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Texas Appeals Court Upholds Modification Allowing Unsupervised Visitation

Texas Appeals Court Upholds Modification Allowing Unsupervised Visitation

Originally published by Robert Epstein.

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Sometimes in a Texas custody case, the court may find it appropriate to place certain restrictions on a parent’s access to the children.  In time and with changed circumstances, it may be in the children’s best interest to remove those restrictions to allow the children to spend more time with that parent.  In a recent case, a mother appealed an order modifying visitation.

The parents had two children during their marriage.  The mother moved to another town and filed for divorce.  The decree required the father to use a Soberlink alcohol monitoring device before and during visitation.  The court ordered the father’s visitation would be supervised in Hidalgo County, but he would be allowed unsupervised visits beginning in August 2018 when the youngest child turned three.

The mother petitioned to modify the parent-child relationship to postpone the unsupervised visits.  She argued unsupervised visits were not in the children’s best interest because the oldest child had significant speech delays and the younger child lacked emotional maturity.  She also alleged the father failed one of his alcohol tests.

 

The father filed a counter petition, asking for standard visitation with exchange of the children occurring about midway between the parents’ homes in Alice.  He claimed the modifications were in the children’s best interests and that there was a material and substantial change in circumstances since the divorce decree.

The trial court ordered a mental evaluation of the father, and based on that evaluation, allowed him unsupervised overnight visitation. The trial court issued a final order granting standard unsupervised visitation, omitting the Soberlink requirement, and requiring the parents to meet in Alice to exchange the children.

The mother appealed, arguing the trial court abused its discretion in ordering the parents to exchange the children in Alice.  Pursuant to Tex. Fam. Ann. § 153.316, the court must order the parents to surrender the children at one of their homes.  The appeals court noted, however, that this section only applies to the original possession order, and this case involved a modification.  Modifications are governed instead by § 156.101, which allows modification of a possession order if it is in the children’s best interest and the circumstances have changed.  The mother had alleged a change of circumstances in her own petition to modify.  Under Texas case law, that allegation of changed circumstances constituted a judicial admission for purposes of the other father’s similar pleading.

The mother argued exchanging the children in Alice was not in their best interest.  The appeals court noted, however, that there was evidence supporting a conclusion that meeting in Alice was in the children’s best interests.  The father testified he had not exercised his right to communicate with his children electronically because the mother had stated she would not allow them to communicate through video-teleconference or Skype.  He claimed she was trying to prevent him from having a strong relationship with his children.  He asked the court to have them meet in Alice if standard visitation was granted.  He said it was a little more than halfway for him and he thought it was in the children’s best interests for him to be in their lives.

The mother’s attorney argued she was working on her master’s degree in clinical psychology and was required to be at a facility all day and could not get from work to Alice at the scheduled time.  The father offered to change the time, but pointed out it would only be once a month.  The court agreed to order the weekend visitation exchange to occur in Alice.

The appeals court found there testimony that seeing their father more often was in the children’s best interests and found no abuse of discretion in the court ordering the exchange to occur in Alice.

The mother also argued the court abused its discretion in eliminating the Soberlink requirement.  The divorce decree required sobriety testing before and during the father’s time with the children for five years after the divorce.  The mother argued the father had not requested the removal of the condition and the judgment had to conform to the pleadings. The appeals court noted, however, that the best interests of the children are the most important issue in custody cases, and technical rules should not interfere with acting in their best interests.  The appeals court found that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in not conforming to the pleadings if it did not do so arbitrarily.

The mother argued the Soberlink requirement was in the children’s best interests.  The father testified he used a breathalyzer twice a day for another court and did not have any violations.  The mother offered evidence of an alleged positive Soberlink test result, but the father testified it was a false positive and another test six minutes later was confirmed at 0.000.  The trial court found the first test was a false positive. The court further stated the father testified he was receiving psychological and psychiatric treatment.  The appeals court found no abuse of discretion in the trial court’s elimination of the Soberlink requirement because there was some evidence it was no longer in the children’s best interests.

The mother also argued the trial court erred in granting overnight visitation to the father.  The children’s counselor testified that “It would be very difficult and traumatic for them to be away from their mother at night.”

The father argued the original divorce decree granted him unsupervised overnight visits.  The father’s psychological evaluation resulted in a recommendation the father have full access to his children with standard visitation.  The appeals court found the trial court had sufficient evidence to exercise its discretion and did not abuse its discretion.  There was evidence it was in the children’s best interests to have unsupervised, overnight visits with the father.

The appeals court affirmed the trial court’s judgment.

If you are seeking or fighting a modification of a custody order, an experienced Texas custody attorney can help you fight for your children.  Call McClure Law Group at 214.692.8200 to set up a meeting to discuss your case.

Curated by Texas Bar Today. Follow us on Twitter @texasbartoday.



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child visitation after divorce

Child Visitation After Divorce: How My Narcissistic Ex Is Using It Against My Children

child visitation after divorce

 

My divorce never hit me. I was contently past all the stages of grief on the day of my divorce. I was free and so eager to start anew. (I even agreed to attempt reconciliation with my ex post-divorce, but that’s a story for another day.)

Some months later, I moved back to the town I had grown up in. My boys, then seven and eight, moved with me. It felt great to be starting fresh and to be surrounded by family and my childhood girlfriends again.

My boys and I did get the I’m-so-sorry-face from everyone we knew. But despite the catastrophe that others saw, I was relieved, happy, and shame-free to be divorced. I could breathe again, and my life was my own again. Or so I thought…

Given my move, I had agreed to my ex-husband, aka WASband, seeing our boys virtually every weekend and agreed that he could have the boys visit him at his home 400 miles away on any given weekend.

Child Visitation After Divorce

My ex abused my trust.

My WASband turned our flexible visitation agreement into a nightmare for my boys. He insisted that every visit be in Los Angeles in his world. I had agreed to this and he had a legal contract to enforce it.

So, our children traveled from San Francisco to Los Angeles and then back again three to four weekends each month during the school year.

He didn’t care that virtually every Friday his children spent four hours or more traveling to him and four hours or more on Sundays traveling back.

He didn’t care if the children were sick.

He didn’t care if they missed the one and only birthday party they got invited to.

He didn’t care if they weren’t making friends at their new school.

He didn’t care if our son cried and cried over not being able to compete in his once-a-year Tae Kwon Do championship.

He didn’t care if their Friday flight was canceled by the airline. He made them take the 6:00 am flight on Saturday morning only to fly back on Sunday.

He didn’t care if the children were exhausted from all the travel.

He didn’t care if they couldn’t join the basketball team because of weekend games.

He just didn’t care. It was a zero-exceptions contract that I had agreed to.

My WASband’s words were, I am NOT willing to spend my custodial time in Northern California. There was intense hatred towards me in that single sentence. Each time I asked for some flexibility for our children, those words were written back to me in bigger, bolder font along with, My position hasn’t changed.

I had made a huge mistake.

I had willingly given a narcissist full discretion to decide where and how he spends time with our children assuming that he would be reasonable when it came to the children.

I don’t know if he saw their tears. I wiped them.

I don’t know if he heard their screams. Some days that’s all I heard.

He denied their pain. I couldn’t.

I don’t know if he realized their isolation. I saw it.

Over and over I begged a father to accommodate his children’s needs. Each time he refused.

There came a time when my children cried, I know the answer is no. The answer is always no. Then came a time when they no longer asked.

My ex now controlled the boys with custody.  

Spending his time with his children in Los Angeles trumped all else. He was blind to their physical health, their social development, and their emotions. He had to have control: It’s okay for [our son] to miss a birthday party in order to spend quality time with his father.

Of course, nothing was preventing this father from accompanying his son to this one and only birthday party that his son had been invited to all year.

And my ex also controlled me with custody.

When I mailed out a birthday card over summer break and asked my WASband to give the card to our son, my ex responded, “You should do that personally, meaning during your own custodial time.”

This was emotional abuse at its worst.

The control and emotional abuse I thought I had escaped resurfaced like a newer, stronger virus. This time, while aimed at me, it was infecting our children. The children weren’t doing well socially or emotionally.  Despite multiple pediatricians’ recommendations for immediate therapy for our children, my ex refused to consent.

Since the divorce and move my older son had begun to break out crying and screaming for no apparent reason. Of course, I knew the reason; he wasn’t coping well with his parent’s separation.

He was eight-years-old at the time and completely non-verbal about our divorce. He didn’t want to talk, or discuss, or listen to anything related to his mom and dad no longer living together.

Over the course of a year and a half, even after two pediatricians independently witnessed my older son have such an emotional meltdown including throwing himself around the room, my WASband maintained that my son didn’t need therapy.

The emotional outbursts became more frequent, became more intense and shifted from crying and screaming to also verbally threatening his family and physically hurting those around him.

Family court was a game of poker.

With no other resolution in sight, I turned to the Court for help. My children were in danger if nothing changed.

That journey through Court was long, expensive, and made unreasonably longer and more expensive by my ex on the other side. (During our eight-year marriage my ex had been in constant litigation all eight years; he sued all his business partners from multiple businesses, a dentist who voluntarily admitted a mistake, and an employee of a Fortune 500 company knowing the company would pay him damages just to avoid litigation).

I should have known better. My ex had no qualms or limits in abusing the legal system. He was an eye-for-an-eye man once he convinced himself that you had slighted him.

So, my ex showed up in Court with thick, oversized, zero-prescription eyeglasses and a bow tie to complete his geekiest Caltech persona. A charming serial entrepreneur with 20-20 vision (the one I had married) now sat disguised as a nerdy engineer in an effort to explain away his complete inflexibility in co-parenting his children.

He claimed he was an engineer who was scrambling to make ends meet and whose employer had been loaning him money for personal expenses. The fact was that he owned the company he worked for!

He showed virtually no income and no assets all the while affording private flying lessons, affording aircraft rentals, and paying his parents and extended family from business profits.

And so, a game of poker with the judges ensued. The first judge had enough common sense and provided temporary relief for the children from all the travel. This judge saw the thousands of pages of written communication between my ex and me as a complete breakdown of communication.

But he retired. Then a second judge with a completely different common sense, had me pay my ex’s attorney fees and didn’t bat an eye at the amount of travel our children were doing between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

This new judge wanted proof to correlate sickness to excessive travel. Common sense wasn’t good enough. This new judge saw the thousands of pages of written communication between my ex and me as normal negotiation.

This judge saw my wealth against my poor Caltech-graduate WASband with his fake glasses and bow tie, who had no car in his name, no property in his name, who for years had paid his company’s profits to his extended relatives.

In retaliation to me going to Court, my ex had convinced himself that he needed $30,000 per month to support our children. And since he could afford neither a car nor housing, he wanted me to now support a new lifestyle for him, complete with private jet travel, five-star hotels, and much more.

A third judge put an end to my ex’s non-sense; my WASband got his child support but an amount which I proposed to the Court based on facts instead of exaggerations. Disappointed with this outcome, my ex filed two more cases trying to get exorbitant amounts of money from me.

Those cases, while dismissed, still took an emotional and financial toll. I’ve learned now that it’s a matter of time before my WASband sues me again.

Court was a two-year war. And war is never good.

One of my sons got therapy after two years of jumping through all the Court’s hoops. My children’s travel was slightly reduced and many smaller issues were resolved. Yet the Court was fooled by a narcissist.

The Court didn’t approve therapy for my younger son because I didn’t have any evidence for its need. So, now a year later when my younger son says, “I will kill myself,” and my WASband still refuses therapy for him, am I to return to Court?

The Family Court that deals with divorced families and children couldn’t see this coming? I could.

This Court that also ordered my ex to spend the first weekend a month in Northern California because it coincided with the Tae Kwon Do schedule didn’t think to make it an order that my WASband actually take the children to these Tae Kwon Do events.

The Court couldn’t catch the narcissist in disguise. How am I to point out this mistake to the Court? With another trial and 2-year battle? No thank you.

Life, Uh, Finds a Way.

For nearly three years now, my children have been traveling between San Francisco and Los Angeles nearly every weekend. Yes, it’s hard and unheard of, but the one weekend each month we have together is better than ever.

We miss most of the special school events, but we did go to one dance last year and I caught my boys on camera doing the Floss with their classmates!

We do miss most of the special Tae Kwon Do events, but every now and then the stars line up and we get to go to the one we get to go to!

We do miss most family get togethers, so now many of my nine first cousins go out of their way to have our children meet.

For over two years now, my WASband has been telling our children: Your mom is a liar. Her entire family lies. It’s her fault; she’s the one that divorced me. He shows them snippets of court documents to prove his story with evidence.

Sadly, my nine and ten-year-old children are versed in court vocabulary including evidence, exhibits, credibility, and legal contracts. My WASband tells my older son:  You go to therapy because you have mental problems. Your mom forced you to go to therapy.

You’ll be in therapy for your whole life.

You need to lose weight. You need to get in shape.

Are you trying to gain weight?

He tells our children: Do you have any Indian friends? I’ll arrange a playdate [on my visits to San Francisco] if your friends are Indian.

This type of abuse attacks every aspect of their lives. There may never be a respite from this.

My children began coming back to me on Sundays, especially after long holidays, and telling me: You’re a liar. A big fat liar because you don’t have any evidence. Daddy has evidence. I was caught off-guard, hurt, and defensive.

My co-parenting counselor (not to mention others) advised me to open up to my children, but mostly all I could say was: These are adult issues. Children shouldn’t be worried about these things. I will tell you when you’re seventeen or eighteen. Your Daddy loves you, but some of these things he is doing and saying are wrong. And he may never change. You have to be stronger.

After two years of this, there are still new frustrations, more confusion, and deeper wounds but my children are finding their way. They tell me: Mommy, you have to be stronger!

And I am stronger because I chose to be free. My marriage was bad and the aftermath of my divorce worse, but I am free. I’ve begun to learn to allow myself to resign all outcomes to a higher power when I need to.

I’ve learned that there’s nothing that can break me. I’ve been shattered more than once, and I’ve gotten up to collect and put myself back together each time. I don’t hate my ex; it’s as if my body or mind or soul has decided that this person doesn’t deserve even my hatred.

I pray for his peace of mind, I tell my children to send love towards Daddy, and I’ve never been one to pray. Whenever I remember, I tell my children to say something nice about someone else each night.

I’ve learned to hug and cuddle. My children wonder: Why have you gone all lovey-dovey. I suppose it’s because love is all that remains for me.

The post Child Visitation After Divorce: How My Narcissistic Ex Is Using It Against My Children appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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Texas Court Grants Grandparents Visitation and Access to Grandchildren

Texas Court Grants Grandparents Visitation and Access to Grandchildren

Originally published by Francesca Blackard.

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Under Texas family law, a court may grant grandparents reasonable possession and access to a grandchild if three conditions are met.  First, at least one of the child’s parents, whether adoptive or biological, must have parental rights to the child.  Second, the grandparent must overcome the presumption the child’s parent is acting in the child’s best interest by showing that denying the grandparent possession or access would result in significant impairment to the child’s health or well-being.  Finally, the grandparent must be the parent of the child’s parent, and that parent must have been incarcerated during the past three months, have been found incompetent, be deceased, or not have possession or access to the child.  TEX. FAM. CODE ANN. § 153.433.

In a recent case, a father challenged an order allowing the maternal grandparents possession and access to his children.  The parents and children stayed with the grandparents while they looked for a house when they moved to Texas from California.  The grandparents supported the family so the parents could save up to buy the home.  After the parents bought a home nearby, the children regularly visited their grandparents, sometimes overnight.  The grandparents would take the children to school and attend school functions.  The grandmother testified she felt she had assumed the role of parent.

The grandmother testified both parents were alcoholics.  The mother’s friend testified the parents had a tense and unhealthy relationship.  There was testimony that the mother sent the children to stay with the grandparents when the situation at home grew tense.  The father’s friend testified the father left the children with the grandparents when he went to bars and nudist colonies.  He also testified the father told him he often argued with the mother, but did not state the arguments ever turned physical.

 

The mother sadly died in 2018.  The children stayed with their grandmother for several days and the oldest child told the grandmother they were going to live with their other grandparents in California.

The grandparents promptly filed suit seeking sole managing conservatorship.  Although they obtained a temporary restraining order to keep the father from moving the children from the county/ the children went to live with their paternal grandparents in California when it expired.

The grandparents amended their petition to seek possession and access to the children under the grandparent access statute.  Following a trial, the court found the grandparents had proved by a preponderance of the evidence that denying them possession or access would significantly impair the health or well-being of the children.  The court granted the grandparents possession for one weekend during the fall and spring semester and seven days during the summer.  The grandparents were also allowed phone, Skype, or FaceTime access.  They were also allowed to send cards, letters, and gifts.

The father appealed.  In this case, the only element at issue was whether the grandparents had overcome the presumption the father was acting in the children’s best interest.  The father argued the grandparents had not submitted evidence of any impairment to the children from denial of access.  He testified the children were doing very well and had not shown any need for psychological treatment or counseling.  They lived with his parents, where the oldest had her own room and the boys shared a room.  They were physically safe and doing well psychologically.

The grandparents argued the father had not provided counseling for the children and planned to deny all access to the grandparents.  The appeals court noted that the leading cases overturning orders granting grandparent access involved evidence that the parent would not deny the grandparent all access to the child.  The father testified he would not allow any access or possession of the children unless ordered to do so by the court.

The appeals court found no evidence denying the grandparents access would significantly impair the physical health of the children, but there was sufficient evidence it would significantly impair their emotional well-being.  The grandmother testified denying them access would not be in the children’s best interest.  The mother’s friend and the father’s friend each testified they did not think the father was acting in the children’s best interest.  The grandmother testified the children had lost their mother, grandmother, and home, and had moved to live with grandparents they had rarely seen.  There was evidence regarding the father’s heavy drinking and potential alcoholism.

The father testified that the children did not exhibit any emotional turmoil.  He said they did not ask about their grandparents.  He testified they were healthy and doing well.

The appeals court found the trial court could have reasonably disbelieved the father’s evidence and found the grandparents overcame the parental presumption by a preponderance of the evidence.  The appeals court affirmed the order.

Although it can be difficult for grandparents to get access and possession of their grandchildren, it is possible under certain circumstances.  This case may have turned on the father’s intent to deny all access to the grandparents.  If you are seeking or fighting grandparents’ rights, a knowledgeable Texas custody attorney can advise you and fight for your rights.  Call McClure Law Group at 214.692.8200 to set up a meeting to talk about your case.

Curated by Texas Bar Today. Follow us on Twitter @texasbartoday.



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Do Stepparents Have Child Custody Rights or Child Visitation Rights After a Texas Divorce?

Do Stepparents Have Child Custody Rights or Child Visitation Rights After a Texas Divorce?

Originally published by stark.

Stepparents play a very important role in a child’s life. According to the most recent report from The Step Family Foundation, over 50 percent of U.S. families are recoupled. As blended families are becoming more and more common, this raises an important question: Do stepparents have any custody or visitation rights to their stepchildren after a divorce? The answer: “sometimes”—but those rights are limited and they are not automatic. Here, our Dallas child custody attorneys provide an overview of the key things that you need to know about step-parent rights after a divorce.

Texas Law: Step-Parents are ‘Interested Third Parties’

 Stepparents are not granted any automatic child custody or child visitation rights. Unlike a child’s biological parents, there is no assumption of parental rights. Instead, state law views stepparents as being “interested third parties.” Practically speaking, this means that a stepparent’s custody or visitation rights are similar to a child’s aunt, uncle, or another semi-close relative.

To be clear, stepparents have the right to petition for visitation with their stepchildren after a divorce. While it is often difficult to get court-ordered visitation rights over the objections of the child’s parent(s), it is legally possible. Should a dispute arise over step-parent visitation/custody, Texas courts will resolve issues under the state’s ‘best interests of the child’ standard (Texas Family Code § 153.002).

 How Our Child Custody Attorneys Can Help

 Stepparent custody and visitation cases are especially complicated. At Orsinger, Nelson, Downing and Anderson, LLP, we have the unique skills, experience, and training needed to help guide parents and stepparents through the legal process. With more than 100,000 attorneys practicing in Texas, there is no other law firm that has as many Top 100 Super Lawyers as we do. When you reach out to our firm, you will get a top-rated Texas child custody lawyer who will:

  • Conduct a confidential, in-depth review of your stepparent custody/visitation case;
  • Listen to your story, answer your questions, and devise a sensible strategy;
  • Look for mutually agreeable solutions that resolve conflict at the lowest possible level; and
  • Take whatever legal action is necessary to protect your rights and your family.

We know that there are no one-size-fits-all solutions in family law—especially when children are involved. Our custody & visitation lawyers provide each and every parent with the fully personalized legal assistance that they deserve. Our goal is to help you find an effective and low conflict resolution that works for you and your family. At the same time, we are trial-tested family law litigators. Our lawyers are always prepared to take aggressive action to protect your parental rights.

 Discuss Your Case with Our Texas Child Custody Lawyers Today

At Orsinger, Nelson, Downing and Anderson, LLP, our compassionate Texas child custody lawyers are experienced, effective advocates for parents. If you have any questions about stepparent rights, we can help. To schedule a strictly confidential initial consultation, please call us at (214) 273-2400 or contact us directly online. From our offices in Dallas, Fort Worth, and Frisco, we represent parents throughout North Texas.

The post Do Stepparents Have Child Custody Rights or Child Visitation Rights After a Texas Divorce? appeared first on ONDA Family Law.

Curated by Texas Bar Today. Follow us on Twitter @texasbartoday.

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Child Support Custody And Visitation

Guidelines The Court Uses To Determine Child Support, Custody, And Visitation

Child Support Custody And Visitation

When going through a divorce with minor children or determining paternity, one of the many decisions you will need to make is how much time each parent will spend with the minor children.

It is important to note that the amount of time spent with the children can also affect child support.

The goal of any agreement affecting children should be to protect the children’s best interest.

However, due to the emotional nature and financial implications of custody and visitation, many parents struggle to reach an agreement.

In the event parents are unable to find an agreeable solution the Court will intervene and create child custody and visitation orders based on several factors, including the children’s best interest.

Once the Court determines child custody and visitation, it will then use guidelines dictated by statutes and a child support worksheet to determine which spouse owes the other child support.

Determining Child Support, Custody, And Visitation

Child Support

In California, both parents are financially responsible for minor children. However, child support can be ordered to help provide for the children’s housing, clothing, food, extracurricular activities, and other needs.

Child support is based on several factors including each parent’s gross income, mandatory deductions, tax deductions, amounts paid for healthcare, time spent with each parent and more.

Most often, the higher-earning parent will pay child support as they have more disposable income. For families who have 50/50 or close to equal timeshare with the children, the parent who claims the minor children as dependents could be ordered to pay the other parent support.

With so many factors and variables in determining support, it is important to speak with a professional to review all available options and develop the best child support agreement for you and your children.

Imputing Income

If you or the other parent is unemployed or underemployed, the Court can still order child support. In either situation, the Court will review employment records and education history to determine if gainful employment is feasible and determine what their earning capacity may be.

The Court may also consider other factors, including the length of time you have been out of work and the current state of the job market.

If the Court finds one parent is underemployed or willfully not working, the Court could assign income to that parent based on previous salary or current earning capabilities determined by work or educational experience.

The assignment of income, also known as imputing income, can result in Court-ordered child support.

If a parent fails to meet their financial obligation and does not pay child support as ordered, arrears will accrue, and the parent could face additional penalties.

State Disbursement Unit (SDU)

In the past, child support was paid directly to the receiving parent. When a child support order dictated automatic deductions, the paying parent’s (payor’s) employer would withhold the amount ordered and send it directly to the other parent.

However, in 1996 the federal government passed the Personal Responsibility and Work Reconciliation Act, requiring states to create a centralized location where parents pay child support. The creation of State Disbursement Units facilitated payment by collecting child support and distributing to the receiving parent.

When a child support order utilizes SDUs to facilitate payment through employers, payors can have up to 50 percent of their wages deducted.

In addition to facilitating payment, the 1996 Act changed how payment was distributed if a payor had more than one child support order.

Prior to the implementation of the SDUs, child support orders were prioritized by date. For instance, if a payor had orders to pay child support for children from a previous relationship and for the most recent relationship, and the amount ordered for the first relationship more than 50 percent of their income, the first family would get the full amount while the second family would receive partial payment or nothing.

After 1996, a paying parent’s child support amount can change based upon how much the payor parent earns or if there are other child support orders or arrearages are owed by the payor parent.

The SDUs can adjust the distribution of child support to ensure all children receive support. This can result in a reduction of child support received if the amount owed for all orders exceed 50 percent of the payor’s income.

However, the original amount ordered is still due and arrearages will build up unless the paying parent pays the difference directly to the SDU.

Child Custody and Visitation

California recognizes two types of custody: legal custody and physical custody.  Legal custody refers to the ability to make decisions that affect the child’s health, welfare, and safety. Legal decisions include what doctors the child sees, what school the child attends, participation in religious activities, when the child can get a driver’s license, and more.

If one parent has sole legal custody, they are not obligated to consult the other parent when making decisions.

However, if parents have joint legal custody, they will both be able to make decisions. Ideally, both parents would communicate and agree on any decisions that affect their children.

Physical custody refers to the time spent with each parent and where the child resides. Joint physical custody, when children live with both parents, is the most common arrangement and the goal of California Courts.

However, it is not the best solution for all families, especially if domestic or substance abuse is an issue. If one parent has primary or sole custody, the other “non-custodial” parent has visitation.

Visitation schedules can vary depending on the relationship between parents and their children and work or school schedules. Common visitation schedules are unsupervised visits every other weekend, bi-weekly visits, alternating major holidays, or supervised visits once a week.

It is highly suggested that both parents work together to create a parenting plan detailing visitation, pick up/drop off times and more.  If you are unable to reach an agreement, a family law attorney can help you create a parenting plan that not only benefits the children but considers the parents’ schedules. In the event, you are unable to come to an agreement the Court can hear your concerns and create custody and visitation orders.

However, court orders will dictate the amount of time each parent spends with the children, which can result in orders that neither you nor the other parent agree with and have financial ramifications for many years.

Custody Disagreements

In some cases, the parents may not be able to come to a custody agreement. Regardless of how you feel about your spouse, you should not bring your children into the argument.

Nor should you try to dissuade your children from seeing the other parent. The Courts will consider this when making a custody decision.

In most cases, the Court will not let a child testify as to which parent the child wishes to stay with as it is not fair to make the child choose.

When determining custody, the Court will review several factors such as the amount of time each parent spends with the children, domestic violence issues, substance abuse, involvement in educational or extracurricular activities, and general care.

Child Custody Evaluations

In some situations, the Court may order a child custody evaluation to help resolve a custody dispute. If ordered, the court can appoint an evaluator, or the parents can choose a private evaluator.

In either situation, both parties are responsible for the cost of the evaluator. The evaluator’s role is not to treat patients, but to provide an objective evaluation with informed opinions to help the Court determine the most appropriate custody outcome. The evaluator will conduct an investigation and interviews to decide which parent can provide the best situation for their children.

Evaluators weigh several factors to make their decision, including reviewing interactions between parents and their children, if the parents allow contact or visits with the other parent, and how the children behave in front of each parent.

Spoiling a child will not get you extra points!  Once the evaluator has completed their investigation, they will submit their opinion to the Court for consideration.

An Attorney for the Child

In addition to a child custody evaluation, or in place of an evaluation, the Court may appoint an attorney for the child, referred to as Minor’s Counsel.

The role of Minor’s Counsel is to protect and advocate for the child’s best interest. As with the evaluator, both parties share in the cost of the child’s attorney. While the Minor’s Counsel generally has wide discretion in their investigation, it often involves multiple interviews with the children, and sometimes the parents.

Upon conclusion of their findings, Minor’s Counsel will present their recommendation and the children’s wishes to the Court for consideration when creating orders.

Following Court Orders

Parents who fail to follow court orders can be in contempt of the Court, resulting in fines or worse.

Parents of children who refuse to visit the other parent according to their visitation orders can also be held in contempt and face financial fines or even jail.

However, the success of contempt charges depends on several factors, including the child’s age and the concept of parental control. If your children are refusing to see their other parent, it is imperative you contact a family law attorney as soon as possible.

An experienced attorney can listen to your situation, advise the proper course of action to protect parental rights, and against contempt charges.

The Best Outcome

Even if you and your spouse cannot get along, it is better if you are able to create a parenting plan with the help of your attorneys.

The focus of any agreement should always be protecting the best interest of your children.

Consistent, cordial communication with your co-parent can help you and your children transition to the new family dynamic.

Additionally, discussing decisions surrounding the children’s health, safety, and welfare together can help avoid the stress of costly court appearances. In the event an agreement can’t be reached, an experienced family law attorney can help you protect your children and your parental rights.

The post Guidelines The Court Uses To Determine Child Support, Custody, And Visitation appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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Visitation With The Non-Custodial Parent

10 Tips To Help Your Child Enjoy Summer Visitation With The Non-Custodial Parent

By Dr. Linda Mintle for Kids & Divorce

Visitation With The Non-Custodial Parent

 

Summer visitation and holidays with a non-custodial parent can be a time of challenge for children of divorce. It may be unsettling for a child to vacation with a non-custodial parent. From the child’s point of view, he/she will be in strange places, with strange people, with a parent less familiar with daily habits and needs. This may create some fear and anxiety about the vacation time.

So if you are a non-custodial parent planning a vacation with your child, or you have custody and are wondering how to prepare your child to be with the non-custodial parent, here are some suggestions to make your child feel more comfortable.

10 Tips To Help Your Child Enjoy Summer Visitation With The Non-Custodial Parent

1. You and the non-custodial parent make vacation plans for your child together. As incredible as this sounds, it will be easier on your child if you both work together. Arrangements should be made in advance and agreed upon.

2. The itinerary for the trip must be shared. The custodial parent needs to know where the child will be–phone numbers and addresses. I know some non-custodial parents resist this idea but in case of an emergency, the custodial parent needs to know how to find his/her child.

3. Send copies of important medical information on the trip. The non-custodial parent needs to know how to handle a medical emergency or problem and have the pediatrician’s phone number, insurance information, and medical records.

4. Be careful not to put guilt on your child. Your child should never be made to feel guilty because he/she is going on vacation with the other parent.

5. Work out any disagreements about the vacation away from the child before the vacation. Don’t put your child in the middle of disagreements between you and your ex.

6. Plan for separation anxiety. Send a photo with your child. Include his/her favorite blanket, pillow, animal or toy. Discuss ways to communicate–email, telephone, postcards or letters.

7. Be positive about the vacation. Talk nicely about the non-custodial parent and help your child anticipate a great time.

8. Normalize fears and anxiety. Tell your child it’s normal to feel a little anxious. Hopefully, that anxiety will fade as the trip progresses.

9. Send a camera and smile at the time of pick-up. Now is not the time to bring up unresolved issues with your ex.

10. Pray. Keep the non-custodial parent and the vacation on your prayer list. Pray for protection and positive interactions between parent and child.

“Originally posted by Linda Ranson Jacobs on the Kids & Divorce blog at, blog.dc4k.org  Copyright © 2013, DivorceCare for Kids. Used by permission.”

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