Changing Child Support Amounts in Texas

Child Support Modification in Texas

When a child support order is established in a divorce, for married parents, or a Suit Affecting Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR) an amount of support will be set for the obligor (paying parent) to pay the obligor (receiving parent).  The order will account for any other children that the obligor also supports from a different parenting relationship and his/her income at the time of the order. Circumstances change and you may need a child support modification.

The amounts are based on income received over a period of time.  If the previous three months show that the obligor worked 20 hours of overtime each week, and you show those three month’s pay stubs as proof of income, those 20 hours of overtime will be factored into your support obligation.  If those three months were unusual, you’d want to show a broader sample of income to reflect that the overtime was unusual.  The same issue could come up in someone whose income is based off of sales commission. If you are in the midst of an unusually good sales streak, that might lead to a future problem once child support is set and those sales numbers aren’t sustainable. 

The court looks at hard numbers when setting support.  They can’t look at forecasts and predictions of what the new year will bring, nor will they take into account that you plan to switch jobs or return to school and work part-time, even though that might of benefit to the kids in the long run.  

On the other side of the equation, when our client is the obligee we cannot factor in a huge bonus that you expect the other side will be receiving in the coming months, nor an anticipated raise, or second income that has yet to begin at the time of the order.

While it may sound frustrating that the above will not be considered for the obligor/obligee, this is the reason that we have modifications.  Modifications are allowed in Texas when there has been a substantial change in circumstances of either a party or the child subject to the support order.  When that happens, you contact Griffin Miers, LLP because at this point, the child support order is ripe for change.

Suit to Modify the Parent-Child Relationship

There are three ways to get a support order modified:

  1. The aforementioned substantial change.  If obligor sees sustained steep drop in income or, in the alternative, hits the jackpot, a substantial change has occurred that would lead to a modification of support. 
  • Three years have elapsed since the order was signed.  The family code puts a review period of three years in place to be able to look at the order and find if it is still in the best interest of the child.
  • Agreement.  This is the unicorn of child support modification orders if not all of family law.  We at Griffin Miers, LLP are asked “Why won’t they just agree to the change?”  It doesn’t matter what side they’re on.  The party receiving will rarely, if ever, agree to take less money and the party paying, will rarely, if ever, agree to pay more.  If, however, the magic moment happens where an agreement is made, you still need to have an attorney draft an order and appear before the judge to make sure that you do have an enforceable order.  The do-it-yourself options are usually mistake prone pits that will leave you in legal despair.  

Just because one of the above takes place, even agreement, a child support modification is not automatic as the judge could find it is not in the best interest of the child.  The best interest standard still applies and might necessitate further action to finalize.

Substantial Changes

What is a substantial change?  It keeps coming up, but it isn’t really easy to define.  Substantial change in child support modifications can be seen differently in different cases.  The court will look to see if there is a change that will meet the needs of the child. The child could have been diagnosed with a condition or disability that requires more support.  The aforementioned windfall could benefit the child with a better living situation.  Or, again, from the other side, maybe there was a condition that is no longer in place and a reduction is in order.  

Child support modifications can be done, but there does have to be some reasoning or agreement behind the modification. It is in your best interest to have an attorney that can guide you through the process and get everything done correctly so that you don’t end up owing more money.

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