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Every order that requires one party (Obligor) to pay child support to another party (Obligee) will outline how the Oblligor is to make payments.  It will say the following:

Payment – IT IS ORDERED that all payments shall be made through the state disbursement unit at Texas Child Support Disbursement Unit, P.O. Box 659791, San Antonio, Texas 78265-9791, and thereafter promptly remitted to OBLIGEE for the support of the child.

As parties go through the process of a divorce, parentage action, or modification, they often soon learn, that it can take some time for the wage withholding orders to take effect.  As such a transition period often stretches the financial situation of both parties, the delay in receipt of child support can be a concern. Sometimes OBLIGORs take it upon themselves, to pay or give the child support directly to the OBLIGEE in an effort to make things smoother, to not be counted late, or to make sure that the parent with primary custody has the funds necessary to provide for the children. However, every order that obligates one party to pay child support will include the following provision:

No Credit for Informal Payments-IT IS ORDERED that the child support as prescribed in this decree shall be exclusively discharged in the manner ordered and that any direct payments made by OBLIGOR  to OBLIGEE or any expenditures incurred by OBLIGOR during OBLIGOR’s periods of possession of or access to the child, as prescribed in this decree, for food, clothing, gifts, travel, shelter, or entertainment are deemed in addition to and not in lieu of the support ordered in this decree.

So, by doing what the OBLIGOR thinks is the “right” thing- i.e. paying the OBLIGEE directly, the OBLIGOR has put him or herself in danger of not receiving credit for the child support paid directly to the OBLIGEE.  By the time money starts coming out of their checks, the State Disbursement Unit will have the OBLIGOR already in arrears in their records. In order to get proper credit for the payments that were made directly, the OBLIGOR now has to rely on the OBLIGEE to execute an affidavit acknowledging that he or she has received the child support that was not paid through the Disbursement Unit and to send it with the proper information to the proper location.  Additionally, the OBLIGOR then has to rely on the Office of the Attorney General to properly credit the account in a timely manner. While all of this is happening, the Office of the Attorney General has the ability to take a number of actions to collect what in the eyes of the State is unpaid child support, including, but not limited to, the garnishing of your tax refund or placing a lien on property you may own.

There are steps that you and your attorney can take to protect or assist you during the transition phase and the time between the reaching of an agreement and the effect of a wage-withholding order.  However, unless you have previously discussed these options with your attorney and are satisfied that adequate protections are in place, send your payment directly to the state disbursement unit at Texas Child Support Disbursement Unit, P.O. Box 659791, San Antonio, Texas 78265-9791.

For more information, or to discuss what possible options would apply in your specific case, please consult an attorney to discuss the issue.  Also, the Child Support Division of the Office of the Attorney General of Texas has a very informative site that can be helpful and which also contains the forms mentioned in this blog. (https://texasattorneygeneral.gov/cs/welcome-to-the-child-support-division) (https://texasattorneygeneral.gov/cs/parents-and-guardians)>

The truth is that there are various ways that an order can be crafted to protect the children and still allow them to have an ongoing relationship with their parent that is struggling with alcohol issues, depending on the severity of the issues.  The solution is normally a combination of protections during periods of possession, testing and/or treatment requirements, and injunctions that depend upon the specific facts of the case. 

The court can require or the parties can agree that the struggling parent submit to an alcohol assessment.  Other possible requirements include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. rehabilitation, inpatient and/or outpatient;
  2. breathalyzer testing, before, during, and/or after periods of possession;
  3. ignition interlock and breathalyzer devices; and/or
  4. attending AA meetings

It is important to remember, however, that the options available will depend on the facts of each case, as the court will not require breathalyzer devices unless there is a proven concern. 

As far as periods of possession go, the highest level of protection would be supervised possession and access.  Period of possession can be supervised by whatever party the parents can agree to and/or a court-approved visitation program.  It is important to remember that the parties would have to agree to the supervision or the party requesting that the periods of possession be supervised would have to have enough evidence to convince the court that the safety and well-being of the child require that periods of possession be supervised.  If the problem is not so severe to require all possession and access be supervised, periods of possession could also be limited in time or frequency until the parent completes treatment.  Typically, such a possession order will step up to less restrictive periods or possession in phases and into a standard possession either over time or upon completion of different portions of treatment (Ex: Step One- Supervised possession for a few hours every other weekend, Step Two- Unsupervised possession for a few hours every other weekend, Step Three- one overnight every other weekend, Step Four – standard possession order).

Injunctions are additional protections that could be added to the order that require the struggling parent to abstain from alcohol during possession and for a certain period before and after periods of possession.  Additionally, if appropriate, the court could prohibit the struggling parent from transporting the child in a car. 

Finally, a provision can be included that in the event of a relapse by the struggling parent, that parent begins again at Step One of the possession schedule to avoid the necessity of having to return to court every time there is a relapse in the future.

For more information, or to discuss what possible options would apply in your specific case, please consult an attorney to discuss the issue.

Sex Change Impact On Divorce

“My spouse has transitioned from one gender to another during our marriage, how does that impact our divorce?” For purposes of this question, I am assuming that the spouses were of opposite gender on the date of marriage, as the issue of same-sex marriage in Texas is best left for another entry and could confuse the issues here.

The truth is, that such a question depends on a very fact specific analysis of the history of your relationship, as is the case with almost every issue that can arise in a divorce.

If there are no children, then the answer is, there is not an impact based solely on the fact that your spouse transitioned.  You and your spouse would be divorced, just as any other couple married in Texas.  In regards to the division of property, transitioning alone is not a statutory basis for which a party could request the court to award a disproportionate share of the division of assets.

If there are children, then the answer is, there could be an impact.  Just like any issue in a marriage with children, the court could take into consideration how the parties addressed such a transition with their children and/or the impact on the children.  Although we have no caselaw in Texas regarding a custody dispute involving a transgender parent, it is important to note that the best interest of the child standard includes an examination of the following factors:

  1. Which party can best provide for the child’s physical, psychological, and emotional needs and development;
  2. The cooperation between the parents; and
  3. The child’s preferences.

These are just a few items that the court may consider, but should demonstrate why this is a case and fact specific analysis.

For more information, please consult an attorney to discuss the issue.

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