Category Archives: Child Support

2019 Increase to Texas Child Support Cap On Net Resources

The Texas Attorney General’s Office announced the new Texas child support cap earlier this year.

Effective September 1, 2019, the cap on net resources to which the statutory child support guidelines apply is raised from $8,550 to $9,200.

This cap is updated every six years to adjust for inflation.

This adjustment to the cap will affect divorces involving high net income couples filed after September 1, 2019, as well as any other child support modifications or cases filed after that date.

Follow this link to read more about the General Rules for Child Support In A Texas Divorce.

Can The Amount of Child Support I Receive Change After My Divorce?

Yes – the amount of child support that you receive can change after your final decree of divorce.

However, it does not change automatically just because your former spouse gets a new job, the two of you agree on a difference amount, or for any other reason.

Child support obligations may only be modified after divorce by filing a petition to modify the child support obligation.

Who Can File a Petition to Modify Child Support

You could file a petition to modify if you think that your former spouse should be paying more than he or she currently is paying for child support.

Alternatively, your former spouse could file a petition to modify if he or she believes they are paying too much in child support.

Legal Standard To Modify Child Support

In Texas, there are two possible legal grounds for modifying child support after a final decree of divorce.

The first is if there has been a materially and substantial change in circumstances affecting the children or a parent since the date of the prior order.

This is a very fact specific inquiry but the change in circumstances requiring a change in the amount of child support must be substantial and it must be something that was not contemplated in the prior order.

The second ground for modifying a child support obligation has two components. First, at least 3 years must have elapsed since the prior order. Second, the amount of child support that would be ordered under the statutory guidelines now differs by 20% or $100 from the amount of child support in the prior order.

However, if the original order was an agreed order between the spouses as to the amount of child support, then the child support obligation may only be modified by proving a material and substantial change in circumstances of the children or the parent.

Can My Spouse Avoid Paying Child Support By Quitting His or Her Job?

It is not uncommon for a spouse ordered to pay child support in a Texas divorce proceeding to have a change in income after the divorce.

Sometimes that happens for reasons beyond their control, such as layoffs or a need to change their lifestyle following the divorce.

But sometimes a parent will attempt to manipulate their child support obligations by intentionally reducing their income by changing jobs or reducing the hours he or she works.

So what impact does that have on the parent’s child support obligation?

The Impact

This is an unfortunate situation as the impact of a reduction in income or loss of a job has a negative impact on the child.

When a job is lost or income reduced due to normal economic conditions or reasonable changes in circumstances, it is unfortunate.

When a job is lost or income reduced in an attempt by one parent to reduce the child support that the other parent receives, it is purely malicious and harms the child’s well being.

Understand How Child Support Is Paid In Texas

Before going further, it is important to understand how child support is usually paid in Texas.

At the time the court enters a final decree of divorce, the court will also sign an income withholding order for the child support payments.

That income withholding order is then sent to the obligor parent’s employer as well as any subsequent employer.

The employer then deducts the amount set out in the income withholding order from the spouse’s paycheck and sends that amount to the Attorney General’s Child Support processing unit.

The AG’s office then sends payment to the parent receiving payment of child support. But that payment is dependent on the obligor parent’s receiving income.

If the parent ordered to pay child support has no income – then no funds are withheld and sent to the AG’s office. This means no payment of child support is made to the parent receiving the support.

Impact Of A Reduction In Income

First, let’s look at the impact of a reduction in income for the parent ordered to pay spousal support.

Initially, nothing changes as the amount of child support that parent is required to pay can only be modified by court ordered.

So long as the parent’s paycheck includes enough income to withold the child support in full, then that amount is withheld and paid through the AG’s office.

But in this case the parent can seek a modification of the child support order with the court.

In order to get a court order modifying the child support amount, the parent will have to show a substantial change in circumstances or that the amount he or she should pay under the child support guidelines as applied to current income is at least $100 less than the prior order.

When the parent paying support files for a modification, the parent receiving support will receive notice of the motion and have an opportunity to challenge that modification.

If the parent contesting the modification can show that the reduction in income is due to intentional underemployment or an intentional reduction in hours, then the modification will likely be denied.

This has the effect of leaving the economic burden of the lower income on the spouse seeking to game the system.

Impact Of Intentional Unemployment

But what happens if the parent ordered to pay child support simply refuses to work?

In that case – the parent receiving child support will not receive any payments because there is nothing being withheld from the other parent’s paycheck.

That leaves the entire burden on the child.

The parent ordered to pay child support might seek a modification to reduce the amount owed – but the parent receiving support will have an opportunity to challenge that modification as discussed above.

If the parent is intentionally unemployed, then the court will likely not grant a reduction in the child support payments.

But the child support obligation does not go away.

Instead, the unpaid amounts accrue as unpaid child support. The Attorney General’s Child Support Division maintains a record of payments and missed payments.

Once that parent is re-employed, withholding will continue and the spouse entitled to receive child support can seek to have the withheld amount increased to begin making payment on the missed child support payments.

There are also other collection options available that are beyond the scope of this article.

If you would like to schedule a consultation to discuss your divorce case, then please send me an e-mail or send a request through my contact page.

General Rules for Child Support in a Texas Divorce

This article provides an overview of the rules governing child support in a Texas divorce case. It touches on subjects such as the duty to support, calculating child support based on statutory guidelines, basis for deviating from statutory guidelines, as well as medical and dental support. Duty To Support By law, a parent has a… Continue Reading