Child support and visitation do not depend on each other. Whether or not the parent pays their child support, they still get to visit. Whether or not they visit, they still have an obligation to pay child support. One thing to know is that the parent who has the primary possession, meaning the kids live with them, cannot make the other parent visit. This could be frustrating because when you have the children all the time, sometimes you need a break.
In Texas, the family code has a guideline support amount that the court will use to set child support, which is based on the parent’s income. Basically, in order to determine the amount of child support, the court looks at the gross income that the parent makes (all before-tax income) and deducts the taxes that the family code permits, which equals the parent’s net income. The court will then we apply a percentage to the net income based on the number of children. If you have one kid, it’s 20%; two kids, 25%; three kids, 30% and so on. If the parent has kids in other houses, the number is slightly reduced.
Texas also has standard guidelines for visitation. Basically, in Texas, we have the standard possession order, where the non-custodial parent, which is the parent that the kids are not living with, will get visitation on the first, third and fifth weekends. The weekend begins on Friday.
You pull out a calendar, and you circle the first, third and the fifth Friday of the month. If Friday is the 31st day, that is the fifth weekend of the month; even though the first of the next month is on Saturday, that is still the fifth weekend. Then you flip the calendar and the next weekend, the next Friday, is your first weekend of the next month. The reason I point that out is because that parent would then have two weekends in a row. They get the fifth weekend of one month and the first weekend of the next month.
When school is in session, the non-custodial parent also gets every Thursday, from 6 to 8. They get every other spring break, 30 days in the summer, and every other Thanksgiving. Christmas is split into halves, which rotate. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day split respectively between mom and dad.
The big thing on visitation is they have what is called an “expanded version,” which means dad or mom – whoever is exercising visitation – can pick up the child from school on Friday and return to school on Monday morning. On their Thursdays, the non-custodial parent can pick up the child after school and return to school Friday morning. That gives the parent extra time if they are able to pick up at school and return to school. It is the non-custodial parent’s choice to take advantage of the “expanded version.” The parent who has primary custody generally has no say in this choice.
What I see a lot of times is parents who have custody do not want to allow the “expanded version.” They tell me, “I want them to pick up at 6.” The judges will usually tell them that they do not get to make that decision. If dad or mom can pick them up at school dismissal, the judge will let them pick up. That can be a frustration. The standard possession order also provides for over 100 miles, so if a parent lives further away, then they can trade that out and do once a month. Most of the time, our judges will follow these standard guidelines for child support and visitation.