Protecting Your Family's Future
 

Millions of Dollars Stuck in Texas Child Support “Purgatory”

A recently released report shows that, during the third quarter of 2015, the Texas Attorney General’s office held onto more than $55 million in child support payments that had been made by non-custodial parents. Officials say that amount has nearly tripled in the last four years. Unfortunately, in most cases, nobody really knows why.

A spokesperson for the state attorney general’s office said that there are often good or valid reasons for withholding payment, including:

  • The filing of a dispute by either party to a divorce—officials are reluctant to distribute funds until the legal dispute is resolved
  • The state may have inaccurate information for one of the parties, including address of the recipient
  • There may be a change in the payer’s employment

According to advocates for custodial parents, the money is frequently withheld from families with little or no other resources to meet daily expenses. When funds are not distributed in a timely manner, those families are often forced to seek TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) payments, which cost taxpayers a substantial amount of money. Advocates say that most recipients can get the state to release funds by hiring an attorney, but that’s a luxury most cannot afford.

An employee in the AG’s office said that the agency works hard to get dollars to recipients in a timely manner, but also acknowledged that the state has no way of tracking how many recipients have money that’s being withheld.

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to family law 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 offices are 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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Harris County Works with AG’s Office to Collect $150 in Child Support

The Harris County FOCAS program—an acronym for Focus on Collection and Services—worked in partnership with the Texas Attorney General’s office in 2015 to collect more than $150 million in child support payments.

The program, which has been in place for more than a decade, uses a range of legal tools to collect and enforce child support orders. Officials may legally withhold or garnish the wages of a non-custodial parent to pay child support. The county also uses state and federal tax refund intercepts, as well as liens and contempt proceedings. Federal tax intercepts make up about $2 million in annual receipts.

The FOCAS program is not mandatory in Harris County, but parties to a divorce will automatically be included unless they opt out. For custodial parents, there’s a real incentive to participate, as the average monthly support amount collected per case through FOCAS is $766.65, whereas individuals outside the program recover only an average of $530.64. Approximately 85% of parents in the FOCAS program pay their support in full and on time. Only 58% of those outside the program are compliant with court support orders.

Though the program is 12 years old, there are still many older support orders that are not subject to FOCAS. Authorities expect that, over the next few years, the number of non-FOCAS cases in the system will fall dramatically.

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to family law 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 offices are 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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Workshop Helps Parents Protect Children after a Divorce

In the aftermath of a divorce, when there are children involved, one of the big challenges often comes when non-custodial and custodial parents must interact. The communication problems that likely plagued the marriage can also present problems when parents must talk about issues involving the kids. Recognizing that many parents may lack the tools for effective communication in these situations, marriage and family therapist Anne Buettner has developed a workshop, entitled “Parenting from Different Homes,” to help parents of divorce.

Buettner identifies certain fundamental rules for parents of divorce:

  • Rule #1Never denigrate or badmouth the other parent, especially when children are present. Your child loves both parents. When you speak negatively about your ex, you are essentially speaking badly about your child, telling them that their love for the other parent is unfounded.
  • Rule #2Don’t ever use your child as an intermediary. If you have something to say to your ex, say it directly to your ex, preferably when your child is not within hearing distance. Making your child the messenger puts a lot of pressure on them. They may fear communicating the message incorrectly, or that the other parent will think they are siding with you.
  • Rule #3Make certain your child knows that he or she is not the cause of your divorce. This can be tricky. You don’t want to point the finger at your ex. If you say nothing, though, your child may conclude that it was their fault. This is really the best time to acknowledge your role in the breakup. You don’t need to go into detail, but you won’t lose your child’s love simply by saying “I made some mistakes.”

Contact Us

At the 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 offices are 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

Elder Divorce

In what is probably not a surprising trend, more and more couples are seeking divorce after their children have left home. A recent study by the Council for Contemporary Families, at the University of Texas at Austin, found that the divorce rate for people between the ages of 50 and 64 has jumped in the last few years.

Researchers say that divorce and re-marriage has long been a trend among baby boomers. What they now see, though, is that many boomers are filing for divorce…again. Experts attribute some of the increase to the perception that second marriages are typically less permanent and solid as first marriages. However, the study found that a significant percentage of boomers now filing for divorce are ending their first marriage, often after 35-40 years.

The study found a number of different motives for the late-in-life divorces. For many, there was no compelling reason for the divorce—the parties acknowledged that, after years of raising children and being held together by their common desire for the well-being of their children, they simply didn’t have a lot in common anymore. At the other end of the spectrum, though, were parties (mostly women) who now believe they can end a marriage in which they were victims of physical or mental abuse. In addition, the study found that many couples find they have a completely different view of retirement—some see it as an opportunity to travel and do things without the restriction of a job. Others simply want to stay at home.

Contact Us

At the 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 offices are 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

Minimizing the Impact of Divorce on Your Children

When your marriage has ended and you’re experiencing the emotional turbulence that’s a part of divorce, the last thing you want to do is make life more difficult for your children. The divorce is going to hurt them—that can’t be avoided. But there are steps you can take to cushion the blow, to minimize the impact of the divorce.

Give Priority to Your Children’s Emotional Needs

Your children have fewer tools and less experience to draw on when it comes to coping with the radical change that divorce will bring. Accordingly, if they are going to make it through your divorce relatively unscathed, you have to pay close attention to their needs, and may need to adjust your actions to minimize the impact on them. You may need to “clear the air” with your ex, but it doesn’t have to be done in the presence of your children. You may need to vent or let go of feelings you’ve held in for a long time, but don’t do it with your children.

Don’t End Your Relationship with Your Ex—Modify It

The healthiest children of divorce come from situations where divorced parents remain in relationship and communication. Don’t view the divorce as terminating your relationship with your ex—consider it an opportunity to establish a new relationship. The more cooperative you are with your ex, the more your children see you working together, the more relaxed your children will be and the better they will adjust to the divorce.

Work Out Rules and Discipline Cooperatively with Your Ex

One of the hardest things for kids of divorce is learning and complying with different sets of rules at different households. To the extent possible, work with your ex to establish rules that apply at both households—when to go to bed, brushing teeth, etc. It takes away a lot of the confusion and anxiety that children can feel.

Contact Us

At the 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 offices are 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

60What Is the Purpose of a Separation Agreement?

The separation agreement is a legal document that means that a wife and husband have decided and agreed to live apart. The couple will have to entered into the separation agreement voluntarily. To be valid, it must be signed by both husband and wife in the presence of a notary public. It is not a divorce, however.

In addition to legally declaring that the couple is going to be living apart as they contemplate getting a divorce, the purpose of this document is to come to terms about issues such as child support payments, spousal payments, property and debt division, custody of the children and parenting time and visitation, tax and insurance matters.

It is not necessary to have a separation agreement in order to get a divorce. However, the separation agreement can facilitate a smoother legal process through divorce as it most often reduces the court and attorney costs, time, and friction between the two spouses, as they will have already decided who gets what by the time of the divorce.

Some states allow for a faster divorce if a separation agreement is in place and all issues have been decided. It can be particularly useful in this regard as the couple will already be coming to the family court having sorted out each person’s responsibilities and legal rights vis a vis marital property and debt, personal property, IRAs, support, and parenting time and custody.

Contact a Divorce and Family Law Attorney

Stewart Law, PLLC, located in Baytown, Texas, has provided legal counsel to men and women in divorce and other family law cases for 8 years. If you have questions about getting or paying child support, we can give you advice that will help you decide how to proceed. For an initial assessment and consultation regarding default and uncontested divorces, contact our family law firm online or call our office at (281) 420-8020, at a reduced fee of $50.

 
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