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A Look at Texas Child Support Orders

Can you and your co-parent agree to a child support amount that differs from the guidelines?

Yes. The odds are in your favor that you and your spouse or co-parent will be able to agree to a child support amount that is different than what the guidelines from the Texas Family Code set forth. If you and your co-parent want to do this, that is. You can look at your circumstances and then decide on what you want to do as far as setting a child support number that works better for you all. This is the degree to which you and your co-parent will have control over your case. You all may be able to tell the judge that you all believe that child support is not needed at all. 

Why could child support not be paid in your case? 

In most Texas family law cases there is some degree of child support that is paid between parents. This is done to even out the costs associated with raising children. If you are the custodial parent of your children, then you understand the day-to-day costs commitments associated with raising a child as the primary caretaker. You likely encounter more costs associated with food, clothing, school, extracurricular activities, and things of that nature. These are costs that are not the same for every child, but most children have these types of costs not to mention medical appointments and costs associated with the insurance period

For that reason, his state of Texas believes that non-custodial parents need to pay child support to even out those costs to a certain degree. Nobody is trying to make the argument that child support completely evens the playing field so to speak. Rather, child support is intended to help your child meet their minimum basic needs. This does not mean allowing your child to live a lifestyle to which he or she has been accustomed while there are two incomes in the household. Rather, child support is intended to help your child make sure that she has a place to live, clothes on their back, and food in their bellies. Medical insurance, as well as dental insurance, is required for every child who goes through the Texas family courts. 

In what circumstances could child support not be ordered?

If you and your Co-parent have similar levels of income and similar periods of possession with your children, then you may be able to negotiate for no child support to be paid. Sharing time and sharing expenses is the whole point of child support. However, if there is no time or money to need to equalize on this front then many parents agree to have no child support needing to be paid or relatively little compared to other families. As you can tell, a lot of this discussion has not paid child support it depends upon the other factors of your case in the needs of your child specifically.

A lot of this discussion centers around what you and your Co-parent can negotiate upon in mediation. Mediation is a process where you and your spouse go to a neutral, third-party attorney's office and that attorney will help you negotiate settlement parameters for your case. The benefit to attending mediation is that you all can look closely add the facts and circumstances of your case away from a judge in a more informal environment. This helps people to be able to focus on the needs of their child primarily and places the attention away from any degree of animosity or ill will that you and your Co-parent may have towards one another.

Many considerations need to be made in mediation including what degree if any of spousal maintenance could be paid in a divorce and what the Community property division of your case will ultimately look like. These are not specific issues that are related to child support necessarily but in a divorce case, all these issues are intermingled and related either directly or indirectly. Child custody cases do not have these types of issues to contend with but the overall financial picture for both you and your Co-parent is extremely relevant when it comes to determining child support levels for both you and your Co-parent.

What you can likely tell from this scenario is that there are a lot of moving pieces when it comes to child support in Texas. Since we find ourselves in a situation where all these issues are interconnected and have a relationship with one another you must have someone in your corner to provide you with solid advice not only in child support but when it comes to all of these other topics. Please call the attorneys with the law office of Brian Fitton today to set up a consultation with one of our experienced family law attorneys. We can help you sort through the potential conflicts and issues that arise in a case like yours and will help you arrive at a situation that benefits you and your children.  

How long does child support have to be paid for in Texas?

If you are the parent who is ordered to pay child support in your child custody or divorce case, then that obligation will end either when your child turns 18 or graduates from high school whichever happens later. If your child passes away before this time, gets married, joins the military, or is otherwise a man separated then your responsibility to pay child support when ended that period otherwise, the obligation to pay child support would normally end when your child turns 18 or graduates from high school whichever happens later.

Additionally, you need to consider whether you may be in line to pay child support for A period longer than when your child reaches their high school years. This could be the case if Your child has a mental or physical disability that requires constant supervision and care. For example, if your child has to go through the medical system and receive consistent care for a condition then your Co-parent's need for additional income may increase. As a result, whether it be in negotiations with your Co-parent or a trial with a judge then you may need to think about how your obligation to pay support to your Co-parent could extend beyond the 18th birthday of your child.

What happens if you stop paying child support before your child's 18th birthday or high school graduation?

As it sometimes happens in a child support case you may find yourself in a position where your ability to pay child support becomes more limited Over certain periods due to a loss in income. It could be that you lose your job or otherwise find yourself Struggling to pay your bills not to mention child support. If that sounds like a position that you may see yourself in due to an irregular income, then you will want to pay close attention to this section of today's blog post.

The first thing you can do if you find yourself in a position where you are going to have to miss a payment or two of child support is to contact your Co-parent. You should let him or her know about any financial problems that you may be going through. This could be a situation where you need to swallow some pride and instead focus on what is most important for yourself and your children. Choosing to keep any of these issues a secret and not let your Co-parent know about it would be a mistake. I have found that if you are honest with your Co-parent about the circumstances, he or she will be more willing to work with you on a payment plan in not immediately filing an enforcement lawsuit against you.

Ultimately, that is what your Co-parent could do if you were to start missing child support payments. An enforcement case seeks to enforce the terms of a prior court order. you are Co-parent has the right to hold you responsible for the failure to pay child support. Enforcement cases can be filed in the same court that issued the original child support order. in an enforcement case, your Co-parent can seek penalties against you namely the payment of all back child support as well as penalties for every missed child support payment. there is even a chance that you could wind up with a decision from the judge that results in jail time.

bear in mind that if you fail to pay child support that does not give your go parent the right to deny you possession and visitation with your child. It is not a condition precedent for you to see your child for you to 1st pay child support in full to your Co-parent. Likewise, you cannot withhold child support payments if your Co-parent is denying you visitation with your child. Enforcement action would be the appropriate way to enforce the terms of your child custody and child support orders and allow you to see your child regardless of any other factors.

Are you able to change your child support payments in Texas? 

Yes, the law in Texas allows you to change the amount of child support that you pay to your Co-parent under certain circumstances. The first of these circumstances would be if you and your Co-parent agree to the change between the two of you. You may be surprised that sometimes it happens where you and your Co-parent may be able to come to terms with a reduction or increase in child support based on the circumstances that you all are going through. For example, there could be that you have a decrease or increase in income that justifies a modification in child support. What you could do is contact your Co-parent and discuss the need to amend your child support in some way. Or he or she could contact you to discuss the need to amend your child support.

The most common reason why people can amend a child support order is if a material and substantial change have occurred in the life of you or your child since the time that your last child support order was issued. Material and substantial changes are a significant change in your life, the life of your Co-parent, or even the life of your child. This substantial change could be related to an increase in income associated with the job change. The substantial change could also be related to a decrease in income associated with the job change or even a job loss. Finally, your child could be having physical or emotional needs that have increased the costs associated with their medical or psychiatric care. Either way, you should review your circumstances and consider hiring an attorney whether you want to bring a modification case or defend yourself in a modification case against you. Modification cases can have a lot of moving pieces but can also be resolved relatively quickly if you have an attorney who is engaged in settlement negotiations with your Co-parent.

The final piece of the puzzle when it comes to modification cases is that modification needs to be in the best interest of your child. The best interest determination Is a common one across any issue dealing with your children in a family law case. Even if you and your Co-parent agree on some issue related to child support in a settlement negotiation a family court judge may not approve your agreement if it is not believed to be in the best interest of your child. The best interests of your child depend upon your child's current situation as well as what their situation may be in the future. Their physical and mental health are also considerations when it comes to the best interest determination.

Ultimately, the circumstances of your family will determine whether there has been material in a substantial change in the circumstances of your case. This may seem redundant or repetitive, but it is the truth. In family law cases the specific circumstances that you and your family have gone through matter a great deal. While it is true that the Texas family code in its statutes will inform the judge when deciding ultimately the family court judge will base their decision making upon their own experiences and handling family law cases and in what your family needs and what the best interests of your children are.

A material and substantial change could be something that involves a major shift or alteration in the parenting time between you and your Co-parent. You may end up becoming the parent who receives child support and has the children during the school week and your Co-parent may end up being the parent who pays child support and has visitation with the children on the weekends. It all depends on the sort of modification that is being requested as well as what is in the best interest of your children. 

Another major change that could have been a part of your life or the life of your Co-parent over the past few years is a change in your work. One of the major impacts of the pandemic has not so much been on many people losing work but many people changing the kind of work that they do. All certain people have left the workforce others have completely changed what they have done. We have seen mass amounts of people walk away from the teaching field and healthcare field. You may be one of those folks who have changed what you have done considering the changes to your profession that have come about as a result of the pandemic.

What we do know about material and substantial changes is that you need to be able to describe that material and substantial change in an affidavit to the family court judge along with your petition to modify. The judge will review that affidavit, which is a sworn statement under oath, to determine whether or not it meets the smell test of being a potential material and substantial change period from there, you and your attorney will need to be able to collect evidence in preparation for a trial but can also prepare to negotiate with your Co-parent during the pendency of your case to determine whether or not a settlement can be reached. Throughout these steps, the assistance of the next experienced family lot but Ernie cannot be understated.

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 as well as about how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.

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