One of the most important aspects of any child support child custody or divorce case with children is the role that parents play in being able to financially support their kids. Part of that financial support comes from the day-to-day care that parents provide. Another portion comes from the financial support that a parent gives when they are not the primary caretaker of the children. Before we get into our discussion about what medical support is in a Texas family law case, we should talk first about how parents take on certain roles in the context of a family law case.

Conservatorships in a Texas family law case

We should be getting our discussion by covering the topic of conservatorships. Most people, attorneys including, refer to two cases involving children as custody cases. The term custody is just a word that most people are familiar with in that we hear in our popular culture, day-to-day discussions, and even in the legal world. However, the reality is that the term custody does not come up once in the Texas family code. Rather, what most people mean by custody is better described by the word conservatorships.

Being a conservator or having a conservatorship over another person just means that you are responsible for making decisions for that person and ensuring that that person’s well-being is cared for. When it comes to a child, you are making decisions regarding their health and education primarily. There are other rights such as the ability to make decisions about that person entering the military or getting married when they are still a minor but for the most part, we are discussing issues like going to school and getting medical care. Additionally, as a conservator of a child, you must provide an education, a place for the child to live, clothes, and food. Medical care is another responsibility to provide for the child that we will be discussing more in-depth at the end of today’s blog post.

The key to this entire discussion, as it relates to a family law case, is how a court will divide the rights and duties between two parents. We know that parents tend to divide the time with their children and think about that issue primarily when it comes to the life of their child. However, we can also consider the impact of a division of conservatorships rights when it comes to rights and duties. Understandably parents are worried about not being able to spend as much time with their children as they would like as the result of a family law case. However, being able to make decisions for your child and care for your child is just as important.

Most parents after a Texas family law case end up being named as joint managing conservators. Joint managing conservators hold rites jointly about their children on the issues that we have already discussed today. The key to understanding this is that while joint managing conservators have similar roles when it comes to the day-to-day lives of their children, they cannot be exactly equal. For one, you and your Co-parent will not possess the children at the same time therefore, the rights of the parent and the duties of the parent who possessed the children are greater than the non-possessory parent in most cases. In that way, time with your children is important given that you can exert your rights and duties more readily.

In this regard, probably the most important right or duty would be the right to determine exclusively the primary residence of your child. Being able to determine the primary residence of your child is crucial to this discussion period you could determine your child’s primary residence which means that you will be able to pick that your child lives with you primarily. Being able to spend more time with your child is important to our discussion and is also critical to your being able to make decisions and take advantage of the duties that you have as a parent as well. It is nice being able to know that your child we’ll be spending much of their time with you. After all, the primary concern most parents have then a family law case is being able to spend as much time with their children as possible.

How do parents and judges make decisions about which parent has the right to determine the primary residence of children?

In large part, the decision of which parent will become the primary parent in terms of determining the residence of the children is made before the family law case is filed. If you are the parent who has frequently cared for your children before and after school, ensured that their homework is done, prepare meals for them, and do things of this nature then you are well-positioned to become the primary caretaker of your children. If both you and your spouse or Co-parent have taken on this role then it may be a situation where you are equally well suited to become the primary conservator of your children. In that case, how could you determine which of you is better suited?

The reality of the situation is that the topic of determining the primary residence of your children is probably the most litigated subject in all of the child custody. When parents in your position cannot agree on which of them is going to be named as primary conservators that frequently leads to trials and hearings. In some families, one parent takes on primary decision-making responsibilities for a family while the other parent either works or performs some other role for the family. It should come as no surprise that the parent who performs the day-to-day care for the children more regularly is better positioned to proceed as day-to-day caretaker after the divorce of her child custody case. 

What I see some parents do after a child custody or divorce case is filed is they attempt to make up for a lost time by taking on an active and involved role in the life of their children. If you planned to become the primary caretaker of the children after divorce by impressing a judge with your ability to care for the children during a divorce, then you may be too late. Simply put, if it comes to a judge deciding about your case then he or she will not want to rock the applecart or upset the status quo. Meaning that if you have not been the primary caretaker of your children, for any reason, to this point a judge will likely not be willing to name you as the primary conservator. You will still have rights and duties to your children but the right to determine the primary residence of your children will not be one that you have most likely.

This does not mean that you are a bad parent or that you are neglectful in your parenting duties. Rather, it simply acknowledges the reality of the circumstances that if your children are doing well with your Co-parent as primary conservator that is likely set up that the judge will wish to continue after a divorce case comes to an end. This does not mean that you can’t change these circumstances for the future. If you take on an active and involved role in your post-divorce life with your children, you can come back and attempt to modify a court order on custody if a material and substantial change have occurred in the future. All you can do during this time is to work to make sure that you were doing everything possible for your children and looking out for their best interests.

Child support and conservatorship

when it comes to the function of child support in a conservatorship scenario remember that one parent after a child custody or divorce case will be in physical possession of the children more than the other parent. For that reason, courts typically look to child support to divide up those parenting rights and responsibilities in addition to the costs. Child support is the primary way to even up the costs or divide them more fairly between parents who see their children on an unequal basis in terms of time.

Child support follows a guideline outlined in the Texas family code in terms of its calculation. Our blog has many in-depth articles and blog posts on child support and its calculation. For today’s blog post we will only briefly discuss the calculation so that we can further discuss how medical support factors into this discussion. I would recommend that you go and find those blog posts on child support and review them if you want additional information about the subject of child support and its calculation.

Essentially, your net monthly income is calculated, and a percentage is multiplied against that monthly income based upon how many children you have before the court. For one child 20% of your net monthly income will be calculated as child support. For two children 25% of your net monthly income in the number increases to ask at least 40% of your net monthly income going towards child support if you have six or more children before the court. Most typically, courts do not order greater than 50% of your net monthly income going towards child support.

Child support is typically paid monthly. Direct payment of child support made to your Co-parent does not count officially. Rather, the office of the attorney general child support division administers the payment of child support in Texas. You would make your payments through the office of the attorney general the office of the attorney general would then pay your Co-parent the Child Support. This way an accurate record of child support payments can be kept on the attorney general’s website and your Co-parent, and you will always know what has been paid and what is still owed if anything.

Child support is paid most times through a wage withholding order. The wage withholding order will be signed by you and the family court judge that decided your child custody or divorce case. The wage withholding order will be sent to your employer instructs your employer to withhold a certain sum of money each month to satisfy the Child Support obligation. That amount of money will be sent to the attorney general directly. You could think of this as almost like an auto-pay or automatic investment option for a brokerage account that you may owe. This way the amount of money is out of sight out of mind and is done automatically each month it is one less thing for you to try to remember or forget based on the circumstances that are going on in your life. However, you must make sure that you keep up to date with your wage withholding order when you change employers. Even though a wage withholding order is in place you are still responsible for ensuring that The Child Support payments are made in full each month to your Co-parent. 

The failure to pay child support each month on time and in full can result in consequences for you. Not the least of which is having an enforcement case filed against you either by your Co-parent or by the office of the attorney general. An enforcement case seeks to hold you responsible for your failure to abide by the terms of your child support order. There are significant penalties associated with the failure to pay child support which include fines, attorneys’ fees in the potential of jail time, for this reason, you will want to make sure that child support is a subject that you understand well and that you take care of in the context of your Texas family law case.

Medical support in Texas

In addition to child support, the family court that your case is assigned to will also order a certain degree of medical support to ensure that your children can go to the doctor and be cared for from a physical and mental perspective. This type of financial support is paid by one or both parents of a child whose case is in front of a family court judge. For the most part, this would include health insurance and what is known as cash medical support. These are sums paid for over and above child support. If your divorce case involves a child there will be a medical support order.

One of the most common ways to ensure that medical support is provided to a child is 4 health insurance coverage to be ordered. There are many ways for your child to be covered by health insurance. Probably the most common way in Texas is 4 health insurance to be provided for your child either by you or your Co-parent through your employer. There are various times during the year that you can sign your child up to get onto your health insurance plan if you have not done so already. The same can be said for your Co-parent. The important thing is to know when these dates are and to get your child on health insurance as soon as possible.

Another option would be to purchase a private health insurance plan. This can be done through the government marketplace or directly through one of the private health insurance providers. You can shop around and determine where you can get the best price and what sort of plan benefits your child the most. Bear in mind that if your child has a special medical need this is probably a subject that you need to pay even closer attention to.

The other option that may be available to you and your family is for your child to be on Medicaid. Medicaid is a health insurance option for low-income children, pregnant mothers, and other people. If your child is on Medicaid and you are going through a family law case you will likely be ordered to pay back the government a certain sum of money each month for your child to be able to take on this government insurance. If your Co-parent pays for your child’s health insurance, then you may be ordered to pay cash medical support to your Co-parent in satisfaction of their having made payments for health insurance on behalf of your child.

If you are the parent who is paying child support, but you cannot get health insurance coverage through your employer then your Co-parent must provide coverage if it is available through their employer. You would likewise reimburse the cost for that other parent having to provide health insurance by paying cash medical support monthly to him or her. 

Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultation six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law and how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.