Criminal, Immigration & Family Law FAQs
Frequently Asked Questions
We have organized the most frequently asked questions we receive into sections based on topic. Please click on a topic to read the quesitons and answers associated with that topic.
- Green Cards
- Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
- Assault and Aggravated Assau
- Drugs and Drug Related Offenses
- Bail Bonds
- Child Custody
- Child Support
How Does the Naturalization Process Work?
The basic process requires a person to be a permanent resident. Additionally, an individual may be eligible for naturalization if he or she is:
- 18 years or older;
- A permanent resident for a specific amount of time (usually five years, but less for some individuals);
- A person of good moral character;
- Has basic knowledge of U.S. history and government;
- Has a period of continuous residence and physical presence in the U.S.; and
- Able to read, write, and speak basic English. However, there are exceptions to this rule for someone who:
- Is 55 years old and has been a permanent resident for at least 15 years; or
- Is 50 years old and has been a permanent resident for at least 20 years; or
- Has a permanent or physical impairment that makes the individuals unable to fulfill these requirements.
To apply for naturalization, a person should be at least 18 years old and should have permanent residency:
- For at least five years; or
- For at least three years during which time he or she has been or continues to be, married to and living in a married relationship with a U.S. citizen spouse; or
- While currently serving honorably in the U.S. military, with at least one year of service, and applies for citizenship while in the military, or within six months of discharge.
Additionally, certain spouses of U.S. citizens, and those who served in the U.S. military during a past war or are serving currently in combat may be able to file for naturalization sooner. However, fulfilling all these requirements does not necessarily mean a person will be granted citizenship. A person seeking citizenship must also pass an English literacy and civics test, show he or she is of good moral character and take an Oath of Allegiance to uphold the U.S. Constitution.
What does Good Moral Character mean?
The U.S. government has determined that the definition of good moral character requires that the person applying for citizenship be of good moral character for at least five years prior to their application. It’s easier to define what is unacceptable moral character than it is to define what is good moral character.
The law states that a person is not of good moral character if:
- The person was convicted of an aggravated felony after November 29, 1990, even if the conviction was more than five years prior to the citizenship application. A person seeking citizenship should consult with an attorney if they are unsure if their prior misdemeanor or felony is classified as an aggravated felony under U.S. immigration law.
- Even if an individual has never been convicted of a felony, the U.S. government may decide to review an individual’s entire history prior to the five years of good moral character to determine whether or not the individual is of good moral character.
Do I need to study for the Naturalization and English Test?
A person preparing for the Naturalization Test an English Test should definitely take a moment to review the study materials available online. Below are links to information on each exam, as well as study materials.
- Information on How the Test is Scored
- Study Materials for the U.S. Civics and History Test
- Study Materials for the English Test
- The Naturalization Self-Test
If an individual fails either portion of the Civics Test or English Test, he or she will be granted one additional opportunity to take the section of the exam he or she failed within 90 days of failing. If the person applying fails the exam a second time, his or her application will be denied.
What happens if my naturalization application is denied?
At this point, there are two options:
- The denied applicant may request a N-336 Hearing with a new hearing officer.
- The denied applicant may petition a federal district court to review their application. This is a form of judicial review.
In the event an individual’s application has been denied, he or she may feel it is necessary to contact an attorney. If you find yourself in this situation, feel free to contact us. We have attorneys with years of immigration law experience who want to help you discuss your options.
How can I determine if I am eligible for Citizenship through My Parents?
An individual can be eligible for citizenship through their parents if:
- Both parents are U.S. citizens, both parents were married at the time of birth, and at least one parent was living in the U.S. prior to the birth of the child.
- One parent is a U.S. citizen, both parents were married at the time of the birth, the U.S. citizen parent had been physically present in the U.S. or its territories for a period of five years at some time in his or her life prior to the birth, in which two of those years were after the parent’s 14th birthday, and the child’s birthrate is on or after November 14, 1986.
- One parent is a U.S. citizen, both are married at the time of the birth, and the U.S. citizen parent was physically present in the U.S. or its territories for a period of at least ten years at some time in his or her life prior to the birth, in which at least five of those years were after the parent’s 14th birthday, and the child’s birthday is before November 14, 1986 but after October 10, 1952.
If the individual seeking citizenship was born to a U.S. citizen who was not married to his or her other parent at the time of birth, the individual may still be eligible for citizenship. If you have found yourself in this situation, please feel free to contact us. We can help you obtain all the information you need to apply for citizenship.
How can I determine if I am eligible for Automatic Citizenship through my parents?
A child born outside the U.S. is a citizen after birth through their parents if:
- At least one parent is a U.S. citizen, the child is currently under the age of 18, residing in the U.S. in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent, and the child was under the age of 18 or not yet born on February 27, 2001; or
- The child was under the age of 18 from December 24, 1952 to February 26, 2001, the child was residing as a green card holder in the U.S. and one of the following events took place:
- Both parents naturalized the before the child’s 18thbirthday or if
- One parent is deceased and the surviving parent naturalized before the child turned 18;
- The parents legally separated and the parent maintaining legal an physical custody naturalized before the child turned 18;
- The child was born out of wedlock, there is no legally established paternity and the mother naturalized before the child turn 18; or
- Both parents naturalized the before the child’s 18thbirthday or if
- The child was adopted by a U.S. citizen parent, the child resides legally in the U.S. in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent and meets the following conditions after February 27, 2001 but before his or her 18thbirthday:
- The adopted child was adopted before his or her 16th birthday and the parents had legal custody and resided with the child for at least two years; or
- The child was admitted to the U.S. as an orphan (IR-3) or Convention adoptee (IH-3) whose adoption by his or her U.S. citizen parent(s) was fully completed abroad; or
- The child was admitted to the U.S. as an orphan (IR-4) or Convention adoptee (IH-4) who came to the U.S. to be adopted and the child’s adoptive parent(s) completed the adoption before his or her 18th birthday.
Should you have any questions about any of the information provided above or have questions about how to initiate or review your citizenship application, feel free to contact us. Our attorneys have years of immigration experience and knowledge. The attorneys at Peek & Toland are here to help you with your application, answer your questions and help guide you through the entire immigration process.
How do I determine if I am eligible to apply and obtain a green card through a family member?
An individual may be eligible to obtain a green card if the applicant is:
- An immediate relative of a U.S. citizen, which includes the following:
- A spouse;
- An unmarried child under the age of 21; and
- Parents of a U.S. citizen petitioner who is 21 years or older;
- A family member of a U.S. citizen fitting into a preference category, which includes the following:
- Unmarried sons or daughters over the age of 21;
- Married child(ren) of any age;
- Brothers and sisters (if the U.S. citizen petitioner is over the age of 21).
- A family member of a green card holder; which includes the following:
- A spouse; and
- An unmarried child of the sponsoring green card holder;
- A member of a special category, which includes the following:
- Battered spouse or child;
- A K non-immigrant;
- A person born to a foreign diplomat in the U.S.;
- A V non-immigrant; or
- A widow or widower of a U.S. citizen.
If you believe you fit within one of these categories and you like help applying or obtaining a green card, but you have additional questions, need help or want to ensure all the paper work is submitted without any delays, please contact our office. We have experienced immigration attorneys who want to help you with the green card and permanent residency process.
How do I determine if I am eligible to apply and obtain a green card through my employer?
There are four primary methods of obtaining a green card through an employer. However, before an immigrant seeking a green card through an employer can apply for a green card, the employer may have to meet certain requirements with the Department of Labor. For example, an employer seeking to employ an immigrant with a certain status must show that there are not enough able, willing and qualified U.S. workers in the geographic location who can fulfill the position and that no U.S. workers are displaced by the foreign workers. In some instances, an employer may seek a foreign employee with extraordinary ability in a certain profession, and investors or entrepreneurs are given priority to immigrate. A foreign worker seeking to obtain a green card through his or her employer, should contact his or her employer has followed the proper steps to obtain a green card for the foreign worker.
The four methods of obtaining a green card through an employer are as follows:
- Green Card Through a Job Offer
- Green Card Through an Investment
- Green Card Through Self Petition
- Green Card Through Special Categories of Jobs
In the event that you believe you fit into one of the above categories and you would like help with your green card application process, please contact our office. We have worked with many foreign workers in the past seeking green cards through their employers. Let us help you make the process less time consuming and stressful for your employer and you.
What are the requirements to qualify for a visa?
To qualify for a visa, a foreign visitor must rebut a presumption that he or she is intending to immigrate. To rebut this presumptions, a visitor must demonstrate to the consulate or consular officer at the embassy that:
- The purpose of the foreign visitors stay in the U.S. is for business, pleasure or medical treatment;
- The visitor plans to stay in the U.S. for a limited and specific period;
- The visitor has evidence of sufficient funds to cover the expense of his or her stay in the U.S.;
- The visitor has evidence of compelling social and economic ties abroad; and
- The visitor has a place of residence outside the U.S. in addition to binding ties that insure their return to abroad at the end of the visit.
If you are interested in obtaining a visa and need additional help rebutting the presumption that you are intending to visit the U.S., please contact our office. We have experienced immigration attorneys who can help you obtain your visa.
What is the process for obtaining a visa?
To obtain a visa, a foreign visitor must apply for a visa at the U.S. Embassy or the consulate in the country or jurisdiction where the visitor is permanently residing. For example, a Mexican visitor with a permanent residence in Matamoros should visit the U.S. Embassy in Matamoros to obtain a visitor visa. A foreign visitor may apply for a visa outside his or her country, however it is more difficult to qualify for a visa outside the visitor's home country.
Anyone between the ages of 14 and 79 is required to participate in an interview process before obtaining a visa. Even though those over the age of 80 and under the age of 13 are generally not required to interview, the U.S. Embassy or consulate may request an interview with foreign visitors in those age groups. The first step for applying for a visitor visa is the interview process. The wait time for obtaining an interview can be long. Thus, it is important that a foreign visitor begin the visa application process promptly and take into account the visa application process wait time when scheduling his or her visit to the U.S.
If you have additional questions about the visa application process, or if you are interested in beginning the process, please contact our office. We work with visa applicants every day and we can help you too.
What do I do if my visa application is denied?
If an applicant's visitor visa is denied, an applicant may re-apply for a visa if he or she has evidence to overcome the denial. If you are someone whose visitor visa has been denied, please contact our office. We may be able to help you with your re-application.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
What is deferred action?
Deferred action is not permanent residency and it is not citizenship. Deferred action is a discretionary act of prosecutorial discretion that defers a removal action of an immigrant. While the immigrant is in deferred action, the immigrant will not be removed (deported) from the U.S.
What are the requirements to be eligible for deferred action?
The immigrant must:
- Have come to the U.S. under the age of sixteen;
- Have continuously resided in the U.S. for at least five years preceding June 15, 2012 and must be present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012;
- Currently in school, a graduate from high school or GED recipient, or is honorably discharged as a veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the U.S.;
- Have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety; and
- Not be above the age of thirty.
Immigrants seeking deferred action must complete a background check. Finally, if the immigrant seeking deferred action is not subject to a final order of removal, he or she must be at least 15 years old or older.
How long will I be given deferred action?
According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security deferred action will only be granted for two year periods. When the two year period expires, the immigrant will need to renew the deferred action and have his or her case re-reviewed.
What if I have a pending removal (deportation) case against me or I have a final order of removal (deportation) against me?
The new directive applies to those individuals who have pending removal cases against them and those who have final orders of removal against them. Regardless of pending removal proceedings or a final order of removal, an individual who meets all the criteria may request review of his or her case for deferred action.
Does deferred action apply to individuals who are not in removal (deportation) proceedings or have a final order of removal against them?
Yes. However, those individuals who meet the criteria must request review by the USCIS.
Does deferred action provide individuals with a path to citizenship or permanent legal status?
No. Deferred action does not grant any further permanent legal status or citizenship. However, deferred action does allow those individuals who meet the criteria to live and work in the U.S. for the two year period.
If I am approved for deferred action can I apply for employment authorization?
Yes. Those individuals who meet the criteria and are approved for deferred action may apply for employment authorization.
What does this recent news mean for the DREAM Act?
Based on the information we have received, Congress is still considering the DREAM Act and how best to provide certainty to young immigrants living in the U.S.
If you have additional questions about deferred action and immigration reform or if you want to consult with an attorney about your eligibility, contact our office. Our experienced immigration attorneys look forward to helping you with your case and answering your questions about deferred action.
Assault, Aggravated Assault and Family Violence
What is assault?
Assault is defined as the act of intentionally placing the apprehension of harm in another person by threatening the use of force or actually using force, physically harming the individual involved or simply physically touching an individual with the intent to cause or injury to that person. For example, if a man runs up to a woman as if he is about to punch the woman, and the woman flinches or covers her face in anticipation of the punch, but the man never actually performs the punch, an assault has occurred. Similarly, the man could raise his arm to punch the woman, only to gently pat her on the back in jest, and this would still be an assault if the woman believed the man was about to punch her. However, an experienced criminal defense attorney, like the attorneys at Peek & Toland, can help an individual facing assault charges. If you are currently facing assault charges and you want an experienced and knowledgeable attorney to help you with your case, please contact us.
What is aggravated assault?
Aggravated assault includes all the elements of assault, but includes an extra requirement. An aggravated assault occurs when an individual uses a deadly or dangerous weapon to perform the assault. For example, if a man holds a woman at gun point and the woman believes she was in harm's way, an aggravated assault occurred. Similarly, if the gun was a toy gun, or was never loaded, but the woman still believed she was in harm's way, an aggravated assault has occurred. However, to bring charges of aggravated assault, the prosecution must not only show an assault occurred, but that a deadly or dangerous weapon was used in the performance of the assault. An experienced criminal defense attorney, like the attorneys at Peek & Toland, can help an individual facing aggravated assault charges. If you are currently facing aggravated assault charges and you want to seek legal advice from an experienced and knowledgeable attorney, please contact our office today.
What are the penalties for an assault conviction?
The penalty for assault is determined by the charge of the assault. For example, an individual can be charged with misdemeanor assault, felony assault, felony aggravated assault or felony assault with a weapon. Each type of assault results in different penalties.
Misdemeanor assault is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by no more than one year in prison and/or a fine of no more than $4,000. However, third degree felony assault is punishable by 2 to 10 years imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $10,000. Additionally, the charge for misdemeanor assault can be increased to felony assault if the assault is committed against a family member or romantic partner, known public servant while he or she is performing his or her job, or a known security guard or emergency services worker while he or she is performing his or her job.
Felony aggravated assault or assault with a weapon is a second degree felony punishable by 2 to 20 years imprisonment. First degree felony aggravated assault is punishable by 5 years to life imprisonment. Similarly, felony aggravated assault charges can be increased to a first degree felony charge if the prosecution can show there is a history of family or domestic violence, the act was committed against public servant, security guard, informant or witness to a crime.
There are a number of defenses to assault, as well as arguments that an experienced criminal defense attorney can make regarding whether an assault actually occurred in the legal sense. If you are facing assault charges and you want a competent and knowledgeable attorney to defend you, please contact our office.
Drugs & Drug Related Offenses
What are the groups and penalties for drug possession in Texas?
There are five groups of drugs in Texas: Group 1, Group 1A, Group 2, Group 3 and Group 4. The penalties for possession of a drug range from one year imprisonment and a fine of $4,000 to life imprisonment and $250,000 fine. Below is a list of the groups of drugs, the types of drugs within each group, and the maximum and penalty for each drug group.
Group 1 Drugs:
- Types of Drugs: Cocaine, Heroin, and Methamphetamine
- Charges: The minimum possession charge for a group 1 drug is a state felony, while the maximum possession charge for a group 1 drug is a first degree felony.
- Penalties: The minimum penalty for a group 1 drug is two years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine, however the possession of 400 grams or more can result in up to a maximum of life in prison.
Group 1A Drugs:
- Types of Drugs: LSD and Hallucinogens
- Charges: The minimum possession charge for a group 1A drug is a state felony, while the maximum possession charge for a group 1A drug is a first degree felony.
- Penalties: The minimum penalty for a group 1A drug is two years imprisonment with fines of $10,000, while the maximum penalty for a group 1A drug is life imprisonment with fines imposed up to $250,000 if the drug possession is more than 400 grams.
Group 2 Drugs:
- Types of Drugs: Ecstasy, PCP, and Mescaline
- Charges: The minimum possession charge for a group 2 drug is a state felony, while the maximum possession charge for a group 2 drug is a first degree felony.
- Penalties: The minimum penalty for a group 2 drug is two years imprisonment for less than one gram, and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment with fines up to $50,000 possession of 400 grams or more.
Group 3 & 4 Drugs:
- Types of Drugs: Valium, Ritalin, and various chemical compounds
- Charges: The minimum possession charge for a group 3 & 4 drug is a state felony, while the maximum possession charge for a group 3 & 4 drug is a first degree felony.
- Penalties: The minimum penalty for a group 3 or 4 drug cannot exceed one year imprisonment and/or a fine of $4,000, while the maximum penalty for possession of more than 400 grams of group 3 or 4 drugs is life imprisonment with fines imposed up to $50,000.
If you find yourself in a situation where you believe you need an attorney, or if you have been charged with a drug related offense and you want an experienced and knowledgeable attorney in Austin to help you defend yourself against the charges, please contact the attorneys at Peek & Toland.
What group is marijuana and what are the penalties for possession of marijuana in Texas?
Marijuana is classified as a separate group and carries different penalties than the other groups under Texas drug laws. Marijuana possession charges can range from a Class B misdemeanor to a first degree felony. If convicted, the penalty for possession of marijuana can range from 180 days imprisonment and a $2,000 fine to a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and a $50,000 fine for a charge of possession for more than 50,000 pounds of marijuana. If you are facing marijuana possession charges and you seek an experienced and knowledgeable attorney, contact our offices at Peek & Toland.
What are the penalties for theft in Texas?
The penalty for theft depends on the severity of the theft. The charge and punishment’s severity correlates with the worth of the item stolen. For example, an individual who steals a video game worth less than $50, will likely receive a class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine less than $500. However, an individual who embezzles millions of dollars from his or her company could be charged with a first degree felony punishable by 5 years to life imprisonment.
To better explain the penalties for theft in Texas, please review the following:
Class C Misdemeanor
- Theft Amount: Less than $50, or less than $20 if by check.
- Penalty: A fine that cannot exceed $500.
Class B Misdemeanor
- Theft Amount: $50 or more but less than $500, or $20 or more but less than $500 by check.
- Penalty: Imprisonment not to exceed 180 days in county jail and/or a fine not to exceed $2,000.
Class A Misdemeanor
- Theft Amount: $500.00 or more but less than $1,500.
- Penalty: Imprisonment not to exceed 1 year in county jail and/or a fine not to exceed $4,000.
State Jail Felony
- Theft Amount: $1,500 or more but less than $20,000.
- Penalty: Imprisonment ranging in length from 180 days to 2 years in state jail and/or a fine not to exceed $10,000.
- Theft Amount: $20,000 or more but less than $100,000.
- Penalty: Imprisonment ranging in length from 2 to 10 years in state prison and/or a fine not to exceed $10,000.
- Theft Amount: $100,000 or more but less than $200,000.
- Penalty: Imprisonment ranging in length from 2 to 20 years and/or a fine of not to exceed $10,000.
First Degree Felony
- Theft Amount: $200,000 or more.
- Penalty: Imprisonment ranging in length from 5 years to life imprisonment and/or a fine not to exceed $10,000.
If you are facing any of the above theft charges, or if you are seeking a competent and knowledgeable Austin criminal defense attorney, please contact our office.
I was convicted of shoplifting, but now I am being sued civilly, how is that possible?
Texas has a Shoplifting Liability Act, which allows the store owner to sue a convicted shoplifter civilly for the cost of the stolen good and for the cost of recovery. If an individual is convicted of shoplifting, the store owner may bring a civil action against the individual to recover not only the cost of the good, but up to $1,000 from the individual for actual damages. Additionally, if a minor is convicted of shoplifting, his or her parents may be liable to the shop owner up to $5,000 for actual damages.
If you find yourself in a situation where you are being sued civilly for shoplifting, you need an experienced Austin criminal defense attorney to help protect you. The attorneys at Peek & Toland are experienced Austin criminal defense attorneys who can counsel and advise you so your interests are protected. Please contact us for more information or if you have any questions.
Why should I hire an attorney instead of a bail bond company for a jail release?
The simple answer is cost and value. When you hire a bail bond company, you will typically pay 11% of the face value of the bond, keeping in mind that you still need to hire an attorney. None of the money you pay a bail bond company is returned to you.
When you hire the Peek and Toland Law Firm, you will pay approximately 9% of the face value of the bond and all of the money you pay toward your jail release will be credited toward your legal retainer. With the Peek and Toland Law Firm, you will have a respected law firm to secure your release from jail and provide your legal defense.
What are the types of divorce in Texas?
In the state of Texas, both fault and no-fault divorce is recognized. A spouse can be found at fault if he/she committed some form of misconduct such as adultery or domestic violence. If a judge decides that there is fault in the separation of marriage, property distribution and other factors will be weighted differently.
A no-fault divorce is granted when no marital misconduct can be found.
Regardless of your circumstances, our team of Austin divorce lawyers has vast experience in helping our clients through property division, custody disputes and child support.
What is going to happen to the property my spouse and I own?
Texas is a community property state, meaning the property is divided equally between the spouses, unlike the majority of other states, which are equitable property states. In a divorce, the Court will determine a division of property based on what it finds is just and right taking into account the rights of the parties and any children from the marriage. The Court will look at not only the spouses’ joint property, but also any pensions, retirement plans, annuities, individual retirement accounts, employee stock option plans, stock option, or any other form of savings, bonus, profit-sharing or other employer plan or financial plan of an employee or participant.
Does Texas have alimony or spousal support?
Yes. The Court can make a determination that one spouse is entitled to spousal support in Texas. However, the Court will only make a determination of spousal support in the following situations:
- The spouse is unable to support himself or herself because of an incapacitating physical or mental disability, which makes him or her unable to procure appropriate employment.
- If the marriage resulted in a custodial child who requires substantial care and personal supervision because of a physical or mental disability, then the Court may provide spousal support if the spouse seeking spousal support is unable to be employed outside the home because of the child’s necessary supervision and care.
- The spouse’s minimum reasonable needs cannot be met because the spouse clearly lacks earning capacity and ability in the current labor market.
What are the types of custody?
Most individuals involved in a custody matter are familiar with the two most common forms of custody: sole custody and joint custody. However, there are two more forms of custody that can be used to provide certain rights and decision making responsibilities on each parent: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody and physical custody are closely related to sole and joint custody, so we will define those two forms of custody first.
The parent who retains legal custody over a child will have the decision making power regarding the needs of the child, but is responsible for consulting the other parent regarding these decisions. A parent with legal custody has the power to make all decisions regarding education, health care and religion. It is common for courts to award joint legal custody to both parents, thus allowing both parents to make decisions regarding the education, health care and religion of the child.
In contrast to legal custody, physical custody determines where the child primarily lives. In this instance, one parent will have physical custody of the child, while the other parent retains visitation with the child. In some rare cases, the Court will grant both parents joint physical custody of the child. However, the Courts in Texas prefer to grant sole physical custody to one parent and visitation to the non-custodial parent. It is important to note that sole physical custody does not grant the custodial parent the right to make decisions on behalf of the child without consulting the non-custodial parent. Where sole physical custody is ordered, both the non-custodial and custodial parent share equally in any decisions made regarding the child’s needs.
Sole custody is a bit misleading, because it can include sole legal custody, sole physical custody or both. If one parent retains sole custody, as in sole legal and physical custody, that parent has the full benefits and responsibilities that a parent with sole legal and physical custody would retain. For example, a parent with sole custody has the right to make all decisions regarding the child’s needs, including education, health care and religion, as well as the parent with sole custody may collect child support from the non-custodial parent. Even if the Court grants one parent sole custody, the non-custodial parent may still retain visitation with the child.
In a joint custody situation, the Court awards custody to both parents. Similar to sole custody, joint custody can be joint legal custody, joint physical custody or both. In Texas, joint legal custody is called joint managing conservatorship. Joint managing conservatorship allows both parents to make decisions as to the child’s needs, including education, health care and religion. In contrast, joint physical custody allows both parents to have physical custody of the child, meaning the child physically lives with both parents, even though they may live in separate households.
How long does the paying parent have to pay child support?
Often the paying parent is relieved of his or her child support duties when the child turns 18, joins the military, becomes emancipated, graduates from high school or marries. However, the Court may order the paying parent to continue paying child support beyond high school graduation, if the child has a physical or mental incapacity that would require the custodial parent to continue supporting the child. Additionally, by divorce decree, two parents may agree to continue supporting the child through college, which would include continued child support to the child.
We are here to answer all of your child support questions. Contact a dedicated Austin family law attorney today to learn exactly how we can apply our skills and knowledge to your child support case.
Can the amount of child support a paying parent is paying or a custodial parent is receiving be changed?
Yes. You may seek to modify the child support order if circumstances change or if a sufficient period of time has passed that would warrant changing the order. In order to qualify for a modification of child support the parent asking for a modification must show either:
- The paying parent’s circumstances significantly changed, which would warrant a child support modification; or
- At least three years has passed and the paying parent’s income has changed at least 20% or $100, thus warranting a child support modification.
Additionally, a child support payment can be modified so that child support payments increase or decrease based on the circumstances. For example, if the paying parent loses his or her job, he or she can petition the court to modify the child support order. On the other hand, if the paying parent is given a raise or a better job, the custodial parent can petition the court to modify the child support payments as well.
If you are current paying or receiving child support and you want more information on modifying the child support order, contact our experienced and knowledgeable attorneys at Peek & Toland. We can help you ensure your child support order is correct and fair.
What are the penalties for failing to pay child support?
If the paying parent fails to pay child support, he or she can be subject to wage garnishment, collection of lottery winnings, interception of federal income tax returns, suspension of driver’s license, professional business license, suspension of a passport, and contempt of court order, which can result in imprisonment and/or fines.
If you are in a child support situation where you cannot afford to pay, the paying parent is not paying, or you want help figuring out your options with your current child support order, please contact our office at Peek & Toland. We have years of family law experience and professional and knowledgeable attorneys to help you with your child support order.