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Handling your child support duties as a disabled veteran in Texas

If you have served our country as a member of our military you know the true meaning of sacrifice. You have given your all for a cause larger than yourself and for that, you should be commended. The services that you have provided to the United States go beyond what your duty was in the military. However, your obligation to the country did not cause your personal life to stop until you were ready to devote your attention to it.

It is possible that you suffered an injury while you were serving in the military and are now disabled. Whether that disability was determined by the military, the Social Security Administration or both, you are unable to work as you used to be able to. As a result, you may not have as much income as you had become accustomed to. What can you do in the event that you have a child support obligation but have recently been found to be disabled?

Do disabled veterans have to pay child support?

It is possible that you do not have to pay child support if you are a disabled veteran. To know for sure you would need to look to the terms of your divorce decree or final order in a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR). You and your child's other parent are obligated to provide financial support for your child until she reaches 18 years old or graduates from high school- whichever occurs later in time.

There will be a specific section of the order that will tell you who is obligated to pay child support. If you have not yet gone to court and received an order with the judge’s signature on it you have no obligation to pay child support. You can pay some degree of support while you are overseas or on active duty, but there is no obligation to do so and there is no guarantee that you would receive any sort of “credit” from a court or from your child’s other parent for having done so.

When could a court order you to pay child support?

In the event that your child is receiving benefits from the State of Texas, such as Medicaid, WIC, food stamps or other services, the Office of the Attorney General may require that you pay child support to offset the services that the State is providing to your child. If your divorce or SAPCR case were to go before a judge for a contested trial it is likely that a judge would order that you or your child’s other parent pay child support, as well.

How much child support could you be obligated to pay?

A percentage of your monthly net resources will go towards child support if you are obligated to pay. In most circumstances would pay 20% of your monthly net resources if you are obligated to pay support for one child, 25% if you have two children and on up to 40% of your income if you have five or more children.

Now that you know the percentages, your next question is likely what "net monthly resources" means. You are going to be asked, either by your attorney or by the court, to provide information regarding your resources. Wages and salary from your job will encompass the majority of your resources most likely. After that overtime pay, bonuses, commissions, self-employment income, rental income, unemployment, and worker's compensation benefits are included. This is not a full list of sources of income that are considered in this regard but hopefully, you have an idea of the sources that are able to be considered by a court.

Can a court force you to pay child support on your VA disability pay?

If you are actually receiving a VA disability benefit, then you will need to include this in the analysis of your net monthly resources. However, if you have simply applied for benefits but have not yet started receiving them yet you should not include them.

What about Social Security Disability Insurance? Do you have to pay child support on that?

As you might imagine at this point in our discussion, you likely have to pay child support based on the SSDI that you receive. I would provide you the same advice about SSDI that I did about VA disability pay, however. If you are going through the application process for SSDI, or are appealing a prior denial, you should not include potential SSDI in the analysis of your net monthly resources. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) from Social Security does not count when it comes to a child support income analysis and should not be included in the information you provide to a court.

If your child receives additional money because you are disabled then the court will need to determine how much money you would be obligated to pay in child support ordinarily under the Texas Family Code. Next, the court will subtract that amount from the total of the benefits paid for the child as a result of your being disabled. The resulting number will be how much child support you actually have to pay.

In the event that you are in a situation where you are paying child support based on a number of disability benefits that you thought you were going to receive, but never actually did, you will likely want to do something about it as quickly as possible Obviously, you will not be able to continue to pay child support on money that you do not have coming in. Do not think that your attorney, the judge or the Attorney General's office will automatically make note of this and make the correction themselves. You will need to bring it to their attention.

You should return to court and file a modification of the prior child support order, in which you seek to reduce the amount of child support that you are obligated to pay. If you are asserting that you are not receiving the level of benefits that you anticipated receiving you should come prepared to show financial documents that prove what you are saying is accurate. The law requires that you show that a material and substantial change in your circumstances have developed between the time your order was issued and the date on which your modification was filed. Unless you can prove a change in circumstances then your reduction request will not be considered.

What happens when you already owe child support because you never received the benefits you thought that you were going to?

The section of today’s blog post prior to this one went through what you should do if you do not receive benefits from the government like you thought that you would but are not yet behind in your payments. This section will consider what you should do in the event that you already do owe benefits. If your now owe “back” child support here is how you should handle that situation.

Any arrearage that you owe in child support is usually a result of your having committed your disability benefits towards a child support obligation prior to your actually being issued the money. If the Department of Veterans Affairs or the Social Security Administration gave you an indication that you would soon be receiving benefits, but you ended up receiving none, you could be put in a tough spot.

For instance, suppose that you have applied for social security disability insurance. That application process is notoriously long and difficult. If you applied for benefits and were rejected on multiple occasions you can choose to appeal that decision to an administrative law judge who works for the Social Security Administration. You may have gone to a hearing with that judge and argued your case. If you believed that you would come out of that hearing with a positive result, but did not, you may have signed up for child support in the interim time period based on your incorrect assumption. What can you do now?

Even though it is never a good idea to agree to include disability benefits that have not yet been awarded to you, here is how you can handle that situation if you find yourself facing a child support bill that keeps rising and rising. You should return to the court where your prior case was held and request that the order is modified. A reduction of your obligation would be your goal. Both the Office of the Attorney General as well as the parent who is receiving the child support need to be notified that you have filed this modification.

When you have an opportunity to provide evidence to a court regarding the reasons why your child support obligation should be reduced, you would be best served by providing sufficient financial information to the judge in order to prove that there has been a substantial and material change in your circumstances since the time your child support order was handed down. If the judge agrees with you a new order will be issued that reduces the amount of child support that you have to pay moving forward. However, we still have not touched on what will happen with the amount of child support that you are already behind on.

With all of that said, you will still have to pay the back amount of child support. It is possible that depending upon your circumstances you may be able to request that the judge allow you additional time to pay the back child support. Payment plans are typically possible when you have shown a willingness to pay child support, even if it is just a partial payment, over a long period of time. However, if you have simply never paid anything towards child support you are unlikely to have this courtesy extended to you by the judge.

What happens if you fail to make child support payments over an extended period of time?

If you fail to make the child support payments that you are obligated to under the terms of your court order, your child's other parent or the Office of the Attorney General may be forced to file an enforcement lawsuit against you. An enforcement suit basically seeks to have a judge address violation of the order that you have committed. In this instance, the violations would stem from your failure to pay child support in full and on time.

Enforcement lawsuits for child support are typically very straightforward. All the opposing party must do is specify the dates child support payments were missed, the amount that was supposed to be received, the amount(s) that were actually received (if any) and the total arrearage owed. The attorney general keeps track of all of these payments and this payment log can be introduced into evidence to show your failure to pay. All of your circumstances will be taken into consideration, but the maximum penalty under the law for the failure to pay child support is up to six months in jail, plus fines that can attach to each violation cited.

Questions about child support obligations as a veteran? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

The attorneys and staff with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are always honored to work alongside veterans who live in our community. We appreciate and are grateful for the sacrifices that you and your family have made for our country and seek to serve you all as well as we possibly can.

If you have read through today's blog post and have questions on any subject please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan today. We offer free of charge consultations six days a week with our licensed family law attorneys. These consultations are a great opportunity to sit down with an attorney who works daily in the family courts of southeast Texas and to find out the answers to whatever questions you may have. Thank you for spending some time with us today.

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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Texas Military Divorce Lawyer

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's important to speak with ar Texas military Divorce Lawyer right away to protect your rights.

military divorce lawyer in Spring TX is 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 Divorce cases in Spring, TexasCypressSpringKleinHumble, KingwoodTomballThe WoodlandsHouston, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris CountyMontgomery CountyLiberty County, Chambers CountyGalveston CountyBrazoria CountyFort Bend County and Waller County.

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