How Can Child Support Orders be Modified?
Child support orders can only be changed by the entering of a new court order. Informal agreements between the parties are not effective to change the amount of court ordered child support. Therefore, while you and the other party may agree to a change in the amount of child support to be paid, unless the agreed to amount is recited in a new order signed by the court, the party obligated to pay the support could be required to pay the amount originally ordered by the court if a dispute arises and could also be held in contempt of court and jailed.
Consequently, it is critical that any agreements regarding the change in the amount of child support to be paid be recited in a new court order. If you and the other party are unable to agree to a change in the amount of child support to be paid, then the issue will be determined by the court.
When Can a Child Support Order Be Modified?
A child support order may be modified under two broad conditions. Specifically, the child support order may be modified if:
- A child support order is more than three years old and the amount of the monthly child support calculated using the statutory child support guidelines in the Texas Family Code would change by more than 20 percent, or at least $100; or
- The party requesting the modification proves that there has been a material and substantial change in the circumstances of one or more of the parties to the support order, or the child, since the date the last child support order was entered with the court or the date of the signing of a mediated or collaborative law settlement agreement on which the order is based.
What does a Material and Substantial Change in Circumstances Mean?
The Texas Family Code does not outline the specific circumstances that would qualify as material and substantial changes to warrant a child support modification. However, the following changed circumstances are the most often asserted by a party seeking a child support modification:
- An increase or decrease in income;
- Loss of employment;
- The party paying support is legally responsible for the support of additional children;
- Special needs of the child such as medical, educational or psychological;
- Changes in medical insurance or coverage; and
- A child’s living arrangements have changed.
A modification in the amount of the child support to be paid is not retroactive to the date that the change in circumstance occurred. In other words, there is no automatic increase or decrease in the amount of the support to be paid simply because a change in circumstances occurred. As such, it is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible after a change in circumstance has occurred to determine your rights. The attorneys at GoransonBain Ausley are prepared to represent parents who are seeking to adjust child support orders.
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At our firm, we know that family law issues that are resolved during a divorce may arise again. You do not have to handle those issues alone — we are here to help you. Schedule your consultation today.