If you and your partner separate, chances are, if a child is involved, you might find yourself in Child Support Court or the Attorney General’s office, come prepared. Here’s how:
What to To
If you get documents hand delivered by an Officer, this means that you were “served” with a lawsuit, in this case a custody suit. The “pleadings” or documents you receive will include either a request for an “adjudication of parentage” (naming someone the father of the children) and/or requesting that the separated parents be granted rights and obligations as to the children. At the back of the documents, there will be a notice of hearing. You need to show up on time to do the hearing and dress conservatively.
What to Bring
For either appearance, they will usually request that you bring the following series of documents: paycheck stubs, W-2s, taxes for a couple of years, any additional document that evidences income. Make sure to bring your documentation on the day of the hearing or appointment. Tip: Bring any document that shows proof of any payment made directly to your ex-partner or in purchase made for the child (that was made after the separation), so that you can request credit for any monies paid.
What to Say
When you arrive to your hearing, make sure to check in (every place is different so ask the front desk or an officer). Normally, an attorney from the AG’s office will talk to each parent separately and explain that the Attorney General does not represent you or your ex-partner but instead represents the state of Texas. Understand that their job is not to advice you, simply they give you your options in the lawsuit. You will be asked to state whether you and and your partner have an agreement or not. If you do not have an agreement then you will face the Judge for a hearing where you can 1) Represent yourself or 2) Hire an attorney to represent you in the proceeding.
Before you say yes I agree, understand what you are agreeing to. The following are some of the decisions that are made in these custody Final Orders:
- Whether parents will be named joint managing conservators or sole managing conservators of the children ;
- Who has the exclusive right to determine the residence of the children (aka who will be primary) and whether that person will have a geographical restriction (aka will they be ordered to stay in the current county or can they move away)
- Who has the exclusive right the right to consent to the child’s marriage, enlistment in the armed forces of the United States, medical and dental care, and psychiatric, psychological, and surgical treatment;
- Who can apply, maintain, or renew passports for the children, among other rights.
- Who has the exclusive right to receive and give receipt for payments for the support of the child and to hold or disburse funds for the benefit of the child;
- How much child support should be paid (based on your income and how many children)
- Who provides health insurance and who pays
- The parent who is the non-custodial parent (NCP aka the secondary parent) will get a visitation schedule which will state dates and times of when that parent can visit with the children. Visitation will usually be per a standard possession order but can also be via a custom order depending on the case.
Understand that if you are ordered to pay child support to the other parent, you are normally considered the secondary parent NOT the custodial parent aka primary parent. This is very important because if you agree to pay child support, you lose the opportunity to make the request that you be the primary parent. And absent an exigent reason, you will not be able to make this request or modify the Custody Final Order for at least a year.
Understanding what to do, what to say, and what to bring are sure to prepare you for that AG hearing or meeting. However to be the best prepared, we always encourage you to consult with an Attorney. Even if you ultimately have an agreement for your children with your ex-partner, it never hurts to have a one on one consultation with a family law attorney.
Schedule your free initial consultation with us today: 512-212-7851.