Is your Money on the Line? A discussion of child support in Texas

Whenever your money becomes the focus of any discussion it is normal to start paying more attention. Making a friendly bet with your neighbor over the results of the Super Bowl is one thing. Putting serious money down on a bet with a Las Vegas bookmaker is something completely different. At that point, you have so much at stake that it demands your attention. Hopefully before placing a bet like that you performed your research and did your due diligence. This ensures that you have the most available information when preparing to place your money at risk.

The same can be said in the world of Texas child support. Certain subjects in a divorce or child custody case become more important. One of those is child support. With child support, you have two important considerations. The first is the well-being of your child. Child support stands to improve the life of your child. Next, you have your money. You are happy to have your money go to your child but do not want to have any money wasted or spent unnecessarily. You want a fair deal when it comes to the negotiation and calculation of child support.

In today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we will discuss the subject of child support. We know how hard you work to earn an income. We also know just how much you love your children. Finding the sweet spot for child support in your life is what our attorneys focus on a great deal.

Who determines how much child support you pay?

For this discussion, let’s assume that you are the parent who pays child support. Even if you anticipate being the parent who receives child support this will still be an important blog post for you to read. Understanding issues related to the payment of child support helps you no matter if you pay or receive child support. In short, you need to have a basic understanding of the issues of child support before you enter a family law case.

Child support is determined by you and your co-parent. That is, only if the two of you have a plan for how to negotiate this circumstance. Courts and the law always provide parents with the primary opportunity to negotiate on any issue. This is true also of child support. However, parents who lack a plan for child support lose the right to negotiate. Eventually, your negotiations will be unfruitful, and you will be forced to listen to a family court judge decide on child support.

What should this tell you? At a minimum, you need to have a plan for child support. Understanding the law and having goals is the bare minimum expectation. However, having an experienced family law attorney to assist you in this process is particularly valuable. An attorney with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan understands how the Texas Family Code interacts with your life and your circumstances. Contact our office today to learn how our office may assist you in preparing for your child support case.

Missed child support payments and their impact on your

Now let’s consider the subject of child support from the perspective of the parent who receives payments. Receiving child support payments is not a way for you to gain any sort of wealth or income. True enough, you do use that child support to pay for essentials in your life. However, the idea that most parents withhold support for their children in favor of themselves is simply not true. For most families, the relatively little they receive in child support each month goes towards essential items for the child.

This means that the child support payments you receive from your co-parent are integral to the life of your child. Things like rent, mortgage payments, car payments, food, clothing, and prescriptions are all part of a family’s daily life. When you do not receive child support as you should it limits your ability to help your child. This puts you in the unenviable situation of having more bills than you do money. When a parent budgets at the beginning of a month, you likely consider the amount of child support you are ordered to receive.

Receiving child support is no picnic. Parents indeed work during a case to be named as primary conservators. A primary conservator has the right to receive child support. However, child support is not as straightforward as many parents would presume. Receiving child support means being patient with your co-parent. It also means standing up for your rights. One of the ways to stand up for yourself and your child as a custodial parent is to learn about enforcement cases.

Child support enforcement cases

The primary means to assert your rights as a custodial parent is a child support enforcement case. In an enforcement case, you seek to hold your co-parent accountable for violations of your court orders. Those violations typically end up looking something like missed payments of child support. That happens in a variety of situations. Most parents do not have the money and simply refuse to support their children. On the contrary, when child support payments are missed it is usually due to lacking the income to pay.

Child support payments revolve around income. Making sure that the court has your co-parent’s true and correct net monthly resources is the key to this discussion. Suppose that you were in family court. The subject matter at hand was child support. You were attempting to assist the court in determining the net monthly resources of your co-parent. Offering testimony and other secondary information on the income sources of your co-parent does not tell the whole story when it comes to income. 

Rather, performing as much due diligence as possible is what works better. It is unrealistic to expect that you would be able to uncover all possible sources of income for your co-parent. Nobody is expecting you to become a private detective. However, it is reasonable for you to pay attention to the things that your parents say about their employment. Due diligence in this regard helps you and your child be able to understand better how to approach this subject. Determining the extent of your co-parent’s income helps to be able to get off on the right foot. From there, the rest of your goals may fall into focus.

Maintaining an open line of communication with your co-parent

Of all the steps you can take to maintain the peace and increase your likelihood of success in child support, it is a conversation with your co-parent. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan understand that communicating openly with your co-parent is not easy. There is probably a very good reason that the two of you are going through a family law case currently. However, that does not do away with the reality that the more you and your co-parent can communicate with one another, the better off your child will be. Here is what we mean by that.

Throughout the life of your family during and after a family law case there will be issues that come up from time to time. Concerning child support, these are almost always problems associated with income. If you are the parent who is paid child support, then it is in your best interest to maintain an open line of communication with your co-parent. If an issue arises with his employment, then he can come to you. You and your co-parent would be able to work out an arrangement for the time being. From there, he would not be worried about a lawsuit pending for having not paid each child support.

On the other hand, if you are a parent who runs into issues paying child support then you need to feel comfortable sharing that information with your co-parent. Trying to hide the fact that you lost your job or experienced an emergency is not sustainable. Eventually, she will figure out that something has happened when you stop paying child support. Rather than find yourself in this position it is better to real life you can share information as quickly as possible with her. 

Informal modifications with child support

One of the criticisms of the child support system in Texas is that it places the non-custodial parent in a difficult situation. Consider the following hypothetical situation. The year is 2019. You and your co-parent just went through a divorce. Within that divorce, child support was assessed at a particular number. Since child support is primarily based on your net monthly resources it would be considered a snapshot in time of your income. Therefore, if 2019 was a particularly good year for you as far as income then your child support may well be sent to a number that is more than what you are typically able to pay.

Fast forward five years to 2024. Since the time of your divorce, we have experienced a pandemic, restructuring of the economy, major inflation, and a rapid change in jobs due to the proliferation of artificial intelligence. The jobs market is not the same as it was five years ago. Very few careers have been untouched by these changes in the economy. Where you are now is not the same as where you were in 2019 as far as income or employer.

You are not earning as much money as you were in 2019. However, it is not as if your child support adjusted in the past five years to reflect this decrease in income. On the contrary, you are still expected to pay child support based on the calculations performed in 2019. Where this leaves you are not being incredibly comfortable paying child support each month. To this point, you have scrimped and saved as much as possible to maintain a good record of child support. You want to do right by your kids. However, at the end of the month sometimes there are more expenses than you have income.

Moving forward with an informal modification of child support

It came to your attention that it is unrealistic to expect that you will be able to always pay all your bills and pay child support. Constantly robbing Peter to pay Paul is not a great long-term solution. With that in mind, you have contacted your ex-wife to talk to her about temporarily modifying child support between the two of you. Your idea is to reduce the amount of child support that you’re paying temporarily to allow you to find a higher-paying job. 

You and your ex-spouse have always maintained a cordial relationship. This relationship is one that you hope can be parlayed into a more reasonable amount of child support. The question is: should the two of you attempt to reduce the amount of child support you pay temporarily? Is this a wise decision? Your heart is in the right place. However, the main issue is the prudence associated with deciding like this outside of the courts.

While your heart is in the right place, it would not be wise to move forward with this type of modification. For one, temporary modifications tend to result in miscommunication and hurt feelings. Your co-parent and you, while the well-meaning, likely are not experts in family law. An informal payment of child support likely requires that the two of you forego paying money through the office of the attorney general. Rather, the two of you would send and receive informal child support payments.

The danger of informal child support payments

Receiving child support payments directly through your co-parent is a risky maneuver. Typically, child support payments are made through the office of the attorney general. The state of Texas keeps a record of child support payments for you and your co-parent. This allows the two of you to always be aware of how much money has been paid and how much money is owed. Reducing the number of disagreements between parents is just one of the reasons why it is preferable to work with the office of the attorney general.

It is advisable to go through the office of the attorney general because their website keeps track of the payments made for child support. This way there is no question about what has been paid and what has not been paid. It is a third party that is independent of you and your co-parent. Paying child support directly to your co-parent means that these payments are not reflected in the Office of the Attorney General and their website. 

The risk associated with informal child support payments is that you run into situations where parents change their minds seemingly at the drop of a hat. Paying a reduced amount of child support is all good and well. That is,  until your co-parent comes back and says she doesn’t want to abide by that agreement any longer. This is a major risk of informal modifications. Namely, that your co-parent is well within their rights to change their mind about the agreement that you arrived at with him or her. Nothing is obligating him or her from changing their mind.

Modifications of child support

The best way to modify child support is to go through the courts. Formally modifying child support may take somewhat longer and cost more money. However, it offers you and your child the greatest peace of mind when it comes to ensuring that you have court orders that can be enforced in the future. The last thing you want is to negotiate something on child support only to see the orders be unenforceable or to have your co-parent go back on their word.

In in the ideal situation, all the effort made towards negotiating child support will be effective for your family. Whether your motivation to modify child support is based on the changing needs of your family or to account for a reduction in income, going to court is the best route. This does not mean that you must spend half of your life in the courtroom. Rather, you can negotiate this informal modification directly with your co-parent.

The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are skilled at working with families just like yours to modify child support. We take the time to work with families just like yours to go about the modification, enforcement, or creation of child support orders the right way. Thank you for taking the time to read our blog post today. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan post informative and interesting content on our blog each day of the week.

Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan 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. Before signing a document or negotiating on a subject you do not know well, contact our office. We look forward to the opportunity of serving you during an important part of your life. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan is on your side. 

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At the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, the firm wants to get to know your case before they commit to work with you. They offer all potential clients a no-obligation, free consultation where you can discuss your case under the client-attorney privilege. This means that everything you say will be kept private and the firm will respectfully advise you at no charge. You can learn more about Texas divorce law and get a good idea of how you want to proceed with your case.

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