When Does Child Support End?
In Texas, child support payments must be made until the child turns 18 years old or graduates high school—whichever event occurs later. However, sometimes circumstances change, and parents (either the support payee or recipient) seek to modify their child support orders.
Eligibility for Modification
Either parent may seek to modify their child support arrangement. However, modifications will not be granted for just any reason. According to Texas Family Code § 156.401, the grounds for child support modification are as follows:
- The child or the person affected by the order has experienced a material change of circumstances since the order was instated.
- Three years have passed since the order was rendered or last modified, and the monthly support payments are not in accordance with the child support guidelines, differing by either 20% or $100 from what would be awarded.
What Qualifies as a Material Change of Circumstances?
It is important to note that modifications are based on the income of the noncustodial parent. Whether the filing party seeks to increase or decrease the payment amounts, it will need to be evidenced that there is a change in circumstances, which can include but is not limited to:
- The child support payee recently got a raise at work or lost their job.
- The child’s needs have changed (because of an illness or long-term disability).
- The parent receiving support needs more help as the expenses for childcare have increased as the child ages.
- The child is now living with a different parent or guardian.
Can You Verbally Agree to Change Child Support Orders?
While you and your child’s other parent may agree to an alteration in the payment amount, you should take the necessary legal steps to modify your agreement. Consider this: Bob is laid off from his job, so he asks Mary if he can pay $100/month (rather than the court-order amount of $400/month) until he gets back on his feet. Mary agrees that Bob can pay the reduced amount. Bob is re-hired after five months, and he resumes paying the entire court-ordered amount (of $400/month).
Mary tells Bob that he also needs to pay back the deficit (of $1,500) that he failed to pay during his layoff. However, Bob claims that because of their agreement, he shouldn’t and won't pay for the $300/month that he didn’t pay, which leads to a court enforcement hearing. Because there is a lack of evidence in his favor, the court decides that Bob will have to pay the $1,500 by paying an additional $100/month until the deferred payment is delivered in full.
Informal agreements do not change court orders, nor do they protect a parent from the penalties associated with failing to pay child support. Even if you verbally agreed to change support payments, courts can find a parent in contempt of court if they fail to pay child support, which can lead to imprisonment and/or fines of up to $500 for each missed payment. Parents can also be expected to render any withheld payments.
How to File for Child Support Modification
To modify your court-ordered agreement, you can either:
- Negotiate through the Child Support Review Process (CSRP). The CSRP is an in-office administrative process used to establish, modify, or enforce child support obligations. Both parties meet with a Child Support Officer to negotiate new orders; if an agreement is made, then the orders will be reviewed and signed by a judge.
- Handle the matter in court. If you cannot agree during the CSRP meeting, you will have to schedule a court hearing for your case. During the court proceedings, another attempt at negotiations will be made; if that fails again, the case will be presented before a judge who will make a final determination.
Contact Our Modifications Lawyers Today
Regardless of whose circumstances have changed, our team at Hembree Bell Law Firm, PLLC is equipped to help clients navigate the modification process. Because of our own experience with family law matters, we aren’t afraid to work outside of the box and tailor our legal approach for each specific case. If you are seeking to modify your support orders, you should retain our attorneys as we know:
- How to calculate child support payments with consideration to the change in circumstances
- How to gather evidence to support you with your claim
- How to support clients as they prepare for court terms (in terms of understanding etiquette and what to expect throughout the process)
- What a judge will consider if the determination is left up to the court
For help modifying your child support order or more information on how we can help you, reach out to our firm online or at (512) 768-9737.