Custody and child support orders dictate how parents (or third parties with standing to act as conservators of a child) will share rights to make decisions about the child (conservatorship), access to the child (possession and access) and child support (including determinations of which parent will pay child support and how much will be paid). The Texas Family Code provides that the “best interest” of the child is the basis for court’s examination of child related issues.
It is no surprise that litigation regarding child-related issues (conservatorship, possession and access and/or support) is frequently the most stressful and expensive of all types of family law litigation. In particular, litigation regarding child custody (especially disputes regarding which parent will be awarded the right to designate the primary residence of the child), is an emotionally draining experience for parties and for children. We often recommend that our clients who find themselves engaged in contested child custody litigation seek out and maintain strong family, church and/or professional support for themselves and the children.
The Texas Family Code provides a “Standard Possession” schedule for parents (or third parties with standing to act as conservators of a child) who will share periods of possession with a child.
The Standard Possession Schedule (“SPO”) for parties residing within 100 miles of each other generally provides that the party who is NOT awarded the right to designate the primary residence of the child (sometimes referred to as the “possessory” parent) will have possession of the child (over the age of 3) on the 1st, 3rd and 5th weekends of each month during the school year either from 6:00 p.m. Friday to 6:00 p.m. Sunday, or, if elected by the party, from the time the child’s school is dismissed on Friday until the time school resumes on Monday, and for a two hour period on Thursdays, or, if elected by the party, from the time the child’s school is dismissed on Thursdays until school resumes on Friday.
The “possessory” parent may also designate 30 days of extended possession during the summer and will share/split holiday periods with the other parent. Slightly different periods of possession apply for parties who reside more than 100 miles apart. Further, a court may deviate from the “SPO” upon a finding that an alternative schedule for possession is in the best interest of the child, and, of course, the parties may also agree to a possession schedule which deviates from the standard possession schedule. For children under the age of three, the court will examine various factors to determine what possession schedule would be in the best interest of that child. Child custody/possession orders are generally subject to modification until the child reaches the age of eighteen (18) years.
The Texas Family Code also provides “guidelines” for child support. Child support is generally ordered to be paid by the parent who is NOT awarded the right to designate the primary residence of the child (the “possessory parent” or “obligor parent”).
In general, the possessory parent will pay 20% of net resources (as defined by the Family Code) for one child, 25% for two children, 30% for three children, 35% for four children, and 40% for five children. Percentages are diminished if the obligor parent has other children (outside of the order) for whom he/she has responsibility for support, and the state currently caps net resource calculations at $8,550.00.
The court may deviate from the guideline support calculations upon consideration of special circumstances, and the parties may agree to child support which deviates from guidelines; however, agreements to deviate may limit the ability of the parties to modify those amounts at a later date.
Navigating what can be a confusing, frustrating and lengthy process of child custody or child support litigation requires knowledgeable and experienced counsel. Spring/Woodlands attorney Lisa Bruce represents clients in Montgomery County, Harris County and the surrounding areas of Texas in child custody and child support matters. She has extensive experience working with individuals involved in child custody and child support matters.
If you have questions about child custody or child support matters, we invite you to contact our law office to learn more.
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