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Whether you are getting divorced, have previously been divorced, or have had a child with someone you are not in a relationship with, co-parenting can be a struggle. When two people attempt to successfully co-parent for the sake of their child’s well-being, everyone is happier. This blog post is going to discuss nine ways that you can help make your own and your child’s life easier by co-parenting more effectively.

  1. Commit to being positive. Being positive about the child’s other parent and about the unique situation that your family is in can be beneficial for everyone in a co-parenting situation. As tempting as it may be to talk badly about your ex, it is not going to benefit your child in any way to hear you speak about their parent in a negative way.
  2. Try to stay consistent. If you and your ex can agree to follow the same type of structure in your houses your child can benefit greatly. It may be tempting to be the “fun” parent, but research shows that having a consistent routine in both homes is beneficial for a child. Children thrive in structured environments so it is beneficial to have the same or similar rules and schedules in both homes.

The short answer is, probably not. For the most part, the policy of the Texas Family Code is to have the parents of the child make all of the decisions about the way a child is raised and that includes deciding which family members get to see the child. In some circumstances an aunt or uncle may be able to intervene in an existing case regarding their niece or nephew or even be able to open up a case on their own. This would require some specific findings on the part of the judge regarding the health and safety of the child. The aunt or uncle must basically show that their intervention in the case is necessary because without it the physical health or emotional development of the child would be significantly impaired.

There are also ways that can be initiated by other parties that an aunt or uncle may end up involved in a case about their niece or nephew. A child may be placed with an aunt or uncle by CPS or even given over to the aunt or uncle by the biological parents themselves. In these cases, as long as certain timeframes are met, the aunt and uncle can petition the court to grant them custody of the child. However, even in these circumstances the judge still has discretion in deciding what is in the best interest of the child and whether the aunt and uncle should be given a legal right to possession of the child.

If you are an aunt or uncle and you have a question about a family law situation contact Guest and Gray and we can go over your options with you.

More and more people are moving towards more of a 50/50 custody schedule. There is no specific provision that entitles parties to 50/50 possession in Texas as of now, but with the introduction of a bill last legislative session that would have made 50/50 possession a requirement in most cases (see this news story for more information) and with more states moving towards 50/50 possession as their default, it’s no wonder that people have questions about how it works. This blog post is going to attempt to cover some of the most frequently seen 50/50 custody schedules and discuss some pros and cons of each one.

50/50 Custody, equal possession, or whatever else you may have heard it called can mean a lot of different things in Texas. The Texas Family Code does not provide any set 50/50 schedule and it is not presumed to be best for a child. In fact, many judges are hesitant to set a 50/50 possession schedule because it can be a less stable situation for a child and can make things complicated. For more information on this see our previous post: here. Additionally, many people have a misconception that 50/50 custody will mean $0 child support and that is not usually the case. For more information on this misconception see our previous post: here.

Every Other Week

This may seem crazy to most people, but under current Texas law children under the age of 16 can get married in Texas with consent of one parent and approval from a judge. There has been no floor on the age that a child can get married in Texas meaning that it is entirely up to a judge as to whether it is appropriate for a child to get married. After September 1st of this year that will no longer be true as a result of the signing of Senate Bill 1705 by Governor Abbott. Texas will have an absolute floor of 16 years old for marriage. People under the age of 18 but older than 16 will have to have a judge consent to marry under the new law.

If you are involved in any type of dispute involving child support in Texas you have probably been given advice from well-meaning family and friends about what your options and rights are. Unfortunately, some advice that may have been accurate in the past may not be accurate now and because each family law case presents a unique fact situation even completely accurate statements about something that happened to another person may not matter in your case. So, here are 10 child support misconceptions that we would like to clear up:

  1. The guy is always going to be ordered to pay child support.

The Family Code in Texas is gender-neutral. There is nothing in the code that presumes that the mother should be with the child the majority of the time and there is nothing in the code that says that the father should be the one paying child support. In many cases parties are able to prove that it would be in the child’s best interest to spend the majority of the time with the father and the mother should be the one paying child support. This is obviously a very fact-sensitive issue and it may seem to a lot of people that the dad is always the one ordered to pay child support, but that is not a requirement under Texas law.

What is a standing order?

New standing orders were issued from Dallas County on January 1, 2017. If you are familiar with any type of family law case in recent years, especially in Dallas County, hopefully you are familiar with what “standing orders” are in general. If you need a refresher, they are basically orders that the judges agree are a good thing to apply to all family law cases that must be attached to any petitions filed in the county. The standing orders apply to the parties while the case is pending. In the broad sense, the standing orders are meant to prevent the parties from acting badly while a divorce is ongoing.

To see the full standing orders, please follow this link: Dallas County Standing Orders.

What is Jurisdiction?

Jurisdiction is the ability for a court to hear a case. When two states are involved, the states must decide which court more rightfully has jurisdiction to hear the case so that there are not conflicting orders out of two different courts in two different states. Under the uniform child custody jurisdiction and enforcement act, which Texas has adopted into its family code, a trial court can have jurisdiction over a child custody case under certain circumstances laid out in section 152.201.

Even when a trial court has this jurisdiction under 152.201 of the family code, the court can still defer jurisdiction to another jurisdiction if the court considers itself an “inconvenient forum.” This inconvenient forum provision is codified in section 152.207. The court is supposed to consider certain factors when making this determination that include: (1) whether domestic violence has occurred and is likely to continue in the future and which state could best protect the parties and the child; (2) the length of time the child has resided outside this state; (3) the distance between the court in this state and the court in the state that would assume jurisdiction; (4) the relative financial circumstances of the parties; (5) any agreement of the parties as to which state should assume jurisdiction; (6) the nature and location of the evidence required to resolve the pending litigation, including testimony of the child; (7) the ability of the court of each state to decide the issue expeditiously and the procedures necessary to present the evidence; and (8) the familiarity of the court of each state with the facts and issues in the pending litigation.

What is the Maximum Amount of Child Support I Can Be Ordered to Pay in Texas?

 
            It would be really easy to answer the question of what the maximum amount of child support possible is if the Texas Legislature had decided to put an absolute cap in the family code on the amount of child support, but unfortunately or fortunately depending on where you may be situated in a family law case, there is not absolute cap on child support in Texas. This issue was taken up before the Court of Appeals for the Fifth District of Texas at Dallas on March 9, 2017 in the case In the Interest of V.J.A.O., A Child, where the court re-affirmed that the statutory guidelines allow for courts to consider relevant factors when setting child support and that trial courts have discretion to set child support amounts above what is presumed to be in the best interest of the child under the family code.

What are the Statutory Guidelines?

The Texas Family Code requires that a child in the conservatorship of DFPS attend all permanency hearings. This section also requires that if the court determines it is in the best interest of the child, and the child is older than four, that the court must consult with the child in a developmentally appropriate manner regarding the permanency plan. However, Texas courts do not consistently require children to attend permanency hearings.

Why aren’t children attending the hearings? 

The code has an exception that states that judges can make an individual determination that excuses a child from attending a specific hearing. Apparently,  many judges are deciding that it is not necessary for the children to be at the hearings. Of course, issues with school attendance and actually getting children to court are factors that contribute to children not being able to attend permanency hearings, but options like video conferencing and the fact that a child attending court while in foster care is an excused absence should help to alleviate any of these problems.

What is a direct Payment?

A direct payment is any payment that is made outside of payments made to the State Disbursement Unit in San Antonio. Most child-support orders require that all payments be made directly to the State Disbursement Unit in order to satisfy a child-support obligation. In fact, if a child-support order has an income withholding order, which most do, then federal law requires the employers to send these amounts that they withhold from an employee’s check directly to the State Disbursement Unit. However, there are many times that either because of an old order or because of confusion between parties, the person who is supposed to be paying child-support decides it would be easier to just pay the money directly to their child’s parent. This can be a real problem when it comes to enforcement and can cause a huge headache for both parties. Some people may assume that when an order says that child-support must be paid through the state registry that there is no hope for someone who gets pulled into court with enforcement and who could potentially owe hundreds, thousands, or even tens-of-thousands of dollars. At least one court of appeals in Texas would have even agreed with you on that up until recently.

Can a trial court look at direct payments as evidence?