Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Advice from a Judge about divorce and children


Profound Advice From A Judge About How A Few Words Can Hurt Your Child
Parents involved in high conflict divorces are often so emotional that they forget the impact a few harsh words can have on their child.  We hear parents daily in the courts saying terrible things about the other parent; it is often reported that, for example, a mother says to her child, “Your father is an idiot,” or a father says, “Your mother is a fool.”  Those few words, while said about a child’s parent, are also a direct criticism of the child.  Lawyers, judges, therapists and child advocates tell parents not to make such statements to their child or within hearing of their child, but no one has explained why better than in the following advice from retired Minnesota Judge, Michael Hass.
Judge Haas retired in December 2002 after 26 years of service as a Judge in Cass County, Minnesota. Below are his remarks from a particularly difficult divorce case.
“Your children have come into this world because of the two of you. Perhaps you two made lousy choices as to whom you decided to be the other parent. If so, that is YOUR problem and YOUR fault.
“No matter what you think of the other party – or what your family thinks of the other party – these children are one-half of each of you. Remember that, because every time you tell your child what an ‘idiot’ his father is, or what a ‘fool’ his mother is, or how bad the absent parent is, or what terrible things that person has done, you are telling the child half of HIM is bad.
“That is an unforgivable thing to do to a child. That is not love! That is possession. If you do that to your children, you will destroy them as surely as if you had cut them into pieces, because that is what you are doing to their emotions.
“I sincerely hope that you do not do that to your children. Think more about your children and less about yourselves, and make yours a selfless kind of love, not foolish or selfish, or your children will suffer.”
Judge Hass’ words are well known in the family law community.  Judge Haas’ advice is so well regarded that his words of wisdom have been referenced in multiple appellate court decisions, law review articles and other legal publications.
Hopefully parents remember these profound words as they consider how to proceed with what no doubt is a very difficult time in their and their child’s lives.



Wednesday, May 30, 2018

You need a mediator to have a "mediation" be valid

The case below reflects that you must have a mediator present to have a real mediation.
Kitchen table agreements between the parties do not count as a mediation.




158 S.W.3d 612 (2005)

James Franklin LEE, Appellant,
v.
Jane Clarius LEE, Appellee.

No. 2-03-359-CV.
Court of Appeals of Texas, Fort Worth.
February 10, 2005.
McClure Duffee & Eitzen LLP, Clint Westhoff, Dallas, for Appellant.
Harris Cook, L.L.P., Chris Harris and David Lee Cook, Arlington, for Appellee.
Panel A: CAYCE, C.J.; DAUPHINOT and GARDNER, JJ.

OPINION

LEE ANN DAUPHINOT, Justice.
The issue before this court is whether a mediated settlement agreement requires mediation. We hold that it does.
Appellee Jane Clarius Lee retained an attorney, and, on May 15, 2003, filed a petition for divorce from her husband, Appellant James Franklin Lee ("Jim"). On June 1, 2003, Jane and Jim met in Jane's home to discuss settling the case. No one else was present at this meeting. They negotiated an agreement. The first page of the agreement was prepared by Jane's attorney. Jim typed the remaining pages. The agreement, entitled "Binding Settlement Agreement," contains the following language on the first page: "PURSUANT TO SECTION 6.602 OF THE TEXAS FAMILY CODE, THIS AGREEMENT IN [SIC] NOT SUBJECT TO REVOCATION." Jim and Jane both signed the agreement. Jim was not represented by an attorney at the time he signed the agreement. Before the rendition of divorce and the property division, Jim revoked or attempted to revoke his consent to the agreement, but the trial court found *613 that the signed agreement between the parties "is ... not subject to revocation." Similarly, on November 13, 2003, the trial court entered the following conclusion of law: "The Agreement meets the requirements of Texas Family Code section 6.602(b) and is therefore not subject to revocation."
In Jim's first issue, he questions whether the written agreement can be a mediated settlement agreement when there was no mediator. Section 6.602(b) and (c) provide:
(b) A mediated settlement agreement is binding on the parties if the agreement:
(1) provides, in a prominently displayed statement that is in boldfaced type or capital letters or underlined, that the agreement is not subject to revocation;
(2) is signed by each party to the agreement; and
(3) is signed by the party's attorney, if any, who is present at the time the agreement is signed.
(c) If a mediated settlement agreement meets the requirements of this section, a party is entitled to judgment on the mediated settlement agreement notwithstanding Rule 11, Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, or another rule of law.[1]
As Jane points out, neither mediated settlement agreement nor mediated is defined in section 6.602. As this court has already held when construing another part of this statute,
In construing a statute, our objective is to determine and give effect to the legislature's intent. When terms are not defined in a statute, we apply their ordinary meaning. We also presume that the legislature intended a just and reasonable result in enacting a statute. A court will not construe a statute in a manner that will lead to a foolish or absurd result when another alternative is available.[2]
The first definition for mediation in Webster's Third New International Dictionary is "intervention between conflicting parties or viewpoints to promote reconciliation, settlement, compromise, or understanding."[3] Similarly, mediation is defined in Black's Law Dictionary as "[a] method of nonbinding dispute resolution involving a neutral third party who tries to help the disputing parties reach a mutually agreeable solution."[4]
Jane argues that the purpose of a neutral third party's presence is to facilitate communication and that when a neutral third party's presence is not necessary to facilitate communication, the parties can agree to reconcile their differences, voluntarily invoke section 6.602, and reach a mediated settlement agreement without a mediator.
Given that section 7.006(a) of the Texas Family Code, which has been in force for many years, already allows divorcing parties to enter into written agreements without requiring mediation concerning the division of the community assets and liabilities as well as spousal maintenance,[5] we decline to carve a common-law exception into section 6.602(b) that allows an *614 unmediated settlement agreement to morph into a mediated settlement agreement based on mere form.[6] We hold that a mediated settlement agreement necessarily requires mediation and a mediator.
Because there was no third party present at the settlement conference between Jim and Jane, there was no mediated settlement agreement. Instead, the couple's agreement is simply an agreement under section 7.006(a).[7] Such agreements may be revised or repudiated before the divorce is rendered unless the agreement is binding under another rule of law.[8] The trial court abused its discretion in preventing Jim from revoking his consent to the settlement on the basis that the agreement was a binding mediated settlement agreement. We therefore sustain Jim's first issue. Because of our disposition of this issue, we do not reach Jim's second issue challenging the legal sufficiency of the evidence to support the trial court's finding that he and Jane intended their agreement to comply with section 6.602(b) and that they voluntarily agreed to invoke section 6.602(b).
We affirm the divorce but remand this case to the trial court for trial on all remaining issues.

Consent to treatment of a child by non-parent of the child

Section 32 of the Texas Family Code addresses how and who may consent to medical, dental, psychological and surgical treatment of a child by someone NOT a parent to the child.

Section 32.002 covers the Consent form and what is required in Texas.


Emancipation in Texas

Removal of disabilities is what emancipation is called in Texas.

You must be 16 or 17 to even apply for it. AND judges usually won't grant it unless you are able to 100% support yourself without anyone else's assistance.

I find that most attorneys won't help a minor seek emancipation without at least $5,000 on account plus all fees (filing fee is approx. $300) since it is not easy and there is a lot of work to be done to prove that a child is able to 100% support themselves without help from anyone. I find that only athletes and entertainers qualify - they need to be able to sign endorsement contracts. I don't see the regular teenager convince a judge to sign unless both parents agree to this lawsuit. And normally you still need a good reason for a judge to make you an adult.

Chapter 31 of the Texas Family Code covers "Removal of Disabilities of Minority". 

It goes into detail under Section 31.002 of the minimum required info that the Petition must contain.

Section 31.004 requires the judge to appoint an amicus attorney or attorney ad litem to represent the interests of the petitioner (the child) at the hearing. You pay for this attorney and it normally costs at least $750 and can go up to $5,000 depending on their hourly rate and how much work they have to do.

Even if you are emancipated no one HAS to lease to you or sell you a car with a note. You probably won't have any credit established in your name if you are 16 or 17. Therefore, most companies won't extend you a line of credit or lease to you until you have a credit score.

Emancipating is not "magical".

Current Texas law on getting married

The Texas legislature changed the law effective September 1, 2017.

It's Section 2.101 of the Texas Family code and it's on-line for free.

It states:
The county clerk may not issue a marriage license if either applicant is under 18 years of age, unless each underage applicant shows that the applicant has been granted by this state or another state a court order removing the disabilities of minority of the applicant for general purposes.

Removal of disabilities is what emancipation is called in Texas. You must be 16 or 17 to even apply for it. AND judges usually won't grant it unless you are able to 100% support yourself without anyone else's assistance.

I find that most attorneys won't help a minor seek emancipation without at least $5,000 on account since it is not easy and there is a lot of work to be done to prove that a child is able to 100% support themselves without help from anyone. I find that only athletes and entertainers qualify - they need to be able to sign endorsement contracts. I don't see the regular teen-ager convince a judge to sign unless both parents agree to this lawsuit.

Chapter 31 of the Texas Family Code covers "Removal of Disabilities of Minority".  It goes into detail under Section 31.002 of the minimum required info that the Petition must contain.

Section 31.004 requires the judge to appoint an amicus attorney or attorney ad litem to represent the interests of the petitioner (the child) at the hearing. You pay for this attorney and it normally costs at least $750 and can go up to $5,000 depending on their hourly rate and how much work they have to do.

If a judge signs the removal of disability paperwork then you take it to the county clerk who issues marriage licenses.

You will need a certified copy of the judge's court order. Generally a certified copy is approx. $1 per page. Clerks accept credit cards and cash. No checks.


So even with a parent's approval you cannot marry until you are 18.


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Popular amicus attorneys in Harris County


Here is a partial list of amicus attorneys used in Harris County:

Joe Indelicato

Leo Farias

Geric Tipsword 

Rogers Beaudreaux

Israel Saldivar, Jr.

Dara Percely

Rock Pilgrim 

Marsha Reed

Patricia Bushman

Allyson Brubacher

Rose Cardenas

Myrna Gregory

Gina Gilstrap

Karleana Farias

Rogers Boudreaux

Holli Palmer

Lori Laird

Itze Soliz

Allison Travers Hamilton 

Claudia Canalas

Gigi Hedelten Oglesby

Jetty Abraham





Thursday, April 19, 2018

Best professional photographer in Houston!

I HIGHLY RECOMMEND BARFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY IN HOUSTON

REASONABLE PRICES & WONDERFUL TO WORK WITH

TELL HER FRAN SENT YOU!



ADDRESS

Nestled in the quiet district of Spring Branch/ Memorial area, you will find our scenic studio. 
Barfield Photography
1312 Woodvine, Houston, TX 77055 
P: 713.688.0148

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

POST DIVORCE CHECK LIST


POST DIVORCE CHECK LIST
  1. Obtain a Certified Copy of Your Divorce Decree.
    This can be obtained from your attorney or from the county clerk at the courthouse.
    Make a copy of it in color so you have two. One to use and one to keep at home for back up.

  2. Keep Your Marriage License.
    You may need it in the future for social security or other needs in the future.
  3. Complete the QDRO Process.
    This is important to do sooner rather than later!
  4. Complete the IRA or Other Investment Transfer Process.
    To receive any IRA or other non ERISA assets from your ex-spouse you must follow the investment firms’ rules. Call the firm for more information. This may require your ex- spouses signature.
  5. Change Your Beneficiaries.
    Do this on assets you owned during the marriage and still retain (your own life insurance policies, annuities, 401k/403b or IRA, etc.)
  6. Please Run a Credit Report on Yourself.
  7. Remove Your Ex-Spouses Name from Accounts
    Go through your accounts and be sure to adjust the registrations. Pay special attention to any accounts that will be reporting to credit bureaus and any financial accounts. Re-title any vehicles in your name alone.
  8. Establish Your Own Financial Identity
    If you haven’t already, get a credit card in your name as well as a checking and savings account. Start building your individual credit as soon as possible. Use the credit card but pay it off each month.
  9. Notify All Insurance Policies
    Be sure to review the beneficiaries on any policies and make sure that your ex-spouse’s name is removed. Visit with your agent to be sure that you have all the coverage you need and that you understand all details of your policies. If you’re going to be using COBRA health coverage through your ex-spouse’s employer, contact your insurer to find out to set it up
10. Get Organized
If you’ve never had one, create a filing system for all of your important financial documents as well as any statements that need to be retained for tax information.
11. Create a Budget
You’re embarking on a new life with a whole new set of finances. Sit down and create a budget. If this is too overwhelming, ask your financial advisor for help.
12. Write a New Will
Everything has changed. Be sure that your new wishes are clear so that there is no confusion.
13. Educate Yourself
You don't want to jump into major financial decisions before getting your bearings and making sure you fully understand the landscape. Many people find themselves in a situation where they are responsible for financial tasks that they never had to perform in their marriage. Take time to educate yourself and understand your financial options. Seek out a financial expert who can help you grasp a better understanding of your money matters.
14. Notify your Employer
Your employer may need to change company records, health or life insurance plans, and update accounts regarding retirement or 401-K programs. You also need to fill out a new W-4 with your new tax filing status.
15. Revoke any Powers of Attorney
If you have given your former spouse a power of attorney you should ensure that it is revoked in writing.

16. For Women, Change your Name with Social Security Administration.
Your social security number will not change. 
17. For Women, Change your Name with the DMV (Driver’s License).
You can also change the name on your Texas DMV vehicle title and change your voter registration name at the DMV. 
18. For Women, Change your Name on Your Passport.
This can typically be done via mail. 

Monday, April 9, 2018

Association for Conflict Resolution - Houston Chapter 2018 Lifetime Achievement Dinner


The Association for Conflict Resolution Houston Chapter
invites you to the

Lifetime Achievement Dinner
recognizing pioneers of the professional mediation community in Houston

ON SUNDAY, APRIL 29, 2018
W
INE RECEPTION AND NETWORKING: 5:00 PM

DINNER: 6:00 PM UNTIL 9:00 PM

JUNIOR LEAGUE OF HOUSTON
1811 BRIAR OAKS LANE HOUSTON, TX 77027

The Association for Conflict Resolution Houston Chapter, a 501(c)3, is the local branch of the worldwide international organization for mediators, arbitrators, negotiators, and facilitators. 

This evening will be a celebration of mediation, a silent auction, and an opportunity to win a grand door prize. 

Ticket Prices: Special Early Reservation Price until April 15, 2018: $100
Regular Reservation Price: $125

Sponsors welcome:
Table for 10 and Event Website Recognition: $1,000 General Supporter and Event Website Recognition: $500

Attire is cocktail dress

For reservations go to:
Lifetime Achievement Dinner Registration Link 


http://www.acrhouston.org

DO NOT POST COMMENTS & EXPECT ME TO ANSWER !!

Please call me or email if you have a question.

People post personal info under "comments" and I cannot reply! 

This is very frustrating to me BUT this blog site forces me to (1) delete or (2) post.  

If you need to contact me then:

fran@familylaw4u.com

phone - 713-805-9591 
(between hours of 10 am - 7 pm ONLY 7 days a week)

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Am I married?

Austin Texas has a governmental agency that tracks life events such as marriages, divorces, births, and deaths.

It's the Bureau of Vital Statistics.

If you want to know if you are married, that is where I'd start.

CPS Attorneys

Here is a partial list of attorneys that say they do CPS cases.

I know most of them. I would call any of them for a consultation if I had a CPS case.

Remember - if CPS contacts you, IMMEDIATELY hire a CPS attorney to help and guide you on this difficult and tricky process.

I would want to talk to a CPS attorney BEFORE meeting with CPS.

Bobbie Young

Rocky LeAnn Pilgrim

Dennis Slate

George Clevenger

Julie Brock

Jetty Abraham

Eric McFerrin

Les Shireman

Beth Arnold Trostad

Barbara Rice Stadler

Hillary Unger

Allette Williams

Thao Tran

Gigi Oglesby

Susan Solis


Or check out www.avvo.com - best FREE website to locate attorneys in your area.

Unmarried pregnant women

If you are not married and you are pregnant, PLEASE call a family law attorney in your county to talk about your options.

It is so distressing when a woman that just gave birth calls and regrets the decisions she made at the hospital regarding the child's birth certificate.

I am especially upset when the new mom admits dad has drug, alcohol, mental illness or anger management issues. Or, his family members (normally paternal grandmother) is trying to control the entire situation.

If you sign up for any governmental assistance such as Medicaid, food stamps, WIC, etc. you need to read ALL THE FINE PRINT. You are allowing the State of Texas Attorney General's office to file a lawsuit against the bio. dad asking for reimbursement on behalf of Texas taxpayers!

You have no say in this matter once you access free or discounted services provided by the federal or state government.

It's like a snow ball rolling down hill, once it starts you just cannot stop it and it gets bigger and bigger.

If you don't want the Attorney General office involved, then don't access any free services.

I also usually suggest that mom not put bio dad's name on birth certificate or give the child the bio dad's last name. 

If dad wants to be involved, make him file a Paternity action and ask a judge to give him parental rights and for the child to have his last name.

If you do it, it's almost impossible to reverse. And, then it's going to cost you thousands of dollars in legal and court costs to try to get a judge to agree with you -- which many judges won't do so you wasted all your time and money.

Of course, only unhappy people call a lawyer. People that are getting along never call me so I recognize that I have a possibly unrealistic view of unmarried young people.

In summary, talk to a lawyer NOW and not later.

Can someone under 18 get married in Texas?



Can a teen-ager get married in Texas?


There is a new Texas law effective September, 2017 that anyone under the age of 18 cannot marry. 

The only exception is a judge can emancipate the teen-ager (between the ages of 16-18) and then the newly emancipated person can marry. 

No longer can parents just sign and agree to the marriage - that is now GONE. 

If you are unhappy, contact your Texas legislature since they changed the law effective September 2017. 

If enough people complain, then the legislature can re-visit this law when they meet again in 2019. 

Emancipation is not cheap or easy. It will definitely depend on the judge. Some judges won't do it. Of course, what makes it truly difficult is that the teen-ager needs to be financially self reliant. I don't know of any 16 year olds that support themselves 100%. 

But the law is new so perhaps judges will be more lenient if they know that the child intends to marry as soon as they are emancipated. 

Lots of parents and teens post regarding this question and I hope this explains it clearly and simply. 

It's the current law and we are struck with it until the legislature changes the law.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

7 Tips to Transform Disagreements for 2018

Below is an article that originally appeared in an ACR publication written by Kate Stewart. 

Enjoy!


Because we are friends or colleagues, I am taking the liberty of sending you this educational newsletter. To continue to receive the monthly Iron Scaffold newsletter, do nothing. Feel free to unsubscribe.
Wishing you all the best!                  Kate Stewart, PhD
7 Tips to Transform Disagreements Into Opportunities in 2018
Most of us prefer to avoid thinking about conflict. But avoiding won’t make it go away.

冲突
The Chinese symbol for conflict means danger + opportunity. Conflict can be an unpleasant threat…or it can provide unexpected benefits. It’s really up to you.

Since you will inevitably face disagreements in the workplace and in your personal relationships, here are some tips for making 2018 one of your best years yet.

1.  Manage your reaction. Conflict can bring out the worst in us. Anger, surprise, and hurt can trigger knee-jerk reactions we regret. They may feel good in the moment but rarely do emotional responses get us the best outcome.

Want better results? Take a pause. Count to 10…or 100, vent the steam with physical exertion (sports, hard work, punching a pillow), or meditate. Do what it takes to gain perspective and commit to making the situation work for you instead of controlling you.
 
2.   Examine your stories. Think you understand the situation? Think again. We create meaning based on our histories and mental templates. Those are different for every one of us. Your counterpart’s story about the event is different from yours…but very true to him or her. These conflicting stories (explanations) are the primary cause of conflict.

What is your story about the situation? What labels are you putting on it and on the participants? Is it possible there may be other explanations? Can you suspend your stories long enough to get more information? It may change your perspective…and improve your options.

3.  Ask questions. Asking questions often reveals information that challenges our assumptions. Answers we hear can expand our range of possible solutions. As a bonus, asking questions (not those dreadful leading questions, but questions asked in a genuine effort to learn and understand) softens others’ resistance, improving their ability to work with you to find a good solution.

Start with open-ended questions – those that produce narrative, not a yes or noanswer. Contrary to what you may think, asking questions doesn’t reduce your power or leverage. Instead, the information you gain increases your power.

4.   Listen strategically.  Your counterpart may be angry, may offer insults or complaints, or may strongly voice a position. Strategic listeners notice the emotion but don’t let it trigger their own emotional response. Instead, they focus on listening for new information, underlying interests, and opportunities to build bridges and weaken walls.  Repeat what you hear and ask if you have it right. Ask clarifying questions. Be curious.

5.  Move from positions to interests. Think of two boxers. As one attacks, the other responds with equal or greater force. The dance continues until one overpowers the other or they reach a draw.

Trying to win at the positional level is just like that. The more you argue your position, the more entrenched your counterpart becomes. Think you’re going to reach a mutually beneficial outcome? Not likely.

Instead, listen for the interests under their position. Simon Sinek’s popular 2014 TED Talk encourages us to start with Why, not What. Try asking Why to soften the entrenchment and learn the underlying motivation. “Help me understand why getting a raise is important to you.” “I hear you saying that you’re unhappy with the relationship as it is now. Please explain why you would like it to change.” Make sure your tone shows a genuine desire to understand. It often helps to disclose your own Why.

Don’t move to How until you fully understand Why. When you do, invite your counterpart to join you in brainstorming solutions that address their interests and yours, too. This technique reframes a lose-lose, positional argument into something much more useful - a joint problem-solving process.

6. Don’t settle for compromise. All our lives we’ve heard that compromise should be our goal. Frankly, compromise is an uninspired solution that rarely represents the best outcome for either side. Taking the time to explore underlying interests (see #5) ‘expands the pie’, allowing new, creative solutions to emerge that better meet the needs of everyone involved. Compromise is the best outcome only when (a) the pie has been expanded as much as possible, and (b) you are negotiating the division of a limited resource (e.g., money, time).

7.  Get help.  Sometimes we find ourselves unable to manage our emotions long enough to get the best outcome. Accept that. You’re human. Even the best negotiators and mediators sometimes get triggered. If you question your ability to manage conflict well and you care about the outcome, consider engaging a third-party neutral. It could be a person trusted by all participants. If such a person isn’t available, consider engaging a professional mediator.
Few of us enjoy disagreement, and none of us can avoid it forever. Those who accept conflict as inevitable and manageable can minimize its disruption and even enjoy benefits they never expected.

Wishing you a happy and prosperous 2018! 
Providing Organizations and Individuals with:

Training - Negotiation Skills,
    Collaboration Skills,
    Conflict Management Skills
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Workplace Mediation
Team Performance Improvement
Succession Planning
Outsourced Ombuds Service
Coaching
Facilitation
Organizational Dispute Resolution System Design
 Kate Stewart, PhD, MBA
 Certified Mediator

                             

     

Article for 2018 on family law from Texas Lawyer Magazine

Now is the time for family lawyers and their clients to begin preparing for several revisions to the Texas Family Code that are set to take effect in 2018. The biggest, most-scrutinized change involves how courts will handle child support, which is almost always a big point of contention.
In nearly every family law case, the noncustodial parent, or “obligor,” feels like they are paying too much child support, while the custodial parent, or “obligee,” believes they are not receiving a sufficient amount to raise their child.
In Texas, outside of an agreement otherwise, Chapter 154 of the Texas Family Code (TFC) governs the amount of child support that the nonprimary must pay the custodial parent each month.
To determine the monthly payment, barring any special needs or other extenuating circumstances involving the child, the code requires that the court first calculate the noncustodial parent’s monthly net resources (monthly income after taxes).
Based on that amount and number of children, a certain percentage is deducted from the obligor’s monthly net resources and paid to the custodial parent. The percentage varies depending on the number of children, with a deduction ceiling of 40 percent for all cases involving five or more children.
The code also requires the court to order the noncustodial parent to provide medical coverage for the child at a reasonable cost (TFC Section 154.181). The cost of the child’s health insurance premium is deducted from the obligor’s monthly net income to determine the monthly net resources discussed above.

Significant 2018 Changes

Effective Sept. 1, 2018, the TFC will require courts to begin ordering obligors to also cover their child’s dental insurance at a reasonable cost in addition to health insurance. The dental premium cost will be deducted from the obligor’s monthly net resources for child support calculation purposes in the exact same manner as health insurance premium costs.
The biggest change taking effect on the same date is the court’s ability to modify child support when the parents reach an agreement on a payment amount that does not follow TFC guidelines.
Currently, TFC Section 154.401 holds that no matter if an agreement has been reached on an amount that deviates from the guidelines, the court can modify a child support order under three scenarios:
• The circumstances of the child or a person affected by the order have materially and substantially changed since the original order.
• The parties have reached a mediated or collaborative law settlement agreement.
• Within three years of the original order being rendered or last modified, the monthly amount of child support under the order differs either 20 percent or $100 from the amount that would be awarded in accordance with the TFC child support guidelines.
Once the new rules take effect next September, if divorcing parties agree to an order under which the amount of child support differs from what would have been awarded in accordance with TFC guidelines, then the court may modify the order only if the circumstances of the child or person affected by the order have materially and substantially changed since the date the order was rendered.

Statewide Impact

Plain and simple, this change will affect family law cases and child support payments statewide. By restricting the ability of courts to modify child support to a material and substantial change only, custodial parents who agree to deviate from TFC guidelines, absent a proven material and substantial change to current circumstances, will not have the luxury of simply waiting three years and hoping for an increase in the obligor’s monthly net resources.
Since it is very common for an individual’s employment experience to increase over a three-year span and, in turn, create a spike in income, this change precludes the custodial parent from simply presenting those facts to modify support.
Custodial parents who utilize the services of the attorney general in a Title IV-D family case are not restricted by the above change to modify support at any time, absent a showing of material and substantial change, if the order does not provide health care coverage or dental care coverage.
Considering that calculating dental care coverage is not required until next September, there likely will be a massive increase in child support modifications in Title IV-D cases once the new rules are implemented.

Looking Ahead

These changes not only will affect potential settlements between parents or conservators, but also the strategies and practices of every family law attorney practicing in the Lone Star State. Texas lawyers will soon have to advise their clients of the possible effects of deviating from TFC guidelines and the significant obstacles to modifying child support in the future.
Another consideration involves the possibility of previously amicable divorcing parties becoming less so due to them being forced to adhere to the new guidelines, which could create an increase in docket congestion and the amount of tax dollars spent by each county.
The final impact of these new rules will not be truly realized until after they’re implemented, but it is crucial for all family lawyers to know the details prior to Sept. 1, 2018.

This article was written by - Family law attorney Kris Balekian Hayes is the founder and president of Dallas-based Balekian Hayes. She has represented clients in Texas, Georgia and Oklahoma in all areas of family law, including contested divorces, child possession and child support disputes, and mediation proceedings. She can be reached at kris@bh-pllc.com.