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:
- The circumstances of the child or an affected party have materially and substantially changed; or
- 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:
- The financial needs/expenses at the time of the divorce or prior modification for the children and the person affected, and;
- 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
Are You An Alienated Parent With A Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) Family Experience? What Can You Do?
There is nothing worse than a family torn apart by parents who are battling over child custody. Many of these cases are in serious litigation and often, these disputes will continue for years.
What is Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)? In the 1980’s, forensic psychiatrist, Dr. Richard A. Gardner noticed a large increase in a disorder where one parent will program or brainwash a child to alienate the other parent. He also found the child was self-creating contributions supporting the alienating parent’s campaign of denigration against the targeted parent.
Dr. Gardner’s definition of PAS: Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is a disorder that arises primarily in the context of child-custody disputes. Its primary manifestation is the child’s campaign of denigration against a parent, a campaign that has no justification. It results from the combination of a programming (brainwashing) parent’s indoctrinations and the child’s own contributions to the vilifications of the target parents. (Gardner, the Parental Alienation Syndrome)
There is no pure PAS diagnosis if the child still has a positive relationship with the parent even though the other parent is trying to alienate the child.
Courts are generally more conservative in their judgment acknowledging PAS in high conflict cases. Even though Parental Alienation evidence may be overwhelming, often courts will enter judgments allowing the “parents to make joint decisions about the child’s welfare.” This will not ever happen between two alienated parents! In many situations it will take a dramatic or tragic situation to force the court to change primary custody. When the alienating parent becomes unstable mentally, the court will recognize that there is something “out of line” and will become more supportive of the targeted parent.
What are the Best ways for the Alienated Parent to Deal with the PAS issue?
Keep your “cool”. Never retaliate. Never act in anger since anger=unstable.
Never give up! You cannot let your child grow up in this environment of hate. The child is the victim of a situation that he/she never asked to be in.
Be “Proactive”! It is a terrible situation for the entire family, but work on seeking constructive action to solve the problem. Do not allow yourself to become a victim!
Always keep a journal of dates and times of major key events. Explain when the situation occurred and what happened specifically. Any Witnesses?
Always call and show to pick up the child even when you know he/she will not be there. Try to contact the police to have a record of the no-show event or take a witness to video the denial of possession. You do have an interest in your child, no matter what the alienating parent says.
When you do see the child, focus on enjoying your parent-child time together. Never talk badly about the other parent and do not let children overhear inappropriate conversation on the telephone.
Hire a skilled family lawyer who has experience in parental alienation syndrome issues. Do your homework on PAS and interview the lawyer on his experience and what your issues are. If you are not satisfied look again. This is your life and you are trying to save your child.
Be prepared to financially see this case to the end. Most of these case last for years. You cannot start and stop.
A forensic evaluator in PAS cases is usually an asset in showing that there is truly alienation occurring and recommend changing legal and primary custody to the alienated parent. An appropriate parenting plan included showing how well the child will be taken care of with the alienated parent, is advised.
Always pay your child support on time and never violate court orders. Never give the alienating parent reason to question your behavior.
Last but not least, to show that your parenting skills are superior, take a comprehensive parenting course to be able to show the court that you strive to be the best parent you can to the child, no matter what the alienating parent says.
Despite the difficulties faced in a divorce, the children should not be placed in the center of the crossfire. During the divorce process, and sometimes following the divorce process, it is not uncommon for a parent to become so wrapped up in anger, vengeance or simply being “right” that they forget the effect the whole process is having on the children. Below are some behaviors to avoid and some suggestions to assist you with improving your communications during the divorce process:
- Do not use children as messengers between “mom” and “dad.”
- Do not criticize your former spouse in the presence of your children because children realize they are part “mom” and part “dad.”
- Resist any temptation to allow your children to act as your caretaker. Children need to be allowed the freedom to be “children.” Taking on such responsibility at an early age degrades their self-esteem, feeds anger and hinders a child’s ability to relate to their peers.
- Encourage your children to see your former spouse frequently. Promote a good relationship for the benefit of the child.
- Do not argue with your former spouse in the presence of the children. No matter what the situation, the child will feel torn between taking “mommy’s” side and “daddy’s” side.
- At every step during the divorce process, remind yourself that your children’s interests are paramount, even over your own.
- If you are the non-primary parent, pay your child support.
- If you are the primary parent and are not receiving child support, do not tell your children. This feeds a child’s sense of abandonment and erodes their stability.
- Remember that the Court’s view child support and child custody as two separate and distinct issues. Children do not understand whether “mommy” and/or “daddy” paid child support, but they do understand that “mommy” and/or “daddy” wants to see me.
- If at all possible, do not uproot your children. When a family is falling apart, a child needs a stable home and school life to buffer the trauma.
- If you have an addiction problem, whether it be drugs, alcohol or any other affliction, seek help immediately. Such impairments inhibit your ability to reassure your children and give them the attention they need.
- If you are having difficulty dealing with issues relating to your former spouse, discuss such issues with mental health professionals and counselors.
- Reassure your children that they are loved and that they have no fault in the divorce.
Though these steps are not all-inclusive, they will assist you in dealing with the complex issues of a divorce and hopefully minimize the impact of the divorce process on the children.
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
Two New Family Case laws have been passed by the Texas legislature and signed by Governor Abbott, effective 9/1/2019:
HB553 Relating to notice summer weekend possession of a child under a standard possession order in a suit affecting the parent-child relationship.
SECTION 1. Section 153.312, Family Code, is amended by adding subsection (c) to read as follows:
(c) Notwithstanding Section 153.316, after receiving notice from the managing conservator under Subsection (b)(3) of this section designating the summer weekend during which the managing conservator is to have possession of the child, the possessory conservator, not later than the 15th day before Friday that begins that designated weekend, must give the managing conservator written notice of the location at which the managing conservator is to pick up and return the child.
SECTION 2. Section 153.312 (c), Family Code, as added by this Act, applies only to a court order providing for possession of or access to a child rendered on or after the effective date of this Act. A court order rendered before the effective date on this Act is governed by the law in effect on the date the order was rendered, and the former law is continued in effect for that purpose.
SECTION 3. This Act takes effect September 1, 2019
HB House Bill 558: Relating to the court ordered support for a child with disability:
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:
SECTION 1. Section 154.302, Family Code, is amended by adding Subsection (c) to read as follows:
(c) notwithstanding Subsection (b), a court that orders support under this section for an adult child with a disability may designate a special needs trust and provide that the support may be paid directly to the trust for the benefit of the adult child. The court shall order that support payable to a special needs trust under this subsection be paid directly to the trust and may not order that the support be paid to the state disbursement unit. This subsection does not apply in a Title IV-D case.
SECTION 2. The change in law made by this Act constitutes a material and substantial change of circumstance under Section 156.401, Family Code, sufficient to warrant modification of a court order or a portion of a decree that provides support for a child rendered before the effective date of this Act.
Section 3. This Act takes effect on September 1, 2019
More new Texas Legislature Family Laws to come!