Monday, November 17, 2014

Man complaining of being a "pawn" in a child support case

Question: Child's birth is early 2015. I have supported the mother with financial thioughout the separation. I have been told to stay away which I have concurred. She is planning to take me to court and I have to protect myself and the impending relationship with my child. My concern is the welfare of my child and our relationship. I have even suggested that I would remove myself from the equation. However, I will not be used as a pawn as a payee and not a father. 

My reply:

In order to owe child support the baby must be born alive.  

Basically, in Texas you will be paying child support and you be ordered by a judge to carry health insurance for the child if you are determined to be the bio father. You will also be liable for 50% of all uninsured medical bills.  

If the child ever becomes disabled before the age of 18 then you can be ordered to pay support for the child's entire life! It does not end at 18 if the child is unable to ever support himself/herself.  

So your comment about not being "a pawn" won’t work in front of a judge.  They hear this argument on a daily basis when a bio dad does not want to pay child support.   The judges don’t care whether or not you see your kid -- but you will be required to support it. The Texas Legislature has passed laws about both parents supporting their bio children.  

The Texas Family Code is available on-line for free.  Just google it.

Child support comes BEFORE rent, food, clothing, cars, basically everything.  If you have to sleep on a friend's couch to pay child support then judges expect you to do whatever it takes to pay your child support. 

Until the child turn 18, a judge can threaten you with jail.  After 18, you can no longer be jailed but you owe the monetary debt. 

Child support is the debt that never goes away – at 6% interest.  It is not dischargeable at bankruptcy, you can lose your passport, driver’s license and/or any professional license you have obtained.  You can be jailed for 6 months, your credit rating will be ruined, and it will eventually be subtracted from your social security check if you don’t pay it before you retire. The TX A G can intervene in any inheritance you might be entitled to in the future.  Even when the kid turns 18 the debt remains — I’ve had 2 phones this past month involving kids in their 30’s with dads that still owe child support. 

Pretty soon you are paying interest on the 6% interest.  It grows every month.  

The good news is that the TX legislature reduced the interest rate from 12% to 6% because at 12% the amount of money grows quickly. 

So what do I recommend?

1.  Consultation with a family law attorney in your area immediately to discuss the facts of your particular case -- every case is different -- after 25 years of practice I have never had the exact same case two times.  You can call me if you live in the Houston area or a county around Harris County.  I charge $250 per hour for a face-to-face consultation or look on for help.

2.  Do nothing and see what she does.  Be advised that the TX A G or the mother can ask a court to order retro-active child support up to 4 years.  It used to be unlimited so the Texas Legislature does occasionally make pro-father laws.  

If she ever collected any state or federal aide (like insurance or WIC, or food stamps), then the TX A G will come after you.  It will take 2-3 years.  Their forms are horrible and very un-father friendly.  Please don’t set foot in their office without an attorney!  (One guy over paid his child support by $300 a month for 3 years because of a typo -- yes a typo!— his wife knew it all along and just laughed when I caught it — he could not get any money back — too late to fix it.) 

3.  Hire an attorney to file a paternity action (and DNA testing) after the baby is born and set up short frequent visits and address your support obligations.

Ask for joint managing conservatorship with a residency restriction.  Ask for liberal "rights and duties" so make parenting decisions regarding the child.  Don't let Mom have all "independent" rights or she never has to consult with you regarding the child.

4. After you get permanent orders, if Mom won’t or cannot cooperate then you need to have money readily accessible to hire an attorney to file contempt on her.  Judges expect parents to co-parent together.

5.  If you cannot communicate then the judge will order you to communicate through - it's approx. $100 a year for each of you.  The judge can look at your communications & determine how the communications problems are occurring. 

These are the basic options you have available.

I would cut her some slack.  She is pregnant and hormonal.  Be gentle with her since stress can harm the baby.  

Thursday, November 13, 2014

What does custody mean in the State of Texas?

What is custody and co-parenting with other the parent?

Custody is the care and decision-making rights regarding a minor child.  

In Texas we use the term conservator and not guardian of a minor child.  FYI: Guardianship is totally different that conservatorship.  Texas is one of the few states to use this term and many people do not understand it.  If you don't understand then you need to talk in person to a family law attorney so the details can be explained to you full.

In Texas, there are a set of "rights and duties" of a conservator.  These are vital to understand because they impact your decision making ability regarding the minor child.  

Even if parents are "joint managing conservators" it does not mean that child support won't be ordered.  JMC is merely a term in Texas.  It does not mean that the parents will have equal access to the minor child! Visitation is determined in the section of the legal document called "Possession Order".  

In Texas, the non-custodial parent can ask for an Expanded Possession Order for the child and see the child approximately 48% of the time.  It does not mean that child support won't be ordered.  

Co-parenting is a situation in which two unmarried parents essentially share custody of a child.  Each is responsible for equal amounts of responsibility and decision-making concerning a child's upbringing.  The general consensus is that children are at their best when they have an equal relationship with each parent, even when parents are not married or living in the same location.  The law views parenting as both a right and a duty, and in most cases when it is safe for the child, does all it can to allow a child to maintain a relationship with both parents.

Mediation can play a role in settling both custody and co-parenting issues.  When parents prefer to make decisions about their child’s well-being without interference from the court, mediation allows them to discuss the matter at hand and come to a legally binding resolution with less expense and without the invasive nature of taking the issue to court. 

I encourage people to use mediation to resolve their child issues.  For example, in Houston traffic does not move at 6pm on Fridays.  Therefore, I often recommend that the parents exchange at a different time to make the exchange of the child easier on everyone.  Mediation offers a lot of options to parents.  

What is an uncontested divorce n the State of Texas?

What is an uncontested divorce?

An uncontested divorce is an option when both spouses agree to end their marriage and settle the various issues related to the divorce without contention. 

Often, uncontested divorce is used by couples that own no property together and have no children.  

However, even in more complicated cases, if a couple is able to come to an agreement concerning property division, custody, child support, and other financial issues, uncontested divorce can still be an option. 

Though couples in Texas pursuing uncontested divorce do not need individual legal representation, it is smart for them to seek the advice of a divorce attorney before finalizing their arrangement so they fully understand what they are agreeing to do.  

Furthermore, child support and custody issues will need to be approved by a judge in the final legal document that is signed by the judge.  Many judges will sign any other that both parties ask them to do and if both parties have signed the legal document approving their agreements.   Again, this is up to each individual judge in the State of Texas.  No one can force a judge to sign an order.  

A divorce attorney can provide information and guidance concerning what the judge might do in your county.  If a specific matter in an uncontested divorce becomes an issue, mediation can be used to reach a settlement.

If a case is "uncontested" it can save thousands of dollars in legal fees.  For example, the other party does not need to be served by a process server and that easily saves approximately $250.

Each county charges a filing fee to file a divorce.  The cost is usually between $200-$300.  It varies in each county and is determined by the District Clerk's office in each Texas county.  

The Final Decree of Divorce is only one of the documents needed to be submitted to the judge for approval.  Texas requires a Bureau of Vital Statistics form be submitted for any family law matter that is handled by a Texas court.  If there are minor children, then a Employer Wage Withholding order for child support, a medical insurance order to the employer to cover the child on health insurance and perhaps some other forms are required.  Each judge determines what they want submitted in order to sign a Final Decree of Divorce.  Attorneys have no say on in this matter.  

Many judges also require that both parties attend a 4-hour parenting class and submit the proof of attendance.  The cost of these varies.  There are now many sites that offer these classes on-line.  Prices start around $25 - $60.  

I urge people that are divorcing to try to do an uncontested divorce whenever possible.  If there are children involved then you will be co-parenting for the rest of your lives! 

Is there legal separation in the State of Texas?

What is separation in Texas?

There is no official legal separation in the state of Texas.  Couples wishing to legally separate from one another must seek a divorce.  In some instances, attorneys will work with couples to create an informal separation (called temporary orders) that allows them time apart, to seek counseling and restore their marriage.  However, this is not the same as a legal separation available in other states that require a couple to establish financial obligations, custody arrangements, property arrangements, and allocation of employment benefits with their spouse.  Many states acknowledge legal separation in much the same way they do an official divorce, but Texas does not allow for this.

When Texas couples want some form of separation, there are only a limited number of things that attorneys can do to protect each spouse.  Some seek a temporary binding legal document signed by a judge that is commonly known as temporary orders, which is a temporary division of property  and addresses important issues regarding their minor children.   This separates some or all financial affairs for a pre-determined allotment of time while a couple remains married.

What is elder law medaition?

What is elder law mediation?

Elder law mediation offers an out-of-court tool for settling family disputes related to senior family members.  Family disputes related to aging family members might be related to long-term care and guardianship, financial matters and other issues with the family estate, and plans for retirement, benefits, and medical care.  Mediation provides a non-confrontational way by which to settle these disputes. 

Because there are many issues involved in elder law, both practical and emotional, it is often better to resolve conflicts within the family.  Elder law mediation is private and keeps the decision-making control in the hands of the family members.  Mediation is also less expensive and time-consuming than litigation, and makes it easier to preserve family relationships in the long run.  Elder law mediators work with family members to reach a mutually agreed upon resolution that is in the best interest of everyone involved, especially the elderly family member.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

7 legal documents that every adult Texas needs

I advise my friends and family to have the following 7 legal documents for all adults in the State of Texas :

1. Last Will and Testament (even if you have a Living Trust document prepared you still need a "pour over" will that puts everything not already in your trust into your trust.) 

Very simply, a will is a legal document that directs how your property will be distributed after you die. In your will, you designate a person you trust to manage the distribution of your assets when you pass. You can also create a trust in your will for the benefit of your spouse or children. In addition, you can name a guardian for minor children. 

If you do not have a will, the State of Texas legislature -- through a process called intestacy -- has laws to determine how your estate is distributed. (The State does not take your assets but it tells the Judge who will inherit your property.) Moreover, if you have not appointed a guardian for your minor children in your will, that decision may be left to a court. 

Probate in the State of Texas with a valid will is cheap and easy.  Without a will then the judge will make all the decisions regarding your estate and it adds a lot of time and money to the probate process. 

2. Statutory Durable Power of Attorney 

A statutory durable power of attorney allows you to name a person you trust as your agent, to manage your finances if you are no longer capable of managing them yourself. For example, if you become temporarily or permanently disabled. 

Again, if you do not have this in place, the courts could take charge of this and appoint a guardian to make the decisions on your behalf. 

This is a very powerful legal document so you need to be careful who you select to manage your finances.  

3. Medical or Health Care Power of Attorney 

A medical or health care power of attorney allows you to appoint a trusted person to make medical decisions for you in case you become unconscious or mentally incapable of making those decisions for yourself. You need this no matter what age you are since you could be in an automobile accident and be unable to communicate with doctors. 

4. Living Will or Directive to Physicians 

A living will -- also called a “directive to physicians” or “health care directive” -- allows you to instruct your physicians not to use artificial methods to prolong your life in the event you are diagnosed with a condition that is terminal or irreversible. 

5. HIPAA Authorization 

A Federal Law called "HIPAA" -- the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act -- sets strict rules on who can look at your medical records or receive your medical / health information. With a HIPAA authorization, you can designate a person to receive your medical information from your health care providers or health insurance company. 

6.  Designation of future Guardian

If you become disabled and are unable to take care of yourself, you can list someone that you trust to take care of your physical and/or financial needs.  You can also list anyone that you do not want a court to appoint as a potential guardian.

7.  Designate someone to take care of your funeral arrangements

You can designate someone you trust to take care of all of your final arrangements.  I recommend this even if you have a pre-paid funeral package.  It prevents confusion during a difficult time in your family's life. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Texas Family Law #16 - I want to bring up my spouse's bad past

Timing is relevant on "bad behavior".

Once a divorce decree is signed by a judge, then everything that happened before the date of the signing can never be brought up in court again.  The judge cannot "listen" to evidence that happened before the signing of the last court order.  So if one party is "very bad" then don't settle and go to the judge to show the judge all the "bad evidence" you have on the other side.

How relevant is the bad behavior?

Writing hot checks is bad but generally it won't impact custody of a child.

A person that molested a child - that will impact a judge's decision on custody.

Can a person that has been in prison ever gain custody of a child?

Yes.  If the person has cleaned up their act and is now a responsible citizen in the community, that person can gain custody.  I was involved in a CPS mediation and one man who had been to prison gained primary custody of his child.  He had worked for over 5 years at the same company, owned a small home and had nothing on his record since his release from prison.

If a person was in prison before you married and you knew it, the judge will also look at you.  If you knew that the person had a "bad record" and you chose to marry and have children, then you cannot expect the judge to question your judgment.

What if he/she "hid" his past? Again, how long did you date before you married, and does it really matter now.

My husband wanted me to have an abortion when I told him I was pregnant - does that matter? No.  What matters is what kind of father he is today.  I actually had one mother tell me this and her child was 15 years old.  I told her to never say it again because her child might hear her hurtful comment.  Plus, he said it one time! He had been supportive of her pregnancy after he settled down.  He had provided for the family for the past 16 years.  This is totally irrelevant.
Plus many men "freak out" when they learn that a woman is pregnant - it's how they behave after the baby is born that is relevant.

Texas Family Law Myth #15 - I want my spouse to pay my legal fees

Generally, both parties pay their own attorney's fees and court costs and fees.

However, if one party controls all the money then the judge can order that party to pay the other party's legal fees.

Also, during the divorce if one party "misbehaves" then the judge can order that all or part of the "innocent" spouse's legal fees be paid.  It is totally up to the judge.

Talk to a family law attorney in your county for guidance.

Texas Family Law Myth #14 - We had $100,000 now we only have $10,000 and I want my $50,000

If during the marriage your savings was at one time $1 million (or whatever) and on the date of separation you only have $10,000 in the bank then you are looking to divide the $10,000.

During a marriage, people can do whatever they want with their money.

If you want more than what currently exists then the burden falls on you as to why you deserve it?  Did the other spouse spend it on their relatives, new "friend", or a child by another relationship? If so, you might be entitled to 50% of the money that has gone to help other people outside of your marriage.  This is often difficult to prove.

If during the marriage one party had major surgery and it ate up all of your savings, then you might not be entitled to anything.  Both parties are obligated to support the other party during the marriage.  Just because one of you had a bad heart, hair transplant, cancer, plastic surgery, etc. it is presumed that you agreed to it.

If you owe money to the IRS, if you signed the tax return then you cannot claim that you are innocent.  By signing you agree that you looked at the tax return. Plus the federal government does not follow Texas family courts - in this case - federal trumps state.

Generally student loans go to the party who took out the loan.  Even though your family "lived" on your student loan money, it is presumed to be your debt.  This can be argued but it is not an automatic division of community debt.

Talk to a family law attorney for guidance.

Texas Family Law Myth #13 - I bought it with my earnings so it belongs to me


All income earned during the marriage belongs to the community estate, so anything that you purchase (real estate, car, furniture, etc.) is part of the community estate to be divided at the time of divorce.

Talk to a family law attorney in your county about your options.

Texas Family law Myth #12 - My earnings are my separate property in the State of Texas


Income earned during the marriage by either party is community property.
This income retirement and contributions to a 401(k) or IRA or pension.

I am aware that there is a railroad pension that expressly remains the sole property of the party that earned it.  However, these sorts of "separate property" issues are rare in the State of Texas.  There are a few exceptions to the presumption of community property - talk to a family law attorney to see if your case is one of them.

If some portion was earned before marriage, that would remain your separate property.  But the burden lies on the party asserting separate property to prove it.  Having a print-out on the date of your marriage showing what was in your account on that day goes a long way in proving separate property.

However, if during the marriage the asset dropped below the starting number, then the lowest number would become your separate property.

You have a bank account on the date you married with $10,000 in it.  Two years after you marry the account balance drops to $5,000.  On the date you file for divorce there is $50,000 in the account.  Only $5,000 is your separate property (lowest balance) and the remaining balance of $45,000 is community property to be divided by the parties or the court.

Texas Family Myth #11 - If the property is in my name only then it's mine.


All property acquired during the marriage is presumed to be community property.

The burden is on you to prove that it is your separate property.

Separate property is inherited money or gifts or recovery for personal injuries sustained during the marriage (except for loss of wages).  In personal injury lawsuits, the settlement agreement becomes vital and must be disclosed if you are claiming that the money is your separate property.

However, if you add your separate property to a joint bank account then you have co-mingled it and it is presumed that you intended for it to be community property.  It is presumed that you intended to "gift" this money to the community.

In order to prove separate property, you must "trace" the money from inception to current date.  This can be difficult to do.  It is also expensive and can require expert testimony to establish which portion of an account (or other property) is still separate versus community property.

Talk to a family law attorney in your county for guidance on this technical and expensive issue.

Texas Family Law Myth #10 - Texas does not have alimony

Trick question.

Texas calls alimony "spousal maintenance".

Under Chapter 8 of the Texas Family Code (which you can read on-line for free) courts can award "spousal maintenance" in a divorce case.

If a spouse is eligible for spousal maintenance then the judge can award up to 20% of the other spouse's gross monthly income or $5,000 whichever is less.

Of course, the parties can "agree" to a different amount.  This is often done in mediation.

In order for a party to be eligible for spousal maintenance the party must meet certain eligibility requirements.  Generally, being married 10 years or more and the party is unable to provide for their minimum needs, a person is unable to earn sufficient income to provide for his/her minimum reasonable needs because of a disability, victims of family violence.

One party will often claim to be a victim of recent domestic violence in order to ask for alimony.

Texas has not opened the door to spousal support as widely as other states.  But it does exist and judges have become comfortable ordering it.

Courts can also look at "marital misconduct" in awarding spousal support.

Be aware that this is a gender neutral statute.  So the party making significantly less money (husband or wife) can ask for spousal maintenance.  If there are no community assets to award to the spouse asking for it, then spousal maintenance may be ordered by a judge.

Talk to an experienced family attorney about how your county handles spousal support/spousal maintenance.

Be aware, that most courts are generous in awarding spousal maintenance on temporary orders. Both parties need money to survive while the divorce is pending.  The person with money cannot "abandon" the spouse that never worked and has no resources to provide for their minimum daily needs.

Texas Family Law Myth #9 - Texas no a no-fault divorce system so my marital affair is irrelevant


Texas still allows a party to file for "fault" grounds in a divorce.

It generally goes to property division.

I've only seen once or twice a judge ordering a 100/0 split or a 90/10 split.  That occurred when one party had a huge separate property estate and there was not much community property.

Generally the property division is 55/45 or 60/40.

The burden is on the person wanting more than 50% to "prove it" to the judge.

Texas Family Law Myth # 8 - If there is joint custody of the children then no one pays child support


Joint custody is just a term in the State of Texas.  It does not mean that you are even having 50% possession of the children.

Many times the parties agree to joint custody but then one parent receives all the rights and duties of a "sole managing conservator".

So don't rely on the term "joint custody" to protect your rights as a parent.

You need to look at the rights and duties and the amount of time that you spend with your children.

Generally, in the State of Texas, the non-custodial parent (aka non-primary parent) can elect an expanded standard possession order so that the parent has possession of the children 48% of the time.  But that does not mean that you won't pay child support.

But don't sign up for an expanded possession order unless you can truly do it.  Otherwise, you forfeit your visits with the kids if you don't pick them up when ordered to do so.

Talk to an experienced family law attorney in your county about your options.

Texas Family Law Myth # 7 - If I have my kids 50% of the time I won't pay child support

No true.  You may have to pay child support anyway.

If one parent makes considerably more than the other parent (parent #1 makes $8/hour and parent #2 makes $25/hour then the judge may order parent #2 to pay parent #1 child support.

The court will look at the "best interests" of the children.  Courts consider the welfare of the kids.

In a true 50/50 possession, some judges look at what parent #1 would pay and at what parent #2 would pay for child support.  If there is a difference, that is the amount of money ordered for one parent to pay to the other parent.

So if you are a multi-millionaire and the other parent makes minimum wage, even if you have the children more than 50% of the time, you could be ordered by a judge to pay child support.

It depends on the judge and the facts of YOUR case.

Talk to an experienced family law attorney in your county about what the judge might do in YOUR case.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Texas Family Law Myth #6 - I want a free attorney

In Family Court, you are only entitled to a "free" court appointed attorney if you are looking at jail time.

If you are not paying your child support and an attorney files "contempt" on you, many will "waive" jail time so that you cannot get a "free" court appointed attorney.  The family attorney does not want you to have an attorney representing you since it's much easier to hold you in contempt since you probably won't know the law.

If you want a pro bono (free) attorney there are limited non-profit organizations in the State of Texas to help you.  Look on the State Bar of Texas website or a list of pro bono organizations to help you.

You will have to meet their qualifications to be represented by one of their attorneys.

Each non-profit has different guidelines and they often change due to their funding sources. Some years they might receive a grant to handle specific cases (veterans are popular right now) and when the funding ends then that program goes away.

Most require you to send in your income and be able to provide identification.  Some require you to come into their office to fill out the application.  Some non-profits do not handle certain types of cases (such as appeals or contempt).  So call around for their current policies.  Visit their websites for more information.

Texas Family Law Myth #5 - I want guardianship over a child in the State of Texas

No you don't - you want what we call "conservatorship" over a child.

Guardianship is handled in probate court.  You will be under strict judicial control.  It's expensive and time consuming.  Sometimes a case needs to go to probate court, but I usually try to avoid "guardianship" over a minor child.

"Guardianship" must be done for children about to reach 18 that cannot take care of themselves.  Such as a child completely disabled in some way (mental or physical).  The child is about to become an adult but they cannot make decisions for themselves like an adult would be expected to do.

The Texas Family Code controls "conservatorship" of minor children.  A minor child is under the age of 18 in the State of Texas.

To discuss your options, talk to a family law attorney in your county.

I would look on or the State Bar of Texas website for an attorney to help you.

Prices vary dramatically.  So look around.  Some attorneys offer a brief free consultation to see if they can help you.  Some attorneys require that you come into their office and pay a fee to even meet with them.  It is up to each individual attorney to determine their policy in this matter.

Texas Family Code Myth #4 - I have no "rights" as a parent

If you go to court and get an order signed by a judge, you will receive specific rights and duties as a parent.

See Section 153.072 - Section 153.076

You will need an attorney to explain rights and duties.

You want to fight for the rights and duties to either be(1) independent or (2) joint.
I'm sure the other parent wants them to be exclusive to them only since that means that they don't have to consult with you before taking actions regarding the child.

You need a competent family law attorney to represent you in court.

I have seen one parent have "sole managing conservatorship" but both parents have independent rights or the other parent has the right to make decisions.  The rights and duties can actually make "sole managing conservatorship" a hallow victory.

Right & duties over a minor child are vital to co-parenting.

Don't ignore these essential elements of parenting.

If there are no court orders regarding the child and you are not married, then odds are that you are legally a "stranger" to the child.  Merely being on the birth certificate is not enough.

Get before a judge and get an order signed stating that you are a legally recognized parent to this child, that you have visitation rights clearly set out and that you have rights to make decisions regarding this child.

Don't wait do it now!

Texas Family Law Myth #3 - Men don't get primary custody in the State of Texas

Section 153.003 - No discrimination based on sex or marital status

The court shall consider the qualifications of the parties without regard to their marital status or to the sex of the party or the child in determining which parent to appoint as sole managing conservator, whether to appont a party as joint managing conservator and the terms and conditions of conservatorship and possession of and access to the child.

That said, the term "best interest" is not defined in the Texas Family Code.

Section 153.002 - Best Interest of the child
This section does not provide much guidance to predict the outcome of a case.  Discretion of the trial court is extraordinarily broad.  It is in the eye of the beholder, the trier of fact, judge or jury.

Lots of fathers get primary custody in the State of Texas.  I won't say that is is a slam-dunk or easy.  You need a strong, determined, competent family law attorney to show the facts to the judge.  But any man that states they cannot get custody merely because they are a male is absolutely wrong.  When I litigated approx. half my practice was men seeking custody and I often got it for them.  How? Hard work, good facts, good witness and a stable client.

Texas Family Law Myth #2 - I want "full" custody of my minor child

The term "full" custody is not a legal term. I have no idea what that means.

There is sole managing conservatorship and joint managing conservatorship in the State of Texas.

Chapter 153 of the Texas Family Code covers Conservatorship, Possession & Access.

The Texas Family Code is available on-line for free.  Google it.  Read it.

Section 153.001 is the Public Policy of the State of Texas

It basically states that children should have frequent and continuing contact with parents who have show the ability to act in the best interest of the child.  T encourage parents to share in the rights & duties of raising their child after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage and children need a safe, stable and nonviolent environment.

Section 153.131- Presumption that parent to be appointed managing conservator

It is a rebuttable presumption that the appointment of the parents of a child as joint managing conservators is in the best interest of the child.  A finding a family violence involving the parents of a child removes the presumption under this subsection.

Section 153.07-076 - These sections discuss "rights and duties"

Rights to make decisions are very important regarding the child.  Take this list very seriously.  Don't allow the other parent to make "all decisions independently".  This is where a parent should "fight" for their child.  Future decision making regarding the child are vital to parenting a child.

Texas Family Law Myths #1 - At age 12 a chid gets to select when they visit the non-custodial parent

Children do not get to decide their visitation schedule with their parents until the day they turn 18 and become an adult under Texas law.

Years ago the TX legislature allowed a child to sign a written non-binding statement stating who they would like to live with.  This has been eliminated by the TX legislature.  (Section 153.008 was repealed in 2009.)

Instead the TX legislature, wrote a new law which appears in the TX Family Code Section 153.009 where a judge can interview a child over the age of 12 in chambers to talk to the child.  This is non-binding on the judge.  The judge is allowed to interview children under 12 if they want to do so.

Just because a teen-ager does not want to visit the non-custodial parent does not mean that the judge won't order it.  Quite frankly, most teenagers want to be with their friends and don't want to be spending their time with either parent.  Most judges will tell the kid "get over it" and order the visitation.

If the custodial parent cannot "control" the minor child and cannot make the child get into the non-custodial parent's vehicle, I've seen the judge change custody.  If a parent cannot "control" a teen-ager then perhaps they should not be the primary custodian.  Children are supposed to do what the adult tells them to do - not the other way around.

Judges look at the "best interest of the child" test.  It is in the best interest of the child to have a relationship with both parents.

All of that said, if a child's life is in danger or the parent is mentally unstable or on drugs, then a judge will order either supervised or no visits.

This is not a simple area of the law.  Both parents are presumed by the judge to be equal.  The burden falls on the parent trying to stop or change the current visitation schedule to show the judge why a judge should limit the other parent's parental rights.

Can this be done?  Absolutely.  You need an experienced family law attorney to present your evidence.  You need witnesses to support your claims.  Mere fears and suspicions usually won't work.