The government and business response to the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in economic catastrophe for 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 pay it, it may suddenly become difficult or impossible to pay it. What to do?
Texas courts set a specific amount of monthly child support, which is designed to last 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 have the amount of child support recalculated every three years. You don’t need a reason to do that, it is just something you can request the Attorney General or the court do for you.
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, we haven’t found that it just means that a person paying child support lost their job. The courts expect people to search for and find new jobs. Most jobless people qualify for unemployment benefits, which is considered income.
It is possible to agree on a reduction or suspension of child support. That is something you should get in writing, although it is not legally binding until a Judge signs an order. Consult with an attorney if you need that done.
If the unemployment or reduction in income is long term for the person paying it, then a court is likely to grant a reduction in child support. You will have to prove that, and a court will be concerned that the claimed income reduction is just an attempt to lower child support. 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 unlikely that a Court would increase child support. Although the income of the parent receiving child support CAN be a factor in the court’s calculations of child, it is almost never a consideration. Even when it is, it is usually a minor one. Therefore, you should not expect a reduction in this case.
If you have more specific questions in regards to your case, contact an experienced lawyer today.