Unfortunately, some spouses do not feel an obligation to support their children after a divorce. I have heard all kinds of excuses from “I shouldn’t have to pay because I have a car note” to “I already behind on my child support on another child.”
These deadbeat parents often come up with creative plans on avoiding child support. I sometimes hear if you try and get child support then “I am going to go for full custody” or “I am going to fight for 50/50 time so I don’t have to pay child support.” All of the above are flawed ideas on how Texas family law works that I have addressed in other articles.
In today’s blog article I am going to discuss a strategy that sometimes employed. Quitting a job or changing your job to reduce child support obligations. This can be an effective dirty trick during a Texas divorce or child support case. A trick a Texas divorce lawyer can help you avoid.
A Low Paying Job or No Job Does Not Automatically Mean Less Child Support
The premise behind a parent intentionally under employing their self or quitting their job is that because Texas calculates child support based on income if they are making less then they will pay less in child support. After child support is set then they can get a better job making more money.
I believe in most cases parents do not lose their jobs on purpose. However, I have had cases where a parent consciously chose to intentionally be unemployed because they were likely to be ordered to pay child support.
Quitting a job can be an incredibly bad move by a paying parent if there is a child support order in place. A parent’s child support obligation continues as long as an order is in place requiring the parent to pay child support. A parent may seek to modify a child support order based upon the loss of a job and the court may order the cessation of child support retroactive to the date the petition seeking to modify child support was filed by the obligor.
However, a child support modification is not something that happens automatically. The attorney general can be incredibly slow to move on a case like this. I have had potential clients meet with me who had been trying to get the attorney general to do something for 5 years. A family law attorney is a quicker option but once you have quit your job they are more difficult to pay.
In most cases a Texas family law court will use a parent’s actual income in order to calculate Texas child support. However, the Texas Family Code 154.066 covers Intentional Unemployment Or Underemployment.
(a) If the actual income of the obligor is significantly less than what the obligor could earn because of intentional unemployment or underemployment, the court may apply the support guidelines to the earning potential of the obligor.
Iliff v. Iliff, No. 09-753 (Tex. April 15, 2011)
Prior to this case there was a split among the courts of appeal on how much proof was required before applying 154.066.
In this case the Texas Supreme Court looked at the language of the statute, which states if the actual income of the obligor is significantly less than what the obligor could earn because of intentional unemployment or underemployment, the court may apply the support guidelines to the earning potential of the obligor.
The Texas Supreme Court Determined that:
- The language of Texas Family Code section 154.066 does not require such proof
- That intent to avoid child support need not be proven for the trial court to apply the child support guidelines to earning potential instead of actual earnings
- However, a trial court may properly consider an obligor's intent to avoid child support as a factor, along with other relevant facts, in an intentional unemployment or underemployment analysis
The Texas Supreme Court’s interpretation of the statute allows a determining court the option to respond if a parent tries to employ a dirty trick to lower their child support. The court reminded the courts to keep “the best interest of the child” in mind when making its determination.
If you believe your ex is trying to manipulating their income intentionally, be sure to contact an attorney.
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Other Articles you may be interested in:
- Can I get child support while my Texas divorce is pending?
- Do I Have to Pay Child Support if I Have Joint Custody of My Child in Texas?
- Can I Sue My Ex for Retroactive or Back Child Support 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
- Can I get child support and custody of my kids in Texas if we were never married?
- Child Custody Basics in Texas
- 6 Mistakes that can Destroy Your Texas Divorce Case
Law Office of Bryan Fagan | Spring Divorce Lawyers
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's important to speak with one of our Spring, TX Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.
Our divorce lawyers in Spring TX 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. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan handles Divorce cases in Spring, Texas, Cypress, Spring, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.