We discussed yesterday the sort of circumstances that could lead a court to determine that the Guideline levels of support as set forth in the Texas Family Code are not appropriate. Indeed, if you are a parent who is on the hook for support your behavior can be a factor considered when determining an amount that you are obligated to pay in child support. This is true even if you are not a person who earns a great deal of money.
A court can consider all sources of income and your behavior outside of court to determine if a specific child support amount is appropriate. If you are in court telling the judge you don’t earn much money but spend money freely on non-necessities then a judge may use those circumstances to determine what level of support will be ordered.
Factors a court will consider when determining an amount of child support to order
There are many factors that a court can consider when determining what specific dollar amount to order you to pay for child support on a monthly basis. Certainly the age of your child is important. Depending on how old he or she is there may be additional costs that are relevant and need to be considered. A school-aged child may have additional costs in the form of extracurricular activities or private school tuition that need to be looked at.
The specific needs of the child are also important for a judge to consider. Does your child have a mental or physical disability that requires a certain level of care? Are there trips to the doctors that are foreseeable and reasonable based on those disabilities? If so then it is likely that the judge would deviate from the guideline amounts for support in your situation.
The frequency with which both you and the child’s other parent actually has possession of the child is relevant as well. Suppose that you had agreed in mediation to taking less possession time than would normally be afforded to you in a Standard Possession Order. For whatever reason you agreed to this, an additional burden is put on the other parent at least in terms of their responsibility to provide for the child during time periods that ordinarily would be yours. As a result, you may be responsible for paying additional amounts of child support in order to ensure your child is cared for.
On the other hand, if you are also responsible for paying to your ex-spouse spousal support then this may be a factor that leads to you paying a smaller amount of child support. Although child support is designed to pay utilized to pay for the basic needs of your child it is still paid directly to your ex-spouse. In the event that you have also been ordered to be spousal support, it could be viewed by a judge that your responsibility to pay child support is not as great with this in mind.
Modifying a Child Support Order in Texas
The standard by which a court can modify a prior child support order is based on whether or not your child, you or the other parent’s circumstances have materially and substantially changed since the prior order was signed by the judge, the mediated settlement agreement was agreed to by you and the other party or it has been three years since the prior order was signed and the child support award in that order is either 20 percent or $100 different from the amount that is appropriate given the current circumstances. That was a mouthful. Let’s break everything down in the next paragraph.
What the prior paragraph is trying to tell you is that it is not easy to modify a prior order on child support. So if you think that you can just come back later and get the actual award of support that is appropriate you had better think twice. I’ve had clients tell me that they just want to end the case now and they can come back later to increase or decrease the award. It is better to stick it out and work to get the correct amount ordered the first time.
This is especially true if you and the other parent had agreed to an amount of child support to be ordered that deviated from the standard amount as set forth by the Guidelines in the Texas Family Code. In this instance, if you want to come back later and attempt to either modify the amount downward or upward it is possible to do so only if the circumstances of you, the child or the other party have materially and substantially changed. The percentage or dollar amount factors listed above do not come into play since you all did not stick to what the Family Code prescribed as far as the Guideline level of support is concerned.
A court will view the relevant time period as starting at the time the order was signed or agreed to in mediation and the time at which the responding party was served with the modification paperwork. If you are the petitioner then it is your burden to prove a material and substantial change occurred in this timeframe. The question remains, however, just what does “material and substantial” mean anyway? Come back tomorrow to learn more about this subject as we conclude our discussion on child support in Texas.
Questions about child support modifications or any other subject in family law? Please contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan today
If today’s blog post piqued your interest and you have questions regarding starting a family law case please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys are available six days a week to meet with you in order to answer questions. Our consultations are free of charge and we would be honored to speak to you about how we can assist you and your family however we can.
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Other Articles you may be interested in:
- Defining a material and substantial change in a child support modification case
- How to properly calculate child support in Texas
- Is Overtime Pay or Bonus Pay Considered for Texas Child Support?
- Child Support in Texas: What is the most you will have to pay and what are the exceptions to that rule?
- The Dirty Trick of Quitting Your Job to Avoid Child Support During a Texas Divorce
- 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
Law Office of Bryan Fagan | Houston, Texas Child Support Lawyers
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding child support, it's important to speak with one of our Houston, TX child support lawyers right away to protect your rights.
Our child support lawyers in HoustonTX 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 child support cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, Houston, 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.