Because child support orders operate only as a financial snapshot at one point in time, many parents will eventually seek to reduce their own child support obligation due to a change in circumstances. Read on to learn more about the circumstances that may prompt courts to reduce your child support payments and how to obtain this modification.
When You Can Modify a Child Support Order
Three Years After the Last Order (until September 1, 2018)
If three years have passed since your child support was set or the last time your child support order was modified, you may be able to seek modification without showing a change in circumstances. If under Texas’s current child support guidelines, the new support obligation would be more than 20% higher or lower (or more than $100 higher or lower) than the current obligation, a modification may be granted.
But after September 1, 2018, this provision will be eliminated from the Texas Family Code. Instead, parties will need to show that there’s been a change in circumstances or that they agree to the modification.
Proving a Change in Circumstances
In general, a party petitioning for a reduction of their child support obligation within three years of the most recent support order will need to show that there has been a substantial and material change in circumstances since the initial child support order was made. This change of circumstances can include the following:
- Unemployment or underemployment;
- A change in employment resulting in a decrease in net pay from the time when the initial support order was entered;
- Relocation to a higher-cost-of-living area;
- The birth of a new child;
- Medical expenses that aren’t covered by insurance;
- An increase or decrease in the child’s medical expenses; or
- Your development of a disability or chronic health condition.
This change in circumstances doesn’t need to be on your end. If your child’s custodial parent has changed jobs, remarried, or received an inheritance, these increases in income or assets can all factor into a judge’s decision to modify the support order.
Obtaining an Agreement Between the Parties
By far the easiest way to modify your child support obligation is to reach an agreement with your child’s other parent, put this agreement in writing, and file it with the trial court. As long as both parties are represented by a family law attorney (which means they’ve been advised of their legal rights and responsibilities), the trial court will generally presume they’ve freely entered into an agreement of their own accord, even if this agreement differs from what the previous guidelines stated.
Unfortunately, getting your child’s custodial parent to voluntarily agree to reduce your child support obligation can be an uphill battle, even in the best of circumstances. But you may be able to encourage your child’s other parent to agree to this change by pointing out that you’re both likely to incur a lot of attorney’s fees by getting into a courtroom battle on support payments.
What You’ll Need to Prove to Modify Support
If you can’t obtain an agreement between you and your child’s custodial parent, you’ll need to introduce evidence that will show that there has been a substantial change in circumstances. This generally requires a showing that this change in circumstances was outside your control or was not a result of an effort to avoid your court-ordered payment obligations.
You’ll also need to present financial documents that back up your claims, such as W2 forms, paycheck stubs, medical bills, a copy of your credit report, or disability paperwork. These documents will need to be turned over to the custodial parent’s attorney before your court date, and you may also be able to request certain financial documents in return.
If you need some help modifying your current child support order or want to learn more about your modification options, contact Allison Grant, Attorney at Law. She has years of experience in a wide range of family law matters, including support modifications. Call the office at (972) 434-0021 or visit her website to fill out a short contact form.