The financial circumstances of a child or parent often change after entry of a final decree of divorce or other order requiring payment of child support. This article discusses when a court may modify the amount of child support an obligor must pay.
Follow this link to learn more about the General Rules for Child Support.
When reading the information below, remember that the term “obligor” refers to the spouse required to pay child support and the term “obligee” refers to the spouse receiving child support.
Grounds For Modifying Child Support
A court may modify a child support order (including orders requiring the obligor to provide medical and dental insurance) if:
- the circumstances of the child or a person affected by the order have materially and substantially changed since the earlier of the date of the order’s rendition or the date of the signing of a mediated or collaborative law settlement agreement on which the order is based; or
- it has been three years since the child support order was rendered or last modified and the monthly amount of the child support award under the order differs by either 20 percent or $100 from the amount that would be awarded in accordance with the child support guidelines.
However, if the amount of child support differs from the amount that would be ordered under the child support guidelines as the result of an order agreed to by the parties, then a court may only modify the child support order if the party requesting the modification shows a material and substantial change in circumstances.
In determining whether a modification in child support payments is appropriate, the court examines the circumstances of the child and the parents at the time the court rendered the prior decree in comparison to the circumstances existing at the time the parent requested the court modify its prior order.
Application of Statutory Guidelines in a Suit to Modify Child Support
There are two was that the statutory guidelines for child support in Texas affect a suit to modify child support.
First, a court may consider the amount of child support an obligor would pay based on his or her current income under the guidelines in determining whether there has been a substantial and material change in circumstances.
Second, if a court finds that there is a substantial and material change in circumstances, then the court considers the statutory guidelines in setting the amount of child support the obligor pays going forward.
A court also considered whether any child support modification is in the best interests of the child.
Resources of a New Spouse Do Not Affect the Amount of Child Support
A common question is whether a court can consider the income of an obligor or obligee’s new spouse in a request to modify child support.
The short answer is no.
A court may not consider a new spouse’s resources when calculating the net resources available to an obligor for purposes of paying child support.
Similarly, a court may not consider a new spouse’s resources available to an obligee in determining the amount an obligor should pay for child support.
The obligor spouse may not deduct any expenses for the support of a new spouse from his or her net resources in calculating the amount of child support.
New Children Can Affect the Amount of Child Support
If the obligor parented additional children since the court rendered the prior order, then a court may consider the obligor’s duty to support those children in modifying the amount of child support payments.
The obligor must have a legal duty of support to the children before a court considers them in setting the amount of child support.
Texas law provides a separate set of statutory guidelines to determine the amount of net resources that an obligor pays as child support when the obligor has a duty to support children in multiple households.
When Is A Modification of Child Support Effective?
If a court orders modification of a child support order, the modification does not retroactively reduce a child support obligation for amounts owed prior to filing the suit to modify.
An order modifying amount of a child support obligation is only effective as to obligations accruing after the earlier of the date of service of citation in the suit to modify or an appearance by the obligee in the suit to modify.
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