Of the many subjects in Texas family law that often become contentious during a case, I can think of no other issue more debated and discussed in divorce or child custody cases than child support. If you have children, you undoubtedly want what is best for your kids and want to support them in any way that you can. However, much of the time, parents can get frustrated at the need to pay child support. There is something unpleasant about having to pay money to your co-parent that is technically supposed to go towards the benefit of your children.
Child support in Texas is determined by a set of rules and guidelines that are meant to benefit your children and be in their best interest. The Office of the attorney general enforces the child support laws of Texas. In the future, if there is a child support case brought against you or your co-parent, the Office said the attorney general would be a party. However, they will represent the state of Texas and do not represent either you or your co-parent. Their objective is to ensure that best, and your child does not have to get on public assistance for health insurance or any other program without first having to receive child support.
When calculating child support, we know that child support is typically based on two factors in particular. The first factor is your income. Specifically, the income you earn after taxes will be your net monthly income for child support calculation purposes. The payment of your spouse or partner is that relevant for you to get into a long-term relationship. Your income will count towards your ability to pay child support now and in the future.
The second factor is the number of children that you have before the court. This is an exciting concept to consider on multiple levels. First, the number of children below 18 is before the court count towards the child support calculation. If you have one child before the court, 20% of your net monthly income will be paid to child support. The percentage is increased by 5% for every additional child before the court. A maximum of 50% of your net monthly income can be paid per month in child support.
An interesting scenario occurs if you are not working. Many people will attempt to end employment or even take reduced hours or pay to reduce the number of dollars they pay per month in child support. This is not a negotiating tactic or something to be advised by an attorney. Instead, some parents will go through a significant amount of effort to avoid paying child support. However, the reality is that if you quit your job in no recent history of an income, the court will still base child support for you on minimum wage. So, no matter how little you earn or if you are no money at all, there is still a way for you to be on the hook to pay child support. Please consider this before deciding to do something like this with your income.
What if you have multiple children, not before the court?
An interesting scenario occurs if you have minor children not currently before the court in your child custody or divorce case. This is a common situation for a father who has children with multiple women. You would need to ask yourself if you were in a similar position would be what you can do if you have a similar scenario.
In this case, you should know that you can receive a deduction of your child support responsibilities for having minor children who are not before the court. Specifically, you will receive a 2.5% reduction per child not before the court. For example, if you have one child currently before your family court and one child who is not before the family court, then you will only have to pay 17.5% of your net monthly income in child support each month; this reflects the 2.5% reduction for the child who is not before the court.
Obtaining a modification order for child support in Texas
The law in Texas is that you must pay child support for any child of yours who is under the age of 18 or still in high school. This means that you may be on the hook for child support for many years for those of you who have younger children. What is likely to occur is for your circumstances to change; you are spouses' circumstances change or those of your child change. If something has happened in your life that significantly changes after a child support order is introduced, you have the right to try and obtain a modification.
A material and substantial change must be found to have occurred to Facilitate the granting of a request to modify the child support order. For example, you may have changed employment, and senior income is reduced dramatically. If that occurs, then you probably should request that your child support obligation be reduced in line with your reduction in pay. On the other hand, if your income increase is a substantial amount due to a change in employment, then it is likely that your co-parent will request a modification to increase the amount of child support that you pay.
Another circumstance that could lead to your child support order being modified would be if the events involving your child changed a great deal since the last time an order was issued. For example, let's suppose that your child underwent some medical hardship since the last time you were in court. In that case, you would be able to request that the child support you receive be increased commensurate with the needs of your child increasing. By the same token, if you know that your child's needs have changed for the better, then this should reduce the amount of child support you need to pay. For example, if your child had a medical need at the time your child support order was initially issued but no longer did, then you are probably able to have your child support obligation decreased.
Bear in mind that the family court judge will decide about this subject about what is in your child's best interest. Even if you can show a material and substantial change has occurred in your circumstances or that of your child, then you may not have your child support obligation changed. A judge will look at the totality of the circumstances decide what is in your child's best interests. If the judge does not believe that a modification is in your child's best interest, then an amendment will not be granted.
For that reason, it is an excellent idea for you to enlist the help of an experienced Texas family law attorney before beginning a modification case. So much of this type of case depends upon the opinions of a family court judge that you cannot necessarily guess exactly what a family court judge will do. In that case, speaking with an experienced family law attorney before filing your claim would seem to be a great idea. The last thing you want to do is file for a child support modification with extreme confidence, only to find out that a judge will likely never prove your case. It would be a shame to effectively waste time and money on a goal you are unlikely to reach.
Wage withholding orders
At this point, you may be wondering how it is that your child support obligation will get paid to your Co-parent. There are several ways for child support payments to make it to your Co-parent. However, the recommended method is to have prices go directly to your Co-parent via a direct deposit into their bank account. The way that this can get done is through a wage withholding order. A wage withholding order is a document that is completed after your divorce or your child custody case.
The way it works is that at the end of your divorce or child custody case, the parent who will be receiving child support will draft a Document to require that the Spouses employer withhold a certain amount of income each month for child support purposes. The judge would sign the wage withholding order, and the document will be made available to your are Co-parent as well. This way, the money could come from its source directly to your co-parent.
Many times, people in your position will complain about problems and logistical issues regarding child support payment. The payments may come in late, incomplete, or not when people try to pay child support directly to their co-parent. There are stories about cash or checks being lost between dropping them off with the children and getting to the intended parent. This is not a good situation for anyone involved. First, your children suffer because they may need to go without something essential due to not receiving child support. Second, your co-parent will have issues with paying bills or other essentials without child support. Third, you may end up facing an enforcement lawsuit from your co-parent as a result of the child support not being received.
Another important aspect of this discussion is that you do not receive "credit" for the direct payment of child support. This means that you must comply with the wage withholding order for you to be credited for paying child support as ordered. Child support that goes through the Office of the Attorney General- Child Support Division is not official payments. Therefore, you will need to follow up on charges and ensure that they have gone through. Even though a wage withholding order is in place, it is still your responsibility to ensure that payments go through to your co-parent.
How to prepare for a child support enforcement case
Let's assume that you are a parent who is owed child support. This can be a helpless situation to a large extent, given the need to provide for your children with that money. While you may have a lot of thoughts going through your mind during this difficult time, there are some pieces of information that we can provide you with here as far as addressing this subject adequately and appropriately.
You should first log onto your account on the Office of the Attorney General's website to determine how much child support is currently owed. It makes no sense for you to go through all the trouble of being worried about your child support arrearage when you don't even know the extent of the issues. Also, if you have any hopes of working out a settlement with your co-parent on this arrearage, you need to know how much money is owed so that you can negotiate with them.
When it comes to addressing this issue with your co-parent, it is evident that you will not be happy with them for their failure to pay child support to you. When that money does not come in at the beginning of the month, and then it becomes a trend, it would be understandable for you to be stressed out about this situation. With that said, there are ways for you to deal with the situation artfully and carefully without being a pushover or putting your children in jeopardy of having to go without something essential.
First, I would work as hard as possible to communicate directly to your co-parent about the child support problems. To me, sending text messages to speak about these problems is not ideal. Instead, do your best to get your co-parent on the phone or even talk to them about it in person if you feel like that will do some good. Going back and forth for hours over text messaging is not conducive to reaching any consensus on the topic. Instead, you are more likely to confuse or even upset them.
Your co-parent may have a valid explanation for why they have been missing child support payments. For example, your co-parent may have lost their job and, therefore, their income. While losing your job is not an excuse for failing to pay child support, it is a reasonable excuse nonetheless. Your co-parent may be able to make partial payments until they can land new employment. Or, they may not be able to help right now with expenses but may have new careers lined up in the coming weeks. Learning the specifics of their circumstances can help you to learn if they have been purposefully tricky when it comes to paying child support or if they genuinely had circumstances arise that were out of their control.
There may be a way for you and your co-parent to work out a payment plan that would allow you to receive payments over a more extended period to make up for any arrearage that you are experiencing currently. This is not always possible for you and your co-parent to work out. They may have no idea when they will be able to begin working again. They may not be willing to even communicate with you about this subject at all. In those cases, you can and should consider filing an enforcement lawsuit. However, all things being equal, you should try to solve these issues directly with your co-parent. This can save you time and money.
Otherwise, an enforcement lawsuit is probably what you will need to consider filing to hold your co-parent accountable for the failure to pay child support. An enforcement lawsuit seeks to enforce the part of your prior court orders that deal in child support-related matters. The specific amount of money you are owed in child support, the number of missed payments, and the attempts you have made to rectify or remedy the situation should be noted in your enforcement lawsuit. You would need to serve your co-parent with notice of your enforcement lawsuit and then try and negotiate with them again. However, if no settlement can be reached, you need to proceed to a hearing in front of a judge.
Questions about the material contained in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained 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 as well as about how your family's circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.