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What Does It Take to Modify Child Support Payments?

Child support is an obligation that divorced parents should seriously consider as it can affect how their children are taken care of through the years. How much child support is paid each month is based on guidelines set by the state based on the payer’s (also called obligor’s) income. But one of the realities of life is that sometimes circumstances change, and the amount paid each month needs to change as well. So what does it take to change or modify child support payments?

Child Support Modification Rules

The provisions to modify child support are found in the Texas Family Code. A party affected by an order involving children may file a suit for modification in the court with continuing exclusive jurisdiction. The court may modify an order that provides for the support of a child, including an order for health care coverage if either:

  • It has been three years since the order was rendered or last modified and the monthly amount of the child support award under the order differs by either 20 percent or $100 from the amount that would be awarded in accordance with the child support guidelines; or,
  • The circumstances of the child or a person affected by the order have materially and substantially changed since:
    • the date of the order’s rendition, or
    • the date of the signing of a mediated or collaborative law settlement on which the order is based.

The release of a child support obligor from incarceration is a material and substantial change in circumstances for purposes of this section if the obligor’s child support obligation was abated, reduced or suspended during the period of the obligor’s incarceration.

The court may not add any portion of the net resources of a new spouse of either parent to calculate the amount of child support to be ordered in a suit for modification. Similarly, the court may not subtract the needs of a new spouse, or a dependent of a new spouse, from the net resources of the obligor or obligee in a suit for modification.

Exceptions

If the parties agree to an order in which the amount of child support differs from the amount that would be awarded in accordance with the child support guidelines, the court may modify the order only if the circumstances of the child or a person affected by the order have materially and substantially changed since the date of the order’s rendition.

A court or administrative order for child support in a Title IV-D* case may be modified at any time, and without a showing of material and substantial change in the circumstances of the child or a person affected by the order, to provide for medical support for the child if the order does not provide health care coverage.

Non-Factors

  • An order of joint conservatorship, in and of itself, does not constitute grounds for modifying a support order
  • An increase in the needs, the standard of living, or the lifestyle of the obligee since the rendition of the existing order does not warrant an increase in the obligor’s child support obligation.
  • The court does not have the power to modify any amounts of child support prior to the date of service of citation or an appearance in the suit to modify.

The State of Texas has intentionally made it difficult to modify child support payments. As outlined, the circumstances for a change are required to meet a high standard in order to assure that the children of the marriage that ended in divorce are properly cared for by both parents. One of the great tragedies in divorce is when court-ordered child support payments are not made and as a result, the children are the victims.

Texas Family Code Chapter 156, Section 154.182

*A Title IV-D case is a case in which a state provides child support services as directed by the state child support program that is authorized by Title IV-D of the Social Security Act. A case is set up when a person requests a child support office to help them get child support money.

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