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What are the steps towards increasing or decreasing a child support obligation in Texas?

The Texas Family Code sets forth the rules that you have to follow in order to either increase or decrease a person’s child support obligation. Clients of the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC come to our office and want representation on these issues with regularity. Whether a new job has resulted in a higher income for their ex spouse or they themselves are making less money because of a change in employment, a modification of the child support figure is justified. Let’s discuss what can be done to raise or lower a child support figure for Texas families.

The bottom line is that a judge must approve any change in child support

It is tempting to just go to your ex spouse and attempt to work out an informal arrangement whereby your support figure is changed with a handshake. To this I would say proceed with caution. If you are making any sort of agreement with your ex spouse (you know- the person who just a few years ago couldn’t stand the sight of you or vice versa) that it can work for a certain period of time where there are no issues. This is usually when your ex spouse’s income is doing well for the time being and no major bills or costs are on the horizon. However, the second your ex spouse’s income becomes a little more tenuous or your child has a medical bill pop up that friendly agreement is no longer friendly or in agreement. What’s more, if you’ve made an agreement to halt payments for reduce your payment amounts that will not have been reflected in the Office of the Attorney General’s payment logs. Your payments that were “excused” by your ex spouse have not been by the State.

At this stage, I’ve seen too many clients have to go to court to defend themselves against a contempt charge that they are knowingly and willingly violating a court’s order. If your ex spouse wants to he or she can do this in order to attempt to collect what is owed to them. The important question then is how soon do you have to wait after a child support order is signed by the judge in order to return to court to have the order modified? Let’s get into that topic right now.

Rules associated with increasing or decreasing a child support amount

As touched on briefly at the outset of this blog post, the Texas Family Code contains all the rules that we need to live by as far as modifying a child support order is concerned. First, you must wait at least three years from the time the last order (whether an original order or modified order) was set into place. Second, whatever the “new” amount of child support should be must differ by at least 20% or $100 from the current monthly child support amount.

Change in Circumstances can lead to a modification of child support

You may be scratching your head at this point wondering whether or not you can do anything to modify your child support order if the prior paragraph doesn’t fit your situation. The short answer is that yes you can if you (or your ex spouse) is able to show a judge that a substantial change in circumstances has occurred to either the child or any person connected to the order.

What sort of circumstances could lead to a judge granting a modification request for child support? Here are some of the instances where a modification may be likely:

-A change in the financial circumstances of a parent. This is the one that we touched on a little bit during the introduction to this blog post. If you or your spouse is either earning less or more money than previously then this will invariably affect your ability to pay or receive child support. Presenting evidence to the court of the change in circumstances and its impact on child support will be necessary for a successful petition attempt.

-A child in the daily needs of the child. If you have seen the costs associated with caring for your child increase then a modification attempt is justified. Whether these are costs for school or medical costs brought about by an ailment of some sort an increase in child support can be asked for in order to compensate for these increased costs.

-An outright change in custody of the child. If under your divorce order you are the parent obligated to pay child support to your ex spouse then this was done because the child lives primarily with your ex spouse. However, change can come quickly and if your child is now living with you then it is in your best interests to formally “turn off” your obligation to pay child support.

This goes back to what I was discussing at the outset of this blog. An informal agreement between you and your ex spouse for you to stop paying support will not work. For one, the state of Texas is still holding you responsible for payments unless you prove the change in circumstances has occurred. The other issue you will run into is that your having primary custody is not formalized until a judge signs off on an order stating this. Otherwise, your ex spouse can come around and take your child back with him or her without your being able to do anything about it. Going to court and seeking a modification of the prior order can help you kill two birds with one stone.

Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC with additional questions on increasing or decreasing your child support obligation

If you find yourself with additional questions on this subject please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC today. A licensed family law attorney is available to meet with you six days a week. These free of charge consultations can be extremely helpful to you and will increase your base of knowledge from which good decisions can be made about your case.