The law requires both parents to financially support a minor child until that child reaches the age of majority. When the parents do not live together, either because they ended a marriage or because they never married, one parent is usually ordered to pay child support. If you are the parent paying child support, and you feel you are paying too much, you would undoubtedly like to pay less. A Fort Worth divorce lawyer at Boyd Family Law explains when and how child support can be modified in Texas.
Whether as part of a divorce or paternity action, one parent is initially ordered to pay child support to the other parent. That initial determination is considered a final order of the court; however, orders relating to child support and child custody (referred to as conservatorship in Texas) are unique within the legal system in that those “final” orders are frequently modified down the road.
Therefore it is possible to modify an existing child support order in Texas. To do so, one of the following must be true:
At least three years have elapsed since the child support order was entered or modified by the court AND the current monthly amount of the child support order differs by either (a) 20% or (b) $100 from the amount that would be awarded, according to child support guidelines. OR
There has been a material and substantial change in circumstances since the most recent child support order was entered.
If it has been three years since the child support order was entered/modified the second part of that test requires you to consult the child support guidelines. In Texas, the amount of child support ordered is directly related to your net income. Once allowable deductions have been subtracted from your income, your support amount is determined as a percentage of your net income. The percentage is based on the number of children. For example, if you are only paying support for one child, you will pay 20 percent of your net income in support. For two children you will pay 25 percent and so on. (Note: The percentage of income formula only applies if your net income is below $9,200 per month as of 2019).
A modification will only be considered if the new support amount differs by at least 20 percent or $100 from the current amount. For example, imagine you have two children and that your net monthly income was $3000 when support was last ordered. Your current monthly support amount is $750 ($3000 x 0.25). It has been four years since the current order was entered and your income has decreased to $2400. Using your current income, your support amount would be $600 ($2400 x 0.25). Since the new amount would be more than $100 less than the current order, you might qualify for a modification.
When used in the context of a request to modify child support, a “material and substantial change in circumstances” typically refers to a change in the needs of the child or a change in the financial situation of one of the parents. For instance, if a child now has special physical or emotional needs that have increased the costs associated with caring for the child or if a parent now has a new child for which he/she is financially responsible.
You can go through the Child Support Review Process (CSRP) at the Texas Attorney General’s Office; however, that can be a lengthy process, particularly if the other parent chooses not to be cooperative. Your other option is to retain the services of a divorce lawyer and petition the court for a modification. An attorney can typically get your request for a modification in front of a judge much faster than the CSRP route which, in turn, means that the requested change can be implemented much sooner as well.
If you have additional questions or concerns about modifying child support in Texas, contact an experienced Fort Worth divorce lawyer at Boyd Family Law to schedule your appointment today.