What protections can I get regarding my children?
The two biggest issues in most divorce proceedings are the division of property and the custody and financial support of the children. While getting a divorce, the court will make decisions regarding the division of property and the custody schedule plus the amount of child support owed. If the divorce is uncontested and you and your spouse can agree on these issues, the court will review your agreement and most often, the court will sign it. This is a significant protection because with an order in place, they become legally binding. Having a legally binding order will be a strong tool to maintain a stable environment for your children.
Any divorce involving children under the age of 18 or any children still in school will include a parenting plan. There are three options for the court ordered custody of a child. A joint conservatorship order has both parents share decisions about most issues affecting the child such as education and healthcare. A sole managing conservator order gives one parent the exclusive right to make most decisions for the child. A possessory conservator order typically names the non-sole managing conservator as the possessory conservator. The possessory conservator will have the rights of a parent, but won’t have a final say on most decision.
Another part of the suit affecting the parent-child relationship will be a possession order that will decide when each parent has the right to time with a child. The most common possession orders are 1) Standard Possession Order, 2) Modified Possession Order, 3) Possession Orders for a Child under 3, and 4) Supervised Possession Orders.
The Standard Possession Order is presumed to be in the best interest of a child who is 3 years or older. It states that the parents may have possession whenever both parents agree. If the parents live within 100 miles of each other, the noncustodial parent has the right to possession on the 1) 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekends of each month, 2) Thursday evenings during the school year, 3) alternating holidays, and 4) 30 days during summer vacation. For parents who live further apart, the noncustodial parents have the right to possession 1) either the same weekend schedule or reduced to one weekend per month, 2) no mid-week visit, 3) alternating holidays, and 4) 42 days during the summer vacation. Texas Family Code 153.313.
A Modified Possession Order is anything different from the Standard Possession Order and it can be written by the parents to meet the specific needs of their family. A Possession Order for a Child under 3 is an example of a Modified Possession Order that can be used for children under the age of 3. The parents of a child under 3 can agree to use a Standard Possession Order, create a different possession schedule, or have the judge create a possession order based on all relevant facts. Texas Family Code Section 153.254.
A Supervised Possession Order is appropriate when the judge is concerned about the safety of the child and wants the parent’s time with the child supervised by a family member, neutral third party or agency.
B. Child Support
Child support duration and amounts are determined during the suit affecting the parent-child relationship. Child support orders typically last until the child is 18 or has graduated from high school, whichever occurs later. Child support orders can also be terminated by the death of the child or by the marriage of the child. Sec. 154.001. A child support order will include a withholding provision that orders the amount be withheld from the disposable income of the obligor. Sec. 154.007. There are statutory guidelines that determine the amount of child support by the non-custodial parent. The judge can adjust the amounts up or down based on the child’s needs, the parents’ ability to contribute to support, the amount of possession and access to the child, and the financial resources available for the child’s support.
The statutory guidelines provided be Sec. 154.125 are:
1 child: 20% of Obligor’s Net Resources
2 children: 25% of Obligor’s Net Resources
3 children: 30% of Obligor’s Net Resources
4 children: 35% of Obligor’s Net Resources
5 children: 40% of Obligor’s Net Resources
6+ children: Not less than the amount for five children
These percentages apply to the first $8,550 per month of net resources. Sec. 154.125(a-1). If the obligor’s net resources are greater than that amount, the court may order support beyond the statutory guidelines if the proven needs of the child warrant an additional amount. Sec. 154.126. The net resources of the obligor include wage and salary income, interests, dividends, and royalty income, self-employment income, net rental income, and all other income actually being received. Having the amount owed by your ex in a legally binding order means that you have support if they start refusing to pay or fall behind. It helps greatly with your peace of mind so you can focus on raising your children.