May 24th, 2010
POSSIBLE PENALTIES FOR NOT PAYING CHILD SUPPORT
The state of Texas has enacted numerous enforcement mechanisms to ensure that child support payments are paid. If they are not paid, or they are untimely, then there can be serious consequences. A basic overview of some of the child support enforcement mechanisms are listed below.
After notice and hearing, a court order for child support may be enforced by contempt, punishable by confinement in the county jail for up to six months, a $500 fine, or both. If the contemptor fails to appear for the hearing, a capias (a writ authorizing custody) can be issued for their arrest. The capias is treated the same as a misdemeanor arrest warrant, meaning that law enforcement officials can arrest the respondent if they encounter him in the regular course of their duties (i.e. traffic violation).
Suspension of Driver’s License, Hunting or Fishing License, Occupational or Professional License
A court can issue an “order suspending license” if the person who owes child support (1) is three months in arrears; (2) has been provided an opportunity to make payments toward arrearages under an agreed repayment schedule; and (3) has failed to comply with the repayment schedule. This procedure is available with respect to a delinquent obligor’s driver’s license, hunting or fishing license, and license to engage in a profession, occupation, or business. The statute lists 56 state agencies that grant licenses that are subject to suspension for non-support. The list of professions and activities affected is global, and includes attorneys, barbers, CPA’s, chiropractors, doctors, liquor store owners, nurses, optometrists, realtors, and plumbers.
Delinquent Obligor Cannot Obtain State Grants, Loans, or Contracts
An obligor who is more than 30 days delinquent on child support, and a business entity of which the delinquent obligor is a sole proprietor, partner, shareholder, or owner with more than a 25% interest, is not eligible to receive loans, grants, or contracts from the state of Texas.
Money Judgment for Child Support Arreages
Any periodic child support payment not timely made automatically constitutes a final judgement for the amount due and owing. Upon motion, after notice and hearing, the court shall confirm the amount of child support in arrears and shall enter an order against the obligor for the amount determined, plus attorneys’ fees, court costs, and interest at 6%. This judgment may be enforced by any means generally available for the enforcement of judgments for debts.
Child Support Lien for Arreages
A statutory lien arises by operation of law for all amounts of overdue support, even if the arrearages have not been reduced to a judgment. The lien attaches to all of the obligor’s real property (other than homestead property), and to all personal property that is not exempt from creditors’ claims. The lien automatically attaches to property acquired in the future, as well as the obligor’s existing property, including claims for negligence or personal injury.
Delinquent Obligor Must Pay Court Costs and Attorney’s Fees for Person Enforcing Order
In an enforcement proceeding, if the court finds that a non-indigent obligor failed or refused to make child support payments, the court shall order the obligor to pay court costs and the movant’s attorneys’ fees, unless the court makes a specific finding that the obligor is not required to make such payments and states the reasons in support of that finding.
Uniform Interstate Family Support Act
Texas has enacted the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA). The primary purposes of UIFSA are (1) to simplify and expedite the procedures for interstate enforcement of support orders and income-withholding orders, and (2) to eliminate the practice of multiple support orders being issued by the courts of several states. Basically, this act allows support orders from Texas to be enforced in other states and vice versa. If you have a support order from another state and you now reside in Texas, it is important to register the other state’s order with the state of Texas so it may be enforced as if it were a Texas order.
May 24th, 2010
In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case you file a plan showing how you will pay off some of your past-due and current debts over three to five years. The most important thing about a chapter 13 bankruptcy case is that it will allow you to keep valuable property, especially your home and car, which might otherwise be lost if you are behind on your payments. To file Chapter 13, you must prove that you are able to make the payments. In most cases, these payments will be at least as much as your regular monthly payments to your mortgage and car loans. with some extra payments to get caught up on the amount you have fallen behind.
You should consider filing bankruptcy if:
1. You own your home and are in danger of foreclosure
2. You are behind on some payments but just need some time to get caught up
3. Own valuable property that is not exempt.
May 24th, 2010
On entry of a decree of adoption, the parent-child relationship exists between the adopted child and the adoptive parents as if the child were born to the adoptive parents during marriage.
Any Adult (Single or Married) Can Adopt a Child
Any adult, whether single or married, and whether a resident or non-resident, can adopt a child as long as the court finds that the adoption is in the child’s best interest. If a petitioner is married, both spouses must join in the petition for adoption.
When a Child May be Adopted
A child living in Texas may be adopted if: (1) both of the child’s parents have died; (2) the parent-child relationship of each living parent has been terminated; or (3) a step-parent (the spouse of the parent whose parent-child relationship has not been terminated) wants to adopt the child.
Adoption by Former Stepparent
A child may be adopted by a former stepparent if: (1) the child is at least two years old; (2) the parent-child relationship has been terminated with respect to one parent; and (3) the former stepparent has been the child’s managing conservator or has had actual care, possession, and control of the child for at least six months (if the non-terminated parent consents to the adoption), or at least one year (if the non-terminated parent does not consent to the adoption.
Pre-Adoptive Social Study
The court must order a pre-adoptive social study by the TDFPS or some other agency or person “into the circumstances and conditions of the child and of the home of” the adopting parent or parents. The cost of the social study is paid by the person(s) seeking to adopt the child. Except in cases of adoption by a relative of the child, the social study must be completed prior to placement of the child with the prospective adoptive parent(s).
Post-Placement Social Study
The court also must order a follow-up social study, called a post-placement social study, before the final decree of adoption can be entered. The objective of the two social studies is to ensure the best interest of the child, by giving the court a clear picture of the home environment of the adopting parent(s).
Adoption by Stepparent—Only One Social Study Required
In a stepparent adoption, the pre-adoption and post-placement social studies may be combined.
Criminal History Record of Adopting Parent Must be Furnished
The court must order the person seeking to adopt a child to furnish his/her own criminal history record information
When Consent to Adoption is Required
A child age 12 or older must give his/her consent to the adoption in court or in writing. The court may waive this consent requirement if it is in the child’s best interest. Also, a court-appointed managing conservator must consent to the adoption unless, of course, the managing conservator is the petitioner. However, the court may waive this requirement if it finds that the managing conservator’s consent is being withheld without good cause.
Child Must Have Resided with Petitioner for Six Months to Receive Final Adoption Decree
In general, a final decree of adoption of a child cannot be entered until the child has lived in the home of the petitioner for at least six months. However, this requirement can be waived if the court finds that waiver is in the child’s best interest.
Social, Health, Educational, and Genetic History Report
Before placing a child for adoption, the TDFPS, an authorized agency, the child’s parent or guardian, or whoever else places the child for adoption must compile and submit to the court a report containing the information set out below. No adoption can be granted until the report is filed of record. An exception to this rule is if the adopting party is a stepparent, grandparent, uncle, or aunt of the child. However, the validity of a final adoption decree is not subject to attack if the report was not properly filed.
The agency or party that prepares the report must give a summary of the report, “edited to protect the confidentiality of birth parents and their families,” to the prospective adoptive parents as soon as practicable before the first meeting of the child and the prospective parents. The report is to be kept on record by TDFPS for 99 years.
Adoption of Adults
Texas permits any adult resident of the state to petition to adopt another adult. A petition filed by a married person must be joined in by the spouse. The adult adoptee must consent to the adoption in a writing acknowledged before a notary public. An adult adoptee can inherit from and through the adopting parents, but may not inherit from or through his biological parents, and the biological parents may not inherit from the adopted adult.
On the theory that adults are capable of making their own decisions, the court is not required to make a finding that the adoption is in the adoptee’s best interest. The court’s only duty is to make certain the adoptee consents to the adoption, which is established by the adoptee’s written, acknowledged consent and by his appearance at the adoption proceeding.
May 24th, 2010
Absolutely! Many people considering filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy believe that they can not own anything for a period of time after filing for bankruptcy. This is not the case. You are allowed to keep your exempt property and anything that you obtain after the bankruptcy is filed. However, if you win the lottery, receive an inheritance, property settlement, or life insurance benefits within 180 days of filing bankruptcy, that money may have to be paid to your creditors if the property or money is not exempt.
May 24th, 2010
CHILD SUPPORT GUIDELINES
The Texas Legislature has promulgated guidelines that are to be followed in determining the proper amount of child support. The amount of support is determined without regard to whether the child was born in wedlock. The guidelines apply unless the parties agree on some other amount. The parties can always agree upon a suitable amount of child support but the agreement is still subject to the court’s approval.
Statutory Guidelines for Child Support
- 1 Child: 20% of Obligor’s net resources
- 2 Children: 25% of Obligor’s net resources
- 3 Children: 30% of obligor’s net resources
- 4 Children: 35% of obligor’s net resources
- 5 Children: 40% of obligor’s net resources
- Over 5 Children: Not less than amount for 5 Children
Factors Considered in Determining Child Support
In determining the proper level of child support, the court is directed to consider:
1. The statutory guidelines
2. The needs of the child
3. The ability of the parents to contribute to the child’s support
4. Any financial resources available for support of the child
5. The amount of possession and access to the child
Fixed Percentage of “Net Resources” Depending on Number of Children
The guidelines key the suggested amount of child support to a fixed percentage of the obligor’s “net resources,” taking into account the number of children involved. There is a rebuttable presumption that a support order tied to these percentages is reasonable and in the child’s best interest. To deviate from the prescribed percentages, the court must make specific findings as to the reasons that justify the deviation.
“Net Resources” More Expansive than Income
The concept of “net resources” is far more expansive than either net income or “take home pay.” The objective of the guidelines is to include all sources of cash-flow revenue, including earned income (salary, wages, overtime pay, self-employment income, commissions, tips, and bonuses), passive income (dividends, interest, capital gains, royalty income, and net rental income), and any other income (Social Security, unemployment, disability, and workers’ compensation benefits, pensions, annuities, trust income, and capital gains).
- Intentionally Unemployed or Underemployed Obligor
o If the obligor parent is intentionally unemployed or underemployed, the child support guidelines are applied to the amount the court determines that the obligor parent could earn if employed consistent with his skills and earning potential. However, merely taking a lower-paying job (i.e. to be near the children) does not establish underemployment.
- Income of Obligor’s Spouse Not Included
o If the obligor parent remarries, the spouse’s earnings and investment income from her separate property (the spouse’s sole management community property) are not included in computing the obligor’s net resources.
- Deductions from “Net Resources”
o In computing net resources, deductions are limited to FICA (Social Security taxes), union dues, expenses of health insurance coverage for the obligor’s children, and the income tax withholding that would be allowed for a single person claiming one personal exemption and a standard deduction. In most cases, this will be considerably less than the actual withholding from the obligor’s paycheck. The purpose of this rule is to have a standard, uniform method of calculating income tax withholding, without having to examine a particular taxpayer’s income tax return.
- Disability Benefits Paid on Behalf of Disabled Obligor
o If the obligor is disabled and the child receives disability benefits as a result, the amount of child support determined under the guidelines is reduced by the value of the benefits paid to the child.
“Net Resources” Capped at $7,500/Month
The statutory guidelines apply to the obligor’s first $7,500/month of net resources. If the obligor’s net resources exceed that amount, the court may order additional support only if the child has special needs. In no event may the obligor be required to pay child support in excess of 100% of the proven needs of the child.
Example: The fact that the obligor earns $500,000 per year does not, by itself, justify deviation from the child support guidelines. Only the proven needs of the child warrant a support award tied to more than $7,500/month net resources. Thus, if one child is involved, the guidelines provide for support of $1,500/month—even if the parent is a millionaire.
Child Support Payments Must be Made to State Disbursement Unit
Child support payments must be made to the “state disbursement unit,” which then transmits the payments to the obligee. Elimination of direct payments is designed to avoid disputes that might arise if the obligor made direct payment to the obligee and failed to retain a receipt.
May 18th, 2010
A Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the most common form of bankruptcy. Chapter 7 bankruptcy takes all of a debtor’s unsecured debt and wipes it away to give the debtor a fresh start. For an individual to be eligible to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, they must pass the Means Test. The Means Test is a formula designed to calculate eligibility based on income and expenses compared to the average income and expenses of households in the same geographical area. If the debtor is eligible to file a Chapter 7, and he/she decides to file, if any of the real or personal property owned by the debtor is not protected by an exemption, it will go into the bankruptcy estate. The estate will then divide the property between the creditors. If there is no property that is not protected by exemptions, then the creditors will receive nothing. After a Chapter 7 bankruptcy discharge is granted, all of the unsecured debt disappears, and the debtor will have a fresh start.