When it comes to child support, I think it is pretty safe to say that no one involved in the process of a child custody case or divorce is ever delighted with the process. That's not to say that the parents who received child support aren't grateful, and the parents who paid child support aren't happy to help their children. But it does say that the process can be frustrating to a great extent for reasons that have nothing to do with the actual payment of the support. As with anything else regarding a family law case in Texas, emotions and relational histories play a big role in this process.
For one, if you are the parent who is receiving child support, then you likely believe that your Co-parent should be paying you more than they are. The reason for this is that the cost of raising a child almost certainly is greater than what your Co-parent pays you in child support per month. No, the purpose of child support is not to pay for every cost associated with raising their child every month, but the amount is supposed to contribute a great deal to that effort. The other factor to consider from the parent who is receiving child support is that you may not be working full time after a divorce or child custody case or may even be attending school to complete a degree or earn a certification. As a result, these child support payments may be the one form of income coming into your house for a certain period.
On the other hand, if you are the parent who is paying shots for it, you likely have some apprehension about paying money that is supposed to support your children to your ex-spouse or child's other parent. Based on your relationship with this person, I probably couldn't blame you. Not exactly having the most trust in the world when it comes to paying this person sums of money would not be out of the ordinary. Money problems and trust issues may have been the root cause of your divorce or breakup. Having to pay this person somewhat large sums of money each month with seemingly no accountability is enough to make apparent a little apprehensive in many cases.
How child support is paid and received
Like most things associated with Texas family law cases, pain and receiving child support have a process. Contrary to what many people believe, child support is not intended to be paid directly to your Co-parent or vice versa. These types of child support payments technically do not register with the agency responsible for keeping track of your child support payments in Texas. For that reason, these informal child support payments are not recommended when it comes to paying your monthly child support.
Typically, child support is paid and received through the office of the attorney general child support division. This is the state agency that administers child support on behalf of Texas families. While you may not be excited to get a government agency involved in your personal life vantages to having your payments go through a body of the state rather than through you and your coherence checking accounts. For one, there is greater accountability when it comes to payments made through the state. This means that there will be no question about who paid what, when, or anything like that. There will be a clear record of payment made on the attorney general's website for both you and your Co-parent to consider. This will prevent you from arguing with each other and having to go back and forth on who paid what and when. If the amount of support does not show up on the attorney general's website, then the official payment has not been made.
Another benefit to having your child support payments go through the attorney general's office is that the payments are out of sight and out of mind. We will get into the process of how the payments are made in a moment but when payments are gone through the office of the attorney general is almost like investing money into a 401K or another retirement account. These are automatic drafts issued each month where child support is paid like your utility bills or investments. You do not need to think about paying child support each month or risk forgetting. Rather, the payments are made automatically for you without you having to lift a finger.
Another benefit to having payments go through the attorney general's office is that in the event you have to go to court for something with any child support, you will have proof of what either was paid or what was not paid. I can only imagine the difficulties some parents will have if you have to keep track of payments yourself. This can become tricky and burdensome if you are a busy parent like most of us. As such, in any event that you need to return to court for a modification or enforcement of the Child Support order, you would have to bring a printout of the attorney general's child support Ledger to show the judge.
Setting up a wage withholding order
As I mentioned a moment ago, the process of having your child support paid each month automatically through the office of the attorney general begins before your divorce or child custody case even ends. After your family law case, if you are responsible for paying child support, then your Co-parent should have prepared a wage withholding order to be signed off on by all parties, including the judge. The wage withholding order will allow your employer to automatically withhold a certain sum of money from your paycheck each month and send that check to the office of the attorney general to satisfy your child support obligation.
As the parent responsible for paying child support, it is your responsibility to ensure that your child's support is still paid. This means that you cannot assume that just because the wage withholding order has been approved by the judge and sent to your employer, the money is being paid. For that reason, I would recommend that you check your statement on the office of the attorney general's website each month to ensure payment is being processed and received by your Co-parent.
On top of that, it is wise to have a working, professional relationship with your Co-parent regarding this subject. I do not mean that you have to be in conversation with your Co-parent every day of the week, but I mean that touching base with them regularly to confirm receipt of child support and make sure there are no issues would be wise. I find that engaging in behavior like this engenders a certain level of trust between the two of you and can help avoid the possibility of having to go to court to settle disputes or problems. By working with your Co-parent immediately after the end of your family law case, you can prevent small problems from becoming big problems that require courtroom intervention.
What if the Child Support figure no longer suits your family after a family law case?
As it happens, circumstances for your family will likely change at some point after your family law cases come to an end. Those circumstances may change a year after your family lowercase or more or may take five years. Either way, if circumstances do arise that require a change to your child support, then you have options, no matter if you are the parent who is receiving child support or the parent who is paying child support. Let's walk through a modification of child support.
From the Texas family code perspective, a material and substantial change need to have curd in the life of you, your child, or your Co-parent to justify a formal modification of any aspect of your court orders. This would include child support. There must be a fairly substantial change that is taking part in one of your lives to justify changing the amount of child support paid each month. You could have changed; you are Co-parent could have undergone the change, or your child's circumstances may have changed.
A modification petition would need to be filed in the same family court for your divorce or child custody case withheld. From there, you would need to provide evidence to a court that would justify your request to modify the Child Support either upwards or downwards. From the perspective of a parent who is receiving child support, you may find yourself in a position where you need an increase in child support. This may be because your child's needs have changed or circumstances regarding your Co parent's income have changed.
For example, you may have come to find out that your Co parent's income has increased because they got a new job or gotta pay an increase at their employer. In that case, you may be justified in requesting an increase or modification of the Child Support upwards. To do so, you would need to obtain proof from your Co-parent that their income has changed and calculated the new figure of child support based on the increase in your parent's net monthly income. This could be done informally through the negotiation process or formally in a modification hearing with a family court judge.
Additionally, your child may have developed a medical condition that requires care greater than what you can provide on the current levels of child support. If this is the case, you can request to have The Child Support increased to an amount that considers the change in circumstances your child has undergone due to their medical needs. This is a bit of a less cut and dry situation than how much to ask for in an increase in child support, so you should consult with your experienced Texas family law attorney before proceeding to court. They will be able to guide you on a reasonable increase based on the circumstances of her family. Finally, if you are the parent who is paying child support, you may find yourself in a position where you need to request that the Child Support baby be decreased each month. You may have suffered a disability that has drastically reduced your pay, or you may have just had your hours reduced as a result of any number of reasons at work. In that case, I would recommend that you have an attorney to assist you in providing evidence of your pay decrease to your Co-parent and a will Tina go she ate the decrease in child support with your Co-parent based on your changing circumstances.
What happens if your Co-parent stops paying you child support?
Another situation that may require you to head back to family court after your initial case is comfortable close is if your Co-parent stops paying child support. It is a dire situation that may turn your whole family's budget on its head. We have already discussed how if you are a parent who has not been working for some time or who earns relatively little that the Child Support you receive could be a huge part of your family's monthly budget period; as such, you do not want to approach the subject of child support payment casualty.
An enforcement lawsuit is how you can address the child support payments not being made to you. Lawsuits would need to be filed in the same family court where you had your divorce for the child custody case. Within the lawsuit, you would allege the nature of the violations of your court order, namely that child support payments have been missed. You would need to specify the amount of child support missed, the dates, and any other background information that the judge should know. As we discussed a moment ago, comma attaching proof from the attorney general's website of child support payments missed would be a wise idea.
Your Co-parent would be able to potentially offer some defenses regarding their failure to pay the Child Support. A family court judge would then be able to consider the arguments and decide whether or not you met the burdens of your enforcement case. A family court judge can award relief that ranges from putting your Co-parent on a schedule to repay you child support, penalties like having him or her pay your attorneys fees, and even assessing jail time for serious cases of miss child support. Like a modification case comma, an enforcement case is a severe matter that is best handled with the assistance of an experienced Texas family law attorney.
When does the responsibility to pay child support comes to an end?
As with most things in life, the need to pay child support does eventually come to an end. In Texas, the age of emancipation when it comes to child support is when your child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever occurs later. This means that even when your child graduates from high school, you may still be liable to pay child support depending on your child's age. This is an important distinction to draw, and a client of mine learned early in the process.
One of the first cases but I ever worked in as a family law attorney involved a client who had not been paid shot support by their ex has been. Innocently enough, the ex-husband had stopped paying child support when his daughter turned 18. He had assumed that once she reached 18 that there was no longer any obligation to pay support. Our client had had casual discussions with him about paying the rest of his child support but had not paid much attention. As such, it came as a surprise to him that he still owed child support even after his child had turned 18.
While it did take the filing of an enforcement lawsuit to get him to pay the back child support, this eventually was accomplished. His attorney worked with him to confirm that this was the case, and we avoided having a court hearing when the attorneys and parties were able to work together. This was an easy enough circumstance to work through but not every enforcement lawsuit is that way.
Questions about the material contained in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained 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. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law and how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.