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What do I do when I show up to pick up my child from the mother for my visitation and my child isn’t there?

What do I do when I show up to pick up my child from the mother for my visitation and my child isn’t there?

Don’t get emotional.

First, there is no need to get emotional. Missing a scheduled visitation can be very frustrating, especially given the inconvenience of travelling to the pickup location and waiting. Set aside your need to react emotionally and focus on what you need to do. Use a visitation procedure or checklist ahead of time so you don’t even have to think about anything. Follow your procedure every time whether something goes wrong or not.

Remember, possession schedules can be confusing! She could be mistaken about who is supposed to have the child or you could have misread something that was written in a confusing way. Sometimes an order on one page changes something in the possession schedule five pages away.

Ask if you are not sure.

Some of my old clients call me with questions about what they are supposed to do and I always try to take those calls because I don’t want them getting into trouble either. Don’t feel bad if you make a mistake, and try to be understanding when the other parent does. That doesn’t mean give up your time, you should still ask for make-up time if you are sure you are right.

Have a plan.

Visitation Checklist:

  •  Control your emotions.
  •  Keep a visitation diary.
  •  Have a copy of your order with you.
  •  Write down the exact time you arrived to pick up your children and how long you waited.
  •  If the child isn’t there or no one answers your knock, take a picture at the exchange time.
  •  Wait at least 20 minutes.
  •  While you are waiting, try to solve your problem and re-read your order to make sure it is your time.
  •  If you don’t get visitation, try to reschedule.

You should always keep a visitation diary. It should be a separate calendar, notebook, or planning book that is only used to document visitation. When you arrive at the location designated for the exchange at the designated time, write down the exact time you arrived and how long you waited. See this Sample Visitation Procedure.

Always go to the location for the exchange to pick up your children, even if the other parent tells you that you won’t be getting visitation unless you agreed to reschedule. If your child is not there, take a selfie at the time the exchange is ordered and wait at least twenty minutes. During that time you can attempt to call or text the mother to find out what is going on. You should also re-read your order to make sure it really is your time. Make a note in your diary of what you did to solve the problem. Make sure your photo is backed up to the cloud with the embedded time and location data.

Reschedule.

If you do not get your scheduled visitation, try to ascertain why in writing either through text or email messages depending on how you normally communicate. Script your communications ahead of time as much as possible so that you don’t have to think about it and you don’t put emotions into your messages that could get you into trouble. You should also attempt to schedule an extra visitation period to make up for the time that you missed. Again, note in your diary what you did to try and solve the problem.

Whether or not you should attempt legal action against the mother after missing a single visit depends on the specific facts of your case, the evidence you have, the jurisdiction where you live, and your specific judge. Only a local attorney can properly advise you of your options. See Child Custody Enforcement Mistakes.

Good luck!

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Temporary Orders – Where is my child?

Is it possible to request a change to a temporary custody order because a parent is leaving the child at an undisclosed location with an unknown person while he works?

In Texas both parents have a right to receive information about the health, education, and welfare of their children. They both have the right to be designated on their children’s records as a person to be notified in case of emergency – unless there is some reason for the court to take away those rights. (See, Emergency Guide to a Temporary Custody or Protective Order Hearing.)

New custody orders can be particularly frustrating for parents. Parents don’t necessarily understand all of their rights and duties. It’s probably more often than not that I find that a client is violating one or more aspects of their thirty-plus page order. A letter from your attorney explaining your rights to the other parent’s attorney and the consequences of violating them may be enough to fix the problem. This is also a good opportunity to do an orders audit to see if you are out of compliance yourself.

One helpful way to think of temporary orders is as an opportunity to try out a custody arrangement and fix whatever isn’t working in the final orders. You may want to start a list of issues you are having and just make sure your attorney addresses them in the final orders. It ought to be pretty simple to have the final orders require parents to exchange information about daycare providers.

Here are a few suggestions that might help your case to go more smoothly:

    • Make an outline of your Temporary Orders with bullet points for your rights, duties, exchange locations, etc.
    • Buy an appointment book and calendar the visitation schedule.
    • Write a note at the beginning and end of every visitation in your appointment book. Include at least:
      1. time of exchange,
      2. date of exchange, and
      3. any information exchanged (such as Junior has a runny nose).
    • Consider asking the judge to order the parents to enroll in one of the co-parenting web sites or apps available to help facilitate co-parent communications. A few I would suggest looking at are:
      1. Our Family Wizard
      2. Talking Parents
      3. App Close

Good luck!

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Wrong, NY Post, Fathers Matter and Texas is a Great State

Wrong, NY Post, Fathers Matter and Texas is a Great State

Co-Parenting

This NY Post article1 is sad, but not for the reasons the NY Post thinks. Fathers matter, and mothers matter. Having a destructive attitude that you alone are raising your children is bad for you, it is bad for the kids, and it is expensive.

I won’t analyze the article in detail, but I will leave a few takeaways here:

  • Divorced parents are not forced to remain in Texas. You can always leave the children in the care of the other parent.
  • Leaving your children in the care of the other parent in Texas is not “losing them [altogether].” It is losing the right to designate their primary residence and collect child support.
  • Kidnapping is illegal in almost every state.2
  • “Bless your heart” is not always a complimentary expression in Texas.

The Poison

I don’t know the specifics of Kripke’s case, so I am speaking in general terms. Non-primary parents are Mothers and Fathers, not visiting relatives. The default is Joint Managing Conservatorship, which means that the children still have two parents. The parent who designates the primary residence often thinks that they are the boss of both households, which is not the case.

The problem is that parents with this wrong attitude often poison their children’s minds against the other parent. In the short term, this leads to expensive litigation, enforcements, parenting coordinators, psychological evaluations, etc. In the long term, it leads to the children having unhealthy relationships of their own.3

.

When I lived in Texas, I hated Texas, and I said it out loud, even to my kids

This is not great co-parenting

The Cure

Unhealthy attitudes are common whether the primary parent is the mother or father. If you think you are the exception and the other parent in your case really is a spare, seek counseling for yourself and your children. Even if you are right, a professional family counselor can provide invaluable expert advice to give your children the best shot at growing up emotionally healthy. Your kids will love you all the more for it.


1 Archive: “I was forced to raise my kids in Texas for 14 years,” NY Post (archived 24 Dec 2017 11:14:29 UTC)

2 See: “How to File an Enforcement by Contempt”

3 See: Divorce Poison: How to Protect Your Family from Bad-mouthing and Brainwashing by Dr. Richard Warshak, William Morrow Paperbacks; Revised ed. edition (July 12, 2011), https://smile.amazon.com/Divorce-Poison-New-Updated-Bad-mouthing-ebook/dp/B00526ZLMY

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In Defense of the Pro Se

In Defense of the Pro Se.

How Censorship Hurts the Poor

Today I will talk about Google’s brand of diversity and how it can harm you. In a previous post, I discussed how politicization of colleges can affect your rights. In this post, I will discuss how politicization of your access to information can affect your rights in as neutral of a way as I can.

It is important to consider what will happen when this hostility seeps into search results.

 

A man was fired to end a discussion.

In case you are unaware, Google recently fired an engineer for writing a paper. The paper questioned whether more freedom to speak freely and exchange ideas could help Google achieve diversity goals. The theme of the paper does not seem to be controversial and it was quite well researched. The engineer claims he offered it to begin a discussion. You can read the paper for yourself and come to your own conclusions about it.

I picked this particular scenario because I have seen the correct advice deleted from a social media website after people complained.

 

Google showed much hostility toward information on topics that some people find uncomfortable. It is important to consider what will happen when this hostility seeps into search results. We already know Google has initiatives on YouTube to flag what it deems objectionable content. Many users are having their content blocked or demonetized for what the users claim are political reasons.

Even people who only watch cat videos need to know their rights-especially custody rights.

The decision to get a paternity test is often controversial to people who do not know the law or who have a political agenda.

 

If I only watch videos of cats, how does this affect my rights? Let’s start with the example of a Suit to Adjudicate Paternity which is a fairly common type of lawsuit in Texas. Generally, the best way to answer this type of suit is with a General Denial (maybe not in your case, but generally). You should get a paternity test even if you are sure the child is yours. Before that you have no guarantees unless you had a camera on the egg to witness the conception. You don’t want to pay twenty percent of your income for someone elses child for eighteen years. Moreover, the child’s real father could return to the child’s life leaving you left out of everything except the child support obligation. These things happen. A general denial is your ticket to a paternity test.

However, the decision to get a paternity test is often controversial to people who do not know the law or who have a political agenda. Some may even find it “triggering”. The type of advice above gets flagged as inappropriate. In fact, I picked this particular scenario because I have seen the correct advice deleted from a social media website after people complained.

Private meets public censorship.

Internet safety filters in schools and libraries block information flagged as inappropriate. What happens when someone who cannot afford an attorney goes to a public library to do research? Or how about when a child or teacher tries to help a parent from a school library with even stricter filters? The filter hides critical information for the party’s own “safety.” That doesn’t sound safe at all.

Rights you do not know about are often rights waived.

 

If you think this gives you an advantage because you are a woman, you are sadly mistaken. That flagged content – not only did it tell the man how to fight a paternity claim, it also included limitations that would torpedo his case. Paternity generally cannot be questioned after four years for example. Sorry, that important nugget is in the same content hidden behind the filter.

It’s even worse than that though. What happens when a valuable authority makes one controversial post and gets banned or blacklisted? Suddenly, access to a treasure-trove of useful knowledge is lost to everyone who might benefit from it. Rights you do not know about are often rights waived. As a result, whichever party can afford an attorney has an even greater advantage over a pro se (unrepresented party) who relies on a censored internet.

The people making these decisions can afford to hire their own attorneys.

Consorship is the great and terrible equalizer.

Censorship hurts almost everybody equally. Men, women, black, white, citizens, and immigrants all need access to all the information to defend their rights. The divide is between the rich and poor. The poor have to rely on access to information on the internet while the rich hire attorneys. The people making these decisions can afford to hire their own attorneys.

I’m not saying that search engines have gone this far yet, but they appear to be on their way. I find it terrifying and so should you.

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Child Custody Rights in Texas

Child Custody Rights in Texas:

2017 Updates

2017 has been another big year for updates to the Texas Family Code. The vast majority of the updates involve child welfare and CPS. The 2017 updates provide protections to parents who homeschool and for poor parents and parents with convictions for certain nonviolent offenses. The updates also provide protections for parents who administer low-THC cannabis to their children according to a prescription, and there is a brand new chapter for Temporary Authorization for Care of a Minor Child. Now that parents and non-parent caregivers of children have new rights and protections, be sure to talk to a Family Law Attorney who can tell you how the law applies to you. Some of these laws may not be in effect yet.

There are a few dozen rights and duties of conservators of children specified in the family code. A conservatorship (child custody) order can allocate these rights any number of ways. This article will focus on five rights of parent conservators: Child support; possession and access; consent to treatment; making important decisions; and being informed about the child’s health and welfare. It is important to remember that no right or duty depends on any other. For example, if you are denied possession you still have to pay child support, and if you did not receive child support, you still cannot deny possession.

Summary

If you are a parent, you generally have a right to:

  • Have your children at certain times,
  • Receive information about how your children are doing,
  • Consult with the other parent about how to raise your children, and
  • Make decisions about how your children are raised; and
  • Depending on the orders you may have a right or duty to pay or receive child support.

The other parent cannot deny you any of these rights without a court order. If you feel like your custody rights are being denied by the other parent, call an attorney for a consultation. Your kids only grow up once.

Child Support

Child support is a major source of conflict when parents are separated. If you pay child support, think of it as paying taxes. When you pay taxes, the government takes money from you, you have no say in how it is spent, and it will be spent stupidly if for no other reason than to annoy you – just like child support. If you value your sanity, you will not look into any detail on how your tax dollars are spent, neither should you you pay attention to how your child support money is spent. Cover your ears, close your eyes, and sing a happy song to yourself if you have to, without a change in conservatorship, there is not much you can do about how that money is spent.

What if I can’t pay your child support? First of all, not paying your child support can cause you a lot of problems, but seeing your kids is not one of them. Make sure you do what you need to do to enforce your visitation above all. If your ex says you cannot see your kids until you pay up, go to pick them up anyway; but document, don’t argue. You can come back later to try and get the time you missed through an enforcement.

Second, don’t just skip payments. If your circumstances have materially and substantially changed — you have had other children, you have gone on active duty, you were injured, etc., then your support order can be modified. If you have lost your job, it is going to be harder to get a reduction but it may be worth a try. The important thing is to do everything you can to support your child and to be able to show that you have been doing everything you can to support your child.

Child Support CYA Checklist

_ Open a rainy day account and deposit 25% of your child support payment amount every month for the first year, 15% the second, and 10% after that until you have a year’s worth of payments saved up.

_Be polite to your Ex. It’s good for your kids, and your blood pressure.

_ Save your performance reviews.

_Review and update your résumé every six months.

_If you lose your job, get a haircut and start mailing your résumé that day. Keep a diary of everything you are doing to find another job. Imagine what someone could criticize you for not doing enough in your search. Immediately seek a child support reduction.

 

What if I am not getting my child support, or it is consistently late? In that case you have a couple of options: the Attorney General’s Office or a private attorney. A private attorney is going to represent you, while the Attorney General’s Office represents the State of Texas. If your ex has money and you can come up with an initial retainer, then a private attorney is probably your best bet. A private attorney can move fairly quickly according to your direction and should be able to collect attorney fees from your ex. Attorney fees earned to collect child support can usually be enforced with jail just like child support.

If you have an ex that habitually and intentionally avoids paying child support and goes into hiding every time he gets out of jail, then you will probably be better off letting the Attorney General enforce it; otherwise, you might end up out the attorney fees as well as the child support owed.

Possession and Access

You have a right to possession of your kids if it is in the order. You have a right to see them on the dates and times indicated in your order. So why does it get complicated? Sometimes it is innocent – the kids have some activities they want to do; sometimes it is not – the other parent schedules the kids for something during your time. Sometimes a parent has the child call to ask the other parent for permission to attend an activity instead of visitation. These are tricky situations to deal with and you should discuss them with an attorney or family counselor to get specific advice, but, generally, schedule makeup time in writing or go to court and enforce the order. Judges have seen the games parents play in these situations so try to be calm and smart and do all of the right things.

Making Important Decisions

These decisions could be allocated differently in your order so it is best to check or seek legal advice. In general, both possessory and managing conservators can usually make their own decisions concerning moral and religious training, non-invasive or emergency medical treatment, decisions about education health and welfare, and how to discipline the child. Often there are strong disagreements about how the other parent makes these decisions, but unless it is having a significant impact on the child’s health and welfare, you may need to learn to live with it.

Information About Your Child’s Health and Welfare

If the other parent is not keeping you informed about your children’s health and welfare, go to their doctor’s office and get a copy of their complete medical records. If the other parent won’t tell you who the children’s doctor is, then file an enforcement if you are entitled to medical information in your order. Hiding information about children’s health is a big red flag. Maybe it is being done out of spite, but often information is withheld because someone has something to hide. Parents can see things that absolutely shock them when they look at a full set of medical records for the first time.

Many schools have student records online and you should certainly look at those, but it doesn’t hurt to get first hand information from students and counselors. Being the possessory conservator does not make you a second-class parent. Even if communication with your ex is good, a different set of ears listening to school officials can be helpful, and your order should say that you have a right to consult with school officials.

Conclusion

Parents don’t lose the right to participate in raising their children when they break up or get a divorce. These rights can be enforced. If you feel like your custody rights are being denied by the other parent, call an attorney for a consultation. Your kids only grow up once, and they have a right to your support and guidance.

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