Child Support Overview
A guide to establishing, modifying, and enforcing child support in Texas.
Child support is a court-ordered amount that a non-custodial parent must pay to cover a certain amount of a child’s expenses such as basic living expenses, clothing, shelter, food, education, and healthcare. Child support in Texas is different than other states as each is responsible for developing its own guidelines for determining child support. Child support is the financial support paid by parents to support a child or children of whom they do not have full custody.
Child support can be entered into voluntarily, by Texas court order or by Texas Attorney General. When the Texas court orders a parent to pay child support, the parent must pay directly to the child's custodian. In addition, where there is joint custody, in which the child has two custodial parents and no non-custodial parents, a custodial parent may be required to pay the other custodial parent. States generally do not impose an obligation to pay support for a child after that child has reached the age of 18.
Do you need a child support attorney?
The laws surrounding child support payments are complicated. Texas laws vary significantly with respect to calculating child support and how it is regulated. Since the facts of each case are unique, an experienced family attorney will be invaluable as you pursue your child support claim.
How to modify a child support order in Texas
Once a child support order or agreement is in place, the payment amount may be increased or decreased under certain circumstances. Either parent may request the court to modify the amount of support. Child support payments may be changed as needed at least until the child reaches of the age of 18. Child support can be modified in a variety of different ways, either by agreement with the other party, or by petitioning the court.
When both parties agree to modify the child support
Your first step should be to see whether you and the other parent can reach agreement to modify the child support terms. Both parents have the ability to seek modifications to child support orders as many times as may be necessary until the child reaches the age of 18. If the other parent will not agree to your requested change, or cooperate in an agreement regarding the modification of terms, than you next step is to petition the court.
Show a Substantial Change in Circumstances
When you ask for a modification of child support, you must be able to show that something about your circumstances has changed since the last time the court established or modified your existing child order. Depending on the nature of the changed circumstances, the court may make either a temporary or a permanent modification. Texas judges are often unwilling to make changes to child support unless the petitioner presents a good argument for the change being in the child’s best interests.
The party seeking a modification must first show that they have experienced a substantial change in circumstances before the court will even consider the petition. This change in circumstances can come in any forms, such as a significant change in income, a change in the child's needs, or the involuntary loss of a job. Typically, if the loss of income or employment is voluntary, the court will not consider that to be satisfactory to show a substantial change in circumstances.
Downward adjustments may also be necessary if one parent become disabled or loses their job involuntarily. If you agreed to a certain amount of child support based on income you are no longer earning, this change in your situation could be grounds for a child support order to be modified.The amount of income you've lost must be significant. A permanent modification of a child support order will remain in effect until support is no longer required or the order is modified at a later time because of a new set of changed circumstances.
A change in circumstances may also concern the living arrangement of the parties involved. If the children for whom you are paying support now reside with you instead of the other parent, this may qualify as a significant change.
Whatever the reason that you can no longer make your child support payments, it is imperative that you seek to modify your child custody order as soon as possible. You are still responsible for your child support payments up until the new modification order is signed. Many times, the support can be retroactive to the date that you filed the petition.
Enforcing a child support order in Texas
If you have been waiting to receive your child support over an extended period of time, you should stop waiting and take action immediately. It is frustrating and beyond a minor inconvenience to not receive the child support you are owed. If a non-custodial parent owes you money for child support, you must register your child support order with your state's child support enforcement agency in order to seek enforcement options.
When the non-custodial parent does not pay the full amount, or does not pay at all, enforcement action becomes necessary. You may also file a motion with the court that signed the order to enforce the child support.
Also, by notifying child support and government agencies, the child support payment can be forcefully withheld from the party who is not paying. You will then receive your child support through income withholding. The government may intercept tax refunds, garnishment of wages, or even suspend the non-payer’s driver’s license. Most child support orders require the employer to withhold the money that is ordered for child support, and send it to the state child support office. Your child support office can tell you about this procedure.
When you are in child support arrears
Failure to pay child support can have serious consequences.Any support payments that you don't make become what's called "arrears," and there's no way to make them go away other than paying them. They can't be discharged in bankruptcy, and they can't be reduced by a judge retroactively. If the court finds that a non-custodial parent is able to pay support but refuses, the court can hold the non-custodial parent in contempt of court, which can result in fines or jail time.