Legal Question in Family Law in Texas

Can my regular payments be considered 'informal payments' or gifts when I have a petition for child support done? (my child is 7 years old, but came back recently from staying with her grandmother).

I have been paying the same amount very regularly (close to $100 on the same day every week), based on 20% of my net income. Is there a chance this could be considered informal payments, and not child support? My ex and I are in agreement that this has been child support. Now reading from the Texas Attorney General site, I fear a judge might just brush it off and order me to pay back support?

Also I have been considering filing for divorce myself: I have literally zero property/wealth and an old clunker of a car, so I feel like aside from the child situation I have not much to lose. I have been reading up on filing using lawhelp, nolo, and the texasbar websites documentation and a lot of it makes sense. Am I just wrong? I just don't have a thousand or more dollars for a lawyer at this point (I live in Grayson County near Dallas, Texas, and I'm in my last semester of college working two part-time jobs). I did sue my landlord and successfully argued my case in small claim court back then, so I think I could be ok following direction and answering questions, but are there likely other things I would miss if I file for divorce myself? My ex is just as broke as I am, and has no lawyer, so I think a pauper like me does not risk losing much? Right?

Last, is it hard to argue for joint legal custody if I'm an otherwise fit parent? I would like to set things up so if I earn more in the future, I can petition and try to keep my daughter, etc.

I appreciate any thoughtful answer, thanks a lot.

Asked on 9/05/13, 6:55 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Fran Brochstein Attorney & Mediator

Keep your receipts to show that you are providing support. Even McDonald food receipts count. Every piece of paper - Walgreen's receipts for a box of kleenex! Paperwork can be a man's best friend.

I do not recommend going to the TX A G for help. They are not a male-friendly place. They will help set up child support but they won't help you with child visitation. They are not father friendly.

The State of Texas Family Code is written gender neutral. That said, I don't know what county you live in. Many judges still favor the mother. However, many fathers do make excellent "mothers".

You need to participate in your child's life as best you can. Stay active in her school. Get copies of her report cards, attendance records, attend parent/teacher conferences, attend school events, get progress reports. Now many teachers and schools use email so you can sign up for email reports. Let the teachers & the school administrators know that you want to be involved in your daughter's life.

Being poor does not mean that you cannot be an active parent. You can take her to church. You can teach her to read. You can teach her skills and fun things. You can do "things" with her. You can take her places that do not cost money. The library is free - you can borrow all sorts of things from the library for free. The internet is free at the library. Look on-line for coupons to get things close to free.

You can take her to museums and learn about art together. You can both learn about things together & broaden her world. These things do not cost money. Even if you don't have cable t.v. the educational channel is free. Hopefully you are beginning to see that you can be the person to bring a whole new world into your daughter's life that won't cost a lot of money. There are all sorts of events around that are low cost or free that you can take her to and share with her that will build a bond with her. These are memories that the two of you will cherish for the rest of your lives.

There are pro bono (free) attorneys that can help you. The law schools also have free clinics for simple divorces. You can visit my website that will lead you to by blog that lists all of the pro bono (free) sites in the Houston area. It appears you live outside of the Houston area but it will give you some ideas. It also includes the free Texas forms on my blog.

I encourage you to mediate your divorce. It allows for much more creativity than going to court and allowing the judge to make the decisions. In Harris County there are 2 free mediation organizations. I don't know about other counties. So look around. I charge $250 per side for 4 hours. My longest mediation was 12 hours because the attorneys & the parties did not want to stop. We settled everything.

I hope you found this helpful. I no longer litigate. I only mediate.

Good luck! By the way, many fathers get custody of their children when the child reaches puberty. So even if you don't get the child now, do everything right & you might get custody around 12. Many girls just don't get along with their moms when they hit puberty & dad becomes a very viable option.

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Answered on 9/05/13, 7:25 pm

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