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Family Law Cases in Texas: Initiating a child support case

If you want to begin a family law case involving child support matters, it is recommended that you contact an attorney before doing so. I know- shock of the century- a family law attorney is recommending that you hire a family law attorney.

Trust me on this one, though; Child Support cases require an experienced hand. The investment you make in your attorney can pale in comparison when looking at your potential gains in support or savings in support, depending upon if you are the parent who will receive or pay child support.

The initial filing in a child support case is called a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship. There will be two other parties to your SAPCR- the other parent as well as the Attorney General of Texas. The Attorney General needs to be notified whenever you attempt to modify the amount of child support being paid.

Your hiring an attorney to file this SAPCR is an advantage over going about it yourself or contacting the Attorney General. First and foremost, your attorney can often work your case more efficiently than one of the attorneys for the Attorney General's office, thereby hastening the pace with which your case resolves itself. A quick mediation setup at the beginning of a case can often allow you to complete the process with relatively little spent on attorney's fees.

The other advantage to hiring an attorney to handle your SAPCR related to child support is that you can also modify issues related to conservatorship, possession, access, or visitation in the same suit. The Attorney General would focus entirely on child support and would likely require you to file a second SAPCR.

Child Support Calculation in Texas

If you are in a position where you are likely to have to pay child support, either in a SAPCR or divorce case, this section will be relevant for you. Your net income and the number of children you must support go into the child support calculation. Children that are both before the court in the present child support case and other children for whom you owe a duty to support that are not presently before the court.

For the most part, child support calculations are based on the guideline percentages laid out in the Texas Family Code. For a basic rundown of the calculation, you will want to deduct from your monthly pay federal taxes, social security, and the health insurance that you pay towards your children.

Once those items are removed from your income, a percentage will be applied against your net resources to develop the total monthly child support obligation, for one child multiple 20 percent against your net monthly income. Two children are 25 percent on up to 50 percent for each corresponding child. The highest percentage of your income every month that can go towards child support is 50 percent.

Other children not before the court will offset the amount you have to pay to children involved in the present case. For high-income earners, only the first $8,550 of your monthly income counts for these calculation purposes. If your child has proven needs requiring additional child support, the guideline percentages may not be utilized.

Failure to pay child support

Once your child support obligation is calculated, it is an amount that you are ordered to pay without exception. This means that if you have a job where your income fluctuates (real estate agent, small businessperson, etc.), there are no protections built in to account for your not earning a consistent income throughout the year. If this describes your situation, it is recommended that you plan by either securing a part-time job to fill in the gaps or by simply saving money and anticipating these fluctuations. Either way, it is not a defense to the failure to pay child support to tell a judge that your income is inconsistent.

Likewise, if you refuse to pay child support as ordered on a timely basis, the parent to whom the child support is owed can go back to the court that rendered the order and seek enforcement of your obligation to pay support. That parent can ask the judge to hold you in contempt of court and even seek jail time as possible recourse to encourage child support payment. As touched on briefly at the outset of this blog post, if you have not been paid timely support, you may hire an attorney to file this enforcement or contact the Office of the Attorney General.

Modification of a Prior Court Order

You are asking a court to adjust the amount of child support you either have to pay or that you have been ordered to receive means filing a modification suit. You are asking the court to take the prior order it rendered and change it in some way based on a substantial change in circumstances. Child support, conservatorship, possession, access, and visitation are all covered by this sort of lawsuit.

The material and substantial change in circumstances must have occurred since the signing of the prior court order if the other parent moved away from their last place of residence with your child and therefore caused you to incur additional sums of money in travel costs to exercise your right to visitation with your child then that material and substantial change in circumstances. Likewise, if your ex-spouse has abused your child or engaged in some other illegal behavior in the home, then this too would qualify as a material and substantial change in circumstances.

Modifying Custody, possession, and access

First and foremost, any requested modification must be shown to be in the best interests of your child. Once it is established that the modification is in the best interests of the child, one of the following qualifications must be met:

  1. The circumstances of your child, or either you or the other parent, must have materially and substantially changed since the earlier of a) the date the prior order was rendered or b) the date the mediated settlement agreement was signed and agreed to
  2. Your child is at least twelve years old and has made it known to the judge by filing a statement containing the name of the parent included, which parent they would like to reside with primarily.
  3. The conservator who has the exclusive right to determine your child's primary residence has voluntarily relinquished the care and possession of your child to another person for at least six months.

The judge in your case has it in their complete discretion to determine what is and what is not in the best interests of your child. The term best interests are subjective and relies upon your judge's judgment in making that determination. Your child's health, safety, and overall well-being will be looked at when making this determination.

More on modifications and the beginning of our discussion on Enforcement cases to be posted tomorrow

We will conclude our discussion on SAPCR modifications and will begin to discuss enforcement cases in tomorrow's blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. In the meantime, if you have questions about anything we discussed in today's blog, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC.

One of our licensed family law attorneys is available six days a week to meet with you in a free-of-charge consultation. We can answer your questions and go over any information you would like regarding family law in Texas.

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Other Articles you may be interested in:

  1. How to correctly 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 essential to speak with one of our Houston, TX, child support lawyers right away to protect your rights.

Our child support lawyers in Houston, TX, are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact the 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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