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What you need to know about Texas child custody and support

If you are currently - or you anticipate that you will be in the future - involved in a child custody or child support dispute in Texas, it can help to have at least a high-level understanding of how the process works so you know what to expect as you move forward.

Child custody

The blanket term "child custody" actually encompasses two different legal concepts that are both very important. "Physical custody" is the child's residence. It can be joint, with the child spending an equal amount of time with each parent or one parent can have primary physical custody with the other having visitation rights. "Legal custody" is the ability to make important decisions as relating to the child's upbringing on a day-to-day basis, and it encompasses having input on educational, medical and religious decisions, including where the child should go to school or if he or she will become involved in a local church.

Depending on the relationship of the parents, particularly whether or not they can agree to work together to create a custody and parenting time/visitation plan that is best for their family, it may be possible to avoid a dispute altogether. In some instances, the threat that a custody matter would be handled by a judge who is unfamiliar with the family beyond what he reads in the file is enough incentive to encourage cooperation.

If the parents alone, even with the assistance of experienced family law attorneys, can't come to an agreement, the judge handling their case may suggest mediation as an alternative. Mediators can be very useful in family law situations because their sessions are confidential, meaning that they stay out of the court record. A mediation involves both parents (and their attorneys, if applicable) working together - with the assistance of a neutral third party - to craft a workable custody and parenting time agreement.

Should mediation be unsuccessful, the court will make the custody determination that is in the child's best interests, taking into account such factors as each parent's living situation, the child's preference (if he is old enough to express a preference), the income of the parents, any special needs of the child and other important criteria.

Child support

Once a custody determination has been made, it may be appropriate in some situations for the custodial parent to seek financial assistance from the other parent. In legal parlance, this is known as "child support." While a decision to grant child support is made based upon analysis of many of the same factors that a custody decision is, Chapter 154 of the Texas Family Code also provides a guideline by which child support can be calculated.

Generally, one child will receive 20 percent of the paying parent's net monthly resources (up to $8,550). For example, if the paying parent had a net monthly resource amount of $6000, he or she could be responsible for $1,200 in child support each month. An important note about child support calculations is that the net monthly resource amount was changed to $8,550 in September 2013; it had previously been at $7,500 for several years.

While this article has provided some information about how the Texas judicial system handles custody and support issues, it is not inclusive. For more information about child custody, child support or any other family-related legal issue, consult a skilled Texas family law attorney.

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Bruce Turner

In addition to his law degree, Bruce Turner has a master's degree in tax law and is Board Certified in Commercial Real Estate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

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Turner, Bruce E.
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Bruce Turner with Bennett, Weston LaJone & Turner, P.C.

Attorney Bruce Turner is located in Dallas and represents people and businesses throughout DFW and the Metroplex, including Denton, Carrollton, Lewisville, Flower Mound, Farmers Branch, Irving, Las Colinas, Corinth, Highland Village, The Colony, Plano, Frisco, Allen, McKinney, Mesquite, Grand Prairie, Garland and Grapevine as well as Collin County, Denton County and Dallas County in Texas.

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