< October 2017 Archives | McKinney Texas Family Law Blog

October 2017 Archives

When Is a Child Allowed to Testify in Court and When Is it Appropriate?

A divorce case that goes to court can be hard for every member of the family, especially the children. When is it appropriate for a child to testify in court?  In Texas, though there is no specific age at which a child can testify.  There are both legal and practical considerations to consider when determining whether it is appropriate to do so. The initial legal test is for the judge to determine is whether the child is "competent" to testify. This means essentially that the child must understand the difference between the truth and a lie, and must understand the moral responsibility of failing to tell the truth. According to Rule 601(a) of the Texas Rules of Evidence in regards to children being on the witness stand, children "who appear not to possess sufficient intellect to relate transactions with respect to which they are interrogated," are considered incompetent. Even if a child is competent to testify, children rarely testify at custody hearings. However, sometimes the child can speak privately to the judge. The Texas Family Code Sec. 153.009(a) requires a judge in a non-jury trial or hearing to interview in chambers a child 12 years of age or older to determine the child's wishes as to conservatorship or as to the person who shall have the exclusive right to determine the child's primary residence.  However, it is absolutely wrong to assume or tell a child that they get to decide where he or she will live once they turn 12 years old. Once your child turns 18 and is a legal adult, then a custody order does not apply and they can decide where to live. The closer your child gets to age 18, the more he or she has a say. It is generally up to the judge to decide whether or not to permit the attorneys to be present at the interview. If either party requests, the judge must have a court reporter in the judge's office to record the interview with the child. The parents are not allowed in the judge's office during the interview. The judge does not have to follow the child's wishes. Although a judge might listen to a child's wishes regarding custody he or she can decide not to do so because it is not in the child's best interests to live primarily with that parent.  Most judges will want to know why a child is selecting one parent over the other. Some kids want to live in the house with no rules and no chores.  The Judge must determine, based on the age, knowledge, maturity, intelligence and reasoning abilities of the child what weight to give to the child's preference. Aside from the legal authority to do so there are also practical considerations for the parent before deciding whether to have the child testify.  The ramifications of this decision may very well have negative implications for the child.  Careful consideration should be made before asking a child to choose between parents.  Just because you can doesn't mean you should.  

Claiming and Protecting Dependency Exemption for a Non-Custodial Parent

A parent is entitled to claim a dependency exemption for each child they support. A dependency exemption works just like a tax deduction.  It reduces taxable income resulting in the taxpayer paying less income tax. The exemption amount is adjusted each year for inflation. For tax year 2017 and 2016, the exemption amount is $4,050 subject to a phase-out for high income taxpayers.

When Does My Child Support Obligation End in Texas?

If you are contemplating a divorce and already have children together, you may be wondering when your child support obligation ends in Texas. In most cases the law requires you to pay child support until the child is considered an adult. A child is considered an adult when the child turns 18 of age or graduates from high school, whichever comes last. Though it may not seem like it, especially with the boomerang generation, 18 signals adulthood in Texas.In a divorce case, a family court will determine the amount of child support the non-custodial parent must pay the custodial parent. Sometimes these payments need to be modified for a variety of reasons but to be enforceable this modification must be reflected in a court order. Verbal agreement is not the correct way to modify a child support payment. Informal agreements often lead to argument and eventually possible repercussions from law enforcement.

What is the SDU (State Disbursement Unit) and what does it do for me?

Raising children is difficult. Having the means to provide for them is an important aspect of the job. The Texas Family Code orders that all child support payments must go through the Texas SDU (State Disbursement Unit), and they disperse them. What can the SDU (State Disbursement Unit) do for you? Whether you are receiving the child support or providing child support, the unit can prove beneficial for both parents.The SDU (State Disbursement Unit) is responsible for processing child support payments. SDU (State Disbursement Unit) was established by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 to help establish a central place where child support payments are processed. This has increased the accuracy of keeping track of payments and custodial parents getting their payments faster and more efficiently. The Texas legislature made it a policy of Texas to enforce child support orders to make sure the children of Texas are cared for. If parents aren't taking care of their children, then the state of Texas must go through the state welfare programs. In most cases, it is the non-custodial parent that pays child support. Generally, this is the parent the child doesn't live with and spends less time with. The amount of child support that the non-custodial parent pays depends on several factors, including their income and how many children they support. Wage withholding is written in the divorce decree. This means the SDU collects child support payments directly from the employer.  The wages are taken out of the payor's paycheck and sent to the SDU (State Disbursement Unit) for payment to the custodial parent. This third party collection helps to alleviate problems between the obligor and obligee in regards to giving or receiving payment. Many people do not work for a company and are self-employed.  Even in this situation, it is still a good idea to go through the SDU to keep a record of payment. The SDU (State Disbursement Unit) offers  many ways for an obligor parent to pay the custodial parent. You can mail a payment, pay at the office, online or by phone. You can pay by cash, credit card or bank draft. Another great benefit of the SDU is it leaves a paper payment trail. That way what was paid and when is clear to both parties to help avoid unnecessary conflict. It is important to retain a family law lawyer that knows how to handle child support issues. A family lawyer can make sure your children receive the financial support they deserve. Puhl Law Group, P.C. has the experience you need. Please call to schedule an appointment today.

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