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Fort Worth, Texas Divorce Law Blog

Financial hardship could justify a child support modification

An existing court order for child support is not necessarily set in stone. A Texas parent experiencing a problem that alters the ability to earn income could request a change in the amount of payments. The court might approve a modification when informed of job losses, medical problems or other financial setbacks.

Until a court approves a modification, the original court order will be in effect, and the parent will remain responsible for those payments. Unpaid child support cannot be discharged in a bankruptcy. This means that a parent with money woes should take action to adjust payments as soon as possible.

Parents can collaborate on a custody agreement

Divorce can be a time of very high emotions and tensions, and for many Texas couples with children, the animosity can extend to custody and support. However, parents do have options for resolving custody issues together, without ending up in a drawn-out, potentially expensive, and often more hurtful courtroom battle.

One option parents have is to hold informal negotiations about child custody. These can be done by the parents themselves or with the help of their lawyers. The result of these informal negotiations should be a written document that sets forth the agreement the parents have come to regarding all custody issues. If the parents did the negotiations themselves, they can have their lawyers review the document before it is filed in court for a judge to review. Once this document is approved, it becomes a court order that both parents must abide by.

The possible dangers of custody exchanges

Texas parents who are no longer in a relationship know that their children remain a connection between them. After negotiating custody and support, parents still need to continue navigating the raising of the children. This includes regular exchanges when children go from the physical custody of a parent to another.

While most child custody exchanges are peaceful and routine, tension can arise during these periods, and in some cases, the exchanges can become dangerous or even fatal. Exchanges fall under the protection of visitation rights, which entitle both parents to spend time with their children under their custody agreement. The agreements are made with the best interest of the child in mind.

When is an uncontested divorce the right choice for your family?

Every divorce is different. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for issues regarding child custody, visitation, property division and more. For this reason, Texas couples seeking to end their marriages may look for a better way to divorce other than the traditional, often contentious, contested divorce. For some, an uncontested divorce is the optimal way to end a marriage. 

While not the optimal choice in every situation, an uncontested divorce process could be a positive option for you. Not only could it be an easier, more peaceful way to divorce, it could also provide you more control over the terms of your final divorce order.

Survey shows shift in fathers' attitudes over decades

Texas fathers may spend more time with their children and consider parenting more central to their identity than fathers in previous decades, but they are still not spending as much time on child care as mothers. Almost twice as many fathers as mothers say they do not spend enough time with their children. These were among the findings nationwide of a Pew Research Center survey from 2015.

Almost as many fathers as mothers said being a parent was an important part of their identity, but fathers spent only seven hours weekly on child care compared to fifteen for mothers. However, this was almost three times as much time for fathers compared to 1965. In 1970, almost half of all children lived in a household in which the father was the breadwinner while only about a quarter did in 2015.

Child custody for children of deported parents

Texas parents who are undocumented or who know someone with an undocumented immigration status may already be aware of some lawyers' volunteer efforts to help immigrants with children. Throughout the country, some attorneys and law students are volunteering to help immigrants without documentation to prepare the documents they need to transfer custody of their children to trusted individuals in the event that they are deported.

It is possible to transfer child custody to a relative by filling out selected legal forms. These forms legally appoint people to take over the care of the children if United States Immigrations and Customs Enforcement were to detain and deport the parents.

The financial aspects of blended families

Texas family structures are adjusting to new lifestyles and socioeconomic trends. The concept of the nuclear family is giving way to blended families formed by new dynamics of marriage, divorce and remarriage. Blended families feature stepparents, stepchildren and step-siblings due to circumstances such as divorce and custody agreements.

These arrangements may pose certain challenges, but there is no reason to believe that they will not work. Being too spontaneous and throwing caution to the wind are not attitudes conducive to harmony for blended families. Planning is of the essence, and future spouses should not only think about each other but also about their children, their assets and their potential financial situations.

Reasons both parents should share custody of their children

Texas parents who are ending their marriage may not be aware that multiple research studies show that children who have both parents in their lives following a divorce have, on average, better lives than those who only have one parent who has sole custody. Even so, census data reveals that U.S. courts award primary physical custody to the mother in approximately 80 percent of the cases. As such, fathers should continue to fight for joint custody.

Shared parenting, or a flexible parenting schedule where parents spent as close to equal amounts of time with the children as possible, usually benefits the children most. In fact, most child development experts say that shared parenting should be the norm, even for young children. Likewise, there is evidence that sole custody can have devastating impacts on the children, as 63 percent of teen suicides and 70 percent of juveniles in state-operated institutions were sole custody cases.

Seeking custody of a younger sibling

If Texas parents cannot provide proper care for their children, a family member, such as an older sibling, may attempt to seek custody to keep the children from going into foster care. However, getting custody can be tricky if the children's parents do not want to relinquish custody or if the older sibling is too close in age to the minor child.

In some cases, the children's parents may be aware that they cannot provide adequate care. However, they may not have had a solution to their problem. If they agree to name an older sibling as their children's legal guardian, the custody case may be less complex and far smoother.

Meeting the deductibility requirements for alimony payments

The outcome of a U.S. Tax Court case may impact the way Texas residents approach alimony payments. In order to qualify for an alimony deduction, said the court, money transferred to the ex-spouse must have been due under a legally-enforceable separation or divorce agreement. It is not enough simply to turn over the money.

In the case, an attorney who earned an end-of-year bonus paid almost half of the after-tax amount to his wife. The payment was made during the course of the divorce, before it was finalized. Following the divorce, the attorney filed a tax return claiming an alimony deduction for the portion of the bonus paid to his ex-wife. The Internal Revenue Service challenged the deduction.