Custody battles can drain your soul. They can be exhausting. It is inevitable that parents want to give in on issues just to buy some peace and to get the pain to stop. But just like a band-aid falls off over time, exposing the wound, the temporary fix to your custody issue may eventually no longer work, revealing the same problem it was meant to stop. This is why we advise our clients to think ahead. And if you can’t think ahead, let your attorney think ahead for you and explain what life may look like under the temporary fix – 1, 2, 3 years down the road. There are three areas where thinking ahead may stop you from making a poor decision that could affect your child’s future.
A parent involved in a bitter custody fight wants the pain to stop. She is tempted to give in to her husband’s suggestion that he reimburse her for reasonable expenses instead of paying child support. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, look into the future when that spouse questions why the other parent bought a particular pair of shoes from Nordstrom’s rather than WalMart. Or questions the brand of milk she purchased for the children? What is reasonable is left to the reimbursing parent’s discretion. A parent who agrees to waive child support, or who accepts child support below the state guidelines, should be careful. Once you have agreed to no support, you may not be able to modify support in the future. Texas law requires a material and substantial change in circumstances of a conservator or a child before an order may be modified. A party’s change in income, standing alone, may not be sufficient to allow the court to modify the prior child support order once you have already agreed to accept below guideline support. Be careful and think ahead!
Who Makes Decisions
Does your child have a disability? Does he receive special education services in the public school? Does she have a Section 504 Plan? If so, you may want to carefully consider having one parent exclusively exercise the right to make educational decisions. Guidance from the Office of Special Education Programs cautions schools when both parents have independent rights in this area. If one parent consents to special education services and the other revokes that consent, your child will miss out on important services until a court can decide who makes the decision. Additionally, Texas law allows a child to attend school wherever a conservator lives, regardless of which parent establish the primary residence. It is never in a child’s best interest to be enrolled in one school, only to be withdrawn by the other parent the next day. Your child may not be of school age today, but these issues will be real to you once he begins school. Be careful and think ahead!
Where does your spouse intend to reside after the divorce? Are you okay with that relocation from McKinney to Houston? If a move is contemplated at the time of the final order, it will be difficult to restrict your child’s primary residence down the road. Think about how important it is to live close to your child. Agreeing that the other parent may move far away will impact your relationship with your child. It will mean missed Meet the Teacher nights, missed baseball games, missed dance recitals, and missed special occasions. The reason Texas law favors geographical restrictions is to promote and foster healthy relationships between both parents and their children, something that requires them to live close to one another. Before you give up on this issue to achieve temporary peace, think into the future to sporting events, school events, holiday celebrations and friendships. Do you want to be a part of your child’s day-to-day life? It may seem to be a simple solution to agree to the move now, but you may be missing out on an opportunity to build a close bond with your children long-term. Be careful and think ahead!
Always Seek Advice
Divorce is a life-changing event. Before you agree to the other parent’s demand to buy peace, stop, and seek the advice and counsel of an experienced family law attorney, who can advice you of your rights and the impact your decisions can have on your and your child’s future.