Steps to Modify Child Support in Texas
Regardless of whether a Texas child support order was the result of divorce or other family law case, it is legally binding and enforceable. It is unlawful to violate the terms, and a party has remedies in court if the other does not comply. As you may recall from the original proceeding, the Texas child support statute creates a percentage of income model: The calculation starts with the noncustodial parent’s monthly income, and the amount is based upon how many children there are to support. There are additional factors that may affect child support, including an agreement between the parents or issues that would make the guidelines amount unjust.
However, despite the fact that the judge’s child support order creates a legal obligation, it is subject to change in some situations. Parents cannot unilaterally alter the terms, but either the payor or recipient has the authority to request that the court modify child support. You will have to follow all procedural rules and meet all legal requirements, so you should retain a Houston child support modification lawyer for assistance. Every case is different, but the basic steps include.
- Continue paying child support in full, on time.
Before diving into the legal process, do not overlook your obligations under the existing child support order. Until a court approves your request for modification, it is unlawful to pay less, not pay at all, or engage in delay tactics. Stay current and comply with the court’s order to avoid:
- An enforcement action from your child’s other parent;
- Being forced to pay interest, back payments, and attorneys’ fees; and,
- Other sanctions the court may impose for contempt.
Another downside of not paying child support is that you make a poor impression on the same judge that could be hearing your case to modify child support.
- Determine grounds for modifying child support.
There are limited reasons a court would consider making changes to the child support obligation:
- When more than three years have passed since the judge entered the child support order that is currently in effect, both societal and personal factors may justify a modification. Either parent can make the request if the amount of support would change by $100 or 20 percent per month, as measured by current child support guidelines.
- A parent or the child has experienced a change in circumstances that justifies making an adjustment to child support. The change must be so significant that the amount is inappropriate considering the new situation.
- Gather evidence to support your position.
For a petition to modify based on the three-year rule, you will need proof showing the difference between the Texas child support guidelines at the time of the original order and current values.
However, proving a child support modification due to an alleged change of circumstances requires more than simple math. You must show that the change is material and substantial. Examples include:
- The payor’s income has either increased or decreased;
- The payor has additional children who are legally entitled to support; or,
- The child spends more time and overnights with the payor, so the parent is taking on additional amounts in direct expenses.
- Assess options for a child support modification.
Parents are encouraged to agree on changes to child support, though any new arrangement still needs to be approved by the court. When you gather solid evidence to support a modification based upon the three-year rule or a change in circumstances, you could benefit from working things out by agreement.
In addition, mediation is a process that may supplement your efforts toward agreement. During the session, a trained mediator facilitates discussion between the parents on child support modification. The parties are often able to compromise with help from mediation professionals.
- File the petition to modify child support.
Absent an agreement, you must make an official request to the court by filing a petition for a child support modification. All disputes will go to a contested hearing, which is similar to a trial. Each side presents its evidence and testimony, with a particular focus on the grounds for modifying child support
A Houston Child Support Modification Attorney Will Guide You Through the Process
At The Ramos Law Group, PLLC, our team is prepared to support your needs whether you are seeking to change child support or defend an action by your child’s other parent. For more information on how the process works, please call 713-225-6200 or visit us online. We are happy to schedule a consultation with a skilled Houston child support modification lawyer.