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.
Mom and Dad are divorcing or have been divorced and are now sharing joint custody of their children in the same city in Texas. One parent receives a letter from the other parent’s attorney requesting that this parent be allowed to relocate the children to another state so he/she may take a better job position with another company! This is a dilemma no parent ever wants to experience! Child Custody cases involving interstate relocation jurisdiction issues cause much heartache and are costly legal battles.
What can a Parent do to protect themselves from children being relocated away from the non-moving parent to another state without her/his consent? How may this affect the parent’s relationship with the children?
The Texas Family Code 153.002 Best Interest of Child states “The best interest of the child shall always be the primary consideration of the court in determining the primary consideration of the court in determining the issues of conservatorship and possession of and access to the child.”
The Texas Family code does not elaborate on the specific requirement for modification in the residency-restriction context, and there are no specific statutes governing residency restrictions or their removal for purposes of relocation. Texas Courts have no statutory standards to apply to this context.
The Texas Legislature has provided Texas Family Code 153.001, a basic framework on their public policy for all suits affecting the parent-child relationship:
The public policy of this state is to:
Assure the children will have frequent and continuing contact with parents who have shown the ability to act in the best interest of the child;
Provide a safe, stable, and nonviolent environment for the child;
Encourage parents to share in the rights and duties of raising their child after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage.
How does The State of Texas treat an initial Child Custody determination?
Texas Family Code 152.201 of the UCCJEA states, among other things, that a court may rule on custody issues if the Child:
*Has continually lived in that state for 6 months or longer and Texas was the home state of the child within six months before the commencement of the legal proceeding.
*Was living in the state before being wrongfully abducted elsewhere by a parent seeking custody in another state. One parent continues to live in Texas.
*Has an established relationship with people (family, relatives or teachers), ties, and attachments in the state
*Has been abandoned in an emergency: or is safe in the current state, but could be in danger of neglect or abuse in the home state
Relocation is a child custody situation which will turn on the individual facts of the specific case, so that each case is tried on its own merits.
Most child custody relocation cases tried in Texas follow a predictable course:
Allowing or not allowing the move.
Order of psychological evaluations or social studies of family members
Modification of custody and adjusting of child’s time spent with parents
Adjusting child support
Order of mediation to settle dispute
Allocating transportation costs
Order opposing parties to provide all information on child’s addresses and telephone #
Help to Prevent Your Child’s Relocation in a Texas Court by Preparing Your Case!
Does the intended relocation interfere with the visitation rights of the non- moving parent?
The effect on visitation and communication with the non-moving parent to maintain a full and continuous relationship with the child
How will this move affect extended family relationships living in the child’s current location?
Are there bad faith motives evident in the relocating parent?
Can the non-moving parent relocate to be close to the child? If not, what type of separation hardship would the child have?
The relocating parent’s desire to accommodate a new job, spouse, or other criteria above the parent-child relationship. A Parent’s personal desire for move rather than need to move?
Is there a significant degree of economic, emotional or education enhancement for the relocating parent and child in this move?
Any violation of an order or prior notice of the intended move or a temporary restraining order
Are Special Needs/ Talents accommodated for the child in this move?
Fear of child and high cost of travel expenses for non-moving parent or child to visit each other to be able to continue parent- child relationship.
What other Paramount Concerns would affect the child concerning the relocation from the non-moving parent?
At the Nacol Law Firm PC, we represent many parents trying to prevent their child from relocating to another city or state and having to experience “A Long Distance Parental Relationship” brought on by a better job or new life experience of the relocating parent! We work at persuading courts to apply the specific, narrow exceptions to these general rules in order to have child custody cases heard in the most convenient forum in which the most qualifying, honest evidence is available; cases where the child’s home state or other basic questions are clarified, and cases where a parent has the right in close proximity with their child regardless of other less important factors.
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.
Rights and Duties of a Parent – Joint Managing Conservator in Texas.
Waiver To the Guidelines is a Matter of Court Discretion
As a joint managing conservator of a child in a divorce proceeding in Texas, unless special circumstances arise justifying a variance from the Guidelines, the Court will normally order guideline code rights and duties and a parent will be awarded the following:
1.the right to receive information from any other conservator of the child concerning the health, education, and welfare of the child.
2.the right to confer with the other parent to the extent possible before making a decision concerning the health, education, and welfare of the child.
3.the right of access to medical, dental, psychological, and educational records of the child.
4.the right to consult with a physician, dentist, or psychologist of the child.
5.the right to consult with school officials concerning the child’s welfare and educational status, including school activities.
6.the right to attend school activities.
7.the right to be designated on the child’s records as a person to be notified in case of an emergency.
8.the right to consent to medical, dental, and surgical treatment during an emergency involving an immediate danger to the health and safety of the child.
9.the right to manage the estate of the child to the extent the estate has been created by the parent/conservator or the parent/conservator’s family.
10.the duty to inform the other conservator of the child in a timely manner of significant information concerning the health, education, and welfare of the child; and
11.the duty to inform the other conservator of the child if the conservator resides with for at least thirty days, marries, or intends to marry a person who the conservator knows is registered as a sex offender under chapter 62 of the Code of Criminal Procedure or is currently charged with an offense for which on conviction the person would be required to register under that chapter. IT IS ORDERED that this information shall be tendered in the form of a notice made as soon as practicable, but not later than the fortieth day after the date the conservator of the child begins to reside with the person or on the tenth day after the date the marriage occurs, as appropriate. IT IS ORDERED that the notice must include a description of the offense that is the basis of the person’s requirement to register as a sex offender or of the offense with which the person is charged. WARNING: A CONSERVATOR COMMITS AN OFFENSE PUNISHABLE AS A CLASS C MISDEMEANOR IF THE CONSERVATOR FAILS TO PROVIDE THIS NOTICE.
12.the duty of care, control, protection, and reasonable discipline of the child.
13.the duty to support the child, including providing the child with clothing, food, shelter, and medical and dental care not involving an invasive procedure.
14.the right to consent for the child to medical and dental care not involving an invasive procedure.
15.the right to direct the moral and religious training of the child.
16.Only one parent shall have the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of child in a specific geographical area, which is commonly the county in which the child currently resides and the contiguous counties thereto.
17.the right to consent to medical, dental, and surgical treatment involving invasive procedures may be subject to agreement, an independent right or an exclusive right;
18.the right to consent to psychiatric and psychological treatment of the child may be subject to agreement, an independent right or an exclusive right;
19.Only one parent shall have the exclusive right to receive and give receipt for periodic payments for the support of the child and to hold or disburse these funds for the benefit of the child;
20.the right to represent the child in legal action and to make other decisions of substantial legal significance concerning the child may be subject to agreement, an independent right or an exclusive right;
21.the right to consent to marriage and to enlistment in the armed forces of the United States may be subject to agreement, an independent right or an exclusive right;
22.the right to make decisions concerning the child’s education may be subject to agreement, an independent right a joint right or an exclusive right;
23.except as provided by section 264.0111 of the Texas Family Code, the right to the services and earnings of the child may be subject to agreement, an independent right or an exclusive right;
24.except when a guardian of the child’s estate or a guardian or attorney ad litem has been appointed for the child, the right to act as an agent of the child in relation to the child’s estate if the child’s action is required by a state, the United States, or a foreign government may be subject to agreement, an independent right or an exclusive right; and
25.the right to manage the estate of the child to the extent the estate has been created by community property or the joint property of the parent/conservator may be subject to agreement, an independent right or an exclusive right.
In accordance with section 153.001 of the Texas Family Code, it is the public policy of Texas to assure that children will have frequent and continuing contact with parents who have shown the ability to act in the best interest of the child, to provide a safe, stable, and nonviolent environment for the child, and to encourage parents to share in the rights and duties of raising their child after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage. The Court will therefore normally establish the primary residence of the child in the county where the child currently resides and/or a contiguous county thereto, and the parties shall not remove the child from such county for the purpose of changing the primary residence of child until there is a modification to the existing order of the court of continuing jurisdiction or a written agreement signed by the parties and filed with the court.
The geographical restriction on the residence of the child may be lifted or modified if, at the time the primary parent with the right to establish residence wishes to remove the child from the county for the purpose of changing the primary residence of the child, the other parent does not reside in that county or a contiguous county thereto.
Time constraints, employment issues of the primary Joint Managing Conservator, and other material factors may come into play when a Joint Managing Conservator requests waiver of the geographical restrictions. It customarily is a very difficult, but not always insurmountable, burden to achieve a geographical restriction waiver. The success, consistency and regularity of the non-primary conservator’s possession and access to the child is a factor the court will view in making a ruling. Frequently, an agreement to adjust the amount of support and/or transportation costs comes into play in resolving such disputes.
For better or worse,
For richer or poorer,
Until . . . a divorce is filed.
When there are several zeros at the end of your bank balance, as in $500,000.00; $5,000,000.00 or more, the financial aspects of divorce can be high risk.
Texas divorce laws are the same regarding the division of property whether the money and assets in a marital estate are a lot or a little; however, the courts will inevitably encounter and address more complex issues regarding the property division in a divorce case with substantial financial and business assets.
Texas is a community property state. What does that mean, as a practical matter, when divorce occurs?
1. The law presumes that all property owned by either spouse is community property, meaning that both spouses own an undivided one-half interest.
2. The court cannot divest a spouse of his or her separate property in divorce.
In a very simple explanation: Texas community property is everything earned or acquired during the marriage other than inheritances or gifts. Your paycheck is community property, your rental income is community property, the cars you purchase are community property, retirement funds accumulated during marriage are community property.
At the time of the divorce, the court will make a just and right division of the community property. “Just and right” does not mean 50/50. Often the courts will split the community property equally, but many factors may affect this division including:
1. The spouses’ earning abilities and education.
2. The spouses’ actual earnings.
3. Who has care and primary custody of the children.
4. The value of separate property owned by the spouses. If the wife inherited $3,000,000.00, should the husband be awarded more of the community property?
5. Fault in the break up of the marriage, especially if a cheating spouse spent substantial assets dating or cavorting with others.
6. The debts of the spouses.
7. Tax consequences.
The bigger the marital pocketbook, the bigger the risk to assets in play.
Texas Child Support and High Asset Divorces:
The court also has discretion in setting child support when the parents are wealthy. The Texas Family Code provides guidelines and the guidelines are presumably in the best interest of the child.
The law caps the Texas child support amount guidelines to a percentage of the first $9,200.00 of the paying parent’s earnings. However, the cap is not made of steel. The law is a guideline.
The court has the discretion to order child support in excess of the guidelines based on the children’s best interest which includes an examination of the proven needs of the children. In the case of children growing up in a high-income household, do not expect the court to necessarily limit its consideration to basic food and shelter. The court may consider many factors in setting child support, including the children’s current living standards, such as private education, nannies, medical issues, emotional issues, sports and other extracurricular activities and, in the rare case, a body guard.
When setting child support within a wealthy family undergoing divorce, the court has discretion, based on the evidence, to set order child support above the presumptive amount in the guidelines. The court’s determination is subjective and is reversed by higher courts only if the trial court “abused its discretion,” a high threshold indeed.
With so much at stake, you should hire an experienced family law attorney who can present your case clearly, and persuasively.