I sometimes get asked by a divorced mom whether she is required to let her ex-husband have his visitation with the children if he is not currently paying his child support. The reasoning behind the question is that if he is not following the court order, then why should I?
Two Separate Issues Under the Texas Family Code
The answer is that yes, you must follow the court order and allow the father to exercise his visitation regardless of whether he is in arrears on his child support. The court will view those issues are entirely separate and either party will be at risk of being held in contempt of court if they fail to follow the court’s order.
Let Him See the Children and File an Enforcement Action
The appropriate action for the mother to take in that situation is to hire an attorney to pursue an child support enforcement action against the father. The Texas Family Code has very strong enforcement remedies for failure to pay child support on time, including the very real possibility of jail time.
Since mom’s who are not receiving their child support are typically already strapped for cash, the idea of having to pay an upfront retainer to pursue dad in the enforcement action is usually not an attractive one. Fortunately the Texas Attorney General’s office has a child support division that handles enforcement cases for free. While the service may not be the same that you would get from a private law firm (as they are fond of saying “I don’t represent the party, I represent the State of Texas”), you can’t beat the price.
This video goes through the process of calculating child support in a typical Texas case. If you prefer, you can read the transcript below:
My name is Scott Morgan and I am a board certified Texas family law attorney. In this video I am going to walk through an example of a very simple child support calculation.
In Texas child support is calculated using a formula from the Texas Family Code. To calculate the child support amount you start with the payor’s monthly gross income. That amount is then reduced to allow for certain deductions, such as taxes and certain health insurance expenses. Once these deductions are made you have calculated the payor’s monthly “net resources.”
Note that this number is likely not the same as the payor’s actual take-home income. There are a lot of deductions that come out of someone’s paycheck, for example 401k contributions, that are not factored into the calculation of monthly net resources.
Once the monthly net resources are calculated, you multiply that amount by a percentage to arrive at the monthly child support amount. The percentage is determined by how many children there are, with a reduction in the percentage if the payor has other children he is legally responsible for.
As a simple example, lets take a payor who makes $96,000/year or $8,000/month. Assuming this payor is not self-employed (the net resources calculation is slightly different for the self-employed), we would look at the statutory deduction chart and see that the monthly net resource amount would be $5,920. If we further assume that the child support is for one child and the payor has no other children, then the statutory percentage would be 20%. We multiply the net resource amount ($5,920) by 20% to arrive at a monthly child support amount of $1,184.
This has been a very simple example and, as with everything in family law, there are certain exceptions that can apply, but this is how child support is calculated in the vast majority of cases in Texas.
I hope you found this video helpful. If you have any questions or suggestions for future videos please feel free to comment below.
As a practicing divorce attorney for the past 18 years I have seen hundreds of clients deal with situations that were gut-wrenching and emotionally draining. The most difficult of these situations are when there are children of the marriage that need to be raised by two parents, whether you are getting divorced or not. As difficult as co-parenting may be, it is a challenge that parents must rise to meet. Your marriage may end, but your obligation to do the best job possible in raising your children does not. And this obligation includes doing everything to help your child to have a healthy relationship with the other parent. The only way for that to happen is by co-parenting the child.
Although challenging co-parenting is definitely possible and in your child’s best interest. Here are a few tips on how to manage some common c0-parenting pitfalls.
When Communicating With Your Ex Keep it Civil
Depending on the particular circumstances of your divorce, it may be completely understandable that you have a lot of negative feelings towards your ex. Nonetheless, you need to put those thoughts aside and deal with your ex civilly, whether you genuinely feel that way or not. If you cannot act friendly towards your ex then at least try to treat the relationship like you would an unpleasant coworker or maybe a boss who you didn’t like. Deal with them as necessary and keep it as professional and civil as possible.
Avoid Negative Comments About Your Ex
One of the worst things you can do is to tell your child negative things about their other parent. Recognize that if you do this you are hurting your child far more than you are the other parent. If you need to vent, then do so with a friend or family member but shield your child from it entirely. Even if your ex bad-mouths you to your child, do not retaliate. Take it up with your ex and explain that, for the sake of your child you promise to never speak negatively of them in front your child and that you ask that he/she do the same.
Avoid Involving Your Child in Financial Issues
When it comes to dealing with money issues with your ex avoid discussing or involving your child. It can start innocently enough, “ask your father if he already mailed your tuition check to St. Josephs.” When the question is relayed your ex feels like he is being accused of failing to live up to his obligations and sends a message back with the child, this one a bit nastier. “Tell her it is not due for 3 weeks, so don’t worry about it.” And on and on, you get the idea. Avoid this kind of situation entirely by just calling, emailing or texting about all financial issues and keeping your child from feeling stuck in the middle.
Accept the New Spouse
It is normal for your initial (and maybe permanent) opinion of your ex’s new spouse to be a negative one. Keep it to yourself. Your child needs to feel that it is okay for them to form their own opinion of this new person in their life. Hopefully, that relationship is a positive one. Don’t worry about being replaced in your child’s eyes. While it is possible for a child to have an excellent relationship with a stepparent, there is no substitute for a healthy, strong relationship with a biological parent.
Tell Your Child How Much You Love Them
It may seem obvious that children need to hear this often (and not just young children, all children), but it is so important that it is worth addressing. When a child’s parents are going through a divorce they are very vulnerable and need frequent reassurance that they are important and loved. Don’t worry about telling them too often, you really can’t overdo it.
While co-parenting can definitely be challenging at times, it is worth it. Do it right and when your children are grown they will tell you how much they appreciated that their parents (unlike many of their friends’ parents) were able to get along and avoid dragging them into their disagreements.