We discussed yesterday the circumstances that could lead a court to determine that the Guideline levels of support outlined in the Texas Family Code are not appropriate. Indeed, if you are a parent who is on the hook for help, your behavior can be considered when determining an amount 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 every month. Indeed, the age of your child is essential. Depending on how old they are, additional relevant costs may need to be considered. A school-aged child may have additional charges in the form of extracurricular activities or private school tuition that need to be looked at.
The child's specific needs are also essential 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, the judge would likely deviate from the guideline amounts for support in your situation.
The frequency with which both you and the child’s other parent possession of the child is also relevant. Suppose that you had agreed in mediation to take less possession time than would normally be afforded to you in a Standard Possession Order. For whatever reason you decided to do this, an additional burden is put on the other parent, at least in their responsibility to provide for the child during periods that ordinarily would be yours. As a result, you may be responsible for paying additional amounts of child support to ensure your child is cared for.
On the other hand, if you are also responsible for paying 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 deliver utilized to pay for your child's basic needs, it is still paid directly to your ex-spouse. If 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 significant 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 judge signed the prior order, the mediated settlement agreement was agreed to by you and the other party, or it has been three years since the last order was signed. The child support award in that order is either 20 percent or $100 different from the appropriate amount given the current circumstances. That was a mouthful. Let’s break everything down in the next paragraph.
The prior paragraph tells you that it is not easy to modify last 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 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 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 period as starting when the order was signed or agreed to in mediation and when the responding party was served with the modification paperwork. If you are the petitioner, it is your burden to prove that a material and substantial change occurred in this timeframe. However, the question remains, 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 get in touch with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, 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, PLLC. Our licensed family law attorneys are available six days a week to meet with you 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 correctly 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