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Shared parenting services encourage cooperation in the child support process

By Ken Paxton

 

Children deserve the security that comes from knowing both parents love and care for them. Even when parents live apart – as is true for more than 1.6 million children on the child support caseload – it is important that they work together for their children’s benefit.

Studies have found that noncustodial parents who stay involved in their children’s lives are more likely to make regular child support payments. Studies also indicate that children whose parents pay child support have fewer behavior problems, make better grades and stay in school longer than children who do not receive regular child support. To promote healthy families, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) offers a variety of shared parenting services and publications that encourage noncustodial parents to stay involved in their children’s lives.

My Sticker Calendar, A Kid’s Guide to Shared Family Time was created to help children track the time they spend with their parents. Moms and dads can use the calendar to communicate custody arrangements in a fun way that their kids can easily understand. The stickers help simplify children’s lives by showing which parent they will see that day and the activities they’ll be sharing. Kids can see at a glance which parent is scheduled to pick them up from school and where they will be sleeping at night. The colorful artwork is by Texas children and serves as a helpful reminder for parents, who may be frustrated with each other, to stay focused on their children and the shared desire to put them first. My Sticker Calendar is available to parents who are establishing child support orders or seeking visitation services through the OAG, county domestic relations offices, local courts or community-based organizations.

The OAG’s Access and Visitation online directory is another service for parents who live apart. The directory lists programs across Texas that facilitate cooperative parenting after separation or divorce. Parents, counselors and other professionals can search the online directory by zip code, county or service provided. The directory is located in the child support section of the Attorney General’s website at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov.

The Attorney General’s statewide Access and Visitation Hotline is the first service of its kind that provides noncustodial and custodial parents with free phone access to attorneys who can provide legal information and assistance about child custody, along with information about visitation, paternity and child support matters. Hotline attorneys do not represent parents or offer legal advice. Rather, they provide basic legal information and education about establishing paternity, the child support process and a parent’s legal authority to see his or her child.

The hotline’s toll-free number, (866) 292-4636, is answered in English and Spanish, Monday through Friday from 1 to 7 p.m. Parents also can visit the hotline’s companion website www.txaccess.org to obtain downloadable legal forms and examples to help complete them. In 2014, hotline attorneys answered 36,000 phone calls and the website was viewed 46,000 times.

Awarding grant funding to local organizations is another way the OAG can help children whose parents are engaged in custody or visitation disputes, since federal regulations do not allow the use of child support funding to handle these matters. In State Fiscal Year 2015, the OAG awarded more than $800,000 in federal access and visitation funding to private nonprofit organizations and local governments across Texas. Services provided under the grants include early intervention, co-parenting education, mediation and enforcement.

According to a national report, unmarried parents who receive Access and Visitation services pay an average of 33 percent more of the child support they owe than those who do not receive services. And increased child support collections benefit taxpayers too. The money that parents pay to support their children is money taxpayers aren’t spending to provide for these children.

The Office of the Attorney General appreciates parents who work together to care for their children. Cooperative parenting is the key to maintaining strong and healthy Texas families.

Points to Remember

Shared Parenting Services
The OAG’s Access and Visitation Directory lists programs that facilitate cooperative parenting after separation or divorce. The searchable directory is available in the child support section of the OAG website atwww.texasattorneygeneral.gov.

  • The Access and Visitation Hotline’s toll free number, (866) 292-4636, is answered in English and Spanish, Monday through Friday from 1 to 7 p.m.
  • Visit www.txaccess.org to obtain downloadable legal forms and directions for completing them.
  • For more information on access and visitation programs, or to apply for child support services, call (800) 252-8014 or visit the Attorney General’s website at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov.

 

Ken Paxton is the Texas Attorney General