What If I Can’t Afford My Child Support Payments?
Children deserve love and support from both parents. Child support standards under Texas law account for each parent’s financial abilities when creating initial child support orders. However, there are many unexpected or unforeseen reasons why a parent cannot meet their child support payments.
If you’re in such a predicament, you may wonder, What if I can’t afford my child support payments? Texas law has a mechanism that allows you to ask the court for a child support modification under certain circumstances. However, child support modifications are not easy. Texas parents facing challenges related to child support payments should consult with an experienced Texas family law attorney at the Larson Law Office.
Texas Child Support Obligations
In Texas, child support is generally money a non-custodial parent pays to assist the custodial parent with the cost of raising a child. Typically, the custodial parent is the parent the child resides with most of the time, and the non-custodial parent is the other parent with visitation. The law recognizes that the custodial parent bears many additional costs that go into the support of a child. This is why the non-custodial parent typically must make child support payments.
The law obligates parents to provide for their children financially, even without a court order. Thus, a court may even order retroactive child support if a parent has failed to support their child before the case is filed in court.
Usually, the orders are effective until the child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever happens later. However, your child support obligation may last longer if your child has a disability. However, when your child turns 18, you’re still obligated to pay your child support arrears for prior missed payments.
I Can’t Afford My Child Support Payments
The Texas Office of the Attorney General enforces child support obligations, in addition to private lawyers having the ability to file enforcement cases. If a parent does not meet child support obligations, the Attorney General may take various steps to enforce a court order. These steps include:
- Suspending the parent’s license;
- Denying a passport application or renewal; and
- Placing a lien on the parent’s property, bank account, personal injury claims, and other assets.
The obligor must take steps to modify a child support order as soon as they can’t afford it to avoid potential consequences.
If I Can’t Afford a Child Support Payment, Is There a Way to Reduce It?
Texas law provides guidelines for determining the amount of child support. The amount of support depends on the number of children and the parent’s net resources. However, circumstances change. A parent’s income may increase or decrease. Perhaps a parent loses their job or has another child to support and can no longer meet their child support obligations.
In Texas, parents cannot unilaterally change a child support order. They must go to court and request a modification. There, they can ask the court to reduce the amount they must pay or to increase the amount they receive.
Change in Circumstances
A court may modify a child support payment if a parent shows that there has been a substantial and material change in the circumstances. There are no set criteria for what constitutes a substantial and material change. However, courts may find the following circumstances fit that criterion:
- A parent involuntarily loses a job;
- A parent suffers a long-term health condition;
- The payor parent becomes financially responsible for additional children; or
- The child custody arrangement changes.
Courts may also find that military service or incarceration provides a basis to modify a child support order.
A modification may be possible if the existing order is at least three years old and the amount the obligor would have to pay under a new order based on Texas’ guidelines would differ by $100 or 20%. However, this review method is generally unavailable to parents who initially agreed to child support that differed from the guidelines.
Enforcing a Child Support Order in Texas
Parents seeking to enforce a child support order for non-payment should consult with a Texas family law attorney to assist with filing an enforcement action. Non-custodial parents must continue to abide by the terms of the child support order until a court modifies it to avoid becoming subject to a violation order.
Are You in Need of a Child Support Modification?
It’s important to know that you have options if you’re wondering, What if I can’t afford my child support payments? Courts allow parties to seek modifications to existing child support orders. However, you must be ready to prove your case if you’re seeking a modification.
Having the assistance of a dedicated Texas family law attorney can help you establish the facts necessary to reduce your child support obligations. At the Larson Law Office, we provide clients with dedicated and highly personalized service. Our attorneys are experienced negotiators and effective litigators who work hard to secure your desired result. To schedule a no-obligation consultation today, call 713-221-9088 today. You can also reach us through our online contact form.