Understanding child support modifications

Nothing lasts forever. This is a saying that we are all familiar with. Change happens whether we like it or not in all areas of our lives. If you have gone through a child custody or divorce case then there are undoubtedly aspects of your case that worked well for you back when your case was decided but are less agreeable to you now for several reasons. Child support tends to be high on the list of orders which may no longer function all that well. What can you do to address that issue and change your child support obligation?

Modifying a child support order is something that, like anything else in the world of family law, follows a specific process. There are a range of circumstances that can justify a child support modification and that is what we are going to discuss in today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. How can you go about modifying a child support order is going to be what we focus our energy on today. To do that, let’s spend some time putting you in a hypothetical situation to better illustrate these points. 

Establishing child support- how is it done?

Child support is paid by one spouse to another both during and after a child custody case. Temporary child support is paid until the end of a family law case. This is to both help your child get what he needs in terms of financial support as well as to help you and your spouse adjust to the payment and receipt of child support. It can take some time to be able to learn how to budget child support and ensure that it is paid on time and in full each month. For some of you reading this blog post you will have to move items around in your budget or begin budgeting for the first time because of having a child support obligation. 

If you are going to be the parent who pays child support, then you will have a percentage of your monthly net income sent to your co-parent as your child support obligation each month. This percentage will depend on the number of children that you have before the court. If your child support is based on the guideline amount of support for Texas, then twenty percent of your net monthly income will be paid each month. That percentage increases by five percent each month for each additional child you have up to six children. 

A wage withholding order will be signed by a judge and sent to your employer. Each month a specific amount of money will be withheld from your paycheck and sent to your co-parent as a child support obligation. The Office of the Attorney General Child Support Division oversees the payment of child support. You can check your account online to verify that payments sent out have been received by your co-parent. It is your responsibility to do so. Falling behind in child support can put you in a position where you are going to face the potential of another child custody case- an enforcement. 

Make sure that you understand your child support orders before signing them. Misunderstandings about court orders are common. Child support is a subject that often gets touchy when it comes to two people who share parenting responsibilities. Even a simple misunderstanding can put the two of you in a position where you become upset with one another as you are forced to try and figure out why child support hasn’t been paid or what kind of schedule or plan can help you get back on track for the payment of child support. 

As with any other issue that has to do with your children, child support is geared towards ensuring the best interests of your child are maintained. This can be a noble goal but is one that always carries with it different considerations which complicate the situation. For example, if you have a child who has a disability then you may be in line for paying what is known as above guideline support. This is simply a child support amount per month that is over and above the guideline level of support. 

Child support after your family law case ends

It can be a relief to see your family law case come to an end. There is so much stress and anxiety which comes with this type of case. To finally cross the finish line, sign your court orders, and have the rest of your life to look forward to is an accomplishment. However, at the end of your family law case comes with certain responsibilities that you must adjust your life for. This does not mean that you cannot do it or that you care about other things more than your child. This is simply an acknowledgment of you having to change the way that you spend money, save money, and care for your child. 

When your case comes to an end it is important to start living your life on a budget. Contrary to what many people believe about budgets, they are not a strait jacket by which you are constrained in your spending. On the contrary, a budget permits you to spend money confidently. You do not have to be in a position where you wonder where it is your money goes each month. Rather, having a budget removes the wondering from the situation and instead puts you in a position where you know at the beginning of each month how to allocate each dollar you earn most effectively. 

Payments of child support should always go through the Office of the Attorney General. These payments will be credited to your account, and you will be able to review the child support that you have paid through your online account. This way you and your co-parent will not have any questions about where the two of you stand with child support. If any of you have been in a position where your child’s mother has withheld possession of your child until you pay more in child support, then this can be a breath of fresh air to hear. 

Another key aspect of this discussion is that if you fall behind in child support then your co-parent can still not withhold possession of your children. This may have also been a situation that you have faced periodically in your time as a parent. You call your child’s mother to inform her that you are going to be a little late with child support this month. She responds by telling you that until you pay her back then you are not going to be able to see your child. Not exactly the response that you would be looking for in that situation. 

When you have a child support obligation it changes the dynamic of the relationship between you and your co-parent. You are not only sharing in child-rearing responsibilities but the way you share financial responsibilities is now laid out in the form of court orders. It can be jarring to effectively owe your ex-spouse or co-parent money each month. However, that is the nature of a family law case. The quicker you can get into the rhythm of paying child support, the better you can adjust to being a co-parent. 

As always, none of this is easy to handle. Working with an experienced family law attorney can be exactly what you need to be able to make sure that you have a fair amount of child support ordered, that you understand what your obligations are, and that you are making decisions and moving forward in a direction that is in the best interests of your child. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are here for you when you need us when it comes to child support. 

Life changes- how to deal with the child support ramifications

All this discussion regarding child support after a divorce or child custody hasn’t even begun to mention just how much your life will change after the family law case comes to an end. I know that many of you will be shaking your heads at that thought given how much change a family law case provides to your family just in and of itself. However, it is almost inevitable that your family will see additional changes come down the pike for you all to deal with. 

One of the major changes in your life that is likely to occur is a change in your income as the parent who pays child support. Remember that we talked about how child support is calculated mainly as a factor of your net monthly income multiplied by a percentage which is determined based on the number of children you have before the court. This can seem to be an easy situation to work through at first glance. The reality is that there are almost always factors that can and will play into this discussion. 

Your income is a huge variable when it comes to child support. Therefore, any changes in your income will matter a great deal to how your child support is calculated over time. Make no mistake- your income can go down or up dramatically after your initial family law case. However, if nobody attempts to change the amount of child support that you pay then you will always end up paying the original amount of child support that you were ordered to in the first case. 

An increase in the amount of money that you earn will likely put you in a position where your co-parent will become interested in having you pay an amount of child support that is commensurate to your new income. Of course, this means that she would need to learn about the increase in your income, have the gumption to file for a modification of child support, and then be successful in her petition. Several steps must be fulfilled before you end up paying more in child support even if you do end up earning more money over time. 

Next, you may also end up earning less income throughout your life after a family law case. You may lose a good-paying job and never end up earning that same level of income thereafter. In this situation, the shoe would be on the other foot, and it would be you who would be interested in filing a modification case. This time, you try to decrease the amount of your child support obligation which results in your decrease in pay. Since you are the one earning the income, you would likely be more likely to move quickly toward filing the modification case.

A material and substantial change in circumstances needs to be proved 

A family court would need to see more than just a small or minor change in circumstances to begin to consider a petition to modify child support. Rather, the standard in Texas is that a material and substantial change in circumstances needs to have occurred on the part of you, your co-parent, or your child since the last time that you all were in court. This is a substantial change, in other words. Such a big change that it dramatically alters the landscape of your family’s financial circumstances.

The first time that you would be able to bring this allegation of a material and substantial change forward to the court would be in an affidavit to be filed alongside your petition to modify child support. That affidavit, a sworn statement under oath, allows you to tell the judge first-hand what the relevant circumstances are and how they justify the modification that you are requesting. 

The material and substantial change in question may also be something related to your children. For instance, your children may have developed a medical condition since the last time that you were in court. Because this was something for which you all could not have anticipated the last time around, you would be able to assert a modification on these grounds now. You all may be able to agree on this modification before you ever must go see a judge. The specific increase in child support in this situation may depend upon the out-of-pocket medical costs that you and your co-parent incur among other costs involved with your child’s case. 

Finally, the parent who offers the modification petition would need to be able to prove that the modification in question is also in the best interests of your child. The best interest standard is one that you may be familiar with from prior family law cases. It is a universally used standard on which courts base all decisions related to children. Even if you can prove that a material and substantial change has occurred since the last time you were in court. Thus, to be successful in a child support modification case you need to be able to show: 1) a material and substantial change has occurred and 2) that the requested modification is in the best interests of your child. 

Where to go and what to do from here

Now that you have read through today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan you understandably have questions about where you can go from here and what you can do next. First, you can speak with one of our experienced family law attorneys to learn more about the law in Texas when it comes to modification cases. The information that we have covered today is not specific. It is intended to cover a broad range of situations in which your situation may or may not be relevant to you. When you have a specific situation, you need answers to then reaching out to our office for a free-of-charge consultation makes a great deal of sense.

Next, you can begin to collect evidence for the case. Simple forms of evidence when it comes to a child support modification case would be pay stubs, tax returns, and things of this nature. Anything that can confirm your net monthly income for the court would be very helpful. The more work you do to collect this evidence, the better. You will be better prepared for the case and can help you save money from having to ask your attorney to do the heavy lifting when it comes to locating and organizing your evidence. 

Thank you for choosing to spend part of your day with us here on the blog for the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. We post unique and interesting blogs each day and hope that you will join us again soon. 

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 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 a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as how your family’s circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a modification case. 

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