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Child Support and COVID-19: Legal Relief During Unprecedented Times

One of the most contentious aspects to a child custody or divorce case that involves children relates to child support. No matter if you are the parent who will receive the child support payments or are the parent who is obligated to pay child support, this subject is one that is debated with varying degrees of ferocity during a family law case. This really shouldn't be that surprising, when you consider that it is a tie that binds two Co parents together after what can be a disruptive and contentious legal case. Your personal finances are probably not in their healthiest state immediately following a family law case. This is another factor that ways into this discussion. 

On top of the factors that we have already discussed today, we need to add onto the list the coronavirus pandemic that we have all been living through since March. As if we needed one more thing to consider in regard to personal finance, child support and family law cases the pandemic has temporarily shifted the economic trajectory of our nation and our region. Whereas, before the virus unemployment rates were low and most of us were doing quite well at least from an employment perspective, we are now left in a much more precarious situation given the various economic shutdowns instituted by government to stem the tide of this virus and its growth. 

You may have lost your job prior to your divorce or child custody case beginning or even lost your job during the midst of your case. On the other hand, while you may not have lost your job completely you may have seen Your hours reduced or had some other factor enter into your work life that saw your income slashed or cut dramatically. These are not necessarily things that would only happen during the coronavirus pandemic, but I believe they became much more likely to be relevant during this time then in the preceding months and years. 

My purpose in writing today's blog post is to help parents who are concerned about family court orders which mandate them to pay child support to an ex-spouse or co-parent on a regular basis. Not having the money to pay your own bills can be an intimidating situation in and of itself. When you add on the additional responsibility to pay child support then you have a circumstance where your finances can become an even bigger issue for you and your family as a whole. If your personal financial situation Is, it as stable as you would like it to be then today's blog post is one for you to read through. 

How is child support calculated? 

This would appear to be a pretty simple question and one that is basic to our discussion today. However, the method of calculating child support it can result in varying figures especially in regard to your income. Let's first begin by stating that child support is determined by multiplying your net monthly resources by a percentage. That percentage is based on the number of children you have before the court in any given child custody or divorce case. 

For example, Let's assume that your net monthly income is $5000. That $5000 figure would be multiplied against a certain percentage based on the number of children that you have. If you have one child before the court then 20% of your $5000 net monthly income would go towards child support. You would then add 5% to that percentage up to at most 50% of your net monthly income going towards child support on a monthly basis. 

These percentages are laid out in the Texas family code. They are known as the guideline levels of support 4 child support in Texas. Most of the time, calculating job support is straightforward do too it being a math equation. You need only determine your income and count your children and then you have the number of child support dollars you are obligated to pay on a monthly basis. Questions can arise, however, when parties have difficulty determining appearance income or believe that the guideline levels of support do not work for them in their circumstances. 

If you are a person who earns a great deal of their monthly income from sources other than your full time job then I would recommend that you meet with one of our licensed family law attorneys to speak to them about your income sources and how that may impact the calculations of child support in your divorce or child custody case. On the other hand, if you have already gone through a family law case and have an established amount of child support in place then you will want to have that number reviewed periodically to make sure it is appropriate given your current economic situation. 

How is child support paid in Texas? 

Now that we have walked through how child support is most typically calculated in a family law case, we can then discuss the method of payment. As a pretty simple guy, it would seem most practical to me for child support to be paid directly to my co-parent or I in a situation where child support had to be paid. You may be thinking the same thing. After all, you can reduce the number of people involved in the process by simply running a check or giving cash to your child's other parent at the beginning of the month. 

Whether or not this is a method that appeals to you, you should understand that child support is not typically paid directly to your co-parent. There are reasons for this, and I would like to walk you through some of the basics of how child support his pain and why this is the method most people choose to employ. 

Child support payments begin with a wage withholding order that is signed by the judge and submitted to your employer. This wage withholding order mandates that your employer set aside a designated amount of child support on a monthly basis to go towards your child support obligation. For example, if you owe $1000 in child support payments each month then the wage withholding order would direct your employer to set aside this money and send it to a state administrative body who will get the payment to your co-parent. 

The state agency which deals with the payment and dispersion of child support is the office of the attorney general child support division. Once your employer makes the Child Support payment it goes to the office of the attorney general and is then forwarded onto a bank account owned by your co-parent. If you're like me, having the government get in between A monetary transaction that you were trying to make may seem to be unnecessary or needlessly complicated. However, in this instance it actually makes sense for a number of reasons. 

Number one, it is important to understand that the office of the attorney general does not take sides in child support payment scenarios. The opposite the train general does not represent your interests and does not represent the interests of your co-parent. The office of the attorney general is there on behalf of the state of Texas to ensure that child support payments are made in full and on time each month. Therefore, a specific record of payments is made and kept online for either you or your co-parent to refer to in the future. This is great for you both to be able to check periodically and see where you all are in terms of child support payments. Keeping a record of thousands of dollars in transactions is a great idea.

You will need a record of the transactions made in the future should any problems arise in Regard to your payment history. For example, if your co-parent were to argue that you missed a payment or were behind in child support what you would need to do is access your online registry and you can very quickly determine when Any child support payments were missed. Otherwise, you would need to keep track of your own payments and it would be a “your word versus their word” situation if disagreements on payments were to arise. This way, both parties have an objective source to determine what the payment history has actually been. 

What relief can you seek in the event that you are unable to make child support payments during the COVID-19 pandemic?

In the event that the economic difficulties associated with this pandemic hit you in your pocketbook, then you should know that there are options for you to take advantage of as far as keeping yourself out of legal trouble. Be aware that these are options that are not going to be chosen for you and that you need to take proactive measures to take advantage of. Nobody else is going to help you out of the kindness of their hearts. 

For starters, you need to communicate directly with your co-parent and the office of the attorney general in the event that you lose your job or otherwise become unable to pay child support. Do not sweep this problem under the rug and hope that either nobody notices or that you are quickly able to regain work and begin to make your child support payments on time and in full. I have represented more than one person in situations like this where the amount of child support owed simply grows and grows overtime to a point where it becomes difficult to imagine a scenario where he or she would be able to repay the full amount owed.

You should contact the office of the attorney general by phone and make them aware of your circumstances. the first person you call, however, should be your co-parent this is the person who relies on your support each month to pay bills and other costs associated with your child. No matter what your opinion is of him or her the fact is when you owe someone money each month and are unable to pay you should directly communicate that to this person. This is where you can begin to workout alternative methods for payment and, if necessary, repayment schedules in the event you get behind in paying child support. 

The best option that I can present to you would be a scenario where you and your co-parent work out alternative methods for repaying child support once you're able to get some income moving into your budget. With that said, you need to begin looking for work immediately in the event you lose your job. Sometimes it may mean that you need to look for more than one job or even take work that is not your idea of fun and may not even be in your line of work to begin with. However, it is better to take income now where you can and piece multiple streams of income together in order to make these child support payments. 

If you cannot work out a payment schedule with your co-parent, it may be necessary for you to file a lawsuit where you seek to modify the amount of child support that she has to pay. If your circumstances financially have changed a substantial immaterial amount, then you may have grounds to modify that amount of support. You would not be able to have your child support figure reduced to nothing but you could get a modified child support order in place that obligates you to pay an amount of child support based on a minimum wage earner until you are able to regain work on a consistent basis. This is a much better arrangement than hoping and praying you can make your child support payment by not doing anything to communicate the disruption in income either to your co-parent or to the courts. 

Questions about child support during the COVID-19 pandemic? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material presented in today's blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone and via video. Our attorneys work in the family courts of Southeast Texas on behalf of folks just like you. We would be honored to speak to you about how our office could best serve you and your family at this time.  

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