Being out of work can produce a range of emotions from frustration to anxiety to anger. These feelings can be compounded if you currently owe child support to your ex-spouse. After all, how will you provide support if you are currently not generating income?
Let me help alleviate some of the stress you could be feeling by unpacking legal issues around unemployment and child support in Texas. I’ll explain how Texas courts determine the amount of money to withhold in your current situation.
I’ll also provide you with information about how I can support your cause by pursuing a modification of the original court order for child support. Working together, I will advocate on your behalf to reduce your monthly child support obligation while in between jobs.
Step 1: Pursue a Modification of the Original Child Support Order
The first step I recommend if you are unemployed is to seek a legal modification of the child support order – This requires time, effort, and a filing fee, but it will go a long way toward protecting your financial interests and parental rights.
Too often, unemployed parents make the situation more difficult for themselves by attempting to work out an unofficial arrangement with their ex-spouse. Or, even worse, they simply stop making child support payments, and neither idea is beneficial to your cause.
– Avoid a side arrangement with your ex-spouse: Texas courts do not recognize informal agreements between parents to reduce the amount of child support paid from one spouse to the other. Even if you have a good relationship with your ex-spouse, it’s not a good idea to enter into a revised agreement without going through the court.
For example, you could arrange for a 50% reduction in child support after you were let go from your job. However, if your ex-spouse then requests the full amount of monthly child support to pay for your child’s unexpected medical bills, you would not have a legal argument for the 50% reduction. Your ex-spouse could hold you to the original amount and even request that the court enforce the original order, creating additional costs and headaches for you.
At the end of the day, an informal agreement does not change the original amount of child support ordered by a court.
– Don’t stop paying child support: Worse than attempting to work out a side agreement with your ex-spouse is simply stopping payments. A loss in employment does not provide you with an “out” to cease paying child support. You could be held in contempt of court and be subject to other forms of punishment for not fulfilling your obligations. I don’t want this to happen to you.
This is why it’s critical to start the process of pursuing a modification of the original child support order right away. This way, you can argue to the court why there should be a reduction in payments while you are out of work.
It’s important to keep in mind that you will still be required to make some form of payment to your ex-spouse. You will not owe $0 in child support while unemployed. The question is: How much money can be taken from you for child support when you are out of a job? Let’s examine a few key issues related to what a court might decide in your specific case.
Key Issues That Affect Unemployment and Child Support in Texas
During a modification court hearing, the court will consider your argument to reduce child support obligations.
- First, the court will determine whether to grant your request for a lesser amount of child support.
- If your request is granted, the court will determine how much to reduce the payments.
It’s important to present as much evidence as possible supporting your argument. The court will want to know why you are not currently working (did you quit, were you fired, were there layoffs, etc.?). The court will also want to see evidence that you are actively seeking new employment and that it would be financially burdensome for you to continue making payments at the current level while you are a job seeker.
When determining the new amount that you should be obligated to pay, the court can consider two primary options.
1. Reduction based on past earnings. Let’s say that you have no source of current income at the time of the modification hearing. In this situation, the court will calculate what’s known as a modified child support amount that is based on the following standard factors:
- How much you earned at your past job(s).
- Your current ability to work and earn money. (For example, are you physically unable to perform the work that you previously performed?)
- The federal minimum wage.
Other factors could be considered depending on the nature of your work (such as you have seasonal spikes and declines in income), the reasons why you were laid off, and the current job market.
The court will weigh the standard factors and the circumstantial factors to determine how much to reduce your child support obligation. It’s best to work with a family law attorney to help present your argument and ensure that you are not overburdened by the revised child support amount while unemployed.
2. Reduction based on unemployment benefits. Alternatively, a court could order that child support is taken from the unemployment benefits that your previous employer granted. This is known as wage withholding.
In this case, the child support order would be modified to garnish a certain amount of money from your monthly unemployment benefits. The amount will then be redirected to your ex-spouse. According to the Office of the Attorney General in Texas, a court has the ability to withhold “up to 50 percent” of unemployment earnings to help support your child.
If you become employed again and no longer receive unemployment benefits, then the order will be modified again to match your current employment status.
Find Support With Child Support Issues While Unemployed
A job loss can be difficult to process and understand, and adding in concerns about child support payments can make the situation even more difficult. Fortunately, you have legal options.
You don’t have to go at it alone, working through child support issues while unemployed. I’ll work with you every step of the way to provide you with expert legal counsel. Together, we’ll evaluate your options, work toward modifying the original child support order, and argue for a more reasonable amount of monthly payments.
I currently help parents in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, and Harris County with unemployment and child support legal issues in Texas. If you live in one of these counties, then call me right away to get started on your case.
Call my offices today at 281-944-5485 or 979-267-7660 to schedule a consultation. I look forward to supporting you during this time.