Financial or living circumstances can change in an instant. If you currently pay child support to an ex-spouse or a parent of your child, one of the most important decisions you have to make is whether you can continue to fulfill the child support court order.
You want to continue to provide for your child, and you certainly do not want to be held in contempt of court for non-compliance, so what can you do in this situation?
Under Texas law, there are options to modify the child support court order. Let me provide you with three key tips on how to modify child support to help you during this difficult time.
How to Legally Modify a Child Support Court Order in Texas
The first key to pursue a modification of a child support court order is to gather evidence. You need as much documentation as possible to support your claim. Then, you can consider legal options to formally request a modification. Let’s review the key steps.
1. Gather Evidence
First, you must collect evidence supporting your belief that the change is both “material and substantial.” This is a legal phrase used in Texas law that is not specifically defined in the Texas Family Code, but it can apply to a variety of legal circumstances.
The most common “material and substantial” changes that are considered in child support modifications include:
- A significant decrease in income for the paying parent
- A significant increase in income for the receiving parent
- The paying parent has become responsible for additional children
- The cost obligation for the child’s medical insurance has changed significantly
- The physical custody agreement has changed
Situations such as one parent moving out of the country, one parent gaining better access to health insurance coverage for the child, job loss, or a significant increase in income are good examples of changes that warrant a court to review the child support order.
Important evidence to present to the court to support your claim includes:
- Insurance declarations pages
- Unemployment documentation (e.g., termination letter capturing you were not at fault)
- Documentation for support of other children
The more evidence you can provide, the better off you will be. Quality evidence will make the review process a lot easier and less time-consuming.
2. Determine if the Change Meets Texas Legal Standards
Proving that there has been a material and substantial change in circumstances is enough to warrant a review. Under the Texas guidelines for modification of a child support order, the court will need to calculate whether your court order is eligible for a payment modification.
According to the Texas Attorney General, the amount of child support must be either 20% or $100 difference from the amount the court would have awarded according to the state child support guidelines.
You can perform this calculation yourself, but a family law attorney can better determine whether your situation might qualify you for a child support modification. If you do not already have a dedicated attorney on your side, contact my offices for a consultation.
If you don’t meet this criterion, that doesn’t mean you are automatically ineligible for a child support modification. Your child support order is also automatically eligible for a review if three or more years have passed since it was last modified or originated.
3. Check if the Original Order is At Least 3 Years Old
A lot can change in three years, and the law takes that into consideration. The Texas child support guidelines allow for a review of the court order every three years. This doesn’t mean the court will automatically grant a modification, however.
You will still need to gather evidence so that you can prove that your change in circumstances is enough to warrant a modification of the child support order. The 20% or $100 difference rule still applies.
If it has been three years, and if you meet the requirements for modification, then you have a few options available to complete the modification.
- If both parents are able to negotiate with each other, you can go through the Child Support Review Process (CSRP). This method is easier than the other options, but it requires cooperation on the part of both parents.
- Relationships can be strained after three years. The other parent may be unwilling to cooperate or come to an agreement. In this case, you may schedule a court hearing. This method takes longer and may be more difficult, so it is important to have an experienced attorney on your side to support your case.
- Another possibility for child support modification is if the original court order has a cost of living adjustment built into the language of the order. In this case, the amount of child support will be automatically adjusted based on cost of living changes without having to file for a modification.
Cost of living is determined using the Consumer Price Index (CPI). However, if you need a modification for reasons other than a cost of living adjustment, you will still need to go through the order modification process.
Find Support Modifying a Child Support Court Order
If you believe that your child support burden has become too great and you can no longer meet the obligation stipulated by the court order, then you need the support of a dedicated and experienced family law attorney. With a decade of experience in Texas family law, I am uniquely suited to help you pursue a modification of the court order.
These can be tricky situations, and you need an attorney that will fight for you. If you need to modify your child support order, contact my offices for a consultation. I have helped countless parents in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, and Harris County modify a court order to better suit their current circumstances.
Call me today at 281-944-5485 or 979-267-7660 to further discuss how to modify a child support order in Texas. I’ll help you arrive at the best possible outcome for your situation.