Whether you pay or receive child support, it’s not uncommon to wonder if it’s possible to change the amount, whether increase or decrease. Texas law understands that some situations warrant changing the amount of support the court initially ordered, but it has some restrictions and policies that must be followed. Read on for what you need to know.
What Are Situations That Warrant Modifying Child Support in Texas?
The first thing to understand is that child support isn’t something that can be changed for no reason. The courts will look carefully at why the change is requested. If it appears to be frivolous or as if one spouse is simply angry with the other, the change likely won’t be approved. Beyond that, there’s no specific limit to the number of times the support order can be modified as long as it meets the following conditions.
There are several conditions for requesting modification, including:
It has been at least three years since the original child support order was issued or last modified.
The income of the person paying child support has changed by at least $100 or 20 percent per month, or a material and provable change in circumstances occurred since the previous child support order. Material changes in circumstances include:
The noncustodial parent’s income has changed, whether increased or decreased.
The noncustodial parent is also legally responsible for additional children.
The children’s living arrangements or medical insurance coverage have changed.
The physical and/or mental health needs of the child have changed.
What if I’m in the Military?
Members of the military who are either recalled to or returning from active duty can face reduced income and benefits, including health insurance coverage. Both of these situations are grounds for requesting a review of child support amounts in Texas.
Can the Parents Just Agree to Change the Child Support Without Going to Court?
As tempting as this sounds, since it would bypass the time and cost of going to court, Texas law is clear: The only legal way to modify child support is through the courts. Any casual agreement between parents isn’t enforceable without a formal court order. That could lead to one spouse either overpaying or underpaying the other, the latter being a violation of state law that could have legal consequences.
It’s also crucial to understand that while the court reviews a request to modify child support, the previous child support order still holds. That means the original amount of child support must be paid during the review, or the person responsible for paying it could violate the order.
What if I Lost My Job or Have Reduced Income?
Someone who was laid off from their job and can either not find new work immediately or finds a job that pays less has the right to request child support modification. However, until the court approves the modification, they’re required to continue paying the previously ordered amount.
There are cases where one parent suspects the other has deliberately taken a lower-paying job in order to reduce the amount of child support paid. In other cases, the parent paying child support may be self-employed, and the other parent may suspect that they’re hiding sources of income to keep child support lower. These can be tricky to prove, and benefit from working with an experienced child support lawyer.
What Is the Process to Modify Child Support in Texas?
There are several steps to modify child support in Texas. How long the process takes and the likelihood of success is dependent on a number of factors, including whether or not the other parent is contesting the modification request.
First, one parent must submit a request to start the modification process. It takes just one parent; the court will notify the other within 30 days.
Both parents will be asked to provide verification of income, health insurance coverage for the children in question, and residential addresses. The court needs these verifications to move forward with the modification request.
Once all the requested information is received, a child support review specialist reviews the materials. The specialist will take into account the time that’s elapsed since the most recent child support order was finalized, life changes that have occurred and been documented, and, when applicable, any new child support calculation that’s been put into place since the previous order.
If the specialist determines that the modification request is justified during the review, they’ll approve it. That, in turn, leads to a negotiation appointment or court date. If the specialist denies it, both parents will be notified and have the right to contest the decision.
If a negotiation appointment is set, the parents will meet to determine if they agree on the new support. Some situations don’t require this step but jump to the court step, where a judge will determine whether or not the order should be finalized.
What Should I Do if I Want to Modify My Child Support Payments?
Call the Cutrer Law Group at 817-813-8513 for a free case evaluation. Because the law requires specific circumstances and time frames, it’s best to work with a family law attorney that’s experienced and knowledgeable in how successful modifications can be requested. Depending on the specific circumstances, requesting a modification can be a contentious process, and having an attorney representing you can help make the process go more smoothly than if you try to do it on your own.