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Visitation and Co-Parenting in Texas

Visitation vs. Co-Parenting

Visitation and Co-Parenting in TexasIn Texas, as in other states, courts in custody proceedings give priority to the “best interests of the child.” The courts also distinguish between physical custody (now called “managing conservatorship” in Texas) and legal custody. Managing conservatorship or physical custody refers to the actual physical residence of the child. Legal custody addresses the rights of the parent to participate in decisions regarding the child’s welfare, such as medical, educational, religious or other special needs.

With respect to physical custody, courts in Texas prefer to grant “joint managing conservatorship,” where both parents have access to the child, and the child spends some time in the home of each parent. In many instances, the child will spend a greater amount of time with one parent, who is labeled the “primary joint managing conservator,” or custodial parent. The other parent is customarily granted visitation (now referred to as “access”) with the minor child.

There is no “standard” co-parenting arrangement, though. The parents are typically free to work out agreements, such as alternating weeks with each parent, provided the court finds that such an arrangement is not disruptive to the child. Parents also have the ability to negotiate all other issues related to custody and visitation, from holidays and vacations to participation in extra-curricular activities.

If the parents cannot work out an acceptable arrangement, the court will order conservatorship and access, based on a number of factors, including:

  • The stability of each home
  • The fitness of each parent
  • The current and prior relationship between parent and child
  • The physical and emotional needs of the child
  • The input of the child, if the child is 12 year of age or older

Contact Us

At the law office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 10 years of experience to clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at 281-420-8020 or contact us online.

We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our office is open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

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Legal Issues for Single Moms

Legal Issues for Single Mothers—Establishing Paternity

Legal Issues for Single MomsIf you are an unmarried mother of a minor child, there are a number of legal issues about which you need to be concerned, so that you can protect yourself and your child. One of the most important is determining who the biological father is.

Establishing Paternity

Unless you can establish paternity or get the father to agree to paternity, you won’t be able to collect child support, and will have to support your child entirely on your own. Paternity can also make your child eligible for a wide variety of benefits through the father of the child, including medical insurance, veteran’s benefits, Social Security and inheritance.

Paternity may be established three different ways in Texas:

  • By presumption—if you were married to the father or lived continuously with the father for a period of time before the birth of the child, there is a presumption of paternity. The alleged father may challenge paternity through DNA testing
  • By voluntary acknowledgement—the alleged father may sign a legally binding document stating that he is the genetic father of the child
  • By court order—the mother or the alleged father of the child may ask the court for an order establishing paternity. A child who is old enough may also ask the court to order paternity testing.

Contact Us

At the law office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 10 years of experience to clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at 281-420-8020 or contact us online.

We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our office is open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

Se Habla Espanol | ASL and ESL Services Also Available

Can I Get Back Child Support to the Date of Birth?

Retroactive Child Support—When Does the Obligation Start?

In Texas, the custodial parent of a minor child has a right to pursue child support from the non-custodial parent, whether they were married or not. Especially in cases where the alleged parents were not married, and there are no divorce proceedings, it can be months before the mother asks the court for an order of child support. If the court grants the request, when will the obligation to pay support begin? Will the court automatically include support from the date of birth of the child?

Married vs. Unmarried Parties

If the parents were married, the court will usually order support effective to the date of separation or filing of a divorce complaint.

If the parties were not married, the court has the discretion to order support as of the date of the birth of the child. The court can also require that the non-custodial parent pay some portion of medical expenses associated with the birth of the child, including pre-natal exams and hospital/delivery costs, provided those expenses are not covered by insurance. As a general rule, though, Texas courts typically do not order retroactive child support for a period of more than four years.

Retroactive support is not automatically granted, though. If the custodial parent does not ask for retroactive support, the court will typically not grant it.

Contact Us

At the law office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at 281-420-8020 or contact us online.

We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our office is open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

Se Habla Espanol | ASL and ESL Services Also Available

She Claims I Am the Father of Her Child

Challenging Paternity in Texas

When you’ve had an intimate relationship with a woman and she’s pregnant, or has a child and claims it’s yours, what are your options when you are certain you’re not, or learn that it’s unlikely or questionable?

How Paternity is Established in Texas

Under Texas law, paternity can be established three different ways:

  • By presumption—If you were married to the mother at the time of birth, for a period of time before the birth, or simply lived with her continuously for two years prior to the birth, you are presumed to be the father. That presumption can, however, be challenged and you can voluntarily take a DNA paternity test to refute paternity.
  • By voluntary acknowledgement—You can sign a legally binding document known as an “Acknowledgement of Paternity.” If you obtain subsequent evidence that you may have signed the acknowledgement in error, you may be able to have it voided, based on the results of a DNA paternity test.
  • By court order—The mother, father or child (in limited circumstances) may ask the court to issue an order declaring paternity.

DNA Testing

Under modern DNA testing, paternity can be determined with a great deal of accuracy. Courts, though, typically require that the test find a 99% chance of paternity.

It is not necessary, though, to obtain a court order to have genetic DNA testing done. However, you will need biological information from both alleged parents.

Contact Us

At the law office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at 281-420-8020 or contact us online.

We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our office is open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

Se Habla Espanol | ASL and ESL Services Also Available

Common Visitation Mistakes

Visitation Mistakes Parents Often Make

Divorce and visitation are really hard on kids. As a parent, you don’t want to make a difficult situation even worse. Unfortunately, many custodial and non-custodial parents do just that. Here are some of the worst things you can do with visitation.

  • Use visitation as a tool to either punish or reward your ex-spouse—This applies to both sides. Custodial parents may falsely claim that children are sick. Non-custodial parents may claim they are unable to take children as agreed upon. In both instances, the children become pawns and they know it.
  • Use the time when children are picked up to discuss difficult issues—Disagreement is a part of life, but it doesn’t have to take place in front of your children. If you have a conflict that is between you and your ex-spouse, don’t discuss it in front of your children. They usually lack the development to understand that a simple disagreement won’t lead to a serious result.
  • Make your children feel guilty about visiting the other parent—It may often be entirely unintentional, but when you tell your children that you will miss them when they are with the other parent, they are inclined to feel responsible and guilty for leaving.
  • Let your children make the decisions about when and how long they will visit their non-custodial parent, or when they will go home—This puts unnecessary pressure on the child, as they don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings, but find themselves in a no-win situation.

Contact Us

At the law office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at 281-420-8020 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our office is open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

Se Habla Espanol | ASL and ESL Services Also Available

Late Child Support or Spousal Maintenance Payments — Your Options

What to Do When a Support Payment Is Late

Your ex-spouse is late with a child support payment or hasn’t paid the alimony ordered by the court. What are your options?

Using the Power of the Court to Get Relief

Because the obligation to pay child or spousal support has been ordered by the court, your ex-spouse’s failure to honor that commitment can be considered contempt of court. If your ex-spouse is found to be in contempt of court, he or she can be fined or can face jail time.

In the state of Texas, child support enforcement falls within the purview of the state’s attorney general. The attorney general’s office has a number of avenues through which to pursue unpaid child support obligations, including:

  • Income withholding orders that mandate that money be taken directly from the obligor’s paycheck. Such an order may apply to workers’ compensation benefits or unemployment compensation. The attorney general may also seek to attach any federal or state income tax refunds.
  • The attachment of assets owned by the obligor, to be sold or used to pay support arrearages.
  • The requirement that the obligor pay or put up a bond to cover potential support arrearages.
  • The suspension of a passport or other professional licenses.
  • Notification to credit reporting agencies of the arrearage.
  • Criminal prosecution with a potential fine and/or jail time.

Don’t Deny Visitation

In Texas, as in other states, the right to visitation is not conditioned upon being current on all child support obligations. If you try to deny the noncustodial parent the opportunity to spend time with a minor child, you can find yourself facing a contempt of court proceeding.

Questions About Late Child Support or Spousal Maintenance Payments — Your Options? Custody, Divorce, and Family Law Attorney, Baytown, Texas

Stewart Law, PLLC, located in Baytown, Texas, provides legal counsel to parents involved in relocation issues, child support and custody matters, divorce, and other family law cases. For an initial assessment and consultation, contact our family law firm online or call our office at (281) 420-8020, at a reduced fee of $50.

Does Child Support End at Graduation?

When Does a Child Support Obligation in Texas End? At Graduation? At Age 18?

As a parent, you want to make certain your child’s financial needs are being met. If you are no longer married to the child’s other parent, though, you want to know that you don’t have to be responsible for more than your fair share and that you are not paying support to your spouse when your child no longer lives at home.

Texas Laws Governing When Child Support Ends

In a divorce proceeding in Texas, the parties can agree that support will end at any time, though the courts are unlikely to approve of and enforce an order that has support ending before the child in question reaches age 18, absent highly unusual circumstances.

Under § 154.001 of the Texas Family Code, absent agreement by the parties, the court may require that one or both parents support the child until the age of 18 or until graduation from high school, whichever is later. The court can also order that child support end if the minor becomes emancipated or gets married. The death of the child also terminates the child support obligation.

If a parent is financially able, even though parental rights have been terminated, the court can mandate child support payments until the earlier of the child’s adoption the child’s 18th birthday or high school graduation (whichever is later), the child’s emancipation or the child’s death.

The Texas Family Code, in § 154.002, clarifies that support may be extended beyond a child’s 18th birthday if a child is enrolled in an accredited secondary school, is jointly taking high school and junior college classes or is a full-time student at a private secondary school that will award a high school diploma. However, payments will only be due if the child is in compliance with minimum attendance requirements imposed either by the state’s Education Code or the school where the child is enrolled.

Questions About Does Child Support End at Graduation? Custody, Divorce, and Family Law Attorney, Baytown, Texas

Stewart Law, PLLC, located in Baytown, Texas, provides legal counsel to parents involved in relocation issues, child support and custody matters, divorce, and other family law cases. If you have questions about how to stop your ex from moving away with your child, or other custody, divorce, or family law matters, we can give you advice that will help you decide how to proceed. For an initial assessment and consultation, contact our family law firm online or call our office at (281) 420-8020, at a reduced fee of $50.

Life after Divorce — What Are Your Relocation Options?

Moving with Your Children after a Divorce in Texas

It’s not unusual these days after a divorce for an ex-spouse to want to relocate, either to take a new job, to be closer to family or just to get a fresh start. Maybe they plan to remarry and the future spouse lives in another part of the state or country.

In Texas, you can’t just pick up and move when there are minor children involved. Citing public policy that both seeks to assure that children have regular and continuing contact with both parents and that parents are encouraged to share the rights and duties of raising children, the legislature has put laws in place that allow relocation only when it is determined to be in the best interests of the minor children.

The “best interests of the children” must be established on a case-by-case basis, but courts in Texas and across the country will consider a broad range of factors when making the determination, including:

  • The age of the children
  • The reasons for (and against) the move
  • The nature of the child’s current relationship with each parent
  • The ability of the noncustodial parent to have frequent and continuing contact with the children
  • The effect a move will have on family relationships
  • The child’s extracurricular activities in the community

In most instances, the final divorce decree will prohibit the custodial parent from moving outside a predetermined area without the permission of the court. There is no set distance, as the court will look at the factors above and determine whether a move across the state or to another state will be in the best interests of the child.

Even if your divorce judgment is silent on the matter of relocation, you must still notify the noncustodial parent if you want to move away from the local area. The other parent may seek a temporary restraining order prohibiting you from moving until the court can hold a relocation hearing. At the court proceeding, you can provide information to demonstrate that moving will be in the best interests of your children, but ultimately the court will make that determination.

Questions About Life after Divorce — What Are Your Relocation Options? Custody, Divorce, and Family Law Attorney, Baytown, Texas

Stewart Law, PLLC, located in Baytown, Texas, provides legal counsel to parents involved in relocation issues, child support and custody matters, divorce, and other family law cases. If you have questions about how to stop your ex from moving away with your child, or other custody, divorce, or family law matters, we can give you advice that will help you decide how to proceed. For an initial assessment and consultation, contact our family law firm online or call our office at (281) 420-8020, at a reduced fee of $50.

Visitation Rights for Step-Parents

You love your stepchildren as if they were your own biological children. You nurtured them. You watched them grow. You celebrated their achievements. You picked the kids up. You fed them dinner. You worked the calendar. You loved them wholeheartedly. And now you’re getting a divorce.

How do you continue to maintain a loving relationship with your stepchildren after divorce? Are you scared that the divorce will spell the end of your relationship with your stepkids? What are the rights of stepparents when it comes to visitation with their stepchildren?

In the past, stepparents’ rights to visit their step children after a divorce didn’t really happen. However, with more than 50 percent of all marriage ending in divorce and an even higher percentage of second marriages ending in divorce, stepparents’ rights are part of the conversation of divorce these days.

Many states allow stepparents to seek visitation rights. Other states allow “interested third parties” to request visitation rights. Judges will look at factors that include these, when making a decision about granting you visitation rights:

  • How long have you played a parental role to the children?
  • How involved are you with the children on a day-to-day basis?
  • How close is the bond between you and the children?
  • What financial contributions have you made to the support of the children?
  • How much detriment or harm will come to the children if you are no longer involved in their daily lives?

This last, detriment, is especially critical when the biological parent does not want to allow you visitation access to the children. The judge will decide based on the other factors and how harmful it will be to the children not to have you in their lives. This is because the family law standard is to act in accordance with what is in the best interest of the children.

As you move toward the divorce, talk to your partner about visitation with the stepkids and how you can continue to play a role in the children’s lives. Ideally, the biological parent will support this idea for the children’s sake.

As for the children, no matter what happens, let them know how much you love them, how much you want to be in their lives, and that you are divorcing your partner, not them. Work hard to stay connected and levelheaded with your soon-to-be ex as that will help in fostering more continuity for the children.

Custody and Visitation, Divorce, Post-Divorce, and Family Law Attorney, Baytown, Texas

Stewart Law, PLLC, located in Baytown, Texas, provides legal counsel to parents and stepparents involved in issues relating to visitation and custody, enforcing a divorce decree, child support, divorce, and other family law cases. If you have questions about any family law matter, we can give you advice that will help you decide how to proceed. For an initial assessment and consultation, contact our family law firm online or call our office at
(281) 420-8020, at a reduced fee of $50.

Can I Stop My Spouse From Moving Away With Our Child After Our Divorce?

In the best of all possible worlds, the two parents would realize it’s in the best interest of the child for the parents to live near to one another. This would provide a minimal amount of dislocation as the child transitions from his two homes. However, modern life is not all that simple.

Sometimes a spouse remarries and the new partner is living in another state. Sometimes the ex has a great job or educational opportunity, or extended family to help support the family, but in another state, or even country.

How do you, as the other noncustodial parent, stop the spouse from moving away with your child? The bottom line is that your child’s parent must obtain legal agreement in order to move to another state. This is called relocation. And if your child’s other parent does move without getting a legal agreement, including your agreement, then this could be cause for a reopening of the custody issue altogether.

Judges will only grant relocation with good reason, such as the ones listed above. However, they also take into account whether the move will inhibit the ability of you and your child to continue to have a strong parent-child bond. Family law courts these days believe that both parents can play an integral role in the parenting of the child and that it is in the best interest of the child to have both parents actively n the picture, unless one parent is deemed legally unfit.

With the advent of technology like Skype and other virtual means of communication, parenting from a distance has become, well, let’s say, easier than, say, even 10 years ago. There are ways for you to continue to be actively involved in your child’s life even if they are far away physically. It’s not ideal, but it still allows for you to connect.

Family law judges will look at issues that include how much time you spend with the child now, whether you are involved on a day-to-day basis with your child, whether the other parent can manage to help pay for costs of travel so that your child can still be actively parented by you, and whether such a move will make it a financial hardship for you to ever be with your child.

If the parent is moving away because they don’t want you to parent the child, this is not a reason. Indeed, this may potentially be a cause for the other spouse to seek a custody modification because parenting in a way that seeks to drive a wedge between a child and the other parent is not in keeping with the best interests of the child.

Questions About A Spouse Moving Away With Your Child? Custody, Divorce, and Family Law Attorney, Baytown,Texas

Stewart Law, PLLC, located in Baytown, Texas, provides legal counsel to parents involved in relocation issues, child support and custody matters, divorce, and other family law cases. If you have questions about how to stop your ex from moving away with your child, or other custody, divorce, or family law matters, we can give you advice that will help you decide how to proceed. For an initial assessment and consultation, contact our family law firm online or call our office at (281) 420-8020, at a reduced fee of $50.

 
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