If you are a parent of a young child, and are getting divorced, a parenting plan will be included in your final order. Among other things, this agreement outlines who pays for child support, and how much—a number that is determined based on your situation at the time of divorce.
The problem is, life rarely stays stagnant, meaning that carefully crafted bottom line might not always be feasible for your situation.
Because of this, Texas courts allow parents to modify their child support arrangement, as needed by the ebb and pull of life’s tides. Here’s a bit more about that process, and how the team at Neal Ashmore can assist you.
What is Child Support?
Child support is defined as regular payments made by one parent to the other, in order to help take care of their child. This money is typically ordered when couples either separate or divorce (though, unwed parents may also have need of support.)
In Texas, who pays and how much largely depends on your custody agreement. Most of the time, the non-custodial parent is ordered to make payments to the custodial parent. This is to help offset the costs of having the child live with them.
To calculate child support amounts, judges use a formula that subtracts deductions from the couple’s gross yearly income, and multiplies that number by a percentage related to the number of children that they have together.
Unfortunately, however, life rarely goes the way we want it to, and in some cases, these course changes can be enough to warrant a modification of your parenting plan.
What is a Child Support Modification?
A child support modification is a legal change to your original order of child support. This process can be initiated by either parent, and may be granted by a judge, IF:
- The original order is more than three years old; and,
- The amount would change by at least 20% (or $100); or,
- There has been a material change in circumstance for either parent or child.
Similar to child custody modifications, you cannot simply make an informal or oral agreement to modify with your ex. Even in situations where both parents agree, changes are not enforceable until approved by a judge.
- An increase or decrease of income;
- Job loss;
- Career advancement or promotion;
- New child care needs outside the home (such as a new baby, or support obligations from another relationship);
- A change in the child’s needs (such as a medical emergency, or mental illness);
- Health insurance adjustments; or,
- A change in the child’s living arrangements.
Since there isn’t a checklist of requirements to meet, it will be up to you to provide the judge with sufficient evidence to support an argument for modification.
How to Modify Child Support
There are two ways to modify child support in Texas:
- File a case through the Child Support Review Process (CSRP); or,
- Go to court.
1. File a Case Through CSRP
By far the easiest way to modify child support is to file a case through the Child Support Review Process (CSRP). This is an informal meeting that takes place at your local Child Support Division office, and is largely administrative. The meeting typically lasts between one to two hours, and, once finalized, the changes will be sent to a judge for a signature of authorization.
CSRP really only works if both parties agree about the proposed changes. Furthermore, if family violence is at issue, you will not be able to resolve matters this way.
2. Go to Court
If parents can’t agree during CSRP, then the case is contested, and must be resolved by going to court—a much lengthier process.
Here, you’ll be assigned to meet with a child support officer, who will make one more attempt to facilitate an agreement. If successful, the terms will be sent to the judge for a signature. If not, you’ll be assigned time for a hearing. (Depending on circumstances, it may take more than one.)
There’s No Need to Modify, IF…
Once a child turns eighteen, the obligation to make child payments automatically expires, unless your agreement stipulates payments must extend longer (for example, if you both agreed to pay for college). Hence, there’s no need to file for a modification.
Furthermore, there’s no need to modify, if your child:
- Passes away;
- Gets married; or,
- Is legally emancipated.
Keep in mind, however, that if multiple children are covered under the same order, you will still be responsible for meeting obligations to them. If you have questions, it’s best to talk to an attorney.
Failure to Properly Modify
Unfortunately, changing the terms of your child support obligations without judicial approval is tantamount to not upholding your agreement altogether. And failure to pay child support isn’t something the courts take lightly.
Texas courts have a myriad of tools at their disposal to enforce child support, some of which include garnishing wages, suspending your driver’s license, placing liens on your property, and intercepting tax returns. In extreme cases, you could even be held in contempt of court, and slapped with additional fines, even jail time.
Needless to say, it’s best to go avoid the headache and go through the proper channels if you wish to modify your child support.
A Note About COVID
By its very nature, the law is always playing “catch up” to current events. This means that many questions revolving around the impact of coronavirus on child support obligations have yet to be decided. While it’s possible that legislative measures will grant some kind of overarching relief in the future, we cannot stress enough how important it is to keep meeting your parenting obligations in the present—including child support payments.
This pandemic has caused economic devastation in every corner of the world, and if its effects have impacted you, too, it’s important to speak to an attorney as soon as possible. While it is possible to modify child support, changes cannot be applied retroactively; meaning you’ll still be responsible for missed payments (including interest).
If you have more questions about how COVID has impacted your child support obligations, contact your family law attorney right away.
Child Support Modification Attorneys in Texas
If life has thrown an unexpected wrench into your ability to pay child support, we want to hear from you. Call the Neal Ashmore team today at (972) 436-8000, or schedule a consultation online, and let us help you pursue the modifications that are right for your family.