Child support is one of the most heavily litigated issues in all of family law. To increase or decrease payments there are specific requirements that must be met to modify a previous child support order. Per Tex. Fam. Code § 156.401 the requirements necessary to modify a prior child support order are:
- The circumstances of the child or an affected party have materially and substantially changed; or
- Three years have elapsed since the order was entered or last modified, and the amount of child support differs from the statutory guidelines by either 20% or $100.00.
The second requirement is self-explanatory. The three-year limitation to file for another modification is for the benefits of the Courts. If there was no three-year waiting period to refill, then every conservator would constantly attempt to modify child support, thus creating endless litigation for clogging the Courts’ dockets.
The first requirement needs more explanation. A Material and Substantial change in the circumstances of the child or an affected party must be clearly shown at trial. Many Courts are meticulous in making the determination of what a Material and Substantial change is regarding the child and the affected party to insure this requirement is not abused for excessive litigation.
To prove a Substantial and Material change in circumstances, a conservator must show evidence at the final hearing of:
- The financial needs/expenses at the time of the divorce or prior modification for the children and the person affected, and;
- The financial needs/expenses at the time of the request for the modification.
If evidence of financial needs/expenses are not submitted and proved regarding both (1) the prior divorce/modification and (2) the recent modification, then no Substantial and Material change can be adequately proved. Further, if the request for modification of child support is predicated solely on one conservator’s increase in earning capacity, absent other compelling evidence, the change in circumstances is not Substantial and Material. Interest of L.R., 416 S.W.3d 675, (Tex. App.—Houston [14 Dist.] 2013, pet. denied.)
If one conservator decides to file a modification of child support within three years just because the other conservative received a better job, it may be dismissed. At the end of the day a Court has broad discretion on determining what is Substantial and Material and may allow the case to be heard and give an unfavourable ruling, but if that occurs you will have the ability to appeal the judgment and request attorney’s fees. It is important to know in any family law case the Judge has extremely broad discretion and interprets case law in a way that he deems fit using the Best Interest Test.
If you are a conservator that meet these requirements above and wish to increase or decrease the child support obligation, be sure to hire an experienced attorney. Nacol Law Firm will always fight for you and your children’s best interest.
Julian Nacol, Attorney
Nacol Law Firm, PC
Call (972) 690-3333
December 2016 the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles will start denying motor vehicle registration renewals for parents who have gone at least six months without making a child support payment. The law applies to Office of the Attorney General (OAG) child support cases.
The OAG also has the authority to bar the renewal of professional, recreational and handgun licensed of parents behind on child support payments.
Delinquent Parents will receive a notice from the Department of Motor Vehicles and a letter from the attorney general’s office about two months before their registration is set to expire.
Once parents receive a notice, they must agree to a payment plan with the Attorney General’s child support division before they will be able to renew their registration. This law only applies to motor vehicle renewals. New vehicle purchases are not affected.
In Texas it is the responsibility of a mother and father to adequately support their child. An adequate support usually comes in the form of child support payments monthly. It is a common mistake of judgment to attempt to hide from child support obligations or willfully ignore the obligation. Intentional non-payment gives rise to contempt proceedings
The circumstances regarding the parent’s decision not to pay child support is considered by the court in contempt proceedings. Texas Family Code 154.131 strictly deals with retroactive child support payments. There are four factors a Texas Court will consider when determining how far back a parent must make child support back-payments. They are:
- If the mother of the child had made any previous attempts to notify the obligor (delinquent parent) of his paternity or probable paternity;
- If the obligor (delinquent parent) had knowledge of his paternity or probable paternity;
- If the order of retroactive child support will impose an undue financial hardship on the obligor (delinquent parent) or the obligor’s family; and
- If the obligor (delinquent parent) has provided actual support or other necessities before the filing of the action.
All these factors will be taken into consideration by a Texas Court when determining how far back and how much an individual must pay child support.
If it is reasonable and in the best interest of the child then the Texas Family Code 154.131(c) allows for the Court to assign retroactive child support payments that only extends back 4 years. The option to confine retroactive child support payments to only four years may be contested by the parent requesting the child support. A parent that is contesting the Court’s decision in allowing the delinquent parent to pay back only four years’ worth of back-payments will have the burden of proof to establish:
- The Obligor (delinquent parent) knew or should have known that he was the father of the child for whom the support is sought
- The Obligor (delinquent parent) sought to avoid the establishment of support obligation to the child
If, however, a father is delinquent on child support because he did not know of the child’s existence, was told by the mother that his support was not wanted or needed, or the father had been paying a certain amount prior to the filling of the child support then the Court will likely only award retroactive payments of four years or less. If the father has willfully refused or ignored his obligation to pay support and adequately support his child, then the Court has the authority to order that delinquent parent to pay retroactive child support payments dating back to the day the child was born.
Retroactive child support can be complex and tricky considering the multiple circumstances in which this problem may arise. If you find yourself in this predicament and have received a summons to a Texas Child Support Court, then contact an experienced attorney immediately to see what can be done and how to best effetely address this unavoidable issue.
On September 1, 2013: Important Texas Child Support Guideline Changed!
The Texas Child Support Division of the Attorney General increased the “CAP” on net resources for purposed Child Support from the past amount of $7500 to be $8550, which became effective Sept. 1, 2013.
This “Cap Increase” affects any child support case filed or pending after September 1, 2013.
Under the Texas Family Code §154.125 the guidelines for Child Support are as follows:
(a) The guidelines for the support of a child in this section are specifically designed to apply to situations in which the obligor’s monthly net resources are not greater than $8,500 or the adjusted amount determined under Subsection (a-1), whichever is greater.
(a-1) The dollar amount prescribed by Subsection (a) above is adjusted every six years as necessary to reflect inflation. The Title IV-D agency shall compute the adjusted amount, to take effect beginning September 1 of the year of the adjustment, based on the percentage change in the consumer price index during the 72-month period preceding March 1 of the year of the adjustment, as rounded to the nearest $50 increment. The Title IV-D agency shall publish the adjusted amount in the Texas Register before September 1 of the year in which the adjustment takes effect. For purposes of this subsection, “consumer price index” has the meaning assigned by Section 341.201, Finance Code.
(a-2) The initial adjustment required by Subsection (a-1) shall take effect September 1, 2013. This subsection expires September 1, 2014.
(b) if the obligor’s monthly net resources are not greater than the amount provided by Subsection (a), the court shall presumptively apply the following schedule in rendering the child support order:
CHILD SUPPORT GUIDELINES
BASED ON THE MONTHLY NET RESOURCES OF THE OBLIGOR
- 1 child 20% of Obligor’s Net Resources
- 2 children 25% of Obligor’s Net Resources
- 3 children 30% of Obligor’s Net Resources
- 4 children 35% of Obligor’s Net Resources
- 5 children 40% of Obligor’s Net Resources
- 6+ children Not less than the amount for 5 children
Depending on the number of other children an obligor has a duty to support, the percentage of child support may be lower. For example, if the obligor was previously married and has 1 child to support in the previous marriage, the amount of support paid for one child before the court decreases to 17.50 percent. See the chart below.
Net resources are determined by deducting the following from the obligor’s income:
1. Social Security Taxes;
2. Federal Income Tax based on the tax rate for a single person claiming one personal exemption and the standard deductions;
3. State Income Tax;
4. Union Dues (if such deductions are being withheld); and
5. Expenses for Health Insurance Coverage for Obligor’s Child(ren) (if such deductions are being withheld).
See Texas Child Support Infographic , provided by Dallas Texas Attorney Mark Nacol, of the Nacol Law Firm PC