Going through a divorce in Texas is difficult, especially when children are involved. During the proceedings, a child support amount should have been assigned to provide support to the kids. Sometimes, though, that amount no longer fits your situation in post-divorce life.
Texas law allows parents to file a motion to modify the original child support order. Knowing how this works is important for adjusting child support to match your current circumstances. Learn more about the keys to a child support modification Texas residents need to be aware of.
How to Get Started With a Child Support Modification
When you went through the divorce process, you may have agreed to a child support arrangement with your ex-spouse. Or, perhaps a court ordered these payments by following the child support guidelines in the Texas Family Code as part of the divorce decree. Either way, one parent was made responsible for paying the other parent a certain amount of money.
Unfortunately, what worked for you when those arrangements were made may not work for you today. Maybe you need more money to care for your children. Or maybe your ex-spouse can no longer afford to pay you as much as they were ordered.
Whatever the situation, you, your ex-spouse, or both parties will need to go through a formal process to modify the original order. You do not want to adjust the payment amounts on the side, even if you reach an informal agreement with your ex. Otherwise, you could expose yourself to losing all legal rights if your ex-spouse continues to fall short in their obligations.
Any modification of a child support order will need the approval of a judge, which will require a hearing after you file a motion to request a modification.
While you can petition the court for a formal change without legal assistance, this is not recommended. Instead, you can contact a family law lawyer who offers child support modification services – such as our firm at Parker & Aguilar – to provide you with support.
Child Support Modification Options
While a judge must approve any changes, the judge does not have to make the decision alone. Everyone will have an easier time if you can agree to a new arrangement before going to court.
Again, you do not want to start following an informal arrangement that has not been approved by the court. You can bring a proposed new arrangement to the court and present this to the judge for consideration. Until approved, though, everyone must follow the original order.
Naturally, if you and your ex-spouse cannot come to an agreement beforehand, you will likely need to ask the judge to make a decision at a hearing. Your attorney can help you arrive at the best outcome that fits your situation. Some of your available options include the following.
1. Mutual Agreement
The easiest option is when you and your ex-spouse agree on a modification that supports the parent-child relationship. This usually happens when the changes are in the best interests of your child and when both of you are comfortable with the new financial situation.
For example, your child may have attended public school while you were married. Now, you and your spouse have agreed to send your child to a private school. Unfortunately, the cost of tuition was not considered in the original child support agreement.
You could make an informal agreement with your spouse to split tuition and fees. However, a casual arrangement like this can be risky. If your ex-spouse fails to contribute, you could be in a tough financial situation with no legal recourse.
It is better to have an agreement in writing and approved by a judge. In this case, your attorney can help you draft a new agreement that both parties agree to. Then, you would jointly ask a judge to approve the modification to account for a significant new financial obligation.
2. Attorney Negotiations
Many changes to child support arrangements are disputed. The best way to overcome a minor dispute is to let your attorney negotiate on your behalf. If the negotiations are successful, you can ask a judge to approve the changes and sign a modified child support order.
If you are considering arbitration, the dispute is probably quite significant. The main advantage of choosing this option is that you get a say in changes to the child support agreement.
An arbitrator acts like a judge, listening to both sides and making a recommendation based on what they hear. However, they cannot make an official ruling. The benefit of this process, though, is that it will give you insight into how a judge might rule if you take the case to a hearing.
4. Court Hearing
A court hearing is the most adversarial option. The attorneys for both sides will present evidence to a judge, who will decide whether to modify child support payments. Appeals are possible, but you will likely have to comply with the judge’s decision.
Additionally, it does not matter who petitioned the court. The judge can make changes that are advantageous to you, your ex-spouse, both of you, or neither of you. The judge’s main concern is what is in the best interests of your children.
What Can Be Modified in a Child Support Case
Now that you know how the modification process works and what your options are, you may want to know what can be modified.
The short answer is that any aspect of the original child support order can be changed. However, the change must be considered “material and substantial.” Otherwise, the court is unlikely to hear your case.
Whether in a hearing or during negotiations, you might ask for the following modifications:
- Increasing the amount of child support
- Increasing the length of time that child support must be paid
- Reducing the amount of child support
- Reducing the length of time that child support must be paid
- Changing child custody status
- Adjusting visitation rights, times, and dates
Keep in mind that there could be some give and take during the process. For example, if you request that your ex-spouse pay more child support, they might ask for increased visitation rights.
A willingness to compromise is the best way to help the process go more smoothly. Suppose that you ask for an extra $500 a month to support your child’s physical health. If your ex-spouse is the non-custodial parent, they are more likely to agree to the modification if you agree to let them visit your child an extra few weekends per year.
Your attorney can help you determine the best course of action to help you arrive at the ideal outcome that fits your post-divorce situation.
Child Support Modification Texas: Parker & Aguilar Can Help
Whether you are facing a financial challenge or your child needs more resources to thrive, we are here to help you navigate the child support modification process.
At Parker & Aguilar, our caring attorneys are ready to help you make a change that is best for your children. We will advocate on your behalf and help you pursue a modification that benefits everyone involved.
We currently support parents in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, Galveston County, and Matagorda County. If you live in one of these counties, contact our offices to discuss your child support case.
You can reach us at 979-267-7660 (Angleton office) or 281-944-5485 (Sugar Land office) to speak with a local attorney. Let’s discuss the value of a child support modification Texas parents can use to their advantage.