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New law shows why establishing child custody is divorce priority

The case of a Houston father of a 12-year-old son should serve as a warning for other Texas fathers. It's not enough for fathers to have child support payments automatically deducted from their salary. They are also responsible for ensuring that the other parent receives those funds.

On June 24, a Houston man served as the latest example of that rule. That was when the 43-year-old turned himself in at the Harris County Civil Courthouse to begin a six-month sentence for failure to pay child support. What sets this case apart from other non-support cases is that this father actually had the required payments coming out of his paycheck each month. Unbeknownst to the defendant, a clerical error committed by his employer caused the wrong amount of money to be taken from his check and routed to pay the child's mother.

The defendant attempted to rectify the situation once he learned of the snafu but it was too late. A new Texas law aimed at cracking down on child support non-payers caused the defendant to receive a week-long stint in jail. He was released on July 3.

In Harris County, and across the nation in general, child custody is usually one of the most hotly debated components during many divorce proceedings. One reason for contentious child custody battles is because child support payments are normally tied to their outcome. In fact, most child support payments are structured to balance the costs of raising children between the custodial parent and the non-custodial parent. The parent who has custody of the children for the majority of the time is considered the custodial parent.

The guiding principle of child support is that a parent who has custody of the children most of the time automatically incurs costs such as food, housing and other essential basic living requirements. That is why courts typically require the non-custodial parent to make payments to offset those expenses. A parent going through a divorce would be wise to retain a legal expert in family law to help ensure that the court strikes the right balance between child custody and child support.

Source: Houston Chronicle, "Man jailed for failure to pay child support released," July 2, 2014

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