Court orders for child support need to be modified in order for a noncustodial parent to begin making lower or higher child support payments. Many cases require proof of a “material and substantial change in circumstances,” to modify child support payments, which is why many people seek legal representation for assistance in such cases.
It can be important for noncustodial parents, in particular, to be proactive about seeking modifications, as automatic relief is not provided in instances of job loss. Failure to pay child support as originally ordered can result in possible criminal penalties.
Our divorce attorneys in Houston will work to help you achieve the most desirable possible outcome to your case. You can have our lawyers review your case and help you understand all of your legal options when you call (832) 530-4070 to schedule a free initial consultation.
Overview of Child Support Modifications in Texas
- Texas Child Support Modification Laws
- Material and Substantial Change in Circumstances in Texas
- Child Support Modification Resources in Harris County
Texas Child Support Modification Laws
Chapter 156 of the Texas Family Code covers modification as it relates to suits affecting the parent-child relationship, and Subchapter E specifically deals with modification of child support orders. Under Texas Family Code § 156.401, grounds for modification of child support by a court include:
- 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 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.
A court cannot add any portion of the net resources of a new spouse to the net resources of an obligor (person paying child support) or obligee (person receiving child support) in order to calculate the amount of child support to be ordered in a suit for modification. Similarly, the court cannot subtract the needs of a new spouse, or of a dependent of a new spouse, from the net resources of the obligor or obligee in a suit for modification.
Under Texas Family Code § 156.405, an increase in the needs, the standard of living, or lifestyle of the obligee since the rendition of the existing order also does not warrant an increase in the obligor’s child support obligation.
If a parent is not paying child support, the Texas Attorney General’s Child Support Division may be able to enforce child support obligations through such actions as:
- Seizing property;
- Wage garnishment;
- Withholding of tax refunds;
- Suspension of driver’s license or other professional licenses; and
- Denial of passport.
Material and Substantial Change in Circumstances in Texas
Modifications sought within three years of child support orders originally being issued require proof of a “material and substantial change in circumstances.” The Texas Family Code does not specifically define this phrase, so its interpretation can vary by court.
In most cases, some of the generally accepted examples of material and substantial changes in circumstances include:
- Increase or decrease in obligor’s income;
- Changes to the child’s medical insurance;
- Changes to the child’s disability benefits;
- Changes to the child’s living arrangements or daily needs;
- Parent remarries; or
- Parent relocates.
Child Support Modification Resources in Harris County
Texas Child Support Order State Guide | Administration for Children & Families — View a fact sheet from the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE), the federal government agency that oversees the national child support program. The OCSE is also a program of the Administration for Children & Families (ACF), a division of the Department of Health & Human Services that promote the economic and social well-being of families, children, individuals and communities. The fact sheet has answers to frequently asked questions, an inquiry form for incarcerated parents, and a child support review questionnaire.
Frequently Asked Questions about Child Support Modifications — On this section of the Texas Attorney General’s website, you can find answers to several frequently asked questions about child support modifications. Learn more about income changes because of job loss, returns to or from active military duty, and unemployment benefits. The website also has information about “interstate cases,” in which one parent lives in Texas and the other lives in another state.
Contact Child Support Modification Attorneys in Houston, TX
Are you seeking or dealing with a possible modification to your child support order in Harris County? You will want to contact The Gonzalez Law Group as soon as possible. Our Houston divorce lawyers help individuals throughout Harris County, Friendswood, Pearland, Seabrook, League City, Deer Park, Pasadena, La Porte, Galena Park, Baytown, and many others. Call (832) 530-4070 or submit an online contact form to have our attorneys provide a complete evaluation of your case during a free, confidential consultation.