If you lose your job, you become ill or your child's healthcare expenses go down, courts in Texas may decrease the amount of child support ordered. However, Texas courts can only change your obligation to make future payments, not missed payments you already owe. You must act quickly if you find that you cannot make your payments to avoid falling far behind.
Texas courts may modify a child support order if it was part of a divorce decree and circumstances have substantially and materially changed since the time of the original order. For example, Texas courts may modify the support order if the income of the paying parent changes, either by getting a raise or losing a job. If the child's health or education needs substantially change, courts may increase the child support order or decrease it if the child no longer requires the services. Additionally, parents may ask the court to review the order once every three years, regardless of whether circumstances have changed.
Unless circumstances have materially and substantially changed, the court will not change a child support order that has been in effect for over three years except if the new calculation would result in the order being 20 percent or $100 higher or lower than the original order. To determine if a change is necessary after three years, courts will apply the same calculation used to come up with the original order. For example, if your monthly income is under $6,000, the court will calculate support based on the number of children. For one child, support is calculated at 20 percent of the noncustodial parent's net monthly income.
In order to have the court review your child support order, you must file a Petition for Modification with the same court that originally issued the order. In the petition, you may ask the court to schedule a hearing for the matter. You must serve the petition and notice of the hearing date on the other parent, meaning it must be delivered by an adult other than yourself, usually a process server or sheriff's deputy. At the hearing, you must present evidence to support your claim. As the paying parent, you likely will have to provide evidence of your income, including pay stubs or unemployment checks.
Agreements and Temporary Orders
After you file the petition, the court may enter a temporary order that will last until the final hearing. As an alternative to having the court modify the support order, parents may submit a written agreement to the court. Coming to an agreement may speed up the modification process, particularly because you can avoid going to trial. The court will enter the agreement, making it enforceable just as a court-ordered modification would be, assuming the order is in the child's best interest. If not, the court may ask the parents to revise the order.
Texas Attorney General
Parents in Texas have the option to seek help from the Office of the Attorney General Child Support Division to enforce and modify child support orders. The Attorney General does not represent either parent, but instead represents the state's interest in ensuring the child has proper financial support. The Attorney Generally is automatically involved in cases where parents or children receive public benefits, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or Medicaid. However, other Texas residents may also apply for services from the Attorney General.