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Child custody is often the most difficult and hard fought of any part of a divorce. Frequently, both parents believe that they should be the parent with the right to establish the primary residence of the children, and have facts that support their respective assertion. So, what happens? If the case is not resolved through negotiations or mediation, the case will be tried, leaving the decision up to a Judge or jury to decide.
What child custody issues have to be decided in the context of a divorce?
1. Conservatorship - In Texas, it is presumed it is in the best interest of the children for the parents to be named joint managing conservators (JMC). As JMCs, the parents will share in the decisions affecting their kids’ lives, such as education, medical, psychological and religious upbringing. However, just because you are named JMCs does not mean that you have equal time with the kids.
2. Possession and Access – People are often confused to learn that being named JMCs does not mean equal time with their children. It is becoming more common for parents to share in a 50/50 possession schedule, but it is not the norm. Most often, the “non-primary” parent will have possession and access in accordance with the Standard Possession Order (SPO) as defined in the Texas Family Code - either as expanded or standard. The SPO gives the non-primary conservator the “right” not obligation to visit the children on the first, third and fifth weekends of the month, as well as Thursday evening during the school year. The SPO also has provisions that address holiday schedules.
3. Child Support – This is the payment made by the non-primary conservator to the primary conservator monthly for the financial support of the child. Often, child support will be paid in a 50/50 situation as an equalization payment where one conservator has substantially more income than the other. The amount of child support to be paid depends on the number of children and if the payer has any other children which he/she supports who are under the age of 18 and have graduated from high school.
4. Health Insurance – Frequently, the person paying child support also pays for the children’s health insurance.
5. Extra-curricular Activities – The fight over who is responsible for paying extra-curricular activities has increased. It is common for one party to not want to pay for any part of the activity when they have not been involved in the decision of participation. Also, some parents do not wish to allow the kids to attend the activity when the parent did not approve of the involvement.
There are a multitude of other decisions that must be made by the litigants or the court in a child custody matter, but the five areas above are the most heavily litigated.
Hammerle Finley Law Firm's family law attorneys average more than 35 years of experience and can help you through this difficult process and provide sound advice on these and other matters. Call us to find out how they can help you.
Hammerle Finley Law Firm has represented clients for more than 35 years inside and outside the courtroom. We provide effective, strategic, and cost-effective legal counsel so that our clients can focus on what matters most to them.
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