People can encounter various legal problems after a divorce has been made final. These issues often involve change to child support and child custody. We represent people who wish to modify child custody and child support as well as those who wish to contest a requested change. If you have legal problems related to post-divorce decree matters such as child support modification and child custody modification, then you need attorney Ed Laughlin. Please contact our firm to arrange your free consultation.
The desire to change the amount of child support can arise for various reasons. A parent may now be earning more money or may have returned to school, lost a job, or experienced other life events that change a financial situation. Child support is designed to provide for the children's needs, and we strive to ensure a modification will provide for those needs.
In Texas, the courts can restrict parents to a county, school district, or state. The courts also have the right to tell parents they cannot relocate until the children have reached 18 years of age. Our firm represents parents who are interested in relocating or changing custody or visitation arrangements. We also represent people who are contesting the desired changes. Each situation is unique, and we strive to advocate aggressively on behalf of our clients and the result that is appropriate for their situation.
In Texas, child custody is called "conservatorship." Instead of referring to a parent as a "custodian," Texas courts name a child's custodian as a "conservator." Conservatorship is the word used to describe the legal rights and responsibilities of a parent. A family law judge will decide the terms of a conservatorship unless both parents can agree on a custody plan, then the court will just need to approve a written agreement. The most important concern for the court in deciding on a conservatorship plan is what is in best interest of the child.
There are two types of conservatorship in Texas:
- Joint managing conservatorship (JMC)
- Sole managing conservatorship (SMC)
Generally, conservatorship (custody) includes the right to:
- Get information from the other parent of the child about the health, education, and welfare of the child;
- Have access to medical, dental, psychological, and educational records of the child;
- Talk to a physician, dentist, or psychologist about the child;
- Talk to school officials concerning the child's welfare and educational status, including school activities; and
- Consent to medical, dental, and surgical treatment during an emergency involving an immediate danger to the health and safety of the child.
There is a presumption that parents should be named as joint managing conservators. In a joint managing conservatorship both parties share the rights and duties of a parent. Even in this situation, the exclusive right to make certain decisions may be awarded to one parent only. Remember, the court uses the legal standard of "what is in the best interest of the child." If both parents are made conservators, the judge will specify the responsibilities each parent has separately and jointly.
The tricky part about a joint managing conservatorship is that when a judge makes both parents joint managing conservators it may not mean that both parents are going to have equal possession and access to the child, i.e. custody and visitation. That gets decided in a separate visitation schedule known as a standard possession order.
Sole managing conservatorship means the court grants only one parent the legal right to make certain decisions concerning the child. A sole managing conservatorship gives that parent certain rights such as:
- Deciding the primary residence of the child;
- Consenting to medical and dental treatment;
- Consenting to psychiatric and psychological treatment;
- Being designated on the child's records as a person to be contacted in the event of an emergency;
- The right to attend school activities;
- Receiving child support; and
- Making decisions concerning the child's education.
Child support in the state of Texas will ensure that the non-custodial parent contributes to their responsibilities by enforcing child support payments. The law will enforce payments by reporting the non-custodial parent to the credit bureau, having their license suspended, thrown in jail, etc. If a non-custodial parent refuses to pay child support, then the custodial parent can file suite and have the law enforce those actions.
Child support is determined by the obligor's net income and the number of children they have. For example, if the obligor has one child, 20% of his or her net income would be deducted. Twenty five percent is deducted if the obligor has two children. If the obligor has three children, then 30% of the net income is deducted. Four or five children, and the deductions would be 35% and 40% of the net income. Six children or more, and the obligor would pay over 40%.
Texas child support law requires that the non-custodial parent provides the medical coverage for the child. The non-custodial parent would have to purchase a medical plan through their employment. If coverage is unavailable through the non-custodial parent's employment, then the custodial parent would provide the coverage. The non-custodial parent would still be responsible for paying the coverage even if it is covered by the custodial parent's employment. If neither parent's employment carries no medical plan, then the court would order the non-custodial parent to pay an additional amount to cover the medical expenses. Medical coverage is not calculated within the child support plan, it is an addition that must be provided by the non-custodial parent.
Child support obligations end when the child reaches the age of 18 or when they graduate from high school, whichever occurs later. If the child is emancipated or they marry, then that will also end the child support obligations.
In Texas, visitation is called possession of and access to a child. A parent can get possession and access, unless the judge determines it is not in the best interests of the child and will endanger the physical or emotional well-being of the child.
The judge will create a visitation schedule, called a standard possession order, using certain guidelines. Parents can either agree on a schedule or the judge will order a schedule he or she thinks is appropriate.
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