I’ve started to notice a theme with some of my clients. They will give me a call or send an email with a question but will preface it by saying “This is probably a stupid question but…” or “Sorry to bug you, I know you’re busy, but I have kind of a stupid question”. And without fail the question they ask is completely valid. Just because the answer may be obvious to an experienced family law attorney, does not mean it will be obvious to the everyday person. Though attorneys spend a good amount of time asking questions, we are also here to answer the questions of our clients. This week I’m going to share 10 of the “stupid questions” I’ve received and their answers just in case you have ever wondered about them yourself.
Question #1. Do I have to pay my child support through the Office of the Attorney General?
Yes. Under section 154.004 of the Texas Family Code, payments of child support, medical support, and dental support must be paid through the state disbursement unit.
Question #2. Do I have to pay child support until the children are 18?
It depends. While parties can agree to no child support or to cancel child support under certain circumstances, the ultimate decision lies with the Court. According to section 154.001 of the Texas Family Code the court may order either or both parents to support the child until the child is 18 years of age or until graduation from high school, whichever occurs later. However, if the child is emancipated before the age of 18, that will also end the requirement of child support.
Question #3. During the divorce, can I empty the joint bank account and stop my spouse from using the credit cards?
No. The exact rules that govern this question depend on the county your case is in. But in general you cannot liquidate your accounts or cut off your spouses access to community funds.
Question #4. If there are no orders for possession and access, can I file an enforcement/writ of habeas corpus?
No. Without an order signed by the court there is nothing that can be enforced. The same is true for a writ of habeas corpus. This is because without a court order establishing a possession schedule, neither parent has a superior right to the children. Instead the party who is having their possession withheld, will need to file the appropriate petition to get a court order in place.
Question #5. If possession is withheld from me, do I still need to pay child support?
Yes. In an order affecting the parent-child relationship, provisions on child support and possession and access are two different parts of the order. Just because the other parent is in violation of the possession and access provisions, does not mean you can violate the child support provisions.
Question #6. If I am the parent with the right to designate where my children live, can I move wherever I want?
It depends. If there is no geographical restriction in your orders, you are free to move. However, if there is you will have to stay in the designated geographic area. Some orders contain provisions that lift geographic restrictions. This lift usually occurs when the other parent leaves the restricted area first, leaving the primary parent free to move wherever.
Question #7. Since we have separate bank accounts is all of the money in each account separate property?
No. Even though the accounts are separate, money earned during the marriage will be considered community property under section 3.002 of the Texas Family Code. That being said, any amount of money in the accounts prior to the marriage will be considered separate.
Question #8. I inherited a large sum of money during the marriage, is that my separate property?
Yes. Under section 3.001(2) of the Texas Family Code property that a spouse acquires during the marriage by gift, devise, or descent is considered separate property.
Question #9. May I go and speak with/write a letter to the judge about my case?
No. This would be considered ex parte communication, and it is not permitted under the Texas Code of Judicial Conduct. This rule is in place to preserve the impartial nature of the bench.
Question #10. Does the judge decide anything in a jury trial?
Yes. Though it may seem like your fate is in the hands of the jury, there are certain things they cannot decide in a family law case. For example, in a case regarding children the jury can decide the issue of conservatorship, but they cannot decide possession and access or child support. In a divorce case the jury can decide what is considered community property and how much it is worth, but it is the judge who ultimately decides how that property is split.
Remember there are no stupid questions. Asking questions no matter how obvious they may seem to someone else, is how we learn.