Our experienced family lawyers are ready to help you fight for custody of your children. Let us help you understand your options in a child custody case – we are here for you!
How Is Child Custody Determined in Texas? Texas courts use the “best interest of the child” determination to decide custody issues. Courts may consider the following factors:
- The relationship between each parent and the child;
- The health and safety of the child;
- The health of the parents;
- Where the parents live and how close they live to each other;
- Each parent's finances; and
- Any history of child abuse.
Texas courts should not favor either the mother or the father when it comes to custody decisions; in fact, they are legally forbidden from using gender as a factor.Child Support
Our experienced family lawyers are ready to help you get the support that you need to care for your child. Let us help you understand your options in a child support case – we are here for you!
Parents have a responsibility to provide for their children’s financial needs, even after their marriage or relationship has ended.
The Texas Family Code determines the amount of child support based upon the net resources of the parent who is obligated to pay, usually the noncustodial parent (called the “obligor”). The amount of support owed will be calculated based on a percentage of the obligor's net income and the number of children they have, as long as all children are from the same relationship:
- One child: 20%
- Two children: 25%
- Three children: 30%
- Four children: 35%
- Five or more children: 40%
If the obligor also has children from other relationships, calculating the amount of child support becomes more complex. You also get a discount on your child support if you are the obligor and you provide health insurance to your children.
There are additional factors that the court may consider when determining child support payments, based on the guidelines in Family Code Chapter 154.123. Some of the other factors the judge may use to adjust child support upwards or downwards include:
- the age and needs of the child;
- the ability of the parents to contribute to the support of the child;
- any financial resources available for the support of the child;
- the amount of time of possession of and access to a child;
- the amount of the obligee's net resources, including the earning potential of the obligee if the actual income of the obligee is significantly less than what the obligee could earn because the obligee is intentionally unemployed or underemployed and including an increase or decrease in the income of the obligee or income that may be attributed to the property and assets of the obligee;
- child care expenses incurred by either party in order to maintain gainful employment;
- whether either party has the managing conservatorship or actual physical custody of another child;
- the amount of alimony or spousal maintenance actually and currently being paid or received by a party;
- the expenses for a son or daughter for education beyond secondary school;
- whether the obligor or obligee has an automobile, housing, or other benefits furnished by his or her employer, another person, or a business entity;
- the amount of other deductions from the wage or salary income and from other compensation for personal services of the parties;
- provision for health care insurance and payment of uninsured medical expenses;
- special or extraordinary educational, health care, or other expenses of the parties or of the child;
- the cost of travel in order to exercise possession of and access to a child;
- positive or negative cash flow from any real and personal property and assets, including a business and investments;
- debts or debt service assumed by either party; and
- any other reason consistent with the best interest of the child, taking into consideration the circumstances of the parents.
- While the judge will consider the circumstances of the parents, the court's main concern is protecting the best interests of the child. Asking a court to deviate from the standard child support percentage requires proof that doing so would be in the best interest of the child.
Our experienced family lawyers are ready to help you fight to ensure that your legal rights are protected and that you obtain the best possible result. Let us advocate for you in your divorce case – we are here for you! Your divorce is a complicated legal battle, which may include some or all of these issues:
- Alimony, also known as spousal support, which can be a complex issue depending on various factors that the court will review to determine if it is to be granted and the amount and duration of the support
- Asset and debt division; in all divorce cases, marital property and debts will need to divided and distributed in a way that is fair and equitable to both parties. The property must be correctly characterized to determine what property is “community property” versus “separate property”, which can have a dramatic effect on divorce proceedings.
- Business ownership is a complicated issue in terms of the division of marital property. Even in businesses categorized as separate property prior to marriage, the increase in value over the time of the marriage can raise issues that need to be addressed and resolved.
- Child issues, including child custody, visitation, rights and duties, conservatorship, and child support. This issue is often hotly contested and a source of deep concern for parents. Child support must be determined according to state guidelines and approved by the court; in many cases, this can be complicated by various factors such as children from a previous relationship, r children born after you and your spouse separated.
- Common law marriage; there is no such thing as a common law divorce, so if you have a common law marriage, you need to get a divorce so that you can move on with your life.
Your divorce may be uncontested. Your divorce is uncontested if you know where your spouse is, you and your spouse agree on all the terms for your divorce, and your spouse will sign the necessary paperwork. An uncontested divorce may be complete in as little as 61 days. There is a mandatory 60-day waiting period for a divorce in Texas. In an uncontested divorce, the parties sign a divorce agreement laying out the terms of the divorce for their property and children. The agreement is then submitted for the Judge’s signature. The Judge will only accept divorce agreements that he or she considers equitable. A contested divorce can transition into an uncontested divorce if the parties cannot resolve their differences.
If you and your spouse disagree on how to handle any aspect of your divorce, your divorce is contested. The divorce process typically looks something like this for contested cases:
One party, the petitioner, files a petition for divorce. The petition includes the petitioner's “wish list” of proposed terms for the divorce. It also provides the court with information about the marriage and the cause of the divorce. Just because the petitioner has asked for something in the petition does not mean that the judge will grant it to them.
The petitioner must then serve their spouse, who is the respondent, through a third party such as a sheriff or process server. If you are served with divorce papers, you need to contact a lawyer immediately so that an answer can be filed for you. If you do not timely respond to papers you have been served, your spouse can take a default judgment against you and ask the court to award everything he or she has asked for in the petition.
If children or financial matters need immediate resolution, the court may issue temporary orders to determine how the parties handle issues such as visitation with the children and responsibility for the payment of bills, while the divorce is ongoing.
The parties will then most likely be ordered to attend mediation. Mediation gives the parties an opportunity to negotiate a settlement without the involvement of the judge. We always recommend crafting a settlement that you can live with at mediation, if your spouse is prepared to be reasonable. If it is not possible to reach a settlement that you can live with, the case will proceed to trial.
The final step a contested divorce is trial. After hearing evidence from both parties, the judge will issue a ruling that the judge considers equitable based on the evidence and testimony. The lawyers will take this ruling a draft a decree of divorce, which the judge will sign.
Having an experienced lawyer by your side is vital if you want to obtain the best results in your divorce.Modifying Custody or Child Support
Our experienced family lawyers are ready to help you modify your court orders. It is not unusual that your court order may need to be modified as your life changes. There needs to be a material and substantial change in circumstances regarding the children or parent that requires a modification of conservatorship or possession and access. The general rule is that your order cannot be modified prior to one year from the date it is finalized, however, if you believe your child’s present environment may endanger their physical health or significantly impair the child’s emotional development, you can ask the court to modify your orders prior to the expiration of the one-year period.
In most cases, you have to wait three years to modify child support. After three years, a parent can request more child support, based on increasing income of the other parent. Alternatively, a parent may request to pay less child support based on a change in circumstances of income. The monthly support amount under the order must differ by either 20 percent or $100 from the amount that would be awarded in accordance with the child support guidelines set by the Texas legislature.