As a divorced parent, you may have an obligation to make monthly child support payments to your ex-spouse. The most significant factor that affects your child support obligation is your income, which begs the question, “How does child support change if your income changes?”
The courts understand that life is unpredictable, which means income can change, too. However, a change in your child support obligation is not automatic. You must go through the Texas legal system to request a modification and make any change official. Otherwise, taking matters into your own hands could lead to fines and penalties.
The key to the situation is that your income must have changed significantly for a court to consider legally changing your monthly child support payments. Let’s take a look at how this works.
Understanding When Child Support Obligations May Be Altered
To adjust your child support payments, you must be able to prove a “substantial and material change in circumstances,” which can include an increased or decreased income.
Let’s explore a few different income-related scenarios to better understand when you can pursue a modification of the child support order.
Decrease in Income
A significant drop in income can greatly affect your ability to meet your child support obligation, which can result in a child support enforcement action if enough time passes.
Fortunately, you may be able to file a petition with the court to modify the original order and lower your child support payments.
Examples of changes in income that may qualify for a reduced child support obligation include:
- Being laid off or fired
- Reduction of hours from full-time to part-time work
- New or worsening health conditions or disabilities limiting the ability to work
- Relocation making it challenging to find new employment in the same field
You might notice that these are all involuntary changes. If you voluntarily quit your job or reduce your hours and then attempt to modify your child support payments, the court will likely deny your petition. The court will determine if the change was voluntary or involuntary by examining the facts and circumstances.
It’s also important to note that the change in income must be long-term to qualify for a child support modification. Temporary changes in income due to illness, an extended vacation, or even unemployment that’s expected to be resolved in a few months might not qualify as a substantial change in circumstances.
When filing for a modification of child support, you’ll typically need to provide evidence of a permanent change in income, including:
- Recent pay stubs
- Tax returns
- Available benefits
- Other proof of income
If you’ve been laid off or fired, you’ll likely need to provide a termination letter or notice from your employer. The court will use these documents to consider your current financial situation and adjust the amount you owe if necessary.
Increase in Income
If your income has increased, you’ll likely owe more in child support payments. Your ex-spouse may request that the court review this change to argue that you should pay a more significant portion of child support.
During this review, the court will consider the increase in income when determining what you can afford to pay, and you may be ordered to begin making payments at the new amount.
Unlike decreases in income, increases don’t need to be involuntary to affect your child support obligation. Examples of income-related scenarios where the parent who receives child support may request a modification include:
- Receiving a raise at work
- Changing jobs and receiving a higher salary
- Working more hours or taking on a second job
- Starting a new business venture
- Inheriting money or winning the lottery
- Receiving a new bonus or commission
In any of these cases, your ex-spouse may petition the court to increase the amount of child support you pay. If they do so, the court may order you to provide proof of your new income to verify your ex-spouse’s claim.
You may also be required to report any changes in income to the court. If you start making more money, you’ll need to update your financial information with the court.
Hiding income or failing to report a raise can have serious consequences, so it’s crucial that you stay on top of your current financial obligations and allow the court to appropriately modify your child support payment amounts when necessary.
Similar to income decreases, an increase in a parent’s income must also be long-term to qualify for a payment modification. This situation can be more difficult to prove since you may be able to receive a one-time bonus, commission, or inheritance, and then the income benefit could go away or subside over time.
However, the court will consider the big picture when looking at income changes and may order a modification if the change can be shown to affect your long-term financial situation.
Talk to Us About How Does Child Support Change if Your Income Changes
If you’re currently paying child support and want to modify your obligation due to a substantial decrease in income, it’s best to talk with a family law attorney beforehand. Or, if you’re concerned that a recent increase in income could lead to your ex-spouse requesting more child support, we can also help you determine the best course of action.
One of our experienced Texas family law attorneys will review the facts of your case, determine if a modification is likely to be granted, and help you prepare the necessary documents for the court.
No matter which side of the coin you’re on, we can help you present your case and ensure that the amount of child support requested is fair and reasonable in light of your current financial situation.
Regardless of whether your income has gone up or done, it’s vital to take the necessary steps to stay in compliance with the court. With a knowledgeable attorney from Parker & Aguilar on your side, you can rest assured that we are looking out for your interests.
We currently support clients in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, and Harris County. If you live in one of these counties, contact our offices today at 979-267-7660 (Angleton office) or 281-944-5485 (Sugar Land office) to schedule a consultation.
Let’s talk more about how does child support change if your income changes so that we can get started on the legal process.