Child Support Law
Texas has set guidelines for determining the amount of child support that should be paid. Several factors are used to calculate the exact amount of payments, including:
- Each parent’s income
- Work-related child care costs
- Health insurance costs
- Pre-existing child support obligations
The court may also consider other factors in setting child support such as unusual needs of the child, or the ability of the parent to pay more or less. Whether you are seeking child support or are required to pay it, your case can benefit from the advice and counsel of a skilled lawyer.
Why You Need An Attorney To Assist With Child Support Payments
Many people in Texas believe they do not need a lawyer to help with child support enforcement because the attorney general’s office handles such issues. However, the attorney general’s office does not advocate for individuals. If you want an advocate to enforce your child support rights, you need a lawyer.
Other people think that because there are guidelines in place that dictate the calculation of child support, they can handle these matters on their own. However, the guidelines are only effective if all other information is accurate, particularly income information.
One of the benefits of enlisting my law firm to assist with child support is that I will take great care to make certain nothing is overlooked and all numbers entered into the child support formula are accurate. This is especially valuable when one or both parents have income that may not be immediately obvious, such as income from a business, work bonuses, oil and gas royalties and other unique sources. Income like this is easily overlooked, but it should not be because it can benefit the child.
Furthermore, there are situations in which parents will need to deviate from the child support guidelines. I can recognize the need for deviation in situations in which the child has special needs, or income levels are beyond that which are accounted for in the guidelines and argue forcefully on your behalf.
Child Support Modifications in Texas
Child support payments are not set in stone and can often be modified if financial, living, or family circumstances change. The Texas Attorney General’s site outlines the child support modification process and how to qualify for a modification.
If the order was established or last modified more than three years ago, you may be eligible for a review of your payment plan. Much can change in three years, and it never hurts to get an order reviewed to see if an adjustment can be made.
If your current amount of the child support payments would change by 20% or $100 based on the child support guidelines, you should consider a modification. For example, let’s say that your monthly income was $3,600 when the order was set, and you were paying $1,080 in child support for three children. However, you were recently laid off and had to take a position with a substantially lower salary of $2,800 a month. Based on the standard child support calculations, this would lower your child support payments by several hundred dollars, making you eligible for a review and possible modification.
The law states the child support guidelines are presumed to result in an amount of support that is “appropriate and fair.” A parent who believes that guideline support is too high or too low can ask the court to make an adjustment. There is a list of factors that the judge can consider in Texas Family Code Section 154.123.
A parent who has an obligation to support multiple children living in different households will:
- Pay slightly less than the guideline amount for children living in the same household per calculations tabulated according to the Texas Family Code Section 154.128.
A noncustodial parent is required to pay child support under the following conditions:
- Child reaches the age of 18.
- Until child graduates from high school if the child is enrolled and regularly attending if deemed necessary by court.
- For an indefinite period if the child is physically or mentally disabled and if deemed necessary by court
Child support can also end if the child marries or enlists in the military or becomes legally emancipated.
Within a divorce settlement, the paying parent may agree to continue supporting a child through college, or the parents can agree to share college expenses.
WHAT IS A WITHHOLDING ORDER (IWO)?
Every child support order in Texas contains an income withholding order (IWO) that requires the paying parent’s employer to withhold the child support amount from the paying parent’s paycheck. The payment is sent to the state child support enforcement agency or a local registry, and is then sent to the other parent. Self-employed parents or those who work on commission aren’t subject to income withholding orders and must pay support directly to the state child support enforcement agency or local registry. Parents can also agree to direct payments.
Payments that go through an agency or registry equate to a clear record of payments and are helpful in an action for enforcement.
Enforcement & Modification of Child Custody and/or Child Support After Judgment
It is often necessary to enforce or modify child custody orders and child support orders after the initial judment. From the time that a court issues an order in your case, the law expects that the conditions of the order will be followed. You have the right to be confident that you will receive the benefits contained in all official actions and court orders.
If your ex-spouse is not complying with the conditions of your divorce, child-custody, or child-support order, including visitation orders, and you are not receiving the benefits that you have been awarded, you are entitled to obtain those benefits. You have the right to enforcement of the judgment. You also have the right, within limits, to modify the terms of the original divorce decree, child-custody order, or child-support order with respect to property awards, child custody, visitation and support. You do not have the right to modify terms of the original decree regarding the division of property, although you do have the right to enforce the original property division. In some instances, the original decree is vague, ambiguous, or otherwise subject to multiple interpretations. In those instances, you have the right to request the Court to clarify the terms of the original decree.
To protect the rights of our clients and their children, we have filed and obtained modification and court-mandated enforcement of pre-existing child custody, child support and visitation orders. We have the proven experience to ensure that our clients receive the full benefits that the law allows. We will represent you from the initial filing of motions for modification, clarification, and enforcement, until the matter is finally resolved, whether through agreement, mediation, or litigation.
Legal Enforcement Of Child Support Payments
When one party is not paying child support, the Child Support Division has significant authority to penalize the nonpaying parent. Some of the available remedies to obtain child support include:
- Garnishing (taking) wages
- Suspending the nonpaying parent’s driver’s license
- Seizing property
- Seizing tax refunds
- Filing a lawsuit
- Passport revocation
- Criminal charges leading to jail time
- Suspension of professional licenses (medical, dental, hunting, fishing, etc.)
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