It is not uncommon for a client to express concern to me regarding possible changes to their income during a divorce in relation to their obligations to pay child support. What I usually tell them is in general after a divorce property issues are done. However, under the law of Texas child issues are generally not done until after the child graduates high school or turns 18 whichever comes later.
Basically this means that child support law was written with the understanding that the person responsible for paying child support’s ability to provide financial support for their children might change.
Should a change occur that would impact a parent’s ability to pay for child support. They are allowed file a “Petition to Modify” the child support order on the basis that there has been a “substantial change in circumstance”.
Possible reasons for a substantial change in circumstance may include:
- a serious illness
- change in employment, or
- even being deployed in the military
Generally, once my client’s understand there are options available to them to modify their support obligations if necessary they feel better. These same options are available to a parent who feels like the other parent is not providing adequate support to a child.
Child Support Modification Considerations
Something parents should keep in mind is that child support is not supposed to be a punishment or a form of revenge. Child support is a real responsibility that is designed to provide for the needs of the child.
Another consideration when deciding whether to file for a modification should be a cost benefit analysis on whether it is worth it financially or emotionally. For example, if you file:
- The other parent may file asking for a change of their own for something else
- If you hire an attorney it’s going to cost, your money to get the change and if the difference in child support is not very much then you may be spending $5000 to get $500 dollar
- Alternatively, if you go through the Office of the Attorney General’s office you may get the State of Texas to handle the modification for you for free. However, this may take a very long time to get them to Act. If the change is substantial, then it is probably worth hiring an attorney to get the change done quicker.
Houston Child Support Modification Attorneys
The lawyers at The Law Office of Bryan Fagan are dedicated to helping you and your family find the solution that works best for everyone. We understand things may have changed from the time child support decision was made, and we will work to promote the best interests of you and your child in the modification of the child support order. If you have questions regarding modification of a child support order in the greater Houston area, including Harris, Montgomery, Fort Bend, Waller, Washington, and Grimes counties, contact our Houston family law attorneys to schedule a free consultation and discuss the details of your case.
The Duty to Support
In Texas, parents have the legal obligation to support their children until the child reaches the age of 18, or until the child stops going to high school whichever is later.
If your child was disabled before his or her 18th birthday, that duty will extend into adulthood. This duty to support does not apply to children who are self-supporting, living away from home (if over the age of 16) or married. If the parent who pays child support dies, the obligation to pay does not die with him, but will accelerate and be due immediately from his or her estate.
You may not stop paying your child support simply because you believe the amount is too much, or because you have been denied visitation with your child. In both cases, there are legal remedies available to you, and you should talk to a lawyer.
Likewise, filing for bankruptcy will not relieve you of your duty to pay child support. Even if your debts are discharged, you must continue to pay child support.
How Child Support Amounts are Determined
The amount of child support you will pay is determined by the court under statutory guidelines. The court is required to look at the following 5 factors when deciding how much child support is appropriate:
- The statutory guidelines
- The needs of the child
- The ability of the parents to support the child
- Any other resources available to support the child
- The amount of access to the child the parent has
The statutory guidelines are somewhat complicated. The amount of child support recommended by the statute is a fixed percentage of the parent’s “net resources”, taking into account the number of children involved. For example, a parent will pay 20% of his net resources in child support if he has one child, but he will pay 40% if he has five. The law presumes that the statutory guidelines are reasonable and in the child’s best interest.
A parent’s “net resources” include all of their income, minus some deductions for things like FICA, income tax and health insurance costs for the children. Net resources are capped at $8550 a month. Even if you make more than that amount, the court will not order additional support unless the child has special needs.
Your attorney can review your child support obligations and finances with you to determine whether the statutory guidelines were applied correctly in your case.
Modification of the Support Order
There are two circumstances where the support order might be modified. First, if the circumstances of either parent or the child have changed, the court may modify the order.
Some examples of changes of circumstance which might warrant a modification include:
- Release from prison
- Serious illness or injury
- The birth or adoption of another child
- Deployment or being called to Active Duty
Second, the court may modify the order if it is not in line with the statutory guidelines. However, the order will only be modified if three years have elapsed since the order was entered, and the amount of support differs from the guidelines by either 20% or $100.
Either parent may file a Motion to Modify the Support Order with the court. Whether you believe you can no longer make your current child support payments, or you believe the other parent should be paying more, our attorneys can work with you to determine whether a modification is appropriate in your case.
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Other Articles you may be interested in:
- Texas Child Support Order Modification (Part 2)
- What do I do if I have overpaid child support in Texas?
- Child Custody Basics in Texas
- Child Support and College Tuition in Texas
- Texas Child Support Appeals
- In Texas are Child Support and Visitation Connected?
- Why Ignoring Child Support Obligations is a Bad Idea in Texas
- Texas Child Support – Trust and Annuities
- Special Needs Children in Texas Child Support Cases
- How to get above guideline child support.
Law Office of Bryan Fagan | Spring, TX Child Support and Custody Lawyers
Our Spring, TX Child Support and Custody Lawyers are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. Law Office of Bryan Fagan handles Child Support cases in Spring, TX or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Washington County, Grimes County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.