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In Texas family law cases, court orders need to be obtained to establish and change child custody, visitation and/or child support. In order for court orders to be obtained the appropriate legal documents must be filed with the court. These are the first and most important aspect of your family law case.
What are the different types of custody & visitation orders?
Texas Child Custody- In Texas, child custody is referred to as conservatorship. The primary custodial parent is called the managing conservator in Texas.
What is Legal Custody?
Legal custody determines which parent has the authority to make decisions regarding the child's health, safety, education, and welfare. If only one parent can make these decisions alone, this is called sole legal custody. When both parents have the right to make these decisions, this is called joint legal custody.
Joint managing conservatorship means both parents should cooperate on decision-making. However, either parent has the power to make these decisions alone. Sole conservatorship means only one parent can make decisions and obtain information from the child's school, doctor, counselor, etc.
What is Physical Custody?
Physical custody determines where the child or children will reside. Sole physical custody means the child or children live with one parent and may visit the other parent. Joint physical custody means the child or children reside with both parents, often on a fairly equal basis. However, even if they have joint physical custody, if one parent will have the child more than half of the time, then that parent is referred to as the primary custodial parent for tax and other purposes.
Keep in mind that judges have discretion when it comes to family law cases, consequently they can issue orders that do not strictly adhere to the above definitions. The bottom line is that the judge is to issue an order that represents the bests interests of the children.
Visitation of Children
Generally, the parent who does not have the child or children more than half of the time is entitled to, and given, visitation with the child or children. This is done through a court order that establishes a parenting plan/visitation plan. Visitation plans should be specific in order to avoid potential conflicts and eliminate confusion. Parenting plans that allow for “reasonable visitation” as “agreed upon by the parties” should be avoided at all costs. These type of parenting plans typically cause conflict and confusion and often result in the parties having to go back to court fairly quickly.
In developing a specific visitation plan, keep in mind that it can be helpful to be specific about which weeks of the month the visits will occur to make the plan more enforceable. For example, if a parent will have the child or children every other weekend, it would be helpful to define that specifically as the 1st, 3rd, and 5th (or the 2nd and 4th) weekend of the month. The pick-up and drop-off times may also be specific, such as Friday at 5:00 p.m. to Sunday at 7:00 p.m. Such specificity avoids conflict as to “whose weekend is it”, etc.
Supervised visitation is ordered when the child's or children's safety and well-being require that visits with a parent be supervised by the other parent, another adult, or a professional counselor or agency. Such can be the case when the non custodial parent has a history of instability, violence, etc.
Visitation is denied in extreme situations in which contact with the parent would be physically or emotionally harmful to the child.
What is Child Support?
have a legal (and moral) duty to provide financial support to their children
for their living and medical expenses.
Generally, this is done through a court order that establishes and sets
forth the child support that the parent or both parents must pay on a regular
basis. Texas child support can
be set up through the courts.
Texas child support amounts required to be paid for the support and maintenance of the children can be set forth in a court order, judgment, decree or stipulated order. The child support is to provide for some or all of the financial support, health insurance coverage and arrearages (past due child support) if applicable.
For TEXAS child support, the guidelines give the court a percentage to apply to a parent's net resources. For a parent who has no other children outside the current court proceedings, the percentage to be applied is as follows:
In cases where the Obligor, or parent who is obligated to pay child support, has other children to support, the percentages are slightly lower.
A court may consider other factors to determine if applying the guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate in a particular case. Those factors may include:
Texas Family Code, Section 154.123.