Saturday, December 30, 2017

I've Been Sued for Not Paying Child Support, But My Child Has Been Living With Me. Can I Argue This In My Defense?

Yes you can. If the order is for your child to live with the other party, but your child has lived with you partially, you may be entitled to an offset of the child support obligation. If the child has lived with you full time, you may be entitled to a complete discharge.

If the managing conservator has voluntarily relinquished to the obligor the actual care, control and possession of the child for a time period in excess of court-ordered possession or access, the obligor may affirmatively plead and prove that actual support, if any which was supplied to the child. The court may treat this proof as a defense and offset, in whole or in part, to a motion for contempt for failure of the obligor to make periodic support payments according to the terms of the order (157.008).

Sean Y. Palmer is a Texas Family Law and Divorce Attorney who practices in Galveston and Houston Texas.  

I Have and Family Law Order I Want to Enforce. How Do I Start?

You are angry and you want justice. You went through all the effort of getting an order from the court and now the other side is not following it. What do you do?

The process you want is called Enforcement and it is one of the most tricky areas of family law. The reason is, is that the process is often “quasi-criminal” in nature, and therefore the other side gets many, many protections. And because double jeopardy often applies (the legal principle that a person cannot be tried twice on the same crime), then if you screw the enforcement up, you will lose any right to try to enforce again.

A person found to be in contempt of court is subject to a find of up to $500.00 and jail time of not more than six months for each violation. Contempt is considered to be criminal in nature and the rules require specific and careful pleading, evidence, and orders. If you are seeking the enforcement of your order, you should only hire an attorney experienced in this area of law, and certainly should not try to do this on your own (pro se).

The pleadings , which should be filed in the court of continuing, exclusive jurisdiction, (Family Code 157.001(d)), must give notice of the provisions of the order sought to be enforced and must state the amount owed under the terms of the order, the amount paid and the amount of the arrearage (157.002). Attaching the pay record to the motion is evidence of the facts asserted in the payment record and is admissible to show whether payments were made (157.162).

It is important to remember that a finding of contempt by the court will require a detailed commitment order which includes the requirements in 157.166. The language in this statute is mandatory.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times- don’t go it alone. You need to get the help of an experienced family lawyer. If you can’t afford an attorney and are willing to go through more red tape you can request assistance from a government agency. Agency attorneys are often maligned because they are government. And while it is true that you will have to wait a much longer time and must sign forms in triplicate and jump through many hoops, the lawyers themselves are often very experienced and experts in this area of law.

If you are seeking enforcement of child support, you can contact your local Attorney General Office. If you are in Texas: (

Many counties with large populations have a county agency called a Domestic Relations Office. Like the OAG, this county agency will also help enforce child support, but it they also help enforce orders on child visitation (called possession/access). These agencies are often more user friendly because they are smaller. If you are in Harris County, Texas: ( .

Sean Y. Palmer has been practicing law exclusively in the area of Family Law and Divorce for eighteen years. He lives in Kemah Texas with his Daughter and a Fish named Harvey.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Top Six Warning Signs Your Spouse May Be Cheating On You... Through Taxes!

When one spouse decides to divorce in their heart and mind, they often keep their plans secret so they can prepare to end the marriage to their best financial advantage. Unfortunately, this preparation is often at the expense of the other spouse who is unprepared for the coming storm of divorce.

A marriage joins two people together as one. This is true not only emotionally, but financially and legally as well. In a marriage union each spouse has a "fiduciary duty" to the other- a promise and obligation to look out for the other person's financial situation and not cheat them through the special trust relationship of marriage.

But what happens when one spouse has begun to view themselves as a separate person. When marriages begin to fall apart, obviously emotions run high. Sometimes one spouse is in denial and refuses to acknowledge the signs that should be obvious. This is particularly unfortunate because it is precisely at this time- when your spouse no longer feels they have to keep their fiduciary duty to you- that you need to put emotions aside and keep your wits about you and prepare for your own, separate financial future.

One of the last things thought about- even among many divorce lawyers is the tax implications of your divorce. Most married persons file joint income tax returns automatically, even when only one may generate all of the income. But when marital disruption gets underway the returns are often late or not filed at all. Bad feelings and suspicion may arise as one spouse tries to box the other into a tax corner.

There also could be underwithholdings, omissions of income, exaggerations of deductions, interception of refunds and destruction of tax notices.

If you are facing the prospect of a divorce, you need to be aware of the early warning signs that Here are the top warning signs


Not signing the joint return can be your first signal that your spouse is preparing for a divorce. If your spouse delays or gives reasons for not signing your joint return, you should pay attention. Your spouse may be thinking about a financial future that does not include you.


Your spouse may be aware of the co-liability that attached to a joint tax return. The devious spouse will want to take as much cash as they can and make you jointly liable for the increased tax bill - while he/she squirrelled away the cash. There is no easy way to discover this however. Your spouse may change their W-4 Employee's Withholding Allowance Certificate to take less tax deduction without your consent and the employer is not required to notify the employee's spouse. The innocent should review their spouse's pay stubs. If your spouse refuses to show you or delays or makes excuses- then you should be very suspicious.


Many couples have sources of income that are not immediately taxable such as self employment income, rental property income, and the like. The innocent spouse needs to be aware that prepayment of estimated taxes is the law. This is generally done quarterly with IRS FORM 1040-ES Estimate Tax for Individuals. If your spouse has started to file forms that are grossly inadequate to the normal, filed later or not at all then your spouse may be preparing for a divorce.


By signing the joint return, the innocent spouse is confirming all that it contains and making him/her equally liable for any tax fraud it entails. If the income reported is less than 25% of what was actually earned, then the IRS considers this a "substantial omission" and triggers a special rule (IRS code 6501(e)) that allows the IRS to examine all returns for the prior six years. If a substantial omission is discovered, then a 75% civil fraud penalty applies.


Because most returns direct the IRS to direct deposit funds into an account electronically, it is ridiculously easy for a devious spouse to put in the account number for a separately held account that the innocent spouse does not know about. If the devious spouse is especially cunning, they will deposit into the joint account a small portion of the tax refund because the innocent spouse often will not pay attention to, or will have forgotten the amount of the refund from the return they signed. The best way to check against this for the innocent spouse to keep a copy of the return and cross reference the joint account when the refund is deposited.


If your spouse insists or makes excuses why her or she should be the one to collect the mail every day, you should be suspicious. The IRS will send notice errors or delinquency and if ignored, the IRS may begin to levy money from the innocent spouse's paycheck or financial accounts. If your spouse destroyed all the letters and communications including the Notice of Levy, then the first time they find out about it is when their paycheck or separate account is "suddenly" short.

In each of these warning signs, there may be reasonable explanations and separate and alone, they do not necessarily justify taking any kind of legal action. But taken together, and along with any other factors you may see in your marriage they may indicate you need to begin to take steps to protect yourself from getting in trouble with the IRS and/or being denied a fair division of the marital estate during a divorce.

If have strong suspicions you should check with a skilled divorce attorney who understands the tax implications of divorce and understand your legal and financial rights.


Sean Y. Palmer is an Texas Attorney who has practiced exclusively in the area of Family Law for the the better part of 17 years. He lives in Kemah, Texas with his daughter, and a fish named Harvey.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Are there any Statute of Limitations on Child Support Enforcement?

Although there aren't "statute of limitations" in the traditional sense, there are however, time limits that must be adhered to when enforcing child support.

In 2009, the legislature extended the time to file an enforcement action. Now, a motion for contempt concerning child support must be filed within two years after (1) the child becomes an adult or (2) the date on which the child support obligation terminates pursuant to the decree of order by operation of law. (157.005(a)) (increased from 6 months).

Note the distinction concerning a statute of limitations concerning contempt and other remedies. If you are seeking a money judgment only (not contempt) you have ten years to file from the earlier of (1) the date the child turned 18, or (2) the date the child support obligation ends. (157.005(b))

Also, while not technically a statute of limitations, you should be aware that the statutes have certain limitations on the length of confinement. Texas Government Code 21.002(h) provides that: 1) in criminal contempt, the maximum penalty is $500 and 18 months confinement, and 2) in civil contempt (coercive), the maximum confinement is the lesser of 18 months or the date of compliance.

To find out more about Child Support Enforcement or other family law matters, please visit