Child Custody and Child Support
Carolyn Collins understands that your children are always the most important aspect of your case. Carolyn uses both standard and highly creative solutions to assure the best life possible for every child. This includes achieving the most favorable outcome for her clients on the issues of custody, visitation and child support.
In Texas, it is presumed that upon divorce or separation, parents will be appointed Joint Managing Conservators of their children. This means that in most cases, parents will have an equal say in making major decisions involving their children. These decisions include educational decisions, legal decisions, psychiatric and psychological decisions and invasive medical decisions. In cases where parents have a history of not being able to agree on major issues involving their children, a Judge may give one parent the exclusive right to make these major decisions or may give one parent the exclusive right to make decisions that fall under one of these categories, and the other parent the exclusive right to make decisions that fall under another category.
Many parents ask about 50/50 possession schedules for their children. Some even assume that a 50/50 schedule is the norm following the separation of the parents. If parents agree to a 50/50 schedule with their children, the court will typically approve the schedule, however, a 50/50 schedule will rarely be ordered by a Judge if the parents do not agree to the schedule. As with most issues related to the law, there are always exceptions, one exception being if the parents have been separated for a period of time and have already been following a 50/50 schedule, the Judge may determine it is in the best interest of the children for the children to continue following a 50/50 schedule. Another exception has to do with parents’ work schedules. If the parents have unusual work schedules so that a 50/50 schedule seems to be an appropriate arrangement, the Judge may order a 50/50 possession schedule.
In most cases, if parents cannot agree to a possession schedule for their children and both parents’ work schedules are along the lines of a 9 to 5, Monday through Friday schedule, the Judge will grant one of the parents a Standard Possession Order. If the parents reside within 50 miles of each other, a Standard Possession Order provides that one parent will have the children on the 1st , 3rd, and 5th weekends of each month from the time school is released on Friday until the time school resumes on Monday, as well as every Thursday during the school year from the time school is released on Thursday until school resumes on Friday morning. In addition, the parents will each spend half of the holidays with their children as well as have an extended period of vacation time with their children each summer.
It is typical for there to be a residence restriction in all cases involving children, whether the case is resolved by the agreement of the parties or is decided by a Judge. A residence restriction means that the children may not be moved outside of a certain geographic area without the consent of the other parent or the permission of the court. The geographic area is typically defined as an area such as Travis County, Travis and Williamson Counties, Hays County and contiguous counties or an area zoned for attendance at a certain high school, such as the area zoned for attendance at Austin High. Residence restrictions are put in place so that both parents will have easy access to their children as well as the ability to attend their children’s extracurricular activities. Gone are the days when one parent, typically the mother, could pick up and move the children to a faraway location, thus depriving the other parent of having a meaningful relationship with their children as they grow up.
Child support is governed by the Texas Child Support Guidelines. Absent an agreement by the parents on child support, a Judge will typically follow these Guidelines which provide that the parent paying child support will pay 20% of their net monthly resources for one child, 25% of their net monthly resources for two children, 30% of their net monthly resources for three children and 35% of their net monthly resources for four children. These percentages are reduced slightly when the person paying child support is already paying child support for other children. There will also be provisions put in place to make sure that the children are covered by health and dental insurance as well as to make sure that deductibles and co-pays are taken care of. In Texas, child support and medical support is paid until a child is eighteen years old or out of high school, whichever is later.