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What You Should Know About Visitation Rights for a Grandparent

Visitation Rights for Grandparents in Texas

If you have a grandchild that you would like to visit on a more regular basis, you should be aware of the various visitation right laws in Texas. In more than 50 percent of child visitation cases, the visitation rules and guidelines are not decided by the court, which means that family members can oftentimes make the final decision on visitation. Understanding what your visitation rights are as a grandparent will allow you to be prepared for any situation where visitation rights are in question.

Grandparent Visitation Laws in Texas

Parents invariably have more rights to their children than grandparents, which is true even if the grandparent has a very close bond with the child. If you wish to petition for visitation rights to visit your grandchild, there are a range of visitation laws in Texas that can determine whether or not your petition is granted.

There is no federal law that determines what the visitation rights should be for a child’s grandparents, which means that these rights are decided on a state-by-state basis. Past cases, such as the Troxel case, have shown that a grandparent visitation is largely appropriate as long as it serves the best interests of the child. A parent must have a relatively strong reason as to why the grandparent’s visitation should be denied for it to be stripped legally.

When a grandparent wants to gain visitation rights for their grandchild, they can petition the court to do so. Visitation rights for the grandparent are only allowed when:
visitation rights for a grandparent

  • One adoptive or biological parent currently has parental rights of the child
  • A denial of the visitation rights by the grandparent would create issues with the emotional and physical well-being of the child
  • The grandparent seeking visitation is a parent of the child’s custodial parent, and the parent is unable to take care of the child

Situations where a parent is unable to take care of their child can include the extended incarceration of a parent, the death of a parent, or the proven mental incompetence of a parent.

Can a Grandparent Gain Custody of a Child?

Along with general visitation rights, it’s possible for the grandparent to obtain custody of the child in certain situations. However, a court cannot grant custody to the grandparent unless the parent is wholly unable to provide for the emotional and physical needs of the child. It’s also possible to gain custody in the event that at least one parent agrees to the changes in custody. The only way for a grandparent to seek custody of the child is to file the request for custody in an ongoing custody case. While the rights of the child’s parents are always considered first before the visitation or custody rights of the grandparent, it’s possible for the parents of the child to lose their rights in specific situations.

Does Adoption Affect Visitation Rights?

If your grandchild is being put up for adoption by their parents, you may wonder how this will affect your visitation rights. Adoption fully terminates the rights of the parent to their child. Your rights as a grandparent are only granted via the rights of the parent, which means that you will likely lose all of your visitation rights with the child. There is, however, one exception to this rule that you may need to be aware of, which is in the case of an adoption by a stepparent. While the grandparent must still prove that their visitation is in the best interests of the child, and that it doesn’t directly interfere with the relationship between the child and stepparent, it’s possible to gain back visitation rights. If you have questions about your visitation rights as a grandparent, speak with our family law attorney. We can provide you with the education you need to make informed decisions about your family’s custody battle.

If you have questions about your visitation rights as a grandparent or wish to know more about your legal options, call one of our Baytown family law attorneys today at (281) 420-8020.

What Do Texas Visitation Rights Entail?

What Your Visitation Rights Should Be in Texas

When you’re seeking a divorce and you have children, it’s likely that you will need to deal with visitation rights during the process. In 2013, around 50 percent of noncustodial parents had visitation rights with their children. If you want to know more about visitation rights and how they apply to your case, contact one of our family law attorneys.

What Does Child Visitation Law Constitute?

In Texas, child custody is referred to as “conservatorship,” and instead of calling the parent primarily in charge a custodian, he or she is named the child’s “conservator.” However, for ease of reading, we will use the more familiar terms throughout.

The child visitation laws in Texas focus on the rights of any noncustodial parent to visit his or her child. In most cases, these laws provide that parent with the ability to take custody of the child for short periods on specific dates and times. Either the parents agree on a visitation schedule or this schedule is determined by a judge. It’s sometimes possible for these schedules to be altered in the future based on certain events or situations. Child visitation is usually determined by the best interests of the child, which is something that a judge will take into account when deciding on what the noncustodial parent’s visitation rights are going to be.

How Is a Visitation Schedule Determined?

visitation rightsIn the state of Texas, there is a standard possession order that provides each parent with equal access to and possession of the child while at the same time focusing on the child’s needs during the school year. It’s also important to understand that the guidelines for creating a schedule for visitation can change if the child is under the age of three. In this case, the child’s circumstances are typically taken into account. Some of the factors that contribute to this decision include:

 

  • How available the parents are to act as caregivers
  • How the child is directly affected by being separated from one parent or the other
  • Whether any siblings are going to be present during possession of the child
  • The general needs of the child and the desirability of a basic routine

Some schedules that are made for child visitation will also take holidays into account, which means that one parent may have the child for a few holidays each year with the other parent having custody of the child for the remaining ones. Such schedules vary from one family to the next for any number of reasons. The primary one would be the needs of the individual children involved. The focus of the schedule is intended to be based on the requirements of the child rather than those of the parents.

Keep in mind that visitation rights and the right to possession of the child for a specific period can be altered depending on the distance of the noncustodial parent from the child. A change may be implemented based on whether or not that parent lives within 100 miles. Any requested modifications to the initial schedule created for visitation will depend on whether the alterations fit with the best interests of the child in question. What’s best for the youngster this year may not be best five years from now.

How a Family Law Attorney Can Assist You

If you’re going through the lengthy divorce process and trying to determine what visitation you will have with your son or daughter, you may want to contact one of our professional family law attorneys here at Steward Law PLLC. We understand the statutes in Texas that pertain to visitation rights, and we can help clear up any confusion that you might have on the matter. We’re also able to assist with divorce cases and provide you with representation in court. Since child custody and visitation rights can be among the more complicated aspects of a divorce, you may want to seek professional legal counsel to guide you through the process.

If you’re getting ready to file for divorce and would like to know more about your visitation rights, call our Baytown office at (281) 420-8020 to speak with a family law attorney who can address your questions.

Dissolving a Common-Law Marriage in Texas

Common-Law Marriage and Divorce: What You Should Know

Texas is one of only nine U.S. states that recognize common-law marriage. The dissolution of this type of union can be fraught with many of the same types of issues that beset formally married couples who are contemplating divorce, so the services of a family law attorney can be very useful.

What Is a Common-Law Marriage?

A common-law marriage is a relationship between two people who are cohabiting and describe their relationship to family and friends as a marriage, but it hasn’t been formalized by a license or a ceremony. Common-law marriages can take place between same-sex couples as well as between a man and a woman. Each state that recognizes common-law marriage has its own sets of legal prerequisites and stipulations pertaining to this arrangement. The Lone Star State’s prerequisites are among the most liberal.

Some states stipulate continuous cohabitation over a certain period of time as a prerequisite for verifying the existence of a common-law marriage. In Texas, however, a common-law spouse only has to demonstrate that:

  • Both partners were older than 18 years of age at the time they entered into the relationship.
  • Neither partner was married either formally or informally at the commencement of the common-law marriage.
  • The two partners agreed to the marriage.
  • Following the initiation of the common-law marriage, the two partners lived in Texas as a married couple.
  • The two partners represented themselves to others as a married couple.

Additionally, Texas gives common-law spouses the option to sign and file a Declaration of Informal Marriage with the clerk of the county in which they reside. While the state does not use strict determinations that involve the chronological length of a relationship in stipulating the existence of a common-law marriage, if a couple has been separated for two years or more and has taken no formal steps to end the relationship, the state assumes the couple never intended to marry.

Proving the Existence of a Common-Law Marriage

Proving that a common-law marriage existed can be problematic after the fact, particularly if one of the two partners disputes its existence. Family courts often use inference to verify the existence of the relationship after determining that one person used the other individual’s surname. Courts also examine:

  • Joint tax returns
  • Co-signed leases
  • Joint purchases
  • Inclusion on health care and life insurance policies
  • Applications for public benefits

common-law marriage

Common-Law Marriages and Property Rights

In Texas, common-law spouses are presumed to have the same rights in property disputes as those who’ve been more formally married. Texas is a community property state, which means that, with a few exceptions, all property, profits and debts acquired during a marriage are assumed to belong to both people.

This stipulation applies whether the marriage was contracted by a license or through common law. As a common-law spouse, you are entitled to benefit from the same equitable distribution of assets from which a formally married person is entitled.

If your common-law spouse dies intestate, you have the right to claim a portion of his or her estate as long as you can demonstrate the validity of your common-law marriage.

Common-Law Marriage and Divorce

Obtaining a divorce in a common-law marriage follows the same ground rules in Texas that apply to dissolutions of more formal marriages with the added complication that spouses must first prove to the family court that they were actually married. In Texas, there are several grounds for divorce in a common-law marriage, which include:

  • Insupportability
  • Mental or physical cruelty
  • Adultery
  • Felony conviction
  • Confinement in a mental hospital
  • Abandonment
  • Separation

Note that “living apart,” which is grounds for the dissolution of a more formal marriage, cannot apply because it is only relevant when spouses have lived separately for three years or more. In these situations, the state assumes that common-law spouses who’ve been living apart for two years or more never intended to wed.

If you’re thinking of ending your common-law marriage, contact a family law attorney at Stewart Law in Baytown, Texas, at (281) 420-8020 for the support and assistance you need from a family law attorney.

Aspects of Child Support You Should Understand Prior to Your Divorce

Most People Divorcing Have to Deal With Child Support

For those who have children, child support is among the most important issues that will need to be agreed upon or settled by a judge when a marriage ends. Sixty percent of couples who are seeking a divorce have children, which means that child support is commonly dealt with during these cases. If you’re ready to file for a divorce and you require representation, get in touch with our child support attorney at Stewart Law PLLC to discuss your particular situation.

What Is Child Support?

Child support is a term that refers to the payments one divorced parent must make to the other who has primary custody of the child in question. These payments are ordered by the court and can be determined solely at the discretion of a judge. While the primary goal of child support is to provide money to cover the basic needs of food, clothing and shelter for the child, these payments can also cover a large number of additional expenses that include:

  • Child care
  • Special needs
  • The cost of education
  • Comprehensive medical attention

In the state of Texas, the child support payments that one divorced parent receives from the other are not limited to a specified set of expenses, which means that they can be used for almost anything the child requires. The main factors considered by the court when determining how much the child support payments should be include the income of the parent who needs to make the payments, the financial necessities of the child, and the amount of money that’s required to maintain the current standard of living for that child.
child support

Can Child Support Amounts Can Be Changed?

While the judge who is presiding over the divorce makes the decision about what the amount of child support is going to be, it’s possible for the parents to request that the amount be adjusted. In Texas and nearly every other state in this country, there are set guidelines to determine how much money will need to be paid by the parent who does not have custody of the child. However, if both parents agree on a number of conditions, they may have the ability to alter the recommended child support amount. This is much easier to accomplish during an uncontested divorce.

Child support payments are designed to begin immediately after the final judgment that dissolves the marriage. However, even after the final order has been made by the judge who is presiding over the divorce, the order may still be modified if necessary. Modifications are sometimes allowed due to changes in the financial situation of one parent or the other. If you have any issues receiving the child support payments to which you’re entitled or making the payments required of you, contact our firm to assess the circumstances.

How Our Family Law Attorneys Can Provide Assistance

Here at Steward Law PLLC, our child support attorney wants to make sure that the needs of our clients are met at all times. We’ll answer any questions you have about child support and how it pertains to your divorce. While child support and child custody are two of the primary issues that need to be resolved when obtaining either an uncontested or a contested divorce, this doesn’t means that these issues are always difficult to settle. With an experienced attorney by your side, you’ll know what to expect throughout the entire divorce process, and this includes negotiations about child support. Our attorneys can also help you identify approximately how much you should be receiving in child support payments so that you’ll have a clear idea of what to expect from the judge presiding over your case.

If you’re about to file for a divorce and you have questions about child support, call our office in Baytown, Texas, at (281) 420-8020 to speak with a family law attorney and obtain the assistance you require.

What to Know About Changes in Alimony Laws

Coming Changes in How the IRS Treats Alimony

Approximately 400,000 people per year receive alimony payments from their former spouses. Until the first day of 2019, alimony will continue to be treated as a tax deduction for the one who pays it and a source of income for the recipient. However, on January 1, 2019, this will no longer be the case.

Alimony Paid Will No Longer Be Tax-Deductible

Beginning on January 1, 2019, alimony payments will no longer be eligible for a tax deduction. If you are the one making the alimony payments, you are most likely in a higher tax bracket than your former spouse. Consequently, there is a general presumption that you would pay more tax on this money than your ex-partner would. Removing the deduction and shifting the tax burden to the one who makes the payments will most likely generate more receipts for the Internal Revenue Service.

The modification of the tax law could result in significant changes after it takes effect. In some cases, it might be possible to use money from a retirement account to make alimony payments. This could be a way to obtain some tax relief by meeting your alimony obligation with money that will be taxed in the future.

alimony

Alimony Payments Received Will No Longer Be Considered Income

If you currently receive alimony, it is considered income that is to be reported on a tax return. If you’d prefer not to pay taxes on that cash this year, it can be used to fund an IRA or other retirement account. It can also be used to qualify for mortgages, home loans or credit cards. After the tax treatment of alimony changes, it may be necessary to find a job to fund a retirement account or obtain a qualifying income for a loan.

The Law Only Applies to Divorces Effective After 2018

The important thing to know about the new alimony rules is that they only apply to divorces finalized after the last day of 2018. Therefore, if you finalize your divorce at any point in 2018, alimony retains its current tax treatment. Furthermore, if your divorce was finalized at any point in the past, you will also receive the same tax treatment into 2019 and until the alimony period ends.

How Does the Change Impact Prenuptial Agreements?

It is unclear how the change will impact any prenuptial agreement that you have created with a spouse or future spouse. It may be a good idea to consult with a family law attorney who can review the agreement and analyze it in the context of future changes to the law. If necessary, now may be an ideal time to make changes to an existing agreement in order to protect yourself as tax laws are altered.

Make Sure That Payments Qualify as Alimony

Regardless of when your divorce takes place, it is important that any payments made or received qualify as alimony. Many general criteria need to be met. Payments made must be pursuant to a divorce decree or a separation agreement. They must also be made for the specific purpose of helping a former spouse maintain a reasonable standard of living.

If you are making or receiving an alimony payment, it cannot be given to or from someone who lives in the same household. Furthermore, you can’t file a joint return with the person from whom you receive or to whom you give spousal maintenance. Finally, the payment must be made in cash or a similar manner such as check or money order.

The IRS uses strict standards when determining if a person is entitled to special consideration regarding such a payment. These are unlikely to change going forward, so if you want your payments to qualify as alimony, it is important to understand the rules.

If you are looking for a family law attorney to advise you on these matters, contact Stewart Law PLLC at (281) 420-8020 at our practice in Baytown.

Understanding Retirement Fund Division During Divorce

Dividing Retirement Funds in a Texas Divorce

When people in Texas decide to divorce, they may be concerned about how it will affect their retirement years. Retirement accounts may be held in either person’s name, so the spouse who doesn’t own the account may be unsure about how the divorce will affect his or her ability to retire in the future. When you understand more about property division, it can help you make the right decisions for yourself and your family. A Texas divorce lawyer can offer important advice about retirement fund division during divorce.

Marital Retirement Fund Contributions Are Community Property

Contributions that were made to retirement accounts during the marriage are considered community property. While premarital contributions are considered separate property, those made during the marriage are considered to belong to both partners regardless of whose name is on the account.

Different types of retirement accounts include:

  • IRAs (Individual Retirement Accounts)
  • 401(k) and 403(b) plans
  • Roth IRAs
  • Company pension plans
  • Defined contribution accounts

In some cases, a single retirement account can contain both community property and separate property. If contributions to the account began before the marriage but continued throughout its duration, it will be necessary to value the account properly in order to understand the extent to which it can be divided in the divorce.

retirement fund division

Marriage Length Can Affect Retirement Fund Division

For retirement plans like 401(k)s, 403(b)s or IRAs, the length of the marriage is not important. The retirement funds do not need to be split evenly between the spouses. Separate property and community property must be divided, but judges can also make decisions that reflect unequal wealth, parenting time and other factors.

However, Social Security benefits, military retirement funds and some pensions have alternative rules about spousal eligibility. In these cases, the length of the marriage is relevant, and people who have been married for longer have greater rights. A Texas divorce lawyer can help people understand the value of their retirement funds and how divorce will affect them.

Military Retirement and Social Security Benefits

In order to be eligible to receive benefits under your spouse’s Social Security benefits, you must have been married for 10 years or longer. This type of access is based on your spouse’s work record. It can help people in long marriages where one person stayed home with the children while the other spouse worked at outside employment. The entitlement to spousal benefits can also depend on your own Social Security benefits that you accumulated through your work career. Spousal Social Security benefits after divorce do not diminish your spouse’s ability to access his or her full benefit.

Depending on how long your spouse served in the military, you may be able to access spousal military retirement benefits after divorce. If you are eligible, you would be able to receive payments directly from the military retirement system.

Researching Spousal Retirement Accounts

In cases where a divorce is more heavily contested or financial secrecy is an ongoing factor, one person may be concerned that his or her spouse is hiding retirement accounts. Employer-based programs are generally visible on an earnings statement or paycheck stub. Other types of accounts will often send statements or tax information. A Texas family law attorney can also help you research whether your spouse’s employer provides pension plans even if he or she intends to hide the information.

In addition, once a divorce has been filed, generally, neither party can make withdrawals from retirement accounts without a court order. In many cases, this type of restriction is automatic. In other situations, your family law attorney can seek a specific order from family court.

Properly Dividing a Retirement Fund

After the divorce is final, you can take action to make sure the retirement accounts in question are divided according to the agreement or court order. To divide an IRA, you will generally need only the divorce decree to enforce the order. However, in most other cases, such as with 401(k) plans, 403(b) plans or pensions, you will need a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO), which is a specialized court order for this purpose. This court order will be drafted by your divorce lawyer and signed by the judge, and it will lay out the specific division requirements for the account. It is critical to divide these accounts properly in order to avoid hefty taxes and fees.

If you are concerned about how divorce could affect your retirement and need to plan for the future, reach out to a Texas family lawyer. Call us at Stewart Law PLLC at (281) 420-8020 to schedule an appointment at our office in Baytown.

How a Contested Divorced Differs From an Uncontested One

Differences Between Contested Divorce and Uncontested Divorce

Having a good understanding of the main differences between an uncontested divorce and a contested divorce should provide you with the information you need to select the type of divorce that’s right for you. Even when you’ve done everything you can to make a marriage work, there are times when the only thing left to do is seek a divorce. In the state of Texas, the divorce rate was 2.6 per every 1,000 inhabitants in 2015. When you’re considering filing for a divorce, the two options available to you are a contested divorce and an uncontested one, and you should be familiar with each one before beginning your divorce proceedings.

What Is an Uncontested Divorce?

The big reason that there are two main types of divorce is because there are a variety of issues that must be agreed upon by both parties. These issues include:

  • The custody of any children
  • The division of property
  • Division of any debt
  • Payment of both child and spousal support

The only way to proceed with a divorce is for both parties to agree on each of these four issues. An uncontested divorce is one where both spouses will agree on every issue without needing to go to court. Determinations about child support amounts and spousal support will generally be made as an agreement between the two individuals that is binding when they’re filing for a divorce. This type of divorce is typically the less complicated one.

What Is a Contested Divorce?

The four issues mentioned previously can be very complicated to handle. Even if both spouses agree on 99 percent of the issues, that final percentage point can be the difference between a contested divorce and an uncontested one. There are times when a contested divorce will begin but an agreement is eventually reached before the case actually goes in front of a judge. This is referred to as a settlement and is largely similar to an uncontested divorce. Even if it appears as though a contested divorce is the only option left open to an individual, the assistance of a family law attorney may be able to help bring both spouses to an agreement.

contested divorceA contested divorce can be a complex one. A judge will hear every detail of the case and make determinations on all of the aforementioned issues. A contested divorce will typically arise because of hefty financial stakes, technical aspects that may be difficult to resolve, or comprehensive issues that might require knowledge of the law to solve. While an uncontested divorce can be completed without ever going to court, a contested one must go before a judge. The process is a lengthy one that typically begins with the signing of a divorce petition and extends through the discovery process and the actual trial. Another option to consider during divorce proceedings is divorce mediation, which involves a third party that handles negotiations between each spouse.

How to Navigate the Divorce Process

While it’s possible to navigate the divorce process by yourself, you might want to obtain the assistance of a family law attorney like ours. Our divorce attorney can help you understand your rights when it comes to a divorce. If you decide to retain the services of our attorney, she will help you navigate the divorce process. A divorce can be as simple or as complicated as each spouse makes it. However, we understand that it can be difficult to divide marital property or make a decision on child custody without the advice of an attorney, which is why we aim to handle most of the work for you.

When you file for a divorce in Texas, there’s a large amount of paperwork to fill out and a substantial number of rules that can determine how and if you can file for a divorce. If you believe that you need assistance with these aspects of the process, our family law attorney is on hand to help you with whatever you need.

No matter which type of divorce you’re facing, call our family law attorney in Baytown at (281) 420-8020 to set up a consultation.

What You Need to Know About Establishing Guardianship for Your Child

When a Child With a Disability Needs a Guardianship

When you have a teenage child with a severe lifelong physical or mental disability, you may need to establish legal guardianship in order to protect your child’s rights and make decisions for your child once he or she turns 18 years old. According to the 2010 U.S. census, 56.7 million people have a disability. The number of people in the United States with a severe disability has increased, and people with severe disabilities are often unable to hold a job or make decisions for themselves. If you have an adult child with a disability, you may need to establish legal guardianship in order to protect your child’s rights and make certain types of decisions for him or her.

What Legal Guardianship Is

Legal guardianship is the legal right for you to make decisions for a person who the court declares to be not competent to make their own decisions. There are two types of legal guardianship that someone with a disability might need. The first type is guardianship over the person. This gives you the right to decide where the person will live, which doctors he or she will go to and whether or not he or she will attend an adult day care program or other activities for people with disabilities. The second type of legal guardianship is guardianship of the estate. This refers to the management of the funds or assets of a person with a disability.

Who Needs a Legal Guardianship?

The courts determine whether or not a person with a disability needs a guardianship. The decision is based on whether or not the person is able to make competent decisions about their person or their estate. For nearly all children under the age of 18, parents are legal guardians authorized to make medical and financial decisions on behalf of the child. Once a child turns 18 years of age, that guardianship ceases. A person who is incapacitated may not be able to make decisions about their person or estate. As a parent, you can apply for legal guardianship of your child with a moderate or severe physical, mental or cognitive disability.

Legal Paperwork Related to Guardianship Applications

The first step of applying for legal guardianship of your adult child with a disability is the completion of guardianshippaperwork. The court clerk can provide you or your attorney with the paperwork. A key aspect of the paperwork must be completed by your child’s physician or medical specialists. The physician’s explanation of your child’s physical, mental or cognitive disabilities will be closely examined by the family court judge. Some of the paperwork should be completed or reviewed by a family law attorney who is familiar with the guardianship process and laws in Texas. You may also need to arrange for a social worker to visit your home or the place where your child lives. An interview may also be a part of your application for guardianship.

Court Appearance for Legal Guardianship Applications

The final part of a guardianship application is the appearance in court. After turning in your paperwork, you’ll receive a court date. The family law judge will review your application before the court date. He or she may have some questions for you during the court hearing. Representation from your attorney can help you answer those questions, or your attorney may answer them on your behalf. You may have a second hearing if the judge requests additional paperwork or documentation of your child’s health status or disability. The court may grant you guardianship alone, or you and your child’s second parent or another responsible adult can be named as co-guardians of the child with disabilities.

Establishing a legal guardianship for your adult child with a disability provides you with a way to protect his or her rights. Without the legal guardianship in place, you may not be able to make decisions or represent your child’s interests. The court could appoint a legal guardian to your child if you do not apply to be one. Contact our associates at Stewart Law PLLC today at (281) 420-8020 to schedule a consultation at our office in Baytown about establishing legal guardianship for your child with a disability.

Talking With Your Child About Divorce

How to Talk With Your Kids About Divorce

According to the American Psychological Association, 40-50 percent of all marriages end in divorce. Filing for divorce is never an easy choice, and when you have children, things become even more complicated. If you’re preparing to go through a divorce and you and your partner do have children, then make sure you discuss these family changes with your children.

Starting the Conversation

Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of divorcing when you have children is simply starting the conversation about how your family is about to change. No one wants to begin a conversation that can be scary, painful, or emotional, but it’s important to include your children in the process so that they understand what’s going to happen.

Divorce
Make sure you and your partner sit down together with your children. This will help present a united front as you speak with your little ones about what’s going to happen. Remind your children that the divorce isn’t their fault. Explain that you’re not mad at your children or angry with them. Sometimes, parents choose to divorce, and it doesn’t mean they don’t care deeply for their children. It’s vital that you reinforce the idea that the divorce isn’t your child’s fault as many children struggle with the reasons for a couple’s separation.

Ensuring Open Communication

Ask open-ended questions as you talk with your children. Encourage them to share their thoughts and concerns during this time. The most important thing to remember is that you, your former partner, and your children all need to be able to talk with each other. You’re all in this together, and although your family dynamics will be changing, you’re still a family.

Avoid becoming angry or frustrated when you speak with your children. You and your former partner should aim to speak in calm, low tones as you discuss the process with your kids. Keep in mind that it’s normal for kids to feel a variety of emotions, including confusion, anger, and frustration. Your children may also feel sad. Take a deep breath, but try to remain focused and calm as you discuss the process with your children.

Easing Fears

If your children feel scared, understand that this is a normal emotion. Take necessary steps to eliminate as much fear as possible. Remind your children that you and their other parent still love them. Explain how sleeping and living arrangements will change. If possible, read with your kids books about divorce. Most importantly, answer as many questions for your children as you can. While you don’t need to reveal specific reasons for your divorce, remind your children that the divorce isn’t their fault.

You may also choose to seek divorce support from a mediator or even a family counselor who can offer further ideas for sticking together as a family and help you and your children communicate during this time. Counseling sessions may be attended by you, your children, and your former partner. You may attend family counseling in a group or individually. The primary goal is to help ease your children’s transition, so don’t be afraid to reach out and get the assistance your family needs during this difficult time.

How Your Attorney Can Help

As you prepare for your divorce, a lawyer can offer the guidance and assistance you need to move forward. Stewart Law LLC has a family law attorney who’s ready to answer your questions and guide you through the legal process as you and your partner separate. Whether you want to legally separate from one another or you’re ready to begin the divorce process, reach out for a confidential consultation. Call our office in Baytown at (281) 420-8020 today to receive the assistance you need. We’re ready to help you and your family as you prepare for the next stage of your life. Our attorney will strive to address any concerns or questions you may have.

Major Changes to Texas Child Support in September 2018

Child Support Is Changing in Texas

The Texas Family Code includes several new changes that have gone into effect in 2018, including major changes to child support that will become active as of September 1, 2018. Learning about these changes can be important for single, divorcing, and divorced parents to understand future child support orders as well as determine the potential of modifying existing orders. These changes could make it much more difficult to seek modifications and discourage agreements that deviate from standard support amounts.

Child Support Before the 2018 Changes

In Texas, Chapter 154 of the Texas Family Code determines the amount of child support that the noncustodial parent must pay the primary custodial parent each month. This amount is calculated according to monthly net income and the number of children the parent has. The largest potential child support obligation reaches up to 40 percent for cases that involve five or more kids. In addition, the support-paying parent must pay for the child’s medical coverage; this cost is deducted from the parent’s monthly income in order to calculate his or her cash child support obligation.
Custody of Minor Children

New Approaches to Child Support

As of September 1, the TFC will now require dental insurance to be handled by the noncustodial parent, much like health insurance. As is the case with health insurance, the premiums will be deducted from the parent’s monthly income before calculating the child support obligation.

However, the most significant change concerns child support modifications, particularly when both parents made their original agreement for an amount of child support that’s outside the guidelines provided in the TFC. Prior to the changes, there were three circumstances in which a child support order could be modified after an agreement outside of the provisions of the Texas Family Code:

  • When the child’s circumstances or the paying parent’s circumstances have materially and substantially changed since the original order
  • When the parties reached an agreement through mediation or collaborative law practice
  • When the monthly amount of child support would differ by either 20 percent or $100 from the amount that would have been applied under the TFC guidelines, within three years of the original order or most recent modification

However, under the changed guidelines, an original order outside the official state guidelines can only be modified on the grounds of a material and substantial change to circumstances for either the child or the paying parent.

Effects of Child Support Changes

Prior to these changes, parents who agreed to a child support payment outside the TFC’s formula may have expected to wait a short time before seeking a modification based on increased income if the support-paying parent had found greater career success. It’s possible and indeed expected for many people’s income to rise over the duration of their careers. In the past, all that was necessary to seek a modification was to show this income increase in the previous three years. Under the changed guidelines, the burden is far more substantial.

In addition, these changes may discourage parents from reaching agreements that deviate from the TFC guidelines as later modifications may be particularly difficult to obtain. Parents may be less likely to agree to any change that could inhibit their ability to modify the order in the future. This could also lead to fewer amicable divorces and a greater amount of conflict since the option of mediating a child support agreement outside the guidelines is no longer encouraged.

Contact Us

As the child support landscape changes in Texas, it’s important for single and divorcing parents to seek skilled family law assistance in their cases. The office of Stewart Law PLLC brings more than eight years of experience in family law to its clients. Call our office in Baytown at (281) 420-8020 or use our online contact form to email our family law attorney. Our initial consultation is a reduced fee of $50, and we accept credit card payments and payment plans.

 
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