Custody Problems, Modifications, and Enforcements as Kids Grow Up

Custody Problems, Modifications, and Enforcements as Kids Grow Up

When parents divorce and negotiate or litigate child custody, the factors considered are in the best interests of the child at the time of the divorce, looking into the foreseeable future. However, things can change and the circumstances of the child and parents can lead to modifications and enforcements of the final divorce decree.

When custody problems arise as kids grow up, the parents can work together to make changes to their custody agreement. However, if the conflict is high, there might not be room for negotiation. If necessary, enforcement or modification cases may be necessary. Modifications and enforcements are new lawsuits and follow formal procedure, similar to a divorce.

A lawsuit for modification of what many call custody, is filed to modify the rights and responsibilities of joint managing conservators, as having possession and access, and for making the determination of the residence of a child. The entire arrangement does not need to change, and in many cases, the modification or enforcement may only be about one particular parental right, duty, or activity.

Custody Problems, Modifications, and Enforcements as Kids Grow Up

Call Wichita County custody lawyer Richard T. Sutherland if you have custody problems because your kids are growing up and you may need to change custody and visitation agreements. (940) 691-2100.

Listen to the Texas Child Custody and Conservatorship podcast to learn more!

Getting Into Good Schools and College

Admission standards are competitive on the path to best schools and educational programs. Parents frequently focus on college planning checklists in Grade 9 or earlier. In addition to getting the best possible grades is important. The level of classes matters and practice testing and courses preparing students for the SAT and ACT are common.

If the parent with the right to establish the child’s residence happens to move into a new school district, conflict can ensue. While the parent might find more house for the money in one district, the other parent worries the academic standards in that district do not measure up. When concerns about a long path to a great college could be comprised, a custody modification suit could be forthcoming.

Sports and Extracurricular Activities

The NCAA: What Prospective Student-Athletes Need to Know

Student-athletes have a range of goals. While some are focused on nothing more than being a starting player on a winning team, other young athletes are competing for college scholarships and the recruiters they want to take notice. Parents of student-athletes take on what seems like extra part-time jobs with the demands of coaches, practice, and game schedules, often involving significant travel and expense.

Custody problems can arise when both parents are joint managing conservators and have rights to make decisions about their children and participation in sports. When one parent does not want their son playing tackle football, a high-conflict disagreement can lead the parties back to court.

Children Hanging Out With the Wrong Crowd

See this Family Education article, What to Do When Your Kid Gets in Trouble at School

The last thing parents want to hear is that their child is getting into trouble at school, or off-campus because they are hanging out with kids who might not be the best influence. Toxic friends and changes in behavior can be a sign that something is going wrong with a child. It may be a reaction to something missing in their life, or something recently added, like a parent starting a new relationship.

Child behavior and trouble with toxic friends do not necessarily signal a failure in parenting. Despite the best childcare and parenting, children can cause conflict and problems. If there is a situation where the child is abused or neglected, a modification of conservatorship and possession and access may be vital to the safety of the child.

New Relationships Among Kids and Parents

Former spouses are not required to like their ex’s new partners. They may, however, have limitations on bringing the new partner around children. Children do well around happy and healthy relationships, and they also do well when they feel safe and secure with family. Depending on how long ago the divorce was, and the age of the children, they may take well to a new person. Whether the new love interest has their own kids can be another factor affecting peace at home.

As a parent watching your former spouse date and consider remarrying, the focus is on the new person we do not know. Are they good with your kids? Are they stable people? How do we know? What happens when we suspect they have substance abuse problems? While sometimes getting used to change takes time, change can also cause conflict and when more happens, parents can end up suing to change custody and parental rights and responsibilities.

Custody Problems as Kids Grow Up: Hiring an Experienced Lawyer for Enforcements and Modifications. Call Custody Lawyer Richard T. Sutherland, in Wichita County, Texas (940) 691-2100

Wichita County Custody lawyer Richard T. Sutherland represents people and families in Wichita County, Archer County, Baylor County, Clay County, Foard County, Hardeman County, Jack County, Montague County, Wise County, Young County and Wilbarger Counties in North Texas and has accepted cases in other areas West, North-Central and in South Texas. Contact Mr. Sutherland’s office for a consultation today.

People in Wichita Falls and the surrounding areas call Richard T. Sutherland when they need an experienced and aggressive trial attorney for custody problems, modifications, and enforcements as kids grow up and circumstances change.

Rights and Responsibilities of Joint Managing Conservators in Texas

Rights and Responsibilities of Joint Managing Conservators in Texas

Texas courts apply a legal presumption that both parents should be appointed as joint managing conservators. Conservatorship is what most people would think of as child custody and their custodial rights as parents. In Texas, when two parents get divorced the court determines their parental rights by appointing one or both parents as joint managing conservators. Note that conservatorship appointments also take place among non-married parents in a suit affecting the parent-child relationship.

The law presumes that both parents should be appointed as joint managing conservators with equal parenting rights. However, the judge can make orders about specific rights and duties. The judge may also make orders regarding restricted parenting time which is called possession and access, in Texas.

In cases involving family violence, domestic violence and other factors that could affect the best interests of a child, the judge can appoint one parent as the sole managing conservator, having certain exclusive rights and responsibilities while the other parent gets periods of possession with the child. During those periods of possession, that non-primary parent still has certain rights and duties during their possession, unless otherwise restricted by the judge.

Joint managing conservators

Listen to Richard T. Sutherland’s Texas Child Custody and Conservatorship podcast to learn about the issues involved in conservatorship and the rights and duties of parents in Texas.

Please visit Wichita County divorce lawyer Richard T. Sutherland’s blog for a library of articles about all kinds of Texas divorce and family law issues.  

The Standard Rights and Duties of a Parent Appointed as a Conservator of a Child

Parents appointed as joint managing conservators possess their rights and responsibilities as parents at all times, not only when the child is physical with them, in their possession. These rights are about access to and information sharing as well as rights about decision making. Information and decisions about a child and the child’s best interests involve health, education, general welfare, medical, dental, and psychological needs and development.

However, the rights of the parent who is not appointed as a conservator, the parent who only has periods of possession, may only assert those rights when the child is present with that parent. Those rights are duties are about the care, control, protection and reasonable discipline of the child. In addition, that parent has a duty to support the child and provide clothing, food, shelter, medical, and dental care when during possession and access. They also have rights to consent for basic medical and dental care and to direct the moral and religious training of the child, when in their possession.

Both Parents Exercising Rights and Responsibilities as Joint Managing Conservators

After a divorce or suit affecting a parent-child relationship, parents must work together as co-parents, and they should be focused on the best interests of each child. Unless limited by court order, a parent appointed as a conservator of a child at all times have the named parental rights and responsibilities. Being a good co-parent means working well with the other parent by sharing information and conferring with the other on decisions affecting the child.

You might like this HuffPost article, 10 Real-Life Tips for Successful Co-Parenting

A Child’s Health, Education, and Welfare

A parent appointed as a conservator of a child has the right to receive information from the other conservator of the child concerning the health, education, and welfare of the child. It can lead to problems when one conservator withholds information about health, education, and the child’s welfare. When the other parent has a right to information, sharing that information is good for the child. If there is a problem, your attorney can ask the court to intervene.

A Child’s Medical, Dental, Psychological, and Educational Records

A parent appointed as a conservator of a child has the right to confer with the other parent before making a decision concerning the health, education, and welfare of the child. Discuss these decisions with the other conservator parent. Both conservators should work together to avoid conflict.

Consulting with the Child’s Physician, Dentist, or Psychologist

A parent appointed as a conservator of a child has the right to access medical, dental, psychological, and educational records for the child. When access to records is denied or withheld, the conservator parent cannot exercise their parental rights and responsibilities.

Consulting with School Officials about Education, Welfare, and School Activities

A parent appointed as a conservator of a child has the right to consult with the officials with information about the child’s education, welfare, and school activities. A conservator parent has the right to know how their child is doing at school and in what activities they participate, such as extramural sports.

Know what your child is up to at school. Consider tips in this article, 4 Ways to Interact with Your Kids After School.

Attending School Activities

A parent appointed as a conservator of a child has a right to attend school activities such as parent-teacher conferences, school plays, sporting events, and other events. If one conservator stands in the way of the other, preventing them from attending school activities, there can be conflict leading the parties back to court.

Being the Child’s Emergency Contact to be Notified

A parent appointed as a conservator of a child has the right to designated on the school records as the person who has a right to be notified in the case of an emergency. It should be possible for both conservators to be designated as emergency contacts. Parents have the right to know if their child is involved in an emergency.

Consenting to Medical, Dental, and Surgical Treatment in Emergencies

A parent appointed as a conservator of a child has a right to consent to healthcare professionals to engage in medical, dental, and surgical treatments when there is an emergency causing an immediate danger to the health and safety of the child.

Managing a Child’s Estate Created by the Parent or Parent’s Family

A parent appointed as a conservator of a child has the right to manage a child’s estate, for the reasonable needs of the child, as set forth in any agreements such as a trust. The conservator parent can make an appropriate management decision in the child’s best interests.

The Standard Rights and Duties of the Non-Primary Parent During Periods of Possession

The conservator with periods of possession and access with the child can exercise certain rights and meet duties to the child. These rights and duties apply during the times that the non-primary parent is with the child during the set periods of possession and access. First, they have the duty of care, control, protection, and reasonable discipline of the child. While with the child they also have the duty to support the child with clothing, food, shelter, medical, and dental care. In providing for the child’s needs and best interests, the conservator parent during periods of possession has the right to consent for medical and dental care not involving serious invasive procedures. As well that parent can direct the child’s moral and religious training.

What Happens When Conservator Parents Exceed or Interfere with the Rights and Responsibilities of Joint Managing Conservators?

While co-parenting and exercising parental rights and duties, even the best efforts of good joint managing conservators can lead to enforcements and suits for modifications of the Court’s order regarding conservatorship, and possession and access. For example, when one party remarries there can be new conflict about decisions involving the child. Decisions about schooling, vaccinations, religious choices, and more, can lead to a trip back to court.

An experienced Texas divorce lawyer can help parents in conflict. Resolving problems with parental rights and duties is possible outside of court. Mediation is one alternative dispute resolution option other than filing an enforcement or modification suit. When mediation doesn’t work, and when the best interests of the child are at issue and in jeopardy, you need a tough and aggressive lawyer to negotiate and litigate your enforcement or modification suit.

Richard T. Sutherland is a Wichita County Divorce Lawyer for Children’s Issues and the Rights and Responsibilities of Joint Managing Conservators (940) 691-2100

Wichita Falls Family Law Attorney Richard T. Sutherland represents people and families in Wichita County, Archer County, Baylor County, Clay County, Foard County, Hardeman County, Jack County, Montague County, Wise County, Young County and Wilbarger Counties in North Texas and has accepted cases in other areas West, North-Central and in South Texas. Contact us today for a consultation.

Richard T. Sutherland can advise and represent parents with issues regarding the rights and responsibilities of joint managing conservators including new divorces, suits affecting the parent-child relationships among non-married parents, as well as the enforcement and modification suits.

Child Support Modification Because of Increase in Maximum Guideline Limit

Child Support Recipients Could Receive More Money

Texas child support increases are effective beginning September 1, 2019, and if affected, you might need a child support modification. Whether you are paying or receiving child support, you should be aware of the new amounts. While you are not required to file a child support modification, you must file one if you want to increase the amount in the child support order. There is no automatic increase in monthly amounts, and you must file a child support modification to receive an increased amount in child support.

A child support modification is a new legal action that asks the Court to make a new order for child support applying the new guideline amounts. This means that your lawyer must file a new petition that is served on the party paying child support. Your attorney can negotiate an agreed support order to save time and resources.

Child support guidelines apply the percentage of child support allowed per child to the net monthly resources of the child support obligor. A child support order and a withholding order is entered and tendered to the employer of the child support obligor in most cases, and the money is automatically withheld from the obligor’s paycheck.

Child Support Modification
Call Wichita County Divorce Lawyer Richard T. Sutherland for Child Support Modification Cases at (940) 691-2100.

Listen to our podcast: Child Support Calculations in Texas as Wichita County, Texas Divorce Attorney Richard T. Sutherland explains how everything works and what to expect.

The new maximum guideline amount is set at $9,200 monthly, replacing the current cap set at $8,550. The guideline for one child increases from $1,700 to $1,840.

Call Wichita County Divorce Lawyer Richard T. Sutherland to learn if you qualify for an increase in child support and can file a child support modification case. (940) 691-2100.

Increase in Child Support Guideline Maximum Monthly Payment

The maximum amount you can be ordered to pay in child support is the “cap.” Even if your net monthly resources (a calculated amount of your income amounts available to pay support) is more than $10,000, the maximum amount you can be ordered to pay is $8,550 monthly, which increases to a maximum cap of $9,200 monthly for child support orders entered on or after the effective date of September 1, 2019.

You could reach the maximum amount with a calculation based on one child and a high income earning obligor or when there are four or more children and the obligor is paying a larger percentage of net monthly resources for child support.

Contact Richard T. Sutherland for a consultation to determine if you qualify for a child support modification.

Modifications Available for Maximum Guideline Child Support

For one child, the maximum child support is determined by the guidelines. The guidelines are signed into law and included in the Texas Family Code. While most people follow the child support guidelines, you and the other parent can always negotiate other agreements that may be accepted by the Court when they are in the best interests of the child.

The Texas Child Support guideline amount of support that can be ordered for one child is twenty percent (20%) of the net monthly resources of the child support obligor (the parent ordered to pay support). The maximum of that amount is capped at $1,710 monthly, increasing to $1,840 monthly on September 1.

The Texas Legislature Increases Child Support Guidelines

To increase the child support maximum amounts to keep up with the cost of living and inflation, generally, the Texas House and Senate vote on increases to the caps for determining child support. The increases are voted on every six years. The guideline increases are based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The last increase in child support laws was in 2013.

Learn more about the CPI: Consumer Price Index Frequently Asked Questions

September 1, 2019, is the Effective Date for New Child Support Guideline

In order to receive more money in child support, from the child support obligor, you must file a modification case on or after September 1, 2019. When a petition for modification is filed and served on the other party, your attorney can request their updated financial records to set a new proposed amount of child support to be paid monthly.

Even though the child support guidelines have increased, the income of the child support obligor may have changed as well. If the child support obligor is making less money, the child support amount the Court may order could reflect a lower monthly support order. Your attorney can help determine your rights and options regarding child support modifications.

Call Richard T. Sutherland for Child Support Modification in Wichita County, Texas (940) 691-2100

Richard T. Sutherland is a Wichita County divorce and family law attorney who can help you with a child support modification case. In his family law career, Sutherland has advised and represented many child support obligors and recipients at all income levels. He understands how and why it can be a good time to file a child support modification.

Wichita Falls Family Law Attorney Richard T. Sutherland represents people and families in Wichita County, Archer County, Baylor County, Clay County, Foard County, Hardeman County, Jack County, Montague County, Wise County, Young County and Wilbarger Counties in North Texas and has accepted cases in other areas West, North-Central and in South Texas.

Money and Property Issues in a Texas Divorce

Money and Property Issues are Common in a Texas Divorce

Money problems are leading factors leading to divorce. Always being worried about money, spending habits, and investment decisions can break a marriage. People with significant money and property can also be the unfortunate targets of people with a hidden agenda. It can be really easy to spend money that another person earned or inherited.

At some point, people may conclude that their spouse is motivated more by money than love, respect, trust or mutual adoration. When it is time to terminate the marriage it is important to protect money and property for your future, and the benefit of your children and any other dependents.

Some common questions people ask about divorce:

  • Are assets split 50/50 in divorce?
  • Does the wife get half in divorce?
  • How are assets divided in a divorce?
  • Can you settle property before divorce?

Listen to our podcast discussion: Community and Separate Property in Texas.

Money and divorce issues in divorce
Money and divorce issues in divorce

Attorney Richard T. Sutherland is an experienced Texas divorce attorney in Wichita Falls, serving clients with complex money and property issues all over North and Northwest Texas. Contact the Law Office of Richard T. Sutherland at (940) 691-2100.

Identifying Property in a Texas Divorce

Texas is a community property state. In a community property state, the property owned during the marriage is presumed to be the community property owned equally by the spouses and subject to division in a divorce. Separate property is any property that is not community property. For example, separate property can be property owned by one spouse before the marriage or property acquired during the marriage in one spouse’s name, not used for the benefit of the other spouse or the marriage, such as an inheritance.

The discovery phase of a divorce case includes the process of exchanging information and document requests and demands to identify property owned by the spouses in the marriage. Both the husband and wife identify and disclose their knowledge of property they own or in which they have an ownership interest.

Dividing Property in a Texas Divorce

In a community property state like Texas, people assume that all property is split 50/50 in divorce. The court uses several factors in determining how community property is divided. The standard is a “just and right” division of assets and debts. Judges weigh all the facts and allegations in the divorce to determine what is “just and right.” How the Court may evaluate factors in property division can also be influenced by case law, involving similar facts and allegations in previously decided and published divorce cases.

It is important to note that property subject division in divorce includes not only currently owned and identified property but also retirement accounts and employee benefit plans.

Property identification and division can be challenging, especially where the details of ownership are complex, such as when one or both spouses have an ownership interest in family businesses and trusts.

People contact attorney Richard T. Sutherland for complex money and property issues in a Texas divorce, as attorney Sutherland is also experienced in complex corporate and business law and litigation, which is relevant to complex property issues in high-net-worth divorce.

Allocating Debts in a Texas Divorce

Addressing debt in divorce can lead to conflict. Even though there may be significant assets in a marriage, there may be significant community debt, and for good reason. For example, if invested money earns more interest than the interest on debts, it makes better financial sense to assume reasonable debts. In addition, there can be tax incentives associated with certain debts that can be deducted at tax time.

Community debts of a marriage can be divided by negotiation and agreement by the parties or the Court can order which spouse shall assume which debts. There are options when addressing debt. Community assets can be used to pay down or pay off community debts. For example, using money from investments to pay off a mortgage is one solution. Another is to continue paying the mortgage and the party living in the house assumes the payments. Maybe the other spouse is assuming the payments.

An experienced attorney like Richard T. Sutherland creates a specific financial strategy in every divorce to work towards the financial goals of the client. And when one party suspects the other will fail to make payments on debts, as ordered by the court, another option may be a better idea.

Planning for the Future After a Texas Divorce

When considering divorce financial strategies, the future of parties after the divorce is a primary focus. A high-income earning spouse has different future money and property concerns compared to a non-working spouse.  

A divorce financial expert can help analyze a money and property settlement and forecast how assets can generate future income. When there are opportunities for your money to work for you and your future, it makes sense to implement the appropriate strategy in your divorce.

This article offers information about the role of a CDFA (Certified Divorce Financial Analyst).

Security, Stability, and Control of Money and Property After a Texas Divorce

People generally dislike uncertainty in life. Security is a psychological need and being in control of yourself and your future can provide the feeling of certainty and security.

Divorce at any stage in life can give people a sense of security in an uncertain world. Being secure with money and property after divorce is important.

Read, Life After Divorce, an article about the process of moving on after divorce.

Richard T. Sutherland is a Texas Divorce Lawyer Experienced in Complex Money and Property Issues

Attorneys all over North and Northwest Texas refer complex and challenging divorce cases involving money and property issues to Richard T. Sutherland in Wichita Falls, Texas when they need to recommend an attorney they know will execute the best strategy for the client’s financial goals.

Contact him from the website or call the office at (940) 691-2100. Richard T. Sutherland represents people and families in Wichita County, Archer County, Baylor County, Clay County, Foard County, Hardeman County, Jack County, Montague County, Wise County, Young County and Wilbarger Counties in North Texas and has accepted cases in other areas West, North-Central and in South Texas.

Important Facts About Divorce in Texas

Divorce in Texas: What You Should Know

Before men and women are ready to file for divorce in Texas, they can learn about how a Texas divorce case works and what they might expect in their own case. People who move to Texas from other states should understand that Texas family law is different from other states. What you may have experienced in a divorce or family law case in another state may not prepare you for Texas law and procedure outlined in the Texas Family Code.

Hire a good lawyer. Your divorce lawyer is there to represent your legal rights and help protect you and your family’s best interests. Divorce can be frustrating and downright nasty. People get upset. Divorce and child custody cases are a process and your lawyer’s job responsibility is representing you during the process. When results and your future are at stake, you need a strong and smart divorce lawyer who gets results.

Listen to Richard T. Sutherland talk about how to go about finding a lawyer in this recent podcast, Help! I Need a Lawyer! Call Wichita Falls Family Law Attorney Richard T. Sutherland at (940) 691-2100 if you need help.

Divorce in Texas

Be ready to compromise or prepare for litigation. When people who once loved one another and married are no longer in love and on good terms, it can be difficult to remain calm and rational, especially when emotions are running high. Also, be prepared if your opposing party and their lawyer may challenge your patience at the very least. While divorce in Texas takes time, there will be a final day when the judgment is final, and you can move on.

Divorce in Texas Takes Time

A Texas divorce case follows an ordered procedure that takes time and resources. It takes time to collect the necessary information to address issues involving children, parents, property, assets, and liabilities. Even if you and your husband or wife agree on everything, a final judgment of divorce is not allowed until at least 60 days have passed from the time the petition for divorce is filed with the court clerk in the proper county.

Especially in a long marriage with children and assets, there are many potential issues to resolve in a Texas divorce. Depending on the level of conflict and ability to negotiate, a settlement can take a long time to reach, and a trial by judge or jury can take longer. While families in divorce and child custody cases may wish the process was quicker, it is important to address and resolve contested issues correctly the first time, to avoid return trips to court and modification and enforcement cases in the future.

Legal Separation Is Not Recognized in Texas

In Texas, married couples are married until their divorce judgment is granted. There is no such thing as a legal separation in Texas. Married husbands and wives can live apart and maintain separate residences, but they are still married and everything they acquire is still community property. It does not matter how an asset is titled during a marriage in Texas because it will still be community property owned by both spouses and subject to division in a manner the court deems just and right.

Texas is a No-Fault Divorce State                 

Husbands and wives cannot force the other to stay married, nor need they prove wrongdoing and fault-based grounds to qualify for a divorce. Texas is a no-fault divorce state with no requirement that either party in the divorce is at fault. There is a requirement that the man or woman seeking a divorce states one or more grounds upon which the petition for divorce is based. The no-fault ground in Texas divorce is called insupportability.

Other grounds for divorce include cruelty, adultery, conviction of a felony, abandonment, living apart, and confinement in a mental hospital.

On insupportability, The Texas Family Code states: “One the petition of either party to a marriage, the court may grant a divorce without regard to fault if the marriage has become insupportable because of discord or conflict of personalities that destroys the legitimate ends of the marital relationship and prevents any reasonable expectation of reconciliation.[i]

You Should Not Try to Do Your Own Divorce in Texas

There are some things in life that should be left to the hands of experienced professionals, such as a divorce in Texas. Child custody, for example, involves a specific process and appointment of conservators with specific legal rights and duties as parents. Visitation likewise is a process involving periods of possession of and access to the child. Many general practicing attorneys refer cases to and hire experienced divorce attorneys to represent family law clients because the practice of divorce and family law is determined by very specific rules and orders in the Texas Family Code.

People who try to do their own divorce often get things wrong and end up coming back to court and hiring divorce lawyers to fix the problems they caused by trying to do their own divorce in Texas.

Divorce in Texas Does Not Need to Be Expensive

The best divorce lawyer you can find may end up saving you money in the long run when they know how to get results more efficiently than another who may drag their feet or get tossed around by the opposing attorney.

When it comes to your family and future, it is important to divorce with a strategy and plan that works. The strategy can involve compromise and out-of-the-box thinking. The experienced family lawyer who has litigated the most difficult and complex cases is an asset when it matters to your family.

Richard T. Sutherland is an Experienced Lawyer for Divorce in Texas                            

Focused on parents, children and the best outcomes for the families he represents, Richard T. Sutherland has earned a strong reputation among lawyers, judges and members of communities in Wichita County and the neighboring Archer, Baylor, Clay, Foard, Hardeman, Jack, Montague, Wise, Young and Wilbarger Counties.

When results matter to you and your family, call Richard T. Sutherland in Wichita Falls, for divorce in Texas, by calling his office at (940) 691-2100.


[i] Texas Family Code, Grounds for Divorce and Defenses

HELP! I NEED A LAWYER!

Helpful Tips and Finding and Hiring a Lawyer: A Richard T. Sutherland Podcast

In this podcast with attorney Richard Sutherland in Wichita Falls, Texas answers the questions most people ask about how to go about finding a lawyer. This blog article serves as a summary of key points. Anyone who needs a lawyer should listen to this podcast and learn the questions and answers about the process of finding a lawyer, meeting with them for a consultation and about elements of the attorney-client relationship.

Listen to Richard T. Sutherland’s Podcast About How to Find and Hire a Lawyer
HELP! I NEED A LAWYER! Helpful Tips in Finding and Hiring a Lawyer
HELP! I NEED A LAWYER! Helpful Tips in Finding and Hiring a Lawyer

Common Questions and Issues in Finding and Hiring a Lawyer for Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, and Modifications.

If you needed to hire a lawyer, how would you go about it?

Financial professionals such as CPAs are also good sources to finding lawyers. They might give you a referral to call a lawyer they know, like and trust. If the lawyer, you call works in a different area of law practice they can make a recommendation and give you the name and number for a lawyer who can help you.

What if no one you know has hired a lawyer or they didn’t like the person they hired?  

One way to find a lawyer is to ask family and friends if they know any lawyers and find out what their thoughts were about the person they hired.

Many people search the Internet and find an attorney in Google search results. If you are looking for a lawyer in a specific practice area you can search that way, for example, “divorce lawyer Wichita County” or more specifically for divorce, child support, child custody or adoption.

You can also use some attorney specific sites such as Lawyers.com or Martindale Avvo where you can find attorneys who are rated by their peers. For example, an AV rated lawyer is deemed to have the highest legal ability and ethical qualifications. Simply search in the filed of law you need a lawyer and where.

What if the attorney I found doesn’t have any recommendations by former clients or has been given poor recommendations, should I avoid that lawyer?

Unfortunately, poor online reviews of lawyers may be a result of a disgruntled client who failed to achieve what may have been a completely unrealistic goal. Worse, it may be a review by the spouse of the lawyer’s client who didn’t like the result and blames his or her spouse’s lawyer for the outcome. Worse yet, the negative review may be placed by the other lawyer.

Note that a lawyer cannot use their client’s name for a review without the client’s express permissions since the lawyer is ethically required to keep the client’s identity confidential.

Are all initial consultations free?

No, all initial consultations are not free and there are reasons why. A lawyer’s advice, as another famous attorney, Abraham Lincoln once observed, is their stock and trade. Giving their trade away for free makes no sense. Lawyer’s advice has value. In a consultation, when the client gives the lawyer confidential information, the lawyer is disqualified from representing anyone ese in their case. So, if the husband has a consultation, lawyer is disqualified from talking to the wife because of the attorney client privilege with the husband.

Unfortunately, there is a common practice by some lawyers, encouraging clients to go and speak with other lawyers to disqualify them from being hired by the other party to the divorce. Some call this an “X out.” So, if husband hires a lawyer and is worried the other lawyers in town might represent wife, they might encourage husband to go talk to the competition law firms so they can’t represent his wife.

Consultations have value. Some lawyers provide a minimum period of free advice such as 30 minutes or less for consultation and other lawyers agree they won’t charge a fee unless the person doesn’t hire them. If the lawyer is hired, the consultation will be charged since the lawyer obtained information necessary to represent the client.

How do I know whether I am going to be charged?

Ask the lawyer when you make the consultation appointment.

I don’t think it’s fair for the lawyer to charge me when all I did was ask him questions.

Lawyers provide legal advice, most often in the form of answers to questions. As you expect to pay a doctor for their advice, you should appreciate paying a lawyer for theirs as well.

What should I expect when I meet a new lawyer?

Prepare a list of questions. You should be comfortable talking to the lawyer about your questions and receiving their response and advice. The lawyer may describe the substance and procedure involved in their situation. If you do not understand, always ask for clarification.

There are no guarantees about the outcome of any case, and you should beware of anyone who claims they can guarantee an outcome. Your lawyer should explain fee and billing practices, so you understand what to expect when you receive a bill for attorney’s fees and costs.

What is a retainer?

A retainer is an amount of money determined by the lawyer as a deposit against costs and fees. There is no a standard retainer and every lawyer may determine their retainer agreement with a client. Filing fees, such as the $630.00 filing fee in Wichita County for a restraining order case, can be paid from the retainer.

As the lawyer works on your case and tracks their time, they apply the hours they work against an hourly rate and bill your retainer. The retainer may need replenishment as the case continues. No lawyer or client knows how long a case will take or what it may cost since there are so many things that can happen.

What is a non-refundable retainer?

Non-refundable retainers are fees paid in advance to secure a lawyer’s services and compensate them for the loss of opportunity to accept other employment. Listen to this podcast and learn why the better rule for practice for family law attorneys is to avoid having non-refundable retainers, for reasons including ethics and professional conduct rules.  

I don’t really have a lot of money to hire an attorney, could he represent me on a contingent fee basis?

No, contingent fees are not allowed in divorce and family law matters. It is prohibited. Richard T. Sutherland explains the unique conflict and conflict of interest between a lawyer and client if contingent fees were to be allowed in family law matters such as custody and adoption.

Can my attorney refuse to release my file to me if I haven’t completely paid him?

No, they cannot hold your file hostage for payment. Doing so may result in damage or prejudice to your rights, prohibited by Texas rules of conduct for lawyers.

I want my mother, father, sister, brother, best friend or someone to come with me when I first consult with an attorney, is that permissible?

Yes, it is common. First the attorney must explain the attorney-client privilege, that it belongs to the client, not the attorney. Richard T. Sutherland routinely explains attorney-client privilege issues and situations to clients who can make an informed decision whether to allow another to be present during their consultation and why they may be exposed to potential danger. Listen to him explain on the podcast.

Are all conversations between an attorney and a client legally protected?

No. If the client were to tell the lawyer that the client intends to engage in criminal behavior after leaving the lawyer’s office, the lawyer is required to report to law enforcement the client’s intent to commit a crime.

There are other times a lawyer must report the abuse or neglect of a child or indecency with a child. Also, changes in testimony can result in the client withdrawing from the case in open court if the client has told the attorney about some act or event and when testifying in court and denying the act or event occurred.

What if I want to change attorneys? How do I do that?

Write your attorney a letter letting him or her know he or she is discharged immediately as your attorney. If you hired someone new, as the new attorney to prepare a motion to substitute counsel and an order of substitution and to send the motion and order to your former attorney for signature. Your former attorney should be given a reasonable amount of time to copy your file before returning original documents to you which must include his notes.

Do I even need an Attorney? Can’t I just get some forms from the Internet and represent myself?

You are not required to have an attorney in Texas. If your case is going to court, you should be familiar not only with the Texas Family Code but also with the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure and the Texas Rules of Evidence. There is not a separate set of rules and procedures for people who represent themselves and no one at the courthouse can give you legal advice.

In this podcast, Richard T. Sutherland explains in detail the pitfalls of trying to do your own divorce using information and forms you find on the Internet.

If you say “Help! I need a lawyer!”, call The Law Office of Richard T. Sutherland at (940) 691-2100.

Located in Wichita Falls, Richard T. Sutherland is an experienced divorce and family lawyer for divorce, child custody, adoption and other marriage and divorce matters. Contact him from the website or call the office at (940) 691-2100. Richard T. Sutherland represents people and families in Wichita County, Archer County, Baylor County, Clay County, Foard County, Hardeman County, Jack County, Montague County, Wise County, Young County and Wilbarger Counties in North Texas and has accepted cases in other areas West, North-Central and in South Texas.

Texas Child Custody and Conservatorship

Richard Sutherland Podcast: Texas Child Custody and Conservatorship

This is The Wichita Falls Family Law Podcast, with Attorney Richard Sutherland. We talk about Texas divorce and family law. This program is a Texas child custody and conservatorship podcast focused on helping people better understand Conservatorship and the rights and duties of parents in Texas.

Texas child custody and conservatorship podcast:

  • What is Conservator in Texas
    • What is a parent conservator?
    • What are their rights and duties?
  • Joint Managing Conservator
    • Does not mean joint custody
    • Rights and duties with the child
  • Sole Managing Conservator
    • In cases involving family violence
    • Other parent may not in child’s life
  • Possessory Conservator
    • Fewer decision making rights
  • Non-parent Conservator
    • Not entitled to certain rights and duties

Listening to this Texas child custody and conservatorship podcast can help people better understand how conservatorship works, and it can be confusing. People often call Attorney Sutherland reporting they have joint custody, and many times those parents are joint managing conservators with rights to child support, to determine the residence of a child and primary possession and access to the child, for example. If you only take one thing away from this podcast, custody and conservatorship are not the same in Texas divorce and family law.

For additional general information, please read about family law and child support on our website.

Family Law, Divorce, Child Custody, Habeas Corpus, Modifications, Enforcements, Interstate Family Law, Pre & Post Marital Agreements, Child Support, Interstate Family Support, Family Law Podcast Texas child custody and conservatorship podcast
Richard Sutherland Attorney at Law Family Law Practice Areas

Attorney Richard T. Sutherland practices family law and commercial litigation in Wichita Falls and all over Texas. Since being licensed by the State of Texas in 1976, Richard Sutherland has been an active member and leader in many legal organizations including the State Bar of Texas. He is a frequent speaker and continuing legal education contributor. Sutherland is an alumnus of The University of Texas at Austin and the Oklahoma City University School of Law.

For information about Texas divorce and family law please call Attorney Richard T. Sutherland in Wichita Falls, Texas by dialing (940) 691-2100.

You can follow Attorney Richard T. Sutherland on social media and find useful articles and resources for you and your family. Richard Sutherland is on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. For a virtual library of blog articles and podcast interviews about Texas divorce and family law please visit WichitaFallsFamilyLaw.com.

Richard T. Sutherland represents people and families in Wichita County, Archer County, Baylor County, Clay County, Foard County, Hardeman County, Jack County, Montague County, Wise County, Young County and Wilbarger Counties in North Texas and has accepted cases in other areas West, North-Central and in South Texas.

Child custody issues in a Texas divorce

Child custody issues can be challenging and complex. Children only have one chance to be kids and grow up with a bright future ahead of them. Nurturing their growth and development is important and parents in divorce fear a disruption in their children’s lives. The Texas Family Code and courts are focused on the best interests of children and assurances they may grow up in stable and supportive environments.

Family Law, Dirovrce, Child Custody, Habeas Corpus, Modifications, Enforcements, Interstate Family Law, Pre & Post Marital Agreements, Child Support, Interstate Family Support
Where will the children live during the divorce?

Not long after a new divorce case is filed, the court will conduct the temporary orders hearing to make initial determinations about where the children will live, which parent may remain in the marital home and how certain finances will be handled. The judge will generally seek to assure a status quo in children’s lives during divorce and keep them their familiar home, school and community. The court considers a variety of factors in the best interests of the children.

If the parents can agree on who will live in the marital home with the children, then the judge will not need to make that decision at the temporary orders hearing, a decision that can be in place for up to a year or more until the divorce is settled by agreement or through a divorce trial.

What is joint managing conservatorship?

In Texas, custody is called conservatorship and there is a presumption that both parents should be joint managing conservators. However, if there are issues involving family violence, drug or alcohol abuse or that which threatens children’s health, safety or wellbeing, one parent may be designated as the sole managing conservator.

A parent with joint managing conservatorship has the authority to make decisions for a child about where they will live and go to school, religious training, medical and dental needs and everything else that goes along with daily living.

How is possession and access determined?

In Texas, visitation is referred to as possession and access to the child. The parents can agree to their own schedule of where the children will be and with which parent, or the court can use a standard possession order at the initial temporary orders hearing. The standard order gives what we may call the non-custodial parent possession and access for a few hours on Thursday evenings, and during the first, third and fifth weekends of the month, alternating holidays and for a month during the summer.

Possession refers to your time with the child in person and your right to have the child with you wherever you may be. Access, however refers to your right to contact your child by phone, text, social media and so forth. You also have access to attend school activities and have access to school and healthcare records.

For information about Texas divorce and family law please call Attorney Richard T. Sutherland in Wichita Falls, Texas by dialing (940) 691-2100.

You can follow Attorney Richard T. Sutherland on social media and find useful articles and resources for you and your family. Richard Sutherland is on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. For a virtual library of blog articles and podcast interviews about Texas divorce and family law please visit WichitaFallsFamilyLaw.com.

Richard T. Sutherland represents people and families in Wichita County, Archer County, Baylor County, Clay County, Foard County, Hardeman County, Jack County, Montague County, Wise County, Young County and Wilbarger Counties in North Texas and has accepted cases in other areas West, North-Central and in South Texas.

 

Child support in Texas

A Texas court may order either or both parents to support a child until they are 18 years old or graduate from high school, whichever occurs later. In certain situations, paternity of a parent may need to be established before they can be compelled to pay child support. Medical support orders and health care coverage may also be ordered by the court. Generally, when a court orders child support payments, a withholding order is completed and sent to the parent’s employer and the child support money is automatically withheld from their pay and distributed to the custodial parent through the state disbursement unit.

Family Law, Dirovrce, Child Custody, Habeas Corpus, Modifications, Enforcements, Interstate Family Law, Pre & Post Marital Agreements, Child Support, Interstate Family Support
Richard Sutherland Attorney at Law Family Law Practice Areas

How is child support calculated in Texas?

In Texas, the non-custodial parent is ordered to pay a fixed monthly amount of money for support of a child (called the obligor) based on the number of children the parent is supporting and the obligor’s net resources. The court determines the child support obligor’s net resources by calculating their total earnings and reducing that amount by how much they pay in income tax, social security as well as their contributions to the child’s health insurance and medical support and so forth. The calculations are more complex than simply take-home pay less taxes.

Once the net resources are determined, the child support amount is based on the number of children. For one child, the parent will pay 20% of their monthly net resources. The monthly amount increases with more children: 25% for two; 30% for three; 35% for four; 40% for five and not less than 40% for six or more children.

How does child support modification and enforcement work in Texas?

When the parent ordered to pay support loses a job, receives a significant change in pay or otherwise is not paying child support for a variety of reasons it is possible to modify the child support and ask the court to assist in enforcing the child support order. Where there is a change in income, the court may review the net resources of the parent in a hearing to modify support or accept an agreement by the parties. In an enforcement case, the court may impose penalties including contempt of court and possible jail time for failure to pay court ordered child support.

Please also review the pages on our website dedicated to a variety of family law issues.

For information about Texas divorce and family law please call Attorney Richard T. Sutherland in Wichita Falls, Texas by dialing (940) 691-2100.

You can follow Attorney Richard T. Sutherland on social media and find useful articles and resources for you and your family. Richard Sutherland is on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. For a virtual library of blog articles and podcast interviews about Texas divorce and family law please visit WichitaFallsFamilyLaw.com.

Richard T. Sutherland represents people and families in Wichita County, Archer County, Baylor County, Clay County, Foard County, Hardeman County, Jack County, Montague County, Wise County, Young County and Wilbarger Counties in North Texas and has accepted cases in other areas West, North-Central and in South Texas.

 

Welcome to The Wichita Falls Family Law Podcast

Richard Sutherland Podcast: Welcome to The Wichita Falls Family Law Podcast

This is The Wichita Falls Family Law Podcast, a monthly Internet radio podcast program with featured host, Attorney Richard Sutherland who shares information and thoughts about Texas divorce, family law and commercial litigation.

Common Divorce and Family Law Topics:

  • Introducing Attorney Richard Sutherland;
  • Common concerns in divorce and family law cases;
  • Children’s issues and child support and custody information;
  • Richard Sutherland is also experienced in commercial litigation.

Attorney Richard T. Sutherland practices family law and commercial litigation in Wichita Falls and all over Texas. Since being licensed by the State of Texas in 1976, Richard Sutherland has been an active member and leader in many legal organizations including the State Bar of Texas. He is a frequent speaker and continuing legal education contributor. Sutherland is an alumnus of The University of Texas at Austin and the Oklahoma City University School of Law.

For information about Texas divorce and family law please call Attorney Richard T. Sutherland in Wichita Falls, Texas by dialing (940) 691-2100.

Family Law, Divorce, Child Custody, Habeas Corpus, Modifications, Enforcements, Interstate Family Law, Pre & Post Marital Agreements, Child Support, Interstate Family Support, Family Law Podcast
Richard Sutherland Attorney at Law Family Law Practice Areas

You can follow Attorney Richard T. Sutherland on social media and find useful articles and resources for you and your family. Richard Sutherland is on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. For a virtual library of blog articles and podcast interviews about Texas divorce and family law please visit WichitaFallsFamilyLaw.com.

Richard T. Sutherland represents people and families in Wichita County, Archer County, Baylor County, Clay County, Foard County, Hardeman County, Jack County, Montague County, Wise County, Young County and Wilbarger Counties in North Texas and has accepted cases in other areas West, North-Central and in South Texas.