Father’s Access and Possession of Their Children: A Father’s Absence can be Disastrous to his Children’s Lives
There is now a discernible shift in the United States concerning Fathers Rights. A new legal awareness in many state family courts is leaning towards both parents need to be involved in raising a normal loving child. Mom and Dad may not be able to live as a couple, but the child deserves to have both parents in his/her life. Many legal professionals in the United States are working on changing old antiquated strict ideas on the parental foundation structure of the family. Ideas on raising children, even in a broken family, need to include both Dad and Mom.
According to the National Center for Fathering, “More than 20 million children live in a home without the physical presence of a father. Millions more have dads who are physically present, but emotionally absent. If it were classified as a disease, fatherlessness would be an epidemic worthy of attention as a national emergency.”
“Psychology Today” researchers have found this statement to be true. The results of father absence in their children’s lives can be disastrous. Specific behavior for many of these children are:
- Children’s diminished self-concept, and compromised physical and emotional security
- Behavioral problems (fatherless children have more difficulties with social adjustment, and are more likely to report problems with friendships, and manifest behavior problems)
- Truancy and poor academic performance (71% of high school dropouts are fatherless; fatherless children have more trouble academically, scoring poorly on tests of reading, mathematics, and thinking skills.
- Delinquency and youth crime, including violent crime (85% of youth in prison have an absent father; fatherless children are more likely to offend and go to jail as adults)
- Promiscuity and teen pregnancy
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Homelessness (90% of runaway children have an absent father)
- Exploitation, A, and emotional maltreatment
- Physical health problems and Mental health disorders
- Life chances and future relationships
- Mortality (fatherless children are more likely to die as children, and live an average of four years less over the lifespan)
“When fathers are actively involved with their children, children do better, states Dr. Paul Amato, noted parent-child relationship sociologist at Pennsylvania State University. “Research suggests that fathers are very important for a child’s development”. The “Fathers Effect” is the term for the benefits of the paternal presence. These effects are numerous when fathers actively participate in family life. Minimum time must be spent together, but quality of time is more important than quantity of time”.
Fatherhood trends in America are changing! With the increase in the number of mothers who have now entered the job market, more fathers have started taking a more active role in caring for their children as single fathers are significantly growing in numbers. Pew Research has come out with new facts on American Dads and here are their key findings:
- More dads are staying home to care for their children
- 57% of fathers see parenting as central to their identity with 54% find parenting rewarding all the time.
- Work-family balance is a challenge to balance work and family life. 52% of working dads say it is very or somewhat difficult to do so.
- 74% of men face major pressure to support their families financially, while 49% face pressure to be involved parents.
- It has become less common for dads to be the family’s sole breadwinner.
- Fathers are much more involved in childcare. But in caregiving mothers are still view as the primary parent.
- 63% of fathers still feel they spend too little time with their children usually because of work obligations.
In the future it may be possible for 50/50 joint custody and co-parenting with both parents to be the legal presumption and the norm for presumed access and possession of Divorce or Mediation Orders. Divorce is never blameless, but raising a child is where parents must raise above their personal feelings and think of what is best for the child.
Nacol Law Firm P.C.
Fathers Rights Attorneys
The holidays can be very frustrating times for both spouses when undergoing divorce proceedings that involve custody issues with children and one spouse acts in bad faith or arbitrarily. If a spouse violates a temporary custody order, he or she may not face consequences at the time but must explain their actions to a district judge in the future.
If a temporary custody order describes in detail the periods of possession during the Christmas holiday, the order is binding on both spouses. The temporary custody order is binding civilly and NOT criminally per se. This is an important distinction to understand before you decide to call the police. Family law matters, with notable exceptions such as domestic violence and protective orders, are generally governed in civil and not criminal courts. Because temporary custody orders involving children are governed by civil courts, a police officer has no immediate basis to enforce the civil order.
If your spouse refuses to release your child to you at the prescribed time mandated in the temporary custody order, there are certain things that you should do to insure this wrongful conduct properly is documented for future civil contempt proceedings.
- Call the police!!! Many police departments will not respond because temporary custody orders are not criminally enforceable, but if the police department decides to respond then you may request a police report to be filed noting that your spouse deliberately violated the temporary custody order. This may be used in Court to persuade the judge to hold your spouse in civil contempt or validate your properly made demand for access in accordance with your temporary order.
- Save and preserve any text messages, emails, letters, or recorded phone calls that demonstrate and reaffirm your spouse’s refusal to deliver your children into your custody during the holiday or other allotted time in your visitation order.
- Call your attorney and notify him of your spouse’s refusal to deliver the children to you.
- Do not be tricked or cohered into a physical confrontation with your soon to be ex-spouse!!!
By completing these four tasks you will be gathering and preserving evidence to hold your spouse in civil contempt of Court. After the Christmas Holiday season or other access periods are over, your lawyer with your consent will file a motion to hold your spouse in contempt of Court for violation of the temporary custody order. If your spouse is found in civil contempt of Court, he or she may be fined, ordered to jail for up to 180 days until the fine and attorney fees are paid, and the violation may be a solid basis to favourably modify the previous temporary custody orders. Such rulings are at the judge’s discretion.
Though you may feel helpless at the time, justice may be achieved through the District Courts in the form of civil or contempt sanctions. Judges usually look down on a spouse that blatantly violates temporary custody orders especially during Christmas or other special holidays. Just relax and be patience if your spouse refuses to deliver the children to you and document the conduct. Justice may take time but in the end, it is usually affirmed.
The Nacol Law Firm P.C.
8144 Walnut Hill Lane
Dallas, Texas 75231
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.
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.
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