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Child Support Modification in Texas – Done Within Three Years

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:

  1. The circumstances of the child or an affected party have materially and substantially changed; or
  2. 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:

  1. The financial needs/expenses at the time of the divorce or prior modification for the children and the person affected, and;
  2. 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

Fathers and Parent Alienation Syndrome

One in three children lose touch with a parent, usually the father, following a divorce.  In a recent survey, one in five parents stated that their primary objective during the divorce was to make the experience as unpleasant as possible for the former spouse; despite the effects such attitudes and behavior have on the children.  One in three children stated that they felt isolated and lonely during and following the divorce process.

Parental Alienation Syndrome is the systematic denigration by one parent with the intent of alienating the child against the other parent.  In most cases, the purpose of the alienation is to gain custody of a child and exclude involvement by the father.  In other cases the mother wants the father out of the way to start a new life, the mother wants more of the money and assets than she is entitled to and uses the children as pawns.  The mother hates the father and the children become false weapons.  These are just a few reason Parental Alienation occurs in domestic disputes.

Parental Alienation Syndrome is common because it is an effective device for gaining custody of a child.  Trough systematic alienation, one parent may slowly brainwash a child against the other parent.  The parent involved in such alienation behaviors then gains misplaced loyalty of the child.

There are two types of Parental Alienation Syndrome, medical and legal.  Medical Parental Alienation Syndrome is a form of emotional child abuse.  Parents in hostile separations may suffer depression, anger and anxiety or aggression.  The expression of these feelings often takes on a form of withdrawing love and communication.  This extends to the children through the custodial parent.  It is a mechanism employed to stop the father from having contact with his children; and can be described by the mother holding the children “hostages,” afraid of the mother, and obeying her as a means of survival.  The child may also be instilled with false memories of the father, may be coached and/or brainwashed.  Parental Alienation Syndrome is recognized by the courts but is very difficult to define and in most cases requires bringing in County Social Services, Child Protective Services, and/or other professionals.  Anyone claiming Parental Alienation Syndrome should look for family therapy as a constructive way forward.  Other forms of abuse are physical, sexual, and neglect and are much easier to identify.

It is important no matter how bad the alienation becomes that you strategize to create a line of contact with your children, the mother and anyone connected to them.  Having a plan is critical.  When a father loses contact with his children he goes from disbelief, to despair, anger, depression, confusion and a total sense of social injustice.  Having a plan means looking at the situation logically, rather than emotionally.

1.  The first stage is to look for direct contact with the mother and children. Can you meet, write, or phone?
2.  If you are not allowed contact, can a relative contact the mother or children on your behalf?
3.  Can you contact your children through church, school, clubs, sports activities, or daycare?
4.  Can you participate in your children’s activities?
5.  Do you have a non-suggestive witness that can go with you when you exercise your visitation rights?
6.  Is there a local grocery store where you can purchase something to have a receipt stating the date and time you were in the area?
7.  Will the police make a report stating that you attempted to exercise your visitation?
8.  Whenever possible take video and pictures.

In cases of Parental Alienation Syndrome it is important that you document everything.  Keep a diary or timeline.  Write important events down on a calendar.

If you are a victim of Parental Alienation Syndrome, contact an attorney. Discuss your options.  Formulate a plan to move forward.  Do not give up your parental rights as a father.

Texas Divorce: What Happens During the Divorce Process?

Divorce is frustrating, confusing, and personally resentful. Divorce is never a pleasant experience even in the most amicable terms. It is important to know what you are in for when a divorce is filed. An original petition will be filed by one of the spouses (the petitioner). Then, the Respondent spouse must be served with papers by a process server unless they will agree to waiver service.  

After service of the original petition, the Petitioner may file for a Temporary Restraining Order (“TRO”) to protect the child and marital estate. Once a TRO is granted by the District Judge, a temporary order hearing will be set within 14 days. This temporary order hearing is extremely important and will determine the direction of the case.

Temporary Order hearings are usually condensed to 20 minutes a side depending on the complexities of the case. Within these 20 minutes, you will have to put on evidence for your entire case regarding custody of the children, management of the marital estate, and any other considerations such as receivership of a business.

After the temporary orders hearing, the case will dive into full throttle litigation. Discovery on both sides is usually conducted including interrogatories, admissions, and production of documentation. The documents that are usually requested consists of bank statements, retirement pensions, social media pages, text messages, and emails. Each case requires specific Discovery requests that are narrowly tailored to the facts presented. Discovery can last months and usually follow with motions to compel and sanctions. In highly contested cases the rigors of discovery and compiling documentation can be brutal.

During the Discovery phase, Depositions may be warranted. Depositions consists of your attorney questioning your spouse and any other witnesses that are relevant to the case for impeachment purposes. Depositions are necessary if the case will go to a jury, because impeachment of your spouse is a necessity to prove your truthfulness.

Mediation is often mandatory in Courts, but this is the general rule. Certain Courts in the Dallas, Fort Worth, and Collin county do not require mandatory mediation. Each Court has its own rules of procedure and requirements. If the Mediation fails to produce a settlement between you and your spouse, then the only thing left is a trial.

Depending on the complexities of the case and assets, a trial can last half a day or be a three-day trial. Most trials are before the District Judge. Certain facts may give rise to a jury trial, but a jury trial is more costly and can take up more time. After the trial is complete the parties will have to wait for a ruling. This can take days to months depending on the case and jurisdiction.

When the final ruling is given to all parties, the Judge will charge one party to create a final order that will be submitted to the Court. This can give rise to more litigation depending on the interpretation of the Judge’s rulings by both parties. Finally, when both parties agree to a final order or the Judge determines which version of the final order is proper, then the case will be over.

Divorce can be a painful process that lasts 6 months to three years depending on the circumstances and the nature of the parties involved. If you are about to file for a Divorce in the DFW Metroplex or need help call the Nacol Law Firm, experienced family law attorneys to represent your best interests throughout this painful process.

Nacol Law Firm P.C.
Julian Nacol, Attorney