The government and business response to the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in economic catastrophe for millions of Texans. Economic hardship arising from the spread of COVID-19 have impacted millions of Texans. Many have lost their jobs or faced significant financial harm. That affects people in many ways, including child support. If you receive child support, getting that check each month is that much more important right now. If you are the parent that pays child support, making ends meet and continuing to fulfill your support may become difficult or impossible. What to do?
The Texas Family Code provides a specific child support calculations which is called “guideline child support” and the presumption is that support will be paid until the children ‘age out’ by turning 18 and graduating from high school. In many cases, this monthly amount never changes. However, our courts do allow modifications of the amount paid. Generally, you are entitled to review the amount of child support every three years. You don’t need a specific reason to do that, but rather it provides for the opportunity to adjust the support on a consistent basis.
If there has been a ‘material and substantial change’ in circumstances, then a court can make a change to child support at any time. What does ‘material and substantial change’ mean in this context? Practically speaking, that does not only mean that a person paying child support lost their job. The Courts expect parents to search for and find new jobs and exhaust all financial resources before modifying the amount of support they provide to their children. Additionally, many unemployed parents qualify for unemployment benefits, which is considered income It is possible to agree on a reduction or suspension of child support. The agreement will need to be in writing, signed by a Judge and filed with the court to be enforceable.
You should consult with an attorney to ensure that the proper steps are taken to effectuate this process. If a period of unemployment or reduction in income is long term for the parent paying support, then a court may grant a reduction in child support. The obligor (paying parent) will have to prove the circumstances, and a court will examine whether the income reduction is an attempt to lower child support or a reality for this family. The loss of a job will be more believable in certain industries (restaurants and bars; travel industry, etc.).
What if the person receiving child support has a reduction or elimination of income?
It is not likely that a Court would increase child support payments in this scenario. Although the income of the parent receiving child support can be a factor in the court’s calculations of child support, it not the only factor a Court looks at and child support is calculated primarily by looking at the income of the paying parent. There are factors, however, that can require the Court to examine other circumstances of the family, such as proven needs of the children and the obligee’s (parent receiving support) to meet those needs, special needs of the children and several other factors. If you have more specific questions in regards to your case, contact an experienced lawyer today.