This year, COVID-19 has had both direct and indirect impacts on Texans from all walks of life. One of the biggest impacts has been on the livelihoods of most of the population. Businesses have closed, cut back hours, and furloughed employees. Those who are still working are likely working from home, or are considered “essential workers,” and have seen their hours increased.
It’s been particularly difficult for those who have seen their income reduced or terminated. In addition to sudden changes to visitation schedules, many parents have become unable to meet their court-ordered child support payments.
While the state debates re-opening and allowing more businesses to reinstate operations, many parents are left wondering if they will receive the child support they’re supposed to receive. Noncustodial parents who are unable to pay or pay the full amount may be unsure what to do next.
In our previous blog regarding not paying child support, we discussed the possible consequences you could face if you don’t pay child support. If your circumstances change, there are options, but you must request a modification if your income has suddenly declined during the pandemic.
Calculating Child Support
Income is the determining factor in child support payments, based on both parents’ incomes at the time of the order. The court determines the set amount of the non-custodial parent at the time of the order. Should one parent see an increase in income, due to a promotion or new job, one or both parents can go back to court and request an increase in child support.
However, a parent who quits his or her higher-paying job and takes a lesser-paying one will not see their payments lowered, or get a lower amount. The court will review the parent’s previous income before their voluntary reduction, and rule accordingly.
If your court order was issued more than three years ago, you are eligible for a review and revision modification, and if the amount of your child support differs by $100 or 20% from the amount that would be awarded according to the state’s guidelines.
The other reason to request a modification through the court is if you have experienced a “material and substantial change in circumstances” since the most recent court order. These include:
- A change in the noncustodial parent’s income, such as a job loss or a new job that pays less than the prior one
- Additional children that the noncustodial parent is responsible for
- Medical insurance for the child or children has changed
- The parent is responsible for additional children
Should you experience a change in circumstances, such as a job loss, it’s important to contact the State Attorney General’s office immediately. They can work with you to have your child support obligation adjusted, with a court order. Meantime, you must pay as much of your obligation as you are able to until a new court order is issued.
If you apply for unemployment benefits, child support can be deducted from your benefit payments to meet the obligation.
The Texas Attorney General’s website has additional information on modifications of child support orders.
Tarrant County’s Family Law Attorney
If you’re unable to pay child support at the original rate, the court can help you, but you have to ask. Only a court order can change the payment amount.
Wendy L. Hart is an experienced family law attorney helping people throughout Tarrant County who are dealing with child support issues. As a divorcee, Wendy understands the difficulties involved and will work to resolve your case fairly, and will protect your interests and those of your children.