By now, all of us are aware that change has become an inevitable part of this coronavirus pandemic. Whether we like it or not, these changes have come at us from many different angles and have seemingly touched every area of our lives. Nobody knows precisely how long this pandemic will go on, but it seems that coming to grips with the changes occurring is temporarily essential for all of us.
Change has also occurred in the world of family law since the beginning of the pandemic. The first indication I had that this pandemic was severe was with the courts being closed and jury duty being stopped in the beginning part of March. Changes like this would have been inconceivable during just about any other time before the pandemic. Since then, we have become used to multiple changes occurring on a seemingly daily basis. As the pandemic shifts and changes and what we know about the pandemic changes, so too will our response to the virus.
One area of family law that has not formally changed but has is child support in practice. What we have seen regarding child support is that while the economy has undoubtedly worsened since the beginning of the pandemic, the reality is that expectations and obligations to pay child support have not changed. Even though your ability to pay child support may have worsened since March, the fact is that your ex-spouse will still expect your child support payment to be made in time and info at the beginning of each month. This can be a significant assumption and something that you will have to prepare for if you cannot pay The Child Support in the amount ordered.
We have seen the government take steps to pause evictions and student loan payments during the pandemic in response to the worsening state of the economy. Is it reasonable then to expect that child support will be paid as ordered by the courts despite the challenges presented to us from a personal finance perspective? Maybe not, but we have seen no indication that child support payments will be suspended. It is the case that your children’s needs do not change and cannot be suspended only because of a pandemic. Instead, your kids still have the exact requirements for shelter, food, medical care, and clothing as they always have.
Given this reality, you need to plan for unexpected changes in your income while balancing the continued need to pay child support. In today’s blog post from the law office of Brian Fagan, I would like to share my thoughts on how the changing nature of the Coronavirus pandemic can impact your ability to pay child support and meet the obligations of your family court order. I will also share with you some information on how to go about enforcing a child support order if you are in the position of needing to do so.
How does child support work in Texas?
Before we go any further, I think it makes a lot of sense to discuss how child support works in Texas and what you can expect if you are going through a divorce or child custody case. For starters, child support is not always a primary point of contention in a family law case. I realize that you may have heard stories or experiences of other people who have gone through family law cases in the past who have had bad experiences regarding child support. Any topic dealing with money and income can be exceptionally touchy, but from my experience, the issue of child support is usually very straightforward.
First of all, the way a court would calculate your child support obligation is pretty straightforward. A percentage of your net monthly income would be determined based on how many children you are responsible for. If you have one child before the court, 20% of your net monthly payment will be calculated and paid to your ex-spouse. If you have two children, 25% of your net monthly income will go towards child support. The percentage increases by 5% until you reach 50% of your net monthly income are eligible for child support payments. Typically, a court would not go past this percentage of your income for child support purposes.
Plan for your household budget after a divorce
knowing the percentages involved and how net monthly income is calculated can go a long way towards helping you determine what your final obligation will be with child support. I have had many clients of our office talk to me about their expectations for child support, and most have been pretty far off base in terms of their expectation. From my experience, most people have been overly pessimistic about what they believe that their future expenditures towards child support will be. Most people are relieved to learn what the actual numbers end up looking like when we when we determine income and how many children are before the court.
With that said, you can begin to also determine a budget for yourself in your post-divorce life. This is an area where many people lose track of themselves and can get into trouble when it comes to their personal finances. I think it is very crucial to run the numbers not only for child support but for your household budget as a whole. You can do this before the end of your divorce by determining what your new household income will be and then subtracting out the costs of various expenditures like child support, rent, insurance and everything else that we all pay for in our normal day-to-day lives. Doing this will help you to see in advance how a
Item, namely child support, will figure into the mix.
Many people experience a budget crunch in their households after a divorce. We become used to having multiple incomes in a house when both spouses are working. It can be a significant change to the feel of a house when you only have your income to subsist upon. Throw in temporary costs associated with an attorney and more longstanding costs for child support and your budget becomes crunched even more. I have had people who have had great success in their divorce case experience a little bit of a shock after their case comes to an end due to concerns over their personal budgets.
You can avoid this type of situation by simply determining what your household budget needs to be and then taking into consideration what your expected amount of child support is going to look like. It will take some time in some real-world application of your income changes to really focus on your budget, but I believe that doing so will allow you to be in a better place financially both in the short and long term.
How does child support come out of your check each month?
If you are like many working people, then your paycheck is automatically transferred into a bank account that you own. Your human resources Department through work would have gotten your routing in checking account numbers from you and will deposit your check for you into the bank account. This is a simple and reliable method of getting you paid each month it is a much better scenario than simply having a paper check mailed to you or handed out to you at the end of the week. This is also the preferred method when it comes to child support because you are child support payments can come directly out of your check. Here is how that works for most people.
at the conclusion of your divorce a wage withholding order will be submitted to the judge in your case for his or her signature. This wage withholding order gives your employer the permission and obligation to withhold your child support obligation each month so that it can be paid into The Child Support disbursement unit of the office of the attorney general. Many clients that I have worked with will tell me that this seems to be intrusive and almost unfair. However, I think that it actually works quite well and is better than many other alternatives that people have come up with.
If you have been going through problems associated with child support for some time then you are probably used to the idea that you and your child’s other parents would argue periodically about how much child support would be needed and how to get The Child Support payments too him or her. For instance, in one month your child may need to have a checkup at the dentist for their braces and therefore your Childs other parent has requested more money. In other months the expenditures may be lower for your child and therefore the money he or she asks for maybe less. Having an inconsistent amount of child support go to your spouse does not allow for proper budgeting and may actually result in you being asked to pay more later in the month after having already paid a specific amount earlier in the month.
Additionally, I have had clients who have told me that their Child’s other parent has accused them of not paying child support as agreed to due to their having paid with cash or another indirect payment option. Paying child support informally is not a good plan because there is no permanent record of the payment having been made. I have seen people attempt to justify this action by saying that they have bank statements and the like to evidence the payment of child support, but I typically think this is a pretty weak show proof considering most judges will not even consider evidence of this sort.
So, rather than have your ex-spouse accused you of not having paid child support or request additional money after you have already paid in the 1st place I think this direct method of payment through a wage withholding order is preferable. Not only does it provide you with a record of your payments, but it also keeps your child other parent from making requests for additional money based on changing circumstances in your child’s life. I have no problem with negotiating over the amount of child support, but it should come during the negotiation phase of your child custody or divorce case. Leaving negotiation to 2 parents who are not on the best of terms without the assistance of a judge comma mediator or Experienced family law attorney is a bad idea.
What to expect if you are unable to pay your child support as ordered?
The reality of our situation is that nobody knows when this pandemic will come to an end. What we do know is that there have been some real-world considerations that had made the pandemic especially difficult, and this isn’t even counting the actual mayhem and death caused by the virus itself. What I would point out to you is that you should be aware of the reality that your income may change during this pandemic. I hope that is not the case and that you have a stable and consistent income, but that is not a given. With that in mind, it is in your best interest to begin to save money where you can to make sure that you can meet your obligations until you can find a more consistent income.
This means that child support may become more of a struggle for you as the pandemic continues into 2021. There is only so much you can do to prepare, but you should take heart knowing that you can attempt to modify the terms of your court orders both formally and informally during this pandemic. An informal way to change your child support responsibilities would be to speak to your child’s other parent about the problems you are experiencing with income. You can talk with them about getting on a payment plan that allows you to pay back any amount old once you get a new job or even request that they overlook missed payments for some time while you attempt to get on solid footing from a personal finance perspective.
Going this route will help you avoid the need to defend yourself from a child support enforcement case. An enforcement case names that you will be defending Yourself against allegations that you neglected to pay child support despite an obligation to do so. It is a full-fledged hearing where both sides will present evidence, and George will decide whether or not violations at the court order occurred. To close out today’s block post, let’s discuss what you can do if you are the parent who needs to be paid child support
the reality of the situation is that if there is a court order obligating your ex-spouse to pay child support, then they must do so. You are under no obligation to forgive them any late payments, and you have every right to file an enforcement lawsuit against them. Whether or not they can defend their failure to pay child support is a different subject altogether. However, hiring a family law attorney and drafting an enforcement lawsuit is the first step in the equation.
You will likely have an opportunity to negotiate with your ex-spouse to develop a payment plan to pay back those attorney’s fees. Filing an enforcement lawsuit does not necessarily mean that you will find yourself in a courtroom, but that is an option if an agreement cannot be reached before a hearing. You need to be prepared with admissible evidence to show that specific payments were not made, the dates those payments were not made, and requested relief that can benefit you given the missed payments. All in all, an enforcement lawsuit is not one to be taken lightly, either if you are the party filing or defending yourself.
Questions about the material presented in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
if you have any questions about the material presented in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are an excellent way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law and the services that we provide to our clients. I appreciate your interest in our firm, and we hope you will join us again tomorrow here on our blog.