Child Custody & Support

Child custody in Texas
Texas law presumes that the parents of the child be “joint managing conservators.” As joint managing conservators, both parents will be able to jointly make decisions regarding the child including education and medical decisions. The court may also grant sole custody or “sole managing conservator” to one parent. To determine whether there will be a sole conservator or joint conservators the court will look at what is the best interest of the child. If a parent does not agree with the court’s decision, he or she will need to file a custody case. A court can consider the preference of whom the child wishes to live with at age 12.

Child support in Texas
Child support may be paid by the noncustodial parent to the custodial parent until the child reaches the age of 18 or the court otherwise determines. In Texas, a parent is a child’s birth mother, a man presumed to be the child’s biological father, signed an Acknowledgement of Paternity or an adoptive mother or father. The court has discretion over how much child support the noncustodial parent must pay. However, there are guidelines that may be used to estimate how much child support must be paid each month. The amount paid is a percentage of the noncustodial parent’s average monthly gross income.

Parents may also make agreements for child support payments and the court will sign the agreement into order if it finds that the agreement is in the best interest of the child. An agreement or court determined amount may only be changed by the court if the party moving for the change can show that the circumstances of the child or parents have substantially changed since the order was made. If three years has passed since the order, the person moving for the change must show that the amount would differ by 20% or $100 from the original amount.
Even if the noncustodial parent is denied access to their child, he or she must still pay child support. If the noncustodial parent fails to pay child support the court may garnish their wages, intercept their federal income tax refunds, suspend or revoke his or hers driver’s licenses, passport or other licenses or may even hold him or her in contempt of court.

Child Visitation Rights In Texas
If the divorce decree does not otherwise provide information regarding child visitation, the Texas Family Code provides a standard possession order (visitation rights) for the noncustodial parent. Absent otherwise specified terms, if the noncustodial parent resides less than 100 miles away from the primary resident of the child, the noncustodial parent will have visitation rights on the first, third, and fifth weekend of each month. If the primary resident of the child is more than 100 miles away from the noncustodial parent, the noncustodial parent will have visitation rights on either the first, third, or fifth weekend or any one weekend during the month if he or she provides adequate notice. The Texas Family Code also provides a standard possession order for the holidays including Christmas, Thanksgiving, Mother and Father’s Day, the child’s birthday and also summer and spring break.

(a) The public policy of this state is to:

(1) 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;

(2) provide a safe, stable, and nonviolent environment for the child; and

(3) encourage parents to share in the rights and duties of raising their child after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage.

(b) A court may not render an order that conditions the right of a conservator to possession of or access to a child on the payment of child support.

The best interest of the child shall always be the primary consideration of the court in determining the issues of conservatorship and possession of and access to the child.