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Defining a material and substantial change in a child support modification case

Yesterday we spent a great deal of our blog post discussing the subject of how to modify a prior child support order in Texas. I can tell you from experience meeting with many clients of the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC at their initial consultation that this is a subject that is very relevant in the lives of many of our neighbors here in southeast Texas.

If you too are here to learn more about just how you can adjust the level of support that you are either receiving or paying this too will be a blog post with you in mind.

The standard that we introduced yesterday is that of a “material and substantial” change in circumstances for either party or any child since the last order was signed. It is the responsibility and the burden of the party that files the modification lawsuit to prove that a material and substantial change has in fact occurred.

For instance, if you are the parent who has filed a modification with the idea that your child support obligation should be decreased you will need to show a court that a different financial condition was in place for yourself at the time the current order was signed into place and where you currently stand in terms of your finances. While it is necessary to show a change in your circumstances in this instance, it is not necessary to do so for your child.

A court is looking for something substantial, not something minute or trivial if it is ultimately going to modify a prior court order. If your income has decreased by $100 a month since the prior order was signed it is not going to be a fruitful lawsuit for you if you seek to have your child support obligation modified downward.

Additionally, a court will consider whether or not you purposefully reduced your income level (intentional unemployment or underemployment) and if the change in income is temporary or permanent.

For example, if you were laid off from your old job due to downsizing within the company but quickly found new employment that will pay you the same as your old job after a ninety-day probationary period, a modification is likely not in the cards for you.

The reason is that although your income has decreased, it will be for a relatively short period of time. It is unlikely that this hiccup in your income will materially and substantially represent a change in your circumstances.

Financial status vs. income at the time of a modification attempt

If you are attempting to show a judge that there are material and substantial changes in your financial life it is not sufficient to just show that you are living in a smaller house, behind on bills or otherwise suffering from a lack of resources.

The income that you earn is the most important factor that a judge will consider when deciding whether or not to decrease your child support obligation. Your previous income will be compared to your current income

This is not to say that your current financial circumstances are irrelevant to the evaluation. If your circumstances have become materially and substantially different than they were previously then this is a factor that the judge can consider in addition to any changes in your actual income.

That’s not to say that your peripheral circumstances can win you a child support modification case but it is possible that they can have a positive impact.

The burden is on the party who files a modification to prove a material and substantial change

It does not matter if the ordered amount of child support is so out of whack with your current financial circumstances and income that is obvious that a change needs to be made.

The burden is still on you as the filing party to prove this material and substantial change. A judge will not save you from poor representation or a poor presentation of evidence in your hearing.

Proving a case in which you want an award of child support to be increased

Suppose that you are the parent who is receiving child support on behalf of a child. At the time of your divorce, your daughter was four years old.

Not quite in school full time and not yet involved in any extracurricular activities that cost additional sums of money. The child support ordered at the time of your divorce worked well for you and there have been no issues with you receiving the child support on time from your ex-spouse.

However, now your child is twelve and in middle school. She has no medical issues but needs to see her doctor more regularly as she has grown older and needs an annual physical as a result of playing sports.

As the costs associated with raising your daughter has increased, as well as the passing of eight years, the amount of child support that you are receiving has become insufficient. Will these sort of circumstances lead to an increase in child support if argued to a judge?

The answer is yes. A child’s growth in addition to an increase in your spouse’s income and the passage of a lengthy period of time has been shown to be enough to have a judge agree to increase a child support obligation for your child’s other parent.

Again, it is not enough just to show that your current amount of child support is out of whack with the present financial circumstances of a party or your child. You must prove your case and present sufficient evidence to meet your burden of proof in order to be successful.

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC- Advocates for southeast Texas Families

Thank you for the opportunity to share with you this information regarding child support laws in Texas. For more information or to schedule a free of charge consultation with one of our licensed family law attorneys please contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC.


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Other Articles you may be interested in:

  1. How to properly calculate child support in Texas
  2. Is Overtime Pay or Bonus Pay Considered for Texas Child Support?
  3. Child Support in Texas: What is the most you will have to pay and what are the exceptions to that rule?
  4. The Dirty Trick of Quitting Your Job to Avoid Child Support During a Texas Divorce
  5. Can I get child support while my Texas divorce is pending?
  6. Do I Have to Pay Child Support if I Have Joint Custody of My Child in Texas?
  7. Can I Sue My Ex for Retroactive or Back Child Support in Texas?
  8. Child Support and College Tuition in Texas
  9. Texas Child Support Appeals
  10. In Texas are Child Support and Visitation Connected?
  11. Why Ignoring Child Support Obligations is a Bad Idea in Texas
  12. Can I get child support and custody of my kids in Texas if we were never married?

Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas Child Support Lawyers

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding child support, it's important to speak with one of our Houston, TX child support lawyers right away to protect your rights.

Our child support lawyers in HoustonTX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles child support cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, Houston, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.


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