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Drawing up a custody and support plan

Developing a custody plan, resolving custody disputes and child support are especially challenging for military personnel and their families. The demands of active duty service, deployments and reassignments pose complications and stress. Certain principles, however, can help govern these matters.

Texas, along with other states, has custody guidelines that are intended to protect the best interests of the child. Plans should reflect the child’s age and what happens during a servicemember’s deployment.

Custody agreements should go beyond the present. These should be drafted to deal with the child’s age, new jobs for either parent, remarriages and other circumstances. Visitation plans should also address a parent’s potential transfer to another state or country.

Texas and federal laws also require parents to provide financial support to their children. Texas has guidelines for payment of medical support or insurance, food, housing, clothes, school supplies, daycare and the child’s activities. Child support enforcement proceedings can commence in state courts if the custodial parent and children live in Texas.

Each service branch has regulations requiring their members to give adequate support to family members if there is no court child support order or written agreement between the parents. Military branches also have their own support guidelines which can help lower financial hardship until a court issues a child support order.

Garnishment orders can be enforced in the military if a parent violates a child support order. Garnishment orders are issued by the court that issued the support order and served upon the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. These direct the DFAS to make monthly deductions from the servicemember’s pay for child support. Once issued, garnishment orders can be terminated or changed in accordance with the written instructions in that order or through another court order issued to DFAS.

An attorney can help military personnel and their families deal with these issues and protect their rights under federal and Texas laws. They may help assure that divorce decrees are fair and reasonable.

Source: National Military Family Association, “Custody and child support,” Accessed April 2, 2018

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