It isn’t unusual for parents who pay or receive child support to think they have valid reasons to modify child support. After all, life circumstances change all the time. Parents change jobs, lose jobs, get raises, take pay cuts, pay higher health insurance rates and lose employer medical coverage. Situations also arise where a child’s needs change and recalculating child support may be in order.
If you’re wondering how to fight child support increase modifications OR how to fight child support decrease modifications, understanding how child support works in Texas is a good place to start. We’ve covered this topic at length in past posts (like this blog about child support in Texas) but here’s a quick recap.
As with all SAPCRs (suits affecting the parent-child relationship) in Texas, the overriding principle the courts follow is the best interest of the child. That being said, the state has put specific child support guidelines in place.
Non-custodial parents are required to pay up to 20% of their net income for one child and an additional 5% for each additional child, which may include health and dental insurance premiums. For parents with Texas standard or expanded standard possession schedules, the court will only consider the income of the non-primary parent. However, for parents who share 50/50 possession, the court will consider the income of both parents when determining child support, and in some cases both parents may be ordered to pay child support.
Also important to know: Effective Sept. 1, 2019, Texas raised the cap on child support to a percentage of $9,200 per month. For example, a parent sharing custody of one child typically won’t be required to pay more than 20% of $9,200 ($1,840 per month) in child support, unless they want to and can afford to do so.
If a child has special needs, the court may order the non-custodial parent to pay additional child support to ensure the child receives proper care. The Texas Family Code Chapter 154 on child support also provides guidance for calculating child support in instances where a non-custodial parent has children in multiple households.
Five reasons for child support modification in Texas
Whether you’re hoping to reduce child support payments or wondering how to get child support increased in Texas, the state is pretty clear as to when it will allow parents to request a modification in child support. In general, you must show there has been a material and substantial change in circumstances that warrants a child support modification and/or at least three years have passed since the most recent child support order was put in place.
So, what changes in circumstance will the court consider valid reasons to modify child support in Texas?
1). Payor loses job or has a new job that pays less.
A decrease in income can be one of the reasons to have child support reduced. In order to have your child support order reviewed due to lower income, you will need to show your net income decreased by a minimum of $100/month or 20%. Keep in mind, if the other parent can prove you deliberately took a job that pays a lot less or quit your job to reduce your child support obligation, the court may not lower your monthly child support payment amount.
It’s also important to know that being unemployed, underemployed or working part-time doesn’t mean you are no longer obligated to pay child support in Texas. The state can and will withhold child support from your unemployment check (or regular paycheck) and will also look at the prevailing minimum wage and your ability to work and earn income when recalculating child support.
2). Payor’s income increases.
If the other parent recently earned a promotion, switched to a higher-paying job or is earning more income for another reason, those may be reasons to increase child support. Of course, if the non-custodial parent is already paying the maximum amount of child support in Texas, increasing child support generally won’t be an option unless that parent agrees.
3). Child’s medical needs have changed, and they will not be able to provide for themselves in the future.
If your child recently suffered a physical or mental health issue that has disabled him or her to the point where he or she will need financial support after turning age 18 (meaning child support may be indefinite), those may be reasons for child support modification. It’s also important to know that both parents are expected to contribute financially to the health and wellbeing of their children, and increased uninsured medical expenses is a cost both parents are expected share equally.
4). Health insurance coverage has changed.
The state of Texas requires that medical and dental care be addressed in child support orders. If you were ordered to provide medical insurance for your child, and your insurance circumstances have changed, you can request your child support orders be reviewed. For example, if you took a new job that doesn’t offer health insurance and the other parent can get health insurance through their employer, you could be ordered to reimburse the other parent for those expenses instead. Or, if you found a private health insurance option with a different monthly premium, you could request your child support orders be modified to reflect the new amount.
5). Possession time has changed.
We often see cases where a child has a dispute with the parent who is the primary conservator, so they go live with the non-custodial parent. Those scenarios are typically valid reasons for child support modification, especially if the child has been absent from the primary conservator’s home for quite some time, and the primary parent hasn’t taken steps to repair the relationship or tried to get the child to move back.
Don’t stop paying (or pay less) court-ordered child support without a modification
Even if your circumstances have changed and you believe you have good reasons to modify child support, you are still required to pay the amount indicated in your current child support orders. It’s also critical to file a request to modify child support as soon as possible because you can only increase or decrease child support from the date of service moving forward.
Non-custodial parents who neglect to pay child support could face serious consequences, including jail time. According to the Office of the Attorney General in Texas, the state may attempt to enforce child support obligations through license suspension (driver’s, professional, hunting and fishing) and prohibiting the parent from obtaining a new or renewed passport. The state may also place liens on properties and financial accounts for failure to pay child support.
If you live in the Dallas / Fort Worth metroplex or surrounding communities and have questions about the reasons to modify child support or other child custody matters, the child custody lawyers at the Sisemore Law Firm are here to help. To schedule a confidential case review with our founder attorney Justin Sisemore, contact the firm at (817) 336-4444 or connect with us online.
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