If you experienced a significant life change affecting your ability to make child support payments, you may wonder what options you have to reduce your financial obligations.
The good news is that the Texas Family Code allows for child support modification under specific circumstances. To learn more about how to reduce child support payments, take a look at this guide to help you on the path to a more favorable situation.
Steps for How to Reduce Child Support Payments
Take note of how you can work within the Texas court system to formally change child support payments.
1. Determine if You Qualify to Reduce Child Support Payments
Suppose you currently face financial difficulty. In that case, the court may reduce your child support obligation if you can prove that there has been a “material and substantial change in circumstances” since the original court order was issued.
This change must be something that was not foreseeable or contemplated when the original order was issued, and it must materially affect your financial situation. The parent seeking the reduction must also show that the change is continuing and permanent or at least expected to remain in place for a significant period of time.
In some instances, reducing your monthly child support obligations may also be possible if the following criteria are satisfied:
- It’s been at least three years since the order was issued.
- The amount of child support prescribed by the order is higher than the amount that would be ordered under Texas’ child support guidelines by at least 20% or $100.
For example, if you currently pay your ex-spouse $600/month in child support, but the monthly amount that would be prescribed according to your current circumstances would only be $400, you may qualify to reduce your payments.
What Is Considered a “Material and Substantial Change” in Circumstances?
We are often asked what qualifies as a material and substantial change. Examples of changes in circumstances that may qualify for a reduction in child support include the following:
- A significant reduction in income due to job loss, involuntary hours reduction, a new or worsening disability, or other change.
- The addition of new dependents to the parent’s financial obligations.
- A change in the child’s medical insurance coverage.
- Changes to the child’s custody arrangement.
No matter which type of change applies to your situation, it must be well-documented in order for the court to consider a reduction. For example, if you request a reduction due to job loss, the court will require proof of your income before and after the job loss.
2. Request a Modification to Reduce Child Support Payments
The only way to officially request a reduction in child support payments is to seek to modify the existing child support order. This can be done in two ways:
- File a petition for modification with the court that issued the original child support order.
- Request a review for modification with the Texas Attorney General’s Office.
Requesting a modification through the court requires filing a Motion to Modify and then attending a hearing in front of a judge. The judge will ultimately decide whether to grant a modification, so it is essential to have all the necessary documentation and evidence demonstrating your need for a reduction.
Going through the Attorney General’s office involves submitting a request online or via mail. The office will contact you and your child’s custodial parent to verify both parties’ information within 30 days. After verification, a child support review specialist will conduct a modification review and decide whether to proceed with the modification.
If the review is approved, the Attorney General’s office will schedule a negotiation appointment, where both parties can develop a new child support agreement. If the parties cannot reach a mutual agreement, the office will likely schedule a court date to continue the conversation in front of a judge. The judge will then decide whether to grant or deny the modification.
The child support review process through the Attorney General’s office is often more streamlined and less expensive than the court process. However, it generally takes longer to complete than the court process and is not available in all cases.
Either way, you will still be required to pay child support in the ordered amount until a judge formally applies the increase or decrease to the existing child support order.
3. Contact a Family Law Attorney to Find Expert Support
The Texas Family Code provides the legal framework for modifying child support orders. Still, the rules and procedures can be challenging to navigate alone. The best way to ensure your modification request is heard and that you are treated fairly by the family law system is to work with an experienced family law attorney.
When you turn to our law office, we will review your situation and determine if there is a path forward for reducing your child support obligation.
If we believe you qualify for a modification, we’ll help you decide which process will be the most beneficial for your particular situation and guide you through each step.
We currently help clients in Brazoria County, Fort Bend County, and Harris County with child support modifications. If you live in one of these counties, contact our offices to discuss your case.
You can reach our offices at 979-267-7660 (Angleton) or 281-944-5485 (Sugar Land). Get in touch with us to discuss how to reduce child support payments. When you’re ready to get started, we’ll be here to help.