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  1. #1
    tx2011 is offline Junior Member
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    Single Dad Seeking 50/50 custody in Texas

    What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)? Texas


    I'm a single dad, live in Texas, and I'm debating filing for joint (50/50) custody including 50/50 physical custody of my son. He is 7 years old and his mother and I were never married, and the only court orders that ever have been in place have long since expired, which were temporary orders from about 4 years ago which gave 50/50 physical custody (7 days off/on rotation between parents). That went on for about one year until the mother and I decided to go to a LCSW to have a parenting agreement put in place, nothing legal I know but we were planning on including that in a custody agreement that we never did complete nor of course have any judge sign. That parenting agreement was to give me 1st, 2nd, and 4th weekends plus 2-3 nights per week, while our son stayed with her the other days/times (at the time she wasn't in work or school). Essentially split about evenly 15 nights per month with each parent. That went on for about one year.

    Long story short (too late, I know) since then the mother is now attending full time school/internship, and for the past 1 1/2 years he's "officially" been residing with me according to school records so he can attend school in my district (she lives a town over from me). He spends the 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekends with me and 2-3 nights during the week with me as well. Works out to be approx 15 nights/month, or half of the month. I've been voluntarily giving her approx. $400/month to help with costs for our son since she's not working at the moment, even though we have him the exact same number of nights/month AND I'm covering his medical insurance costs, voluntarily.

    She lives with her boyfriend of about 2 years now, who she started seeing on the side while still married to her (now) ex-husband. On a side note about 2 months ago the boyfriend left me a voicemail threatening me with violence for the way I spoke with the mother during an argument we had over the phone one time, which I have saved. They live in a very nice apt complex, have about 4 dogs and a new car (keep in mind she doesn't have a job).. and I have reasons to believe most of the money I provide isn't spent on our son, but rather her school and other expenses not related to him. For a large bulk of last year he didn't even have a single pair of shoes at their place other than the ones I purchased for him. The mother has become more and more abrasive and difficult to work with/uncooperative, and the bottom line is Iím tired of having to deal with it, deal with her threats and entitlement filled attitude, and I simply don't trust her in the least esp considering there are no court orders in place for custody whatsoever and I'm almost certain she'll file herself in about a year once she's done with school and has an income to be able to afford a lawyer. Also based on what she's studying she should likely be earning as much if not more than me once she starts her career next year.

    My question is taking all of that into consideration and how long this has been our son's living arrangement, what are the chances are that I'd be able to get 50/50 (physical) custody through the Texas courts? How about no child support required for either parent, or at least reduced support?

    Thank you in advance!!What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)?What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)?What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)?What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)?What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)?What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)?
  2. #2
    Proserpina is offline Senior Member
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    Nobody can guess on the likelihood.

    Generally though, 50-50 timeshares are more likely to be ordered if both parents a) agree and b) are willing to co-parent effectively. Distance is often a factor, too. However since you're pretty much already in a 50-50 situation, if I were you I'd have a chat with a local attorney - s/he will be able to guide you further, and will know how local judges tend to rule on the issue.

    Btw - child support does not have to be spent solely on the child. If Mom wants to buy a new car, a new purse with it - she's legally allowed to do that.

    And the court won't order her to account for it.
  3. #3
    tx2011 is offline Junior Member
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    No I understand the laws around child support and lack of any requirements to prove what the receiver spends it on. I suppose my train of thought is who's to say the mother should be the default parent to get child support to begin with when dealing with essentially a 50/50 split? What she blows it on just adds salt to the wound.

    That's the least of my concerns to be quite honest, my main goal would be to solidify via a court order a 50/50 custody arrangement. Side note, kind of sad when "equality" is considered a win for a father in our family court system, but I'll take it. Just trying to protect my rights.
    Last edited by tx2011; 01-13-2011 at 05:03 PM.
  4. #4
    mistoffolees is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by tx2011 View Post
    No I understand the laws around child support and lack of any requirements to prove what the receiver spends it on. I suppose my train of thought is who's to say the mother should be the default parent to get child support to begin with when dealing with essentially a 50/50 split? What she blows it on just adds salt to the wound.

    That's the least of my concerns to be quite honest, my main goal would be to solidify via a court order a 50/50 custody arrangement. Side note, kind of sad when "equality" is considered a win for a father in our family court system, but I'll take it. Just trying to protect my rights.
    If you can document that you've had the child 50% of the time, then you could possibly get the court to put that into an order.

    HOWEVER, I'd strongly advise you to think twice. You've got essentially 50:50 now, so why rock the boat? As soon as you file, she could go back to keeping the child from you (since you have no legal court order). It's not like your CS is all that high -- even with 50:50 you could be paying significant support if you make more than your ex (Mine is well into 4 figures and I have 50:50 - actually more like 55% for me).

    If I were you, I'd be happy with the arrangement you have now. You really don't gain anything but making a fuss - and you could lose.
  5. #5
    msmom22000 is offline Member
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    Long story short (too late, I know) since then the mother is now attending full time school/internship, and for the past 1 1/2 years he's "officially" been residing with me according to school records so he can attend school in my district (she lives a town over from me).
    One thing not to be overlooked. I'd say this would help quite a bit, to show status quo, if you can document this. However, as stated, you really should get an attorney to help.
  6. #6
    tx2011 is offline Junior Member
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    Correct me if I'm wrong, but if I file/serve her with a SAPCR with the appropriate language, she actually couldn't keep/hide our son from me and would only hurt her potential case if she did. In fact we were both warned about doing that when first went to court 4 years ago and got temp orders after filing/counter-filing SAPCRs against each other.

    It's not the I want to rock the boat, but can you honestly tell me that it's a smart move for either parent to feel comfortable with custody "agreement" that has no legal rights or boundaries for either parent? Especially when the relationship between the parents for many months has been extremely strained to say the least?

    Initiating any custody battle is a gamble by nature to say the least for either parent, I agree with you completely. I intend on talking with a lawyer at some point of course, but for now I'm mainly looking for others' thoughts on the subject before taking that next step. I appreciate your input, thank you.
  7. #7
    tx2011 is offline Junior Member
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    How would one document "status quo", or time my son spends with me? Other than a notebook where I write the dates I've picked him up, dropped him off, etc., but it's not as though there's any way to prove/disprove it's accuracy?
  8. #8
    mistoffolees is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by tx2011 View Post
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but if I file/serve her with a SAPCR with the appropriate language, she actually couldn't keep/hide our son from me and would only hurt her potential case if she did. In fact we were both warned about doing that when first went to court 4 years ago and got temp orders after filing/counter-filing SAPCRs against each other.
    She wouldn't keep the child from you entirely if she's smart, but she very well might insist on going back to following the old agreement.

    Quote Originally Posted by tx2011 View Post
    It's not the I want to rock the boat, but can you honestly tell me that it's a smart move for either parent to feel comfortable with custody "agreement" that has no legal rights or boundaries for either parent? Especially when the relationship between the parents for many months has been extremely strained to say the least?
    Best bet is to sit down with her and reach an agreement. That will almost certainly yield results that end up working better in the end. If you can reach an agreement, you can then stipulate it to the court and it becomes enforceable.

    If you can't reach an amicable agreement, you can insist on getting your rights on paper by filing for permanent custody orders. I'm simply pointing out that the result might not be what you ask for. So you can choose between a situation that's apparently working to everyone's satisfaction and you have the 50% of the child's time that you want, OR you can file and take the risk of things being much worse for you, but at least they'll be on paper.

    I know what I'd do.
  9. #9
    Isis1 is offline Senior Member
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    Okay. OP, here's an idea. Drop the child support issue. File for 50/50, leave room for flexibility. Make no mention of child support. Don't even breathe it. Once your new order for 50/50 is in for at least six months, THEN file to have the time difference recalculated.
  10. #10
    tx2011 is offline Junior Member
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    Could you please clarify what mean by time difference recalculated? Also, the original orders are for 50/50 custody, with no child support being paid by either. If she insisted on that it would be a win/win.

    I do understand what you're saying, believe me, but what would you do if you personally were in a situation where in reality you have no legal rights for possession of your child without any court orders whatsoever, and you saw no realistic chance of agreeing enough with the other parent on all important issues that come up when raising a child..that is, enough to stay out of court for the next 12 years? I mean take into consideration even just this one following potentail scenario: What if the mom wants to buy a house in 2 years and thinks our son should live with her and go to that school instead of keeping things the arrangement the same? There's no court order. We don't agree. Now what? Court looms over our heads, except now she can actually afford a lawyer..

    It's a tough situation, I guess I'm just wondering if anybody has been through a similar scenario, or handled a similar case via the Texas courts.. when you've all but had 50/50 for the last 4 years and the child is 7, would that not make my individual case a little different than the average weekend dad fighting for custody?
  11. #11
    LdiJ is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by tx2011 View Post
    Could you please clarify what mean by time difference recalculated? Also, the original orders are for 50/50 custody, with no child support being paid by either. If she insisted on that it would be a win/win.

    I do understand what you're saying, believe me, but what would you do if you personally were in a situation where in reality you have no legal rights for possession of your child without any court orders whatsoever, and you saw no realistic chance of agreeing enough with the other parent on all important issues that come up when raising a child..that is, enough to stay out of court for the next 12 years? I mean take into consideration even just this one following potentail scenario: What if the mom wants to buy a house in 2 years and thinks our son should live with her and go to that school instead of keeping things the arrangement the same? There's no court order. We don't agree. Now what? Court looms over our heads, except now she can actually afford a lawyer..

    It's a tough situation, I guess I'm just wondering if anybody has been through a similar scenario, or handled a similar case via the Texas courts.. when you've all but had 50/50 for the last 4 years and the child is 7, would that not make my individual case a little different than the average weekend dad fighting for custody?
    To be honest, whether you have court orders in place now or not, those types of problems are still out there and are still a problem...and still would have to go to court if you could not agree.

    I sympathize and understand why you want to establish custody, and to have that custody be your status quo of 50/50. However, if mom buys a house in the future and wants the child to change schools, and you don't, you will STILL end up in court over the issue. A custody order doesn't protect you from things like that.
  12. #12
    tx2011 is offline Junior Member
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    I know, that's what concerns me. Neither of us have definitive legal rights as of today, so we either wait until something blows up to establish managing conservatorship and physical custody, or we do it now. Our relationship is such that I don't believe for a second it won't end up there at some point. We've just been lucky these past 4 years. We do it now, there might be a lesser chance of going back into court once a legal precendent has been put in place, especially when the mother tends to act like she's the one with primary custody when we disagree about things. Then even if we do, for a judge to change an order/status quo I'd think there would have to be a major 'best interests' reason to do so, which would be very hard to prove in my example about her purchasing a home.

    Plus if we do it now, she can't afford a very good lawyer. I on the other hand, can pay for one right now. So the question is be preemptive and potentially have the upper hand, or wait.

    Again please understand if I thought for a moment that she'd be rational enough to sign off on a custody order that truly was equal, I'd do it in a heart beat. In fact I'll attempt that before I file a lawsuit. I'm just venting, but more trying to get opinions for what I forsee happening sometime soon, whether it's this year, or 5 years from now. What's the best play is the answer I'm seeeking.
  13. #13
    CJane is offline Senior Member
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    You do understand that in TX, child support is 20% of your net income, and if you want the judge to deviate from that based on time share, you're going to have to prove that it's in the child's best interests to receive lesser support?
  14. #14
    LdiJ is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by tx2011 View Post
    I know, that's what concerns me. Neither of us have definitive legal rights as of today, so we either wait until something blows up to establish managing conservatorship and physical custody, or we do it now. Our relationship is such that I don't believe for a second it won't end up there at some point. We've just been lucky these past 4 years. We do it now, there might be a lesser chance of going back into court once a legal precendent has been put in place, especially when the mother tends to act like she's the one with primary custody when we disagree about things. Then even if we do, for a judge to change an order/status quo I'd think there would have to be a major 'best interests' reason to do so, which would be very hard to prove in my example about her purchasing a home.
    I think that you are assuming that you would have some sort of veto power over the child changing schools if mom bought a house. That isn't correct. The two of you would be looked at equally and the judge would base the decision on the best interest of the child. You would only have the upper hand if mom bought a house far enough away that it would not be possible for both of you to transport the child back and forth to school, and then a whole host of other factors would come into play (including how good each of the respectives schools were) in making the decision. Honestly, having a court order for custody (when you already have status quo) would change nothing in that scenario.

    Plus if we do it now, she can't afford a very good lawyer. I on the other hand, can pay for one right now. So the question is be preemptive and potentially have the upper hand, or wait.
    I am afraid that I find that attitude repugnant. So I am not going to comment on that. Decisions regarding children should not be made based on whose attorney is the better "bully". They should be made based on a sound argument as to the child's best interest.

    Again please understand if I thought for a moment that she'd be rational enough to sign off on a custody order that truly was equal, I'd do it in a heart beat. In fact I'll attempt that before I file a lawsuit. I'm just venting, but more trying to get opinions for what I forsee happening sometime soon, whether it's this year, or 5 years from now. What's the best play is the answer I'm seeeking.
    In my opinion, the best "play" (for the sake of the child) is to keep an amicable relationship with the child's other parent for as long as possible and deal with problems when they actually arise.

    Its not wrong at all for you to want the status quo to be court ordered. Court orders protect everyone to a great extent. However, your status quo will just get stronger as time goes on, and the long your relationship with the child's mother remains civil and friendly, the less she will be willing to upset things for the child, and the more she will care about you as a friend and co-parent and will not want to upset things for you either.

    I know this, because that is the divorce that I lived. My daughter is now 23 and I am pleased to say that my relationship with her father is like having another brother. We had a loose court order, reasonable visitation, which normally does not work well. However for us it did because we built trust and got to the point where neither of us would have done anything to make things more difficult for the other or to hurt the other. We truly consider each other family and would be there for each other in any crisis.

    Right now, if things go on as they are, its very possible that if she decides to buy a house some day, that she will decide to buy one in an area that is convenient for BOTH of you. She has cooperated with your schedule for a whole 4 years...without a court order...and that's almost unprecedented.

    That tells me that on her side there is trust...which is one of the reasons why it bothers me that you are talking about "plays". I would have been crushed if my ex, after four years of making it work well, had decided that he didn't trust me as much as I trusted him.

    A lot of what I am saying here is personal advice rather than legal advice. The standard legal response is that court orders protect everyone and you should have court orders that are in line with the status quo. However, sometimes the standard legal response honestly doesn't fit the situation.
  15. #15
    tx2011 is offline Junior Member
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    @LdiJ

    I appreciate your insight, but unfortunately you're viewing it without knowing any details of the relationship between me and the mother. Our relationship has zero trust, and never will. Four years of a non court-ordered, 'agreeable' custody arrangement may very well be unprecedented, but it's also full of flaws and complications that invite disputes ALL the time. I know this carries no weight probably from anyone's perspective since by nature my opinion is biased, but I can assure you that for years I have been bending over backwards to accomodate the mother in every way, shape, and form and do not nor will I ever recieve the same in return, let alone a single ounce of respect. Probably because she has the same school of thought as most of the commenters on my posting here in this forum have alluded to, which is that apparently it is all about the mother, and that's just the way it is. That I, as a father, should be thankful that she's "allowing" this, or "allowing" that.

    I'll have to respectfully disagree with your opinion of what you feel amounts to something "repugnant". When a parent is automatically (and somehow still legally in today's day and age) at a complete disadvantage in terms of child custody simply based on their sex, having a strategy in an attempt to protect their interests from what is perceived as 'the inevitable' is not repugnant, it's responsible. My interests being my son, and my relationship with him being allowed to continue on an equal basis as his mother.

    Again I understand and agree a mutual custody arrangement outside of court is best for me, his mother, and our son. I suppose the point I haven't been able to get across is that I believe ultimately she's not interested in that as a solution, and NOT because she feels it's in our child's best interests...but rather because when push comes to shove, she knows there's a good chance she doesn't HAVE to. That is the kind of person she is.. for what it's worth.

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