to increase the child support to the new “Cap” amount of $9200. After September 1, 2019, any new suit for child support will be subject to the new “cap”.
Please review the Texas Office of the Texas Attorney General (OAG) website for a child support calculator for the new breakdown: https://csapps.oag.texas.gov/monthly-child-support-calculator
The Nacol Law Firm PC
8144 Walnut Hill Lane
Dallas, Texas 75231