REDUCING CHILD SUPPORT PAYMENTS DURING COVID-19. WHAT CAN I DO?

With so many Texans out of work or experiencing a decrease in hours and pay in light of Coronavirus (COVID-19), many individuals my seek modification of their child support order. The Texas Family Code provides, if “the circumstances of [a] child or a person affected by the order [to pay child support] have materially and substantially changed” since the order was entered, then the court may modify a child support order. The amount of child support may also be modified if it has been more than three years since the child support order was entered or if the “monthly amount of the child support award under the order differs by either twenty percent (20%) or $100 from the amount that would be awarded in accordance with the child support guidelines.”

Job loss and a significant decrease in pay are considered a “material and substantial” change in circumstances that would allow a court to modify a child support order. Your ex may petition the court to modify his/her monthly child support obligation. Modifications or adjustments of child support do not occur automatically—one party must file a petition with the court in order to effect the change.

If your ex does file a modification, it is important to seek help from the OAG or from a private attorney to ensure your spouse is calculating his/her new income correctly. Child support is calculated based on a percentage of an obligor’s (the person paying child support) “net resources,” as defined by the Texas Family Code. Included in this calculation is all wages, salary, tips, bonuses, and self-employment income. Importantly, also included in calculating child support is any severance pay and any unemployment benefits received. A certain amount of state and federal income taxes, as well as expenses for the cost of health insurance and dental insurance, is deducted from the calculated income to determine the obligor’s “net resources.”

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