Texas courts can order parents to pay child support, regardless of whether they are working. This is because child support is a legal obligation, not a matter of choice.
The Texas Attorney General has the power to open a child support case even when neither parent applied for services, such as when a custodial parent applies for a public benefit, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Medicaid. If a noncustodial parent loses their job or experiences some other kind of major life event that impacts their ability to pay child support, they must quickly notify the court and the child support office.
Similarly, custodial parents can also file motions to have child support orders modified when a noncustodial parent receives a raise and has greater net resources. If you need assistance modifying a child support order or obtaining child support in Fort Worth, Arlington, Grapevine, Keller, Southlake, or other areas in Tarrant County, Texas, you should contact The Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy.
Our firm offers free, confidential consultations to discuss your case and help you understand your rights. Here are some additional things to keep in mind about child support in Texas:
- Child support orders are typically based on the noncustodial parent’s net income.
- Child support orders can be modified if there is a significant change in the circumstances of either parent, such as a change in income, employment status, or family size.
- Parents who fail to pay child support can be subject to a variety of consequences, including wage garnishment, liens on their property, and even jail time.
Child Support Laws in Texas
In Texas, both parents have a legal obligation to support their children, regardless of whether they are married or divorced. Child support can be ordered in any type of child custody case, and the court will consider several factors in determining the amount of child support, including the parents’ incomes, expenses, and the needs of the child.
Child support payments typically last until the child is 18 years old and graduates from high school. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. For example, child support payments may continue if the child is disabled or if the child is still attending high school after the age of 18.
Child support payments are calculated based on a parent’s net resources, which include their income, interest, dividends, rental income, and other income. The court will also consider the parent’s expenses, such as taxes, childcare costs, and health insurance premiums.
Child support can be paid in a variety of ways, including periodic payments, a lump-sum payment, or a combination of the two. The court will typically order the noncustodial parent to pay child support directly to the custodial parent. However, the court may also order the noncustodial parent to pay child support to a third party, such as a child support enforcement agency.
Parents who fail to pay child support can be subject to various consequences, including wage garnishment, liens on their property, and even jail time. The Texas Attorney General’s Office has a Child Support Division that is responsible for enforcing child support orders.
If you have any questions about child support in Texas, you should consult with an experienced family law attorney.
Texas Child Support Guidelines
Under Texas Family Code § 154.125(b), a court will presumptively apply the following child support guidelines when the obligor’s (paying parent’s) monthly net resources are not greater than $7,500:
- 1 child — 20 percent of net resources
- 2 children — 25 percent of net resources
- 3 children — 30 percent of net resources
- 4 children — 35 percent of net resources
- 5 children — 40 percent of net resources
- 6+ children — Not less than the amount for five children
If the noncustodial parent has support obligations to children in more than one household, Texas Family Code § 154.129 establishes the following multiple family-adjusted guidelines:
Number of children before the court
Number of other children whom the obligor must support
These guidelines are just a starting point, and the court may deviate from them based on the specific facts of the case. For example, the court may consider the needs of the child, the income of the custodial parent, and the expenses of the obligor.
If you have any questions about child support in Texas, you should consult with an experienced family law attorney.
Other Factors in Child Support Decisions
In addition to the child support guidelines, Texas courts may consider other factors under Texas Family Code § 154.123 when determining child support payments, such as:
- The child’s age and needs
- The ability of both parents to financially support the child
- Any financial resources that are available to support the child
- Each parent’s amount of time spent with and access to the child
- The cost of childcare expenses incurred by either parent to maintain employment
- Whether either parent has physical custody of another child
- The amount of spousal support being paid or received by either parent
The court’s primary concern is to protect the best interests of the child, even when considering the circumstances of the parents. Here are some examples of how these factors might be considered:
- If the child has special needs, such as a disability, the court may order a higher child support payment to cover the cost of those needs.
- If one parent has a significantly higher income than the other parent, the court may order the higher-earning parent to pay more child support.
- If one parent has other child support obligations, such as paying child support for a child from a previous relationship, the court may adjust the child support payment accordingly.
- If one parent has a lot of time with the child, such as 50/50 joint custody, the court may order a lower child support payment.
If you have any questions about child support in Texas, please consult with an experienced family law attorney.
Modifications of Child Support Orders
Child support in Texas can only be modified if one of the following is true:
- It has been at least three years since the last child support order was established or modified, and the monthly amount of child support owed, calculated under the Texas Family Code Child Support Guidelines, has changed by at least 20 percent or $100.
- There has been a material and substantial change in circumstances since the last child support order.
The law recognizes that life is unpredictable and that changes can happen that make the current child support order no longer workable. Generally speaking, a material and substantial change in circumstances that could warrant a modification of child support include:
- A significant change in the non-custodial parent’s income, such as a job loss, pay cut, or promotion.
- The non-custodial parent becomes legally responsible for other children.
- A change in the child’s medical insurance coverage.
- A change in the child’s living arrangements.
There are two ways to modify a child support order in Texas:
- Through the Child Support Review Process (CSRP) with the Texas Attorney General’s Office.
- Through a court hearing with a private attorney.
The CSRP is a way for parents to request a review of their child support order to determine if it should be modified based on their current financial circumstances. To request a CSRP, a parent must complete and submit a request form to the Texas Attorney General’s Office.
If the AG’s Office determines that a modification is appropriate, both parents will be notified of the proposed changes and allowed to contest them. A new child support order will be issued if the parents agree to the modification.
If the parents do not agree, a hearing will be scheduled before a judge, who will decide on the modification. If a parent wants to expedite the child support modification process, they may choose to seek a modification through the original family court with an experienced child support attorney.
The attorney will review the facts and circumstances surrounding the proposed change and draft and file a petition with the court. The petition will include a clear explanation of why the parent wants to modify the child support order and evidence of how the circumstances have changed since the original order was issued.
Once the petition is filed, the other parent will be served with a copy of the petition and a notice of the court hearing. At the court hearing, both parents will have a chance to present their arguments, and the judge will decide on whether to modify the child support order. The judge will consider a variety of factors, including the child’s needs, the parent’s financial circumstances, and the best interests of the child.
If the judge approves the modification, a new child support order will be issued.
A parent cannot simply stop making or change child support payments without a court order modifying the child support order. Failure to pay child support can result in serious consequences, such as wage garnishment, driver’s license suspension, and even jail time.
If you are considering modifying a child support order in Texas, it is important to consult with an experienced child support attorney to discuss your options and protect your rights.
Child Support Enforcement
Once a Texas court orders child support, the non-custodial parent must begin paying through the Office of the Attorney General (OAG). The OAG collects and administers child support payments, and enforces the order if the parent stops paying.
Parents should open an online account with the OAG for child support. This makes it easier for the OAG to track payments and disbursements, and to help enforce the child support order. It also makes the process easier for both parents.
Parents can pay child support by credit or debit card, cash, check, money order, automatic draft from a bank account, or wage withholding. There are also multiple kiosks where parents can make child support payments.
Because there is a valid court order in place, child support payments are required and enforced through the OAG.
If the non-custodial parent stops paying child support, the custodial parent should first report the failure to pay to the OAG. Child support does not “go away” and must be paid in full.
The OAG has a number of options for enforcing child support, including:
- License suspension: The OAG can suspend the non-custodial parent’s driver’s license, professional license, or other licenses for nonpayment of child support.
- Liens: The OAG can file a lien against the non-custodial parent’s bank account, retirement account, life insurance policy, lawsuit settlement, or other assets to recover child support.
- Lottery winnings: The OAG can intercept money from the non-custodial parent’s lottery winnings to recover child support and medical/dental insurance payments.
- Passports: The OAG can prevent the non-custodial parent from getting or renewing their passport.
- Credit reporting: The OAG can report any overdue child support to the credit bureau.
- Contempt of court and jail time: If the non-custodial parent is found in contempt of court, they can be fined and jailed.
Circumstances change, and it’s not unusual for one parent to find themselves unemployed, underemployed, or unable to work due to an injury or disability. If you are unable to pay child support, you should contact the OAG Child Support Division immediately to request assistance. They can help you modify your child support order and answer any questions you have.
It is important to note that failing to pay child support can have serious consequences, even if you are unable to pay. If you are having trouble paying child support, please contact the OAG Child Support Division for help
Child Support Attorney in Tarrant County, TX
Child support is a common and complex issue in many divorces all over Texas, but you do not need to struggle to better understand your rights in dealing with this issue. Looking for a trusted child support attorney in Fort Worth, Arlington, Grapevine, Keller, Southlake, or other areas in Tarrant County, Texas? Our experienced legal team is here to help you navigate the complexities of child support laws.
The Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy help people ensure that they are legally providing for their children but not being ordered to pay excessive amounts. You can call (817) 422-5350 or contact us online to arrange a free consultation that will let our firm sit down with you and explain everything that you can do to improve your situation. We also have experience helping people whose cases are complicated by such domestic violence issues as continuous violence against the family.