In the months and years following the establishment of a child support obligation in court, a child support modification may become necessary between you and your child’s other parent. The current monthly child support amount may no longer align with your specific circumstances due to various factors. Over time, your child’s needs may have evolved, possibly due to the development of a disability, necessitating additional care and increased family expenses.
On the other hand, your ex-spouse’s income may have significantly grown, impacting the existing child support arrangement. Conversely, if you are the paying parent, your income might have significantly decreased, rendering you unable to meet the expected monthly child support amount. In such cases, it becomes crucial to seek a child support modification to properly address the child’s best interests and financial well-being.
Initiating a Child Support Modification Case After a Divorce or Initial Custody Order
Whether you first entered the realm of family law through a divorce or a Suit Affecting Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR), you established child support orders at that time. These orders either mandated you to pay a specific percentage of your net monthly income in child support or granted you the right to receive child support on behalf of your child from the other parent. However, changes and modifications are possible under certain circumstances.
This blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, outlines the initial stages of a child support modification case in Texas. While it is possible to file a modification case independently without legal representation, I will provide an overview of the steps involved assuming you have retained an attorney.
When Can You Modify a Prior Child Support Order in Texas?
Under current Texas law, you can seek a modification of a child support order if you can demonstrate to a judge that a significant change in circumstances has affected you, the other parent, or one of the children for whom child support is paid. Alternatively, you may pursue a modification if, after three years from the date of the original order, the requested child support amount differs by either $100 or 20% from the original monthly amount.
Additionally, the court may consider other factors, including whether at least a year has passed since the original order was entered, whether the order imposes a severe economic hardship on you, your opposing party, or your child, and whether your child has graduated from high school but still requires child support. It’s important to note that obtaining a modification does not necessarily require meeting the substantial change in circumstances requirement in all cases.
Initiating a Child Support Modification Case in Texas: Key Steps to Follow
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of consulting with a family law attorney before initiating a child support modification. Although you may be facing difficulties related to the child support you either pay or receive, it’s essential to understand that your case may not be as strong as you believe.
While I have outlined several methods for potentially adjusting child support amounts, it is a challenging process. Judges are reluctant to modify child support obligations without a compelling reason to do so. This caution is exercised to ensure that your child’s needs are not jeopardized by financial instability affecting either you or the other parent.
Meeting with a Family Law Attorney
When meeting with a family law attorney to discuss a potential case, you essentially conduct a job interview, evaluating how they connect with you and your family. Does the attorney effectively explain your case’s issues, the applicable laws, and potential outcomes, or do they primarily focus on discussing their fees? I always advise prospective clients to seek an attorney with a teaching-oriented approach rather than one who behaves like a salesperson in the guise of a legal professional. In my opinion, this choice tends to be more beneficial.
In these meetings, it’s crucial not to withhold any information. Share all the relevant information you have access to. The attorney will require every detail to accurately assess your circumstances. The last thing you want is to pay a retainer fee, initiate a case, and later disclose information that could have deterred you from pursuing the case in the first place. Save both time and money by providing the attorney with comprehensive information during your initial consultations.
Filing a Petition to Modify
If, with the guidance of an experienced family law attorney, you’ve concluded that filing a child support modification is in your best interest, your initial step involves filing a Petition to Modify within a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR). If you’ve previously experienced divorce, this document should appear familiar, as it is akin to an Original Petition for Divorce.
Your attorney will submit this document, along with any requests for temporary orders, to the district court having jurisdiction over your case. A private process server typically serves these documents to the other parent, along with a citation. The other parent essentially has twenty days to file an Answer to your Petition at this stage.
Mediation is the Likely Next Step
Unless your situation necessitates emergency action, such as an immediate need for child support modification, the next likely phase in your case will be mediation. Mediation aims to explore the possibility of reaching a settlement outside of the courtroom. If your case primarily revolves around modifying child support, it is highly probable that a settlement can be reached during this phase. Although you and the other parent may not initially see eye to eye on child support matters, with the guidance of your respective attorneys, you are likely to find common ground to conclude your case.
Trial or Temporary Orders Hearings
As mentioned earlier, temporary orders hearings are infrequent in child support cases, and they typically require a showing that your child’s emotional well-being or physical development would be at risk without one.
However, if a settlement remains elusive, a trial becomes necessary, where both parties present their cases to a judge and seek a decision. This is just a brief overview of the initial stages of a child support modification case, and the intricacies of a trial won’t be delved into here. Nevertheless, it is advisable to make a genuine effort to reach a settlement with the other party, as it can help avoid the expenses and uncertainties associated with a child support trial for both parties.
Do You Have Questions About Starting a Child Support Modification Case? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC
Initiating a family law case demands reliable and proficient legal representation. In all of southeast Texas, our attorneys at the Law Office Bryan Fagan are among the most qualified representatives you can find. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us today and arrange a complimentary consultation with one of our licensed family law attorneys.
Bryan Fagan, a native of Atascocita, Texas, is a dedicated family law attorney inspired by John Grisham’s “The Pelican Brief.” He is the first lawyer in his family, which includes two adopted brothers. Bryan’s commitment to family is personal and professional; he cared for his grandmother with Alzheimer’s while completing his degree and attended the South Texas College of Law at night.
Married with three children, Bryan’s personal experiences enrich his understanding of family dynamics, which is central to his legal practice. He specializes in family law, offering innovative and efficient legal services. A certified member of the College of the State Bar of Texas, Bryan is part of an elite group of legal professionals committed to ongoing education and high-level expertise.
His legal practice covers divorce, custody disputes, property disputes, adoption, paternity, and mediation. Bryan is also experienced in drafting marital property agreements. He leads a team dedicated to complex family law cases and protecting families from false CPS allegations.
Based in Houston, Bryan is active in the Houston Family Law Sector of the Houston Bar Association and various family law groups in Texas. His deep understanding of family values and his professional dedication make him a compassionate advocate for families navigating Texas family law.