Changing a Texas child custody order

The best interests of the children are considered when courts rule on custody matters. These interests could change as they grow older and as the parents’ living circumstances change, so the child custody order may be modified. Texas parents may request modifications in a suit to modify the parent-child relationship.

To begin a suit, the parent seeking the modification needs to file a petition which is filed with the county clerk’s office where the original child custody order was issued. If the child has lived in a new county for a minimum of six months, the petitioner may request that the case be transferred to the new county.

After filing the petition, the petitioner needs to have any other parties involved in the original child custody order sign a citation waiver before a notary or file a response voluntarily. Otherwise, the other parties may receive a citation service from a process server. The Attorney General’s Office also needs to be notified if it was involved in the original case or if anyone involved is receiving or has used Medicaid, TANF or food stamps on behalf of the child.

If the parties approve the modification, an order is prepared for them and a judge to sign in a hearing that is scheduled through the county clerk’s office. If the modification is contested, the petitioner has to assure the court that the changes are in the best interest of the child and that either there have been significant changes to a party’s circumstances, the child is 12 or older and wants to reside with the other parent, or the custodial parent has permitted primary custody with another person for a minimum six months. A child custody modification could be requested if the custodial parent moves with the child, making the noncustodial parent travel across states for visits. The noncustodial parent may request a modification with the help of a lawyer.

Are wages withheld for child support?

In Texas, child support is always withheld from the paying parent’s salary, sent to the local child support enforcement agency and then turned over to the custodial parent. The state uses a mathematical formula to compute child support awards. First, the net income is determined by subtracting taxes, insurance premiums and union dues from gross income. The amount of support is calculated by multiplying the net income by a percentage determined by the number of children the parent is supporting. The formula is straightforward, but it can be made complicated if parties are self-employed or unemployed, or if children have long-term medical needs. In Texas, the code requires the parent to pay child support until the child turns 18.

The Texas Family Code determines the maximum amount that can be legally withheld from an employee’s earnings for support. The law places no limit on the amount withheld from earnings for dependent health insurance. After this has been deducted, the remaining earnings are considered “disposable earnings,” and an employer may withhold as much as 50 percent of disposable earnings for child support. A paying parent is required to pay child support even if visitation rights are denied.

The dissolution of a marriage is an emotionally-charged event that sometimes makes it difficult for the parties involved to make clear-headed decisions. Clients turn to their attorneys to interpret the law in order sort out financial responsibilities in a way that considers the best interest of the children.

When making financial decisions in a divorce, attorneys can advise clients about the dissolution of shared accounts, property division, asset valuation, and other practical issues. Family law attorneys can also be helpful in negotiating comprehensive settlement agreements on behalf of their clients.