I have a 4-year-old son and I am currently paying child support. I live in New Jersey but his mother lives in Texas with my son. Every time I want to bring him to New Jersey she makes a big deal and it is always an argument. I have told her I have my rights as a father to have my child as well at least for the summer since she doesn’t allow him to come during the holidays. But even so, she only lets him come for 1 month for the summer and makes my mother (who is the one who goes to Houston to pick him up because my son’s mother doesn’t want to see me and vice versa) sign a paper that she will pick him up and drop him off on certain days without even asking if it is convenient for her to come back to drop him off. She claims it is for her to feel better about letting him go to New Jersey but I think it is disrespectful and degrading for my mother to have to sign those kind of papers; but if my mother doesn’t sign them she will not let him go. Is what she is doing even legal and what are my rights as the father?
It sounds as if you do not have a court order that provides for your parenting time, or, if you do, it does not spell it out with any specificity. This also leads us to wonder about the court order you have (or don’t) for child support.
It’s critical for you to understand that if you are paying child support on your own, without a court order, your ex can go to court and get a child support order any time, and the court may or *may not* choose to factor in any support that you have already paid on your own.
It’s also critical for you to have your parenting time formalized in a court order, because that is the *only* parenting time that can be enforced. If you don’t have a court order that says when your parenting time is, then your ex can basically do whatever she wants, because you have not formalized your rights, and had them recognized by the court.
Regardless, one way or the other, you need to find a good family law attorney in Texas to help you get a court order to recognize your parenting rights, and formalize your parenting time. If you have no such order at all, it’s actually understandable that your ex is asking your mother to sign that paper (we said understandable, not necessarily “right” or “respectful”) because without such an order, her rights are not formally recognized by the courts either.
You can explain to your ex that getting everything done properly through the courts protects *her* too. That way you *must* return your son, or she can have the court enforce the order. Also explain to her that if you guys can agree on the parenting time matters, you can avoid attorneys, and do it with a mediator.
Finally, do be aware that if you are paying child support without a court order, the amount you are paying may be substantially less (or more) than the court will order. On the other hand, if you are paying child support under a court order, it is beyond us to understand how such an order happened without your parenting time also being spelled out.
You may want to take a look at our sister site, DadsRights.org, for help finding a good Texas attorney, and for more information.