Your ex is moving to another state. You fear that you might not be able to get them to pay up the child support they already owe. Fortunately, there is a federal act that requires all states to uphold a child support court order when a non-custodial parent relocates to their state.
A parent relocation also often requires the court to change custody and visitation orders. This is to reflect the change in visitation schedules for the non-custodial parent and the parenting time the custodial parent has with the child. A custody order may also contain domicile restrictions that protect the visitation rights of the non-custodial parent and allow the children to spend time equally with either parent. The court may also change child support amounts as part of a relocation.
Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA)
The UIFSA protects parents who need to collect interstate child support. It gives a state the right to enforce a child support order issued in that state even though the non-custodial parent may have moved away. UIFSA also outlines procedures that allow the state where the order was issued to send a withholding notice to the new state. This states the amount, frequency, and duration of child support. It will also state any amounts of child support owed and other specifications relating to the payment.
Out-of-State Enforcement of Child Support Orders
You or your attorney can file a motion to enforce a child support order across state borders. The court in the other jurisdiction can enforce child support arrears by requiring employers to withhold part of the parent’s paycheck to meet their obligations. This applies even though the parent is no longer in the state where the original child support order was issued.
While there are criminal penalties for parents who do not meet their child support obligations, in many circumstances it is more difficult to file criminal charges in another county or state. Your lawyer or law firm will have to file the criminal charges in the state courts where the existing orders were issued. The other parent must appear in court or be extradited for the case.
Locating Your Ex
If you are having trouble locating your ex, you can use parent locator services. These are available from your local Child Support Enforcement Agency or your state. Your state will contact the other state that you believe your ex has moved to.
The Child Support Enforcement Agency often has access to more data and resources to locate your ex. This includes new hire data, change of address information for driver’s licenses, and credit bureau data that the agency can use to locate your ex.
Once you’ve found the other parent’s new address, you can now contact them and proceed with legal action.
Modification of a Child Support Order
Any case for the legal modification of child support orders must be filed in the court that issued them. The only exception is if both parents move to a new jurisdiction. This provides the courts in the new jurisdiction the right to change the orders. The parent that is seeking to modify the legal orders should file the case to modify the orders in their new state.
In many cases, a relocation will require a modification of child support orders to establish new visitation and access schedules. The parent with primary physical custody may also request additional child support from the parent moving to another state.
Relocation will also affect geographic or domicile restrictions. If one parent decides to move to another state, the need for the current domicile restriction will be negated. Parents will need to decide if the restriction should stay in place. Alternatively, the custodial parent may now move to another state if they wish.
The legal process is much easier if parents are in agreement about the new arrangements. However, if parents cannot agree, they will hire a lawyer to present their case to a court judge.
Get A No-Cost Case Review From An Experienced Attorney
Need help with enforcing child support on an ex who is moving to another state? Let the award-winning Family Law experts at Sean Lynch + Associates help you prepare your legal case. We have decades of experience in family law.
If you are in the middle of a divorce, you might suspect your spouse of trying to hide assets to avoid sharing them with you. Property division in Texas follows the community property principle. This means that marital property must be shared equally in a divorce.
A recent survey by the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) found that 42% of American couples admitted to cheating on their partners financially. The same institution found that 40% of American couples who manage their finances jointly admit to keeping money secrets from their spouses.
While an experienced family law attorney may be good at finding hidden assets and has legal discovery tools available to them, it can still be challenging to find hidden assets in divorce if you’re not knowledgeable about your finances.
“In a lot of marriages, it’s not unusual for one spouse to handle most of the finances,” Sabelhaus+Lynch attorney Stephanie Sabelhaus says. “And we understand that.”
“But if you are getting divorced, being financially uninformed is a real handicap. If the other party is hiding something and you are not aware of it, there’s just not much we can do. We have to go primarily off what the other party says, which may or may not be true.”
Your lawyer also has to submit more requests and commit more time towards finding hidden assets, which can mean higher attorney expenses.
“Even if divorce is the furthest thing from your mind, it’s wise to be knowledgeable about your financial affairs. While it is typically the wife who is less financially informed, husbands have been known to make this same mistake,” Sabelhaus says.
Why Do Divorcing Spouses Hide Assets?
Ex-spouses may attempt to hide assets from one another during a divorce for several reasons, including the following:
They think the law might not share their assets in a manner they would be satisfied with
The possibility of surrendering or paying more than what they feel their former spouse deserves
They want to conceal certain behavior or conduct from their ex-spouse
They want to avoid paying child support or spousal support
The divorce is a high-asset case
One spouse was solely in charge of the property or assets
What Are The Most Common Hidden Assets?
Divorce or separation can turn ugly fast, and some former spouses may attempt to conceal assets. Some individuals may also sell any assets that can be easily converted to cash, such as bonds and stock shares
Other assets that might be hidden include:
Signs Your Spouse is Hiding Assets
While you might not expect your partner to prevent you from getting what is legally yours, it’s not uncommon. There are many behaviors people engage in when they are concealing assets.
Here are some signs your spouse might be hiding assets:
Being secretive about money
Your spouse might generally be secretive about money and give vague answers when you ask questions about your finances as a couple. They might keep away tax returns and bank statements, and generally handle bank matters by themselves.
Maintaining total control
Your ex may maintain total control of shared resources and assets, including bank account details and passwords. It is your right to know as much about your family’s financial status as your partner does. You should have access to any joint bank account.
Deleting computer records or programs
Another way that a person may hide assets is by erasing financial records or computer programs like QuickBooks or Pastel. He or she may also claim that a computer has crashed when they have actually destroyed or stolen the hard drive. In some cases, they may regularly hide or dispose of paper statements.
Having a private mailbox
Your ex may own a private mailbox or separate PO Box to receive important financial information secretly. In this case, some spouses may consider using a private investigator to monitor the other person’s activities.
Complaining about money
Your ex may keep complaining about the bad state of their finances, like a major debt, mysterious loss of business, or unsuccessful investments. This may be an attempt to get you to think they don’t have as many assets. Overstating, exaggerating, or lying about one’s financial struggles can also end up skewing the property settlement in the other party’s favor.
Income and lifestyle discrepancies
If your ex lies about his/her earnings but is visibly living a lavish lifestyle, chances are he/she is concealing assets. For instance, if he or she takes expensive vacations or makes ridiculously extravagant purchases, chances are that he or he is lying about his or her financial situation.
Sudden or mysterious account activities
If a shared bank account has previously had a consistent withdrawal rate, but you notice sudden or strange withdrawals and purchases, then something may be amiss. Keep an eye on the transactions passing through any joint bank account.
Asking for your signature
Someone who is trying to hide assets before divorce may keep demanding your signature on various financial documents. To be on the safe side, read financial documents carefully before signing it, or take it to your attorney for professional advice.
Gifting to loved ones and friends
Although giving gifts or large assets to family members or friends may seem like a generous act, it is a huge red flag. A spouse could reclaim the assets after the divorce is finalized.
Opening a new account
If you notice that your spouse is depositing money into a separate bank account from the bank statements, there is a chance that they may be hiding money. For example, your spouse may open another bank account with your child’s name to hide money. When asked, he or she may say they are saving for your child’s future milestones.
Frequent trips or financial activity overseas
If your ex has an offshore bank account or makes regular trips overseas without a good reason, you might need to investigate. Your lawyer may need to send an order to the overseas bank that you think your ex has an account in to get all records in his or her name.
Questionable business and/or tax practices
You might notice that your ex has started giving a salary to an employee you’re unfamiliar with. You might find that your ex exaggerates business expenses on his/her tax returns.
If your spouse has a business, it’s easier for them to hide money. “By running everything through the business, a person can greatly lower his or her personal income,” Sabelhaus says. “This is especially common when it comes to paying child support. The court uses a formula based on the individual’s wealth to determine how much he or she will have to pay each month. If your spouse hides assets in the business, he or she may be able to significantly lower the payment amount.”
If you notice any of these signs, you might need to take further steps to track your finances as a couple and investigate if your spouse is attempting to hide their income or money. In some cases, you might need to hire a private investigator.
Consequences of Hiding Assets During Divorce Proceedings
Not only can hiding assets lead to criminal penalties for the spouse involved, but the court may also transfer all of the discovered marital assets to the other spouse.
During divorce proceedings, both spouses are typically required to fill out a financial declaration form. This reveals all assets owned by both parties. Once you sign this form, you’re swearing under oath that what you have declared is correct to the best of your knowledge.
If one spouse doesn’t disclose his or her finances during a divorce, there are usually serious consequences. Once it is found that a spouse is trying to hide income or assets, the judge has several options for penalties to impose. These include:
Awarding a smaller share of the assets
Paying the legal fees of the other party
Criminal charges for perjury or contempt of court, which could lead to time behind bars.
What Should I Do If I Suspect My Spouse Is Hiding Assets?
Undervaluing marital assets, under-reporting income, or overstating expenses are more common than you might imagine.
Here’s what you can do to find hidden bank accounts and assets during a divorce.
How to Find Hidden Bank Accounts and Assets During a Divorce
Understanding the resources and methods used by professionals such as a forensic accountant, private investigator and a divorce attorney can help you avoid getting duped by your spouse or former spouse who is concealing marital property.
Here are a few common ways to find out if your spouse or ex-spouse is hiding assets from you.
Although the world is quickly going paperless, many paper documents are issued by the IRS, banks, and mortgage companies. Be mindful about the mail that comes in and find out where your spouse keeps those documents. Have your own copy of tax returns and any addendums.
You could find property titles, credit card statements, and bank statements that your spouse keeps in a certain location. It’s generally fine to look for documents in your own house or safe deposit box. However, hacking into another person’s online account or email account could be an illegal means of gathering evidence.
Credit Reports and Bank Accounts
One way for your ex-spouse to keep hidden assets is to open a secret bank account or credit card. Before the divorce process, he or she may transfer funds to the hidden bank accounts. If any small transfers go unrecognized for a long time, they can definitely add up. That’s why it’s strongly recommended to keep an eye on credit reports, tax returns, and bank statements before and during a divorce.
In addition to making these kinds of transfers to hidden bank accounts, a spouse may also transfer money to a friend or relative. Your spouse may also open new bank accounts in your children’s names and start transferring money to those accounts.
Therefore, one of the best ways to protect yourself and prevent your partner from hiding assets through hidden bank accounts is to keep a close eye on bank statements. If you believe that your spouse is trying to conceal the existence of a hidden bank account, consider working with a forensic accountant or private investigator.
You should also monitor credit reports. They can offer some important clues as to properties or bank accounts that your spouse may be hiding from you. The only thing that credit reports will not show is debit card accounts.
Monitor Spending Habits
Your spouse may also be buying assets. For instance, your spouse may buy a new car, furniture, or other high-value items like jewelry.
Chances are that they may be buying such things to sell them and make money post-divorce. That is why it’s recommended to keep a close eye on any large purchases. It may be a way for your ex to retain hidden assets.
Seek Professional Help
Dividing assets during a divorce can create issues that have a long-lasting impact on your life. If you are going through a divorce, you need an experienced divorce lawyer on your side to ensure you receive the full amount of assets you are entitled to – and discover hidden assets.
Experts recommend you talk to an attorney if you or your former spouse:
An experienced attorney can conduct an asset search investigation to determine if a spouse has any assets that he/she is not accounting for. A qualified attorney can also handle the legal process to help find hidden bank accounts and get more information about the hidden assets.
For instance, an attorney can provide help and support in the following ways:
Request the testimony of a witness under oath
Request the court to order an asset search
Demand bank statements, loan applications, tax returns, and other documents
Request that a spouse answer written questions or “interrogatories”
Make search demands, including demanding an asset search investigation in certain properties and electronic records.
You may also want to hire forensic accountants and private investigators to help you discover potential fraud and illegal concealment of marital assets.
Timing is Everything
If you’re contemplating filing for a divorce or are already going through one, it is important to take stock of all marital assets as soon as possible. It’s not uncommon for spouses to hide assets when the divorce process begins.
If you suspect that your spouse has been concealing marital property and tax returns, discuss it with your divorce attorney. This is particularly important if one spouse has been the main breadwinner or has been solely responsible for evaluating bank statements and paying bills during the marriage.
Your divorce lawyer will find the best way to gain a good understanding of your shared assets and resources. That could involve requesting your ex to provide documents and subpoenaing banks and other institutions to provide the necessary information about your marital assets.
If you’re considering filing for divorce, it’s best to start collecting documents as soon as possible. That includes business account records, bank statements, loan paperwork, retirement account records, and other forms of information about your marital assets. This sort of information will come in handy when your divorce attorney starts to work on your case.
In some cases, you might be convinced that there are hidden assets somewhere but it may not be worth the cost. Sabelhaus has experienced this a few times with clients.
“A client might say, ‘I know he has an extra $1,000 or $3,000 hidden somewhere’,” she said. “And I understand how that can be a lot of money for some people. But you have to weigh it against the added legal expense of trying to find that money—and the stress of dragging out the divorce. Instead of focusing on victory at any cost, it makes more sense to focus on being as financially informed as you can now.”
Schedule Your No-Cost Legal Consultation
Are you seeing signs that your ex might have a hidden bank account or assets somewhere? Not sure about the options available to you to find hidden funds when your marriage is ending?
Let the award-winning Family Law experts at Sabelhaus and Lynch law firm help you prepare your legal case. We have years of experience in family law and most importantly are ready to listen to you.
When a baby is born to a married couple, there is a presumption that the husband is the legal father of the child. That gives him parental rights and responsibilities including child support. However, if you suspect that you are not the father, there are options for you. The Texas Family Code allows you to ask the court to end the parent-child relationship between you and the child under certain conditions. This will be a case to determine mistaken paternity when you have been ordered to pay child support but you believe that you are not the child’s genetic father.
You can exercise your rights to terminate the parental relationship with the child even if you signed an Acknowledgement of Paternity or had a judge establish paternity. The only condition is that you did not take a DNA test beforehand. You are still required to meet the existing child support obligations you still owe. However, you can terminate any future obligations to pay child support.
Challenging Child Support Obligations For Mistaken Paternity
File A Petition
You or your attorney can file the petition to the court asking the court to terminate the parent-child relationship. You will need to meet the legal requirements below.
You’re not the biological father of the child
You mistakenly concluded you were the biological father due to misrepresentation
You signed an Acknowledgement of Paternity or had a judge establish you as the legal father without first getting a paternity test. It is required to show that you did not contest parentage at the time because you mistakenly believed you were the biological father.
There was no legal adoption of your children on your part
You are not the intended father based on a gestational agreement validated by the court
You did not agree to assisted reproduction to conceive the child
The petition was filed within two years of the date you discovered the mistaken paternity
Attend Pretrial Hearing
You and your attorney will need to present your case about why there is a strong possibility that you are not the biological father of a child. If you can sufficiently call paternity into question, the Texas court may legally require you to take a paternity test.
Go For Genetic Testing
You will need to go for genetic testing with an accredited lab.
Attend Final Hearing
If the paternity test has established that you are not the genetic parent, the judge will sign a court order terminating the parent-child relationship. This will mean you need not pay future child support. However, you will still have to pay the child support obligation that you currently owe.
Contact Us For A No-Cost Case Review
Want to challenge your obligations due to mistaken paternity? Let the award-winning Family Law experts at Sean Lynch + Associates law firm help you prepare your legal case. We have decades of experience in family law.
It’s hard enough trying to maintain your relationship with your kids on a limited visitation schedule. It can be an incredibly frustrating experience dealing with an uncooperative ex who denies you court-ordered visitation. Fortunately, there are options for you when it comes to the enforcement of child visitation orders. If you’ve exhausted all attempts to resolve the issue outside of legal action, you can ask the court to enforce the order and give you your visitation rights.
Attempt To Settle The Issue
Often, the court will expect you to show that you’ve made an effort to settle the visitation issue with the custodial parent before going to the court for visitation enforcement. Sometimes the other parent might have a legitimate reason and working things out amicably is a key part of co-parenting.
Get Help From The Domestic Relations Office (DRO)
Your county might have a Domestic Relations Office that you can ask for help when enforcing the court order. As the non-custodial parent, you must document a minimum number of attempts to comply with your visitation schedule. In each instance, you should have been denied access to your child.
Modify Your Visitation Order
If either or both parents are having difficulty when attempting to follow the existing order, they may want to discuss coming up with an alternative arrangement. If parents cannot come to an agreement, asking the judge to approve modification of the order may be the best option.
The judge will likely take the decision that is in the child’s best interests.
Have Your Attorney Send A Letter
You may be able to have your attorney send a lawyer’s letter to the other person if they refuse to cooperate in allowing you your court-ordered visitation.
If nothing seems to work, make sure you start keeping track of the dates and times when denial of visitation occurred in a journal. Record any reasons given. Save any messages you have indicated that you were at the pre-agreed location at the pre-agreed time but your ex was not there to perform the exchange of your child.
The evidence you collect can help you build your case if you end up having to go to court.
Seeking Enforcement of a Child Visitation Court Order
Your lawyer may file a motion to enforce with district or county courts. This will request the judge to require the other party to follow the terms of the custody order so that you get your right to your parenting time. The evidence you have collected will be useful to support your argument and convince the judge to help. A child support court cannot handle these issues.
The court may also require your ex to give you make-up time for the days where you were denied your visitation.
An experienced attorney will be able to advise you on the best way to present your case. In some cases, you can press contempt charges against the other party for denial of visitation, or seek to modify the custody order if you believe the other parent regularly breaches the existing custody orders.
Your lawyer may advise you to initiate a civil contempt hearing by filing a motion. Once you’ve filed, the other parent will have to be notified. Once notified, the other parent must appear in court with the child.
You can only petition the court to start contempt proceedings if you can show that one parent willfully and deliberately refused to comply with the court order. If the courts find in your favor, they can order that the other parent serve jail time or provide compensation.
Writ of Habeas Corpus
Your other option is to seek a Writ of Habeas Corpus if the other parent refuses to turn over the child to you. However, it is not a long-term solution if your ex constantly violates custody orders.
Can Police Enforce A Child Custody Visitation Order?
A visitation order is enforceable by local officers. However, they generally hesitate to get involved in what they see as a civil matter.
If there are criminal matters involved such as the threat of abuse that is not in the child’s best interests, the police may find it necessary to get involved to protect the children.
Enforce Your Rights
The award-winning family law experts at Sean Lynch + Associates take pride in fighting for the rights of families in court. Don’t lose access to your children and we can help you file a legal motion to enforce.
Children are a contentious part of many divorces. Who will get primary custody? How does a judge decide what is fair? And what can you do if you think the court has made a mistake? Today’s blog will look at a recent decision by the Texas Supreme Court in a case called In Re C.J.C. The case involved a separation, an accidental death, and the custody rights of fit parents. If you or someone you know is expecting a messy custody case, it is worth your time to be familiar with it.
Background of the Custody Battle: A Fiancé and a Traffic Accident
The Texas Supreme Court issued its ruling in 2020. But like most cases, this one was several years in the making. According to the Court’s opinion, a couple had lived together for five years. They never married, but they did have a child, who the court called “Abigail.” After five years, the couple separated. Their custody arrangement called for Abigail to live with her mother about 54 percent of the time, and with her father the remainder of the time.
Afterward, the mother started dating someone else, a man named Jason. They moved in together; thus, when Abigail was living with her mother, she was spending time with her new boyfriend as well. Jason stated that he had a good relationship with Abigail, and she called him “Pops.” This arrangement had continued for about 11 months.
The couple eventually got engaged. And at some point in the process, the girl’s mother filed a suit seeking to modify the court order: She wanted full custody of Abigail for her and Jason. But in 2018, before they could be married, the mother was in a car accident and died suddenly.
A Question of Custody
Besides being an obvious tragedy, the mother’s death added an unexpected complication to the child custody case. After the accident, Abigail moved in with her biological father, named Chris.
However, Jason did not want to lose access to Abigail. The girl’s maternal grandparents also worried they would not get to see their granddaughter. So both parties filed a petition with the court and asked to be named joint managing conservators. The fiancé also wanted periods of possession. In other words, they wanted shared child custody.
In his suit, Jason stated that his request for shared custody was an attempt to fulfill his fiancé’s wishes. He also argued that, even though he was not Abigail’s biological parent, he was a significant part of the girl’s life and had served as a parental figure for her for at least six months. Six months is the amount of time Texas requires before a non-parent can request custody rights.
Chris, the biological father appealed this decision. And in June of last year, the case made its way to the Texas Supreme Court.
Why Did the Father Think He Should Have Full Custody?
Chris maintained that the temporary child custody order issued by the trial court violated his parental rights. His attorney’s argument relied heavily on a ruling issued by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000 in the case Troxel v. Granville.
In that case, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that if someone is considered a “fit” parent, he or she has a right to care for their child as they see best, without interference by the state. The court further held that any judge’s decision that overrides the parental rights of a fit parent is unconstitutional. The father argued that the ruling in Troxel v. Granville overrode the fiancé’s claim for custody.
For his part, the fiancé’s lawyer argued that when Chris had gone to court seeking help in the custody matter, he had effectively surrendered his parental rights to determine the child’s best interests. If this was true, it would nullify the precedent set in Troxel v. Granville.
How the Court Decided this Custody Case
The Texas Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of Chis. The Texas Supreme Court recognized the right of fit parents to decide what is best for their children, and this presumption is “deeply embedded” in Texas law. Just as important, the court noted there was no indication that Chris was in any way an unfit parent.
The Texas Supreme Court ruled that when the lower court had given the fiancé temporary custody, they had essentially overridden the parental rights of Chris to decide what was best for Abigail. The court wrote:
Why This Custody Rights Case Matters to Fit Parents
Children routinely have other adults involved in their lives. This can be especially common when the parent’s divorce. The divorced parents may start dating; eventually, one of those people may become the child’s stepparent. When someone who has parental rights dies, the question of who gets custody can get complicated and ugly.
The case In Re C.J.C. reaffirms, in no uncertain terms, the constitutional right of fit parents to determine the best interests of the children. Specifically, the case reaffirms the right of that parent to retain sole custody over the wishes of a non-parent to have custody.
Simply put, if you are a non-parent who is trying to get custody of a child, you are facing an uphill battle. And if you are a parent who is battling with a non-parent to retain custody, you need to know that the law is on your side.
How Do Courts Decide Who is a Fit Parent?
The Texas Family Code outlines several conditions that can justify a parent losing possession of his or her children. A parent may lose custody if he or she:
Was absent for at least three months
Knowingly engaged in conduct that endangered the well-being of the child, or knowingly allowed the child to be in a situation that endangered his or her well-being
Has abused drugs or alcohol
Has been convicted of a serious crime
Voluntarily and knowingly abandoned the woman, or failed to provide adequate support, during the time of her pregnancy and through the birth;
Is responsible for the child being born addicted to alcohol or an illegal drug;
Knowingly refused to comply with court orders
Failed to provide adequate support for the child over an extended time
Voluntarily abandoned the child with an expressed intent not to return;
Has had his or her parental rights terminated in another case
In making custody decisions, courts work from the presumption that ideally, it is in the child’s best interests to have both parents actively involved in his or her life. Courts also will assume that parents are fit to care for their children unless proven otherwise.
To override that assumption, someone must show that the parent is somehow unfit. In their initial lawsuits, neither Jason nor the girl’s grandparents had presented any evidence that Chris was in any way an unfit parent. Thus, the mother’s initial lawsuit seeking full custody of Abigail probably would have failed anyway. Read our blog about how to win custody in Texas.
The Custody Rights of Fit Parents Are Too Important to Leave to Chance
Custody cases can be stressful, contentious. and complicated. At Sean Lynch + Associates, our lawyers are experts in the Texas Family Code and very experienced in the complexities of these cases. We will fight for your family in court, while always remaining sensitive to the concerns of protecting your child or children. We also offer transparent, affordable pricing.
For a no-cost, initial consultation, contact our office or call 817-668-5879. You’ll be happy with your decision to consult with our award-winning Tarrant County divorce attorneys.
As a parent and going through a divorce, chances are you will be sharing custody with your ex. This means the court is likely to address the question of possession of the children and set up a reasonable visitation schedule.
But you may be wondering, how does the court decide what are reasonable visitation rights? And what happens if your ex doesn’t hold up his or her end of the deal? So let’s learn a little more about your visitation rights as a parent.
However, Spears is a grown woman. Let’s briefly explain what it means to be a conservator in Texas, as the terms can be confusing. The State of Texas has two types of custody. Physical custody defines who the children will live with.
Legal custody means having the right to make important life decisions regarding the upbringing of the children. Often, the judge will give primary physical custody to only one person. The court refers to this person as the custodial parent. The other person, of course, is called the non-custodial parent.
However, Texas courts typically don’t use the word custody. Instead, they use the term conservatorship. The court calls the custodial parent the primary conservator, and the non-custodial parent the possessory conservator. The possessory conservator may not have decision-making authority but usually does have visitation rights.
How Does the Court Decide Who Gets Custody in Texas?
The Texas Family Code Section 153.002 states that the court shall make decisions about child custody and visitation based upon the best interests of the child. In an ideal scenario, it is the child’s best interest to spend equal time with both parents. In addition, both parents are equally involved in making decisions for the kids. The court calls this arrangement a Joint Managing Conservatorship.
Of course, in some situations, the judge will restrict the legal and physical custody and visitation rights of a parent. The court calls this arrangement a Sole Managing Conservatorship. This arrangement also can impact the parent’s visitation rights. The judge may require that the visits be supervised. In extreme cases, he or she may forbid any child visitation.
Reasonable Visitation Rights Should Be Flexible
As we mentioned, the State focuses on the child’s best interests. However, parents (usually) have a legal right to spend time with their child. And it is (usually) best for both parents to be involved in the child’s life.
Texas judges understand that one parent or both may have non-traditional schedules. For example, firefighters, police officers, and health care workers often work unusual schedules. In these cases, a strict custody and visitation schedule may not work.
Thus, courts are likely to give parents the opportunity to create their own parenting agreement. This allows the custodial and non-custodial parent to come up with a plan that is reasonable for both parties. If both parents can agree on a plan, they can submit it to the court for review. This plan may become part of the final visitation order.
What If the Parents Cannot Agree on Reasonable Visitation Rights?
The court wants parents to work together. But if they cannot, the court will develop a possession schedule for them, ensuring that the non-custodial parent will have time with the child.
During the school year, children spend the first, third, and fifth weekend of each month with the noncustodial parent.
They also spend one weeknight evening with the non-custodial parent during the school year.
The Standard Possession Order also covers visitation rights for summer and holidays.
Can a noncustodial parent request more time with his or her children? Yes. In this case, the parent can request a Texas Expanded Standard Possession Order (ESPO). In a typical ESPO, children also spend Thursday nights with the non-custodial parent. The child stays with this parent until Monday morning, following the regularly assigned weekends as well. The ESPO also addresses visitation during the holidays and summer vacation time.
What do Do If A Parent Is Not Following the Visitation Order
Unfortunately, divorcing parents do not always have an amicable relationship. Or parents who previously got along well may have a falling out. In these cases, the parent with primary custody of the child may act in spite, intentionally trying to punish the ex. For example, your ex decides to stop cooperating, making it difficult for you to spend time with your child.
If the custodial parent strays from the reasonable visitation rights you originally agreed to, you may need to modify the court order. As a Texas parent, you (usually) have a legal right to see your child. We recommend you consult with an experienced family law attorney who can help protect your parental rights. Read our recent blog, Enforcing a Court Order in Texas.
Don’t Let Temporary Visitation Rights Become Permanent
Life is unpredictable, and occasionally, parents end up having to adjust their visitation plan to accommodate unforeseen circumstances. One parent may end up caring for the children more or less than the court’s original possession schedule. This was a common occurrent last year, when many parents were struggling to cope with the pandemic. Some parents worked from home or had to work additional hours. Others had to home-school their kids. And many parents lost their jobs.
During the pandemic, these temporary adjustments may have gone on for several months. Parents who were now sharing equal custody time began to wonder why they were still paying child support. And primary conservator parents began to worry that they would lose custody. Some parents thought this might be a good time to request a legal change to the possession and visitation agreement.
Parents who have had a significant change in circumstances do have grounds to request a court order modification. However, even if you get a 50/50 custody arrangement in Texas, you may still need to pay child support. In these cases, we suggest you talk with a trusted lawyer. Read our recent blog, Does Being Unemployed Affect Child Custody?
How Long Does It Take to Get Visitation Rights Set Up?
Courts usually can establish visitation rights quicker if they can address them in conjunction with the divorce petition. The process also is likely to go quicker if you and your spouse can agree to a temporary possession and visitation schedule.
On the other hand, the court may need more time to address custody cases for parents who are not married. Again, the judge’s ability to establish reasonable visitation rights will be heavily influenced by how well the parents get along.
An attorney experienced in child custody issues can be very helpful in these situations. Sean Lynch + Associates have over twenty years of Family Law experience and have been voted Best Family Law Attorneys by Fort Worth Magazine five years in a row.
Texas Judges Cannot Make a Parent Visit His or Her Children
If the custodial parent is denying the other parent court-ordered visitations, the court may intervene to ensure that the parenting agreement is being followed. However, the court cannot force the non-custodial parent to spend time with his or her children.
Of course, in these situations, the children suffer the most. If a parent doesn’t show up for a visit, the kids may hold themselves responsible.
If the non-custodial parent routinely misses visitations, the primary conservator can petition the court to modify the visitation agreement. Unfortunately, limiting the other parent’s visits, even if they are inconsistent, may not be in the child’s best interests.
A legal separation or divorce can be a very painful and lengthy, made complicated by calculations of child support obligations. Adding in the consideration of disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) can make SSI and child support issues even more difficult.
Here’s what you need to know about whether you need to pay child support for a child receiving Social Security benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).
Child Support Payments and the SSI Program
For children who receive both child support and SSI, the SSA will reduce children’s SSI benefits by two-thirds of the monthly child support payments. This is because the Social Security Administration counts two-thirds of the child’s child support payments as income when calculating benefits, and excludes the remaining one-third.
In many cases, a parent may be paying lifetime child support for children who are blind or disabled. The SSA would consider the entire child support that an adult child is receiving as income, which would further reduce their SSI benefits.
If you have a disabled adult child that received life-long child support payments, the calculation differs. In this instance, the SSA considers the total amount of child support payments as income, not two-thirds.
Ultimately, this means that the eligibility of your children for SSI would not reduce your obligations on its own. It would simply reduce the SSI benefit they receive.
In some cases, children may be receiving more child support than the income guidelines stated by the SSA. This would cause your children to lose their SSI benefit as they are no longer eligible.
Paying Child Support If You Are On SSI
Texas law does not consider SSI as income. Therefore, a parent will not have the obligation to pay monthly child support payments if they are receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and it is their sole source of income.
Obtain a statement from the Social Security Administration stating that you receive Social Security benefits. If you were ordered to pay monthly child support payments prior to receiving SSI, your attorney could file a modification case to reduce your future child support obligations.
If you are receiving SSI payments, the authorities cannot garnish an SSI payment for any child support payment. Keep in mind that even if you are disabled and receive Social Security disability benefits, you are still responsible for any child support obligations as ordered by the courts.
What is Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?
Supplemental Security Income or SSI is a federal program directed by the Social Security Administration that provides monthly cash payments to blind or disabled individuals such as disabled children, or elderly people with low-income.
The eligibility criteria for SSI includes whether your income falls below the income limits of the SSI program. It’s important to note that income does not only include the money made from your job. It will also include the value of certain benefits you receive. For example, if your relative provides you with a free room, that will be counted as income.
No matter which state you live in (including Texas), the basic monthly SSI payments are $794 per person or $1,191 for a married couple. However, the amount you receive for SSI also depends on a person’s resources and income. Income can include:
Income from providing work or other services
Receiving payments from Social Security, pension alimony, veteran’s benefits, and child support
Free-rent or food benefits
A portion of the income earned by other members of your household
For the purposes of Social Security Income (SSI), resources are classified as anything you own that can be converted into cash. This can include the following:
Stocks and bonds
Impact of SSDI on Child Support
A child may receive derivative benefits due to a parent’s disability and low income. This means they receive additional income for their living expenses.
If your child receives Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, it will count towards income for the parent. If the SSDI benefits of the children derive from a non-custodial parent, the court will subtract the amount you receive from SSDI from the child support obligation.
It’s possible to receive SSDI and child support at the same time. However, a valid child support order from a legal separation can impact the total amount of benefits a child may be eligible for.
What is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)?
Social Security Disability Insurance or SSDI is a federal program that offers monthly cash benefits to disabled families and individuals who have a history of working.
To be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you must have been employed by a job that is covered by Social Security for at least ten years. In addition, you must fall under their definition of disability. The individual must have a condition that severely affects their ability to perform work-related activities. Work-related activities include walking, lifting, standing, or sitting. Generally, most people fall into the criteria if they cannot work for a year or more.
For parents who receive SSDI benefits, your children may also be eligible for Social Security dependents benefits. If you receive approval for SSDI, you can apply for dependent child benefits. These can be credited towards your child’s support obligations. For example, you have to pay $600 per month for child support, and you are receiving $250 for your child’s dependent benefits. You would only be responsible for the $550 gap.
If you had accrued debt from child support after becoming disabled, dependent child benefits may also cover these arrearages.
Do I Have to Pay Child Support if My Child Gets SSI or SSDI?
SSI benefits received by disabled children are intended to supplement their income and are not a substitute. Receiving SSI or SSDI from the Social Security Administration does not impact a non-custodial parent’s obligation to pay child support.
Modifying Child Support Through The Courts
The state law governs child support, but federal authorities can also enforce child support. If there are changes to your child’s Social Security benefits and you would like to change the amount of child support you are ordered to pay as a non-custodial parent, you’ll have to go through a court procedure to file a modification case. If you have reduced income due to disability, you can also ask for a court hearing so you can make the case to reduce your child support payments.
Contact Us For A No-Cost Case Review
Need help understanding your child support obligations as a non-custodial parent when your children are receiving SSI or SSDI? Engage the services of the award-winning Family Law attorneys at Sean Lynch + Associates. We have decades of experience in family law and are knowledgeable in SSI and child support.
The purpose of child support is to meet the needs of a child including all medical expenses. Receiving and paying for child support becomes more complex when a child is disabled.
For a disabled child, the parent may receive a dependent disability allowance. This may boost the non-custodial parent’s ability to pay for child support.
How Long Do You Pay Child Support For A Disabled Child?
Under the Texas Family Code, parents have to support their child until the age of 18, or when the child graduates from high school and they are no longer a minor.
For disabled children, parents have the obligation to support their child indefinitely until either the child or the parent passes away. However, the courts will carefully consider the type of disability and what the disability does.
Typically the judge will order support for an adult child if they find that either:
the child had the disability or had special needs on or before turning 18 years old
the child must have substantial care and supervision and cannot support themselves financially, which will require the parents’ financial assistance
What Happens When A Disabled Child Turns 18?
Most Texas courts will determine that a parent has a duty to support their adult child who is disabled or has special needs, and is unable to support themselves.
The non-custodial parent may be ordered to pay indefinite child support in Texas if:
The special needs child requires personal supervision and substantial care because of a mental or physical disability. The child is also not capable of self-support.
The disability existed or was known to exist on or before the child’s 18th birthday
A parent or guardian who has custody of the child may seek a court order through a family law attorney in an attempt to pursue adult child support from the absentee parent. If the judge finds that the child should receive child support, the parent may continue to make payments. If deemed appropriate, the judge may order the parent to pay all child support payments directly to the other parent.
Under the Texas Family Code, the judge will use a needs-based assessment to calculate an appropriate amount of child support given. Before the judge can have a ruling on the adult child support order, they must consider the following:
The amount of support the child needs for their mental or physical disability.
The financial resources that both parents have to help an adult child.
The financial resources that are available for the care and supervision of adult child support.
If parents do not want to continue paying child support, they must prove to the court that the disabled or special needs child can live on their own and earn their own income. Information regarding the child’s life skills and work history may prove that they can live alone.
Do You Get More Child Maintenance for a Disabled Child?
You can usually get more child support for a disabled child or a child with special needs. A parent must provide evidence that their child has a disability to the judge or the child support agency in order to receive child support for their special needs child. Typically, school records and medical documents may be sufficient evidence. You can also use sworn statements about the child’s disabilities.
However, if any of your children are considered to be permanently disabled, they are also likely to be awarded additional financial support in the form of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). This provides income to cover their basic living expenses. When the dependent receives disability payments, this may reduce the non-custodial parent’s obligation to pay child support.
How is Child Support Calculated in Texas?
When calculating the child support obligation, the court will generally calculate the amount based on a parent’s net monthly income and the number of children for calculation.
The net monthly income is calculated by taking all gross income and then deducting costs such as taxes and health insurance expenses for your children.
The court will calculate child support using a percentage of your net monthly income, depending on the number of children involved. In Texas, the guidelines for the court to calculate child support obligation are:
One child: 20% of total net monthly income
Two children: 25% of total net monthly income
Three children: 30% of total net monthly income
Four children: 35% of total net monthly income
Five children: 40% of total net monthly income
Six children or more: at least 40% of total net monthly income or more
Receiving Medical Child Support in Texas
The legal system also needs to ensure that your child can receive proper health insurance. Many factors will be considered by the court to determine who will bear the majority of the cost of health insurance for a child who is disabled or who has special needs.
For example, the court usually looks at the quality and cost of health insurance. They will also consider whether any coverage is available at a reasonable cost through a trade association or a parent’s employer.
Can a Child Receive SSDI and Child Support at the Same Time?
Yes, it is possible. The child’s SSDI derivative benefit is included as income for the parent from whom they derive. If they are from the non-custodial parent, then the court will subtract the amount of benefit from the non-custodial parent’s child support obligation.
Can a Child Receive SSI and Child Support at the Same Time?
The SSI is a federal program designed to help the disabled. A child can receive both at the same time.
However, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will reduce SSI benefits by two-thirds of the amount of child support received.
For an adult above the age of 18 or who has graduated high school, the SSA will consider the entire amount of child support as the child’s income. The child support received may exceed the SSA’s income guidelines which would mean the child loses SSI benefits.
That’s why having a special needs trust can be beneficial to yourself and your children. The court can have all future support payments go directly into the special needs trust. As a result, it will shelter your income and enable the beneficiary to retain SSI benefits.
Modifying a Child Support Order
The parent must provide evidence that there has been a sufficient change in circumstances to ask the family law courts for a legal modification. For example, if the adult disabled child can take care of themselves, the court may remove the obligations to cover child support provided that they are no longer a minor and at leats 18 yeras of age.
A court can also adjust future support owed if there are various factors in the case. This may be a change in the custody agreement, a relocation or a job loss.
Schedule Your No-Cost Legal Consultation
Family law issues in Texas can be complex. If you’re looking to receive support for a child with a disability or special needs or to understand your obligations regarding support for an adult child, it’s important to seek help from a qualified attorney.
Let the award-winning Family Law experts at Sean Lynch + Associates law firm help you prepare your legal case. We have years of experience in family law.
Child support normally includes the medical expenses of the child. While there may be health insurance coverage available to the child provided by a parent’s employer, the non-custodial parent may have to cover the cost of the child’s healthcare that is not covered under an insurance policy. In this article, we discuss your options for the enforcement of a child’s medical expenses under a Texas court order.
Uninsured medical expenses can include any deductibles, prescriptions, co-pays, and any adaptive devices. Adaptive devices include wheelchairs or hearing aids required by the child. If there are dental expenses or even optician expenses that an employer does not provide coverage for, they can also be considered uninsured medical expenses. This is on the basis that these expenses are medically necessary.
Who Is Responsible For Uninsured Medical Expenses?
Parents can allocate responsibility for medical costs in their divorce agreement, including the monthly premiums required for health insurance coverage. The court will consider the agreement and approve it if it is in the best interests of the child.
However, there are circumstances where the court may order that a parent does not have to provide payment toward medical bills of a child. For example, it might place undue hardship on one parent. Health insurance might also not be available at a reasonable cost. The Texas state court defines a reasonable cost for insurance coverage as a percentage of gross annual income. The costs cannot exceed 9 percent for health insurance and 1.5 percent for dental coverage.
The parents may not always share the costs for a child’s medical bill equally. Sometimes the court may order that one parent with more financial resources cover a greater portion of the payments.
According to the Texas Family Code, non-custodial parents are required to make payment for medical bills on top of the basic child support obligations. The medical support obligation for the children must be clearly stated within the divorce agreement in order for you to enforce the agreement in court.
Enforcement Of Child’s Unpaid Uninsured Medical Expenses
Firstly, you need to demonstrate that you have reached out to the other parent to ask them to pay within a certain time period. Your court order may indicate a notice period within which your ex has to make payment. If you have already paid, keep copies of the receipts and bills so that you can ask for a reimbursement. It’s best to also keep any communication with health insurers. This will show that the insurer paid their share of the uninsured medical expenses.
The other parent might disagree with the medical expenses incurred. For example, they may disagree with your decision to take your child to the doctor for a mild cold. The court will consider if the medical expenses are justified before determining if the other parent should also be responsible for the expense.
Legal Action To Enforce Uninsured Medical Expenses
Under law, you have to provide your ex with notice so they have time to respond before the court hearing. The court can order your ex to pay if the court determines that your ex is liable for the costs.
In some cases, you may also have a case to go to the small claims court. This is possible if you have already paid for your child’s medical expenses and the other parent does not want to pay and reimburse you. Your lawyer may be able to advise you on your options.
Contact Us For A No-Cost Case Review
If you need help seeking enforcement of a child’s medical expenses under a Texas court order, let the award-winning Family Law experts at Sean Lynch + Associates help you prepare your legal case. We have years of experience in family law and can answer your questions.
It can be a frustrating experience having your ex refuse to comply with any of the requirements about possession or access, child support, and alimony stated in a final order after a lengthy divorce suit. Seeking contempt actions while enforcing a court order is a solution available to you if all other attempts to get them to obey orders have failed. The court may require the other parent to comply with the order. Otherwise, they can be subject to enforcement actions such as jail time as prescribed in the Texas Family Code.
Motion For Contempt
A Motion for Contempt is filed with the Texas court if your ex is not following court orders. This is common when your ex does not pay for child support, your child’s medical expenses, or spousal maintenance.
The Motion for Contempt must be served to the person in violation of the court order with sufficient notice and the hearing date will be set. You will need to state all the occurrences of contempt and provide evidence. You must prove that your ex could follow orders but willfully chose not to. The other person will have to appear in court.
They may attempt to give reasons why they were unable to follow the order. However, they will need to show they made reasonable efforts but were unable to follow the orders for any reason. Otherwise, they may be subject to contempt actions while the courts are enforcing the court order.
Motion For Enforcement
Filing a Motion for Enforcement seeks to make the other person comply with a court order for child custody, support or alimony. This might be used when the other person refuses to follow court-ordered possession and access. Alternatively, a person might refuse to turn over proceeds or close bank accounts during the property division process. The judge will order the other person to complete the action required. In some cases, especially with property division, the court can order third parties such as banks to complete the action.
Penalties For Contempt of Court
For a person held in contempt, the court might order civil contempt or criminal contempt penalties.
The Texas judge may order jail time or a fine for the parent who violated the court order. In this situation, the case will typically go to trial. The party involved will have the right to engage an attorney.
Alternatively, a contempt order might include community supervision. This is a suspended sentence as long as the parent complies with certain conditions. Conditions can include paying their overdue child support and attorney’s fees, seeking counseling, or getting employment assistance services.
Alternatively, the judge may order that the parent in violation give the other party additional parenting time for not meeting custody and visitation requirements.
When Is A Court Order Enforceable By Contempt?
The language of the court order must be specific enough for all parties involved to understand what is required from them before it can be enforced. For example, child custody and visitation orders must indicate clearly the visitation period and the time and place of exchange.
You must also be clear that the other party showed a failure to obey the orders. Otherwise, it might not be a good use of your time to file a motion.
You must show that you have fulfilled all of your responsibilities needed to allow the other party to fulfill their own. You should also have attempted other remedies before you can enforce order through legal means.
Contact Us For A No-Cost Case Review
If you need help to file a motion and seek enforcement, let the award-winning Family Law attorneys at Sean Lynch + Associates help you prepare your legal case. We have decades of experience in family law.