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Modifying a Support Order in Texas

Modifying a Support Order in Texas

Change is a constant in life, and that applies in divorce as well. When your divorce is finalized, the court will carefully determine the amount of child support that needs to be paid. But circumstances may render that order ineffective. The payer may become unemployed or be forced to take a job with less pay. The needs of the child may increase. Fortunately, while it can be difficult to modify a child support order, they are not set in stone, and can be amended in certain situations. Contact a Baytown family law attorney for assistance with modifying a support order in Texas.

Either parent in a divorce can petition the court to change the amount of child support being paid. To qualify to modify the payment amount, however, the parent seeking the change must show that the circumstances of the child, or of either of the parents, has changed substantially since the support order was issued.

Support Order in Texas

If more than three years have elapsed since the current order was put in place, the party requesting a modification of the support order must demonstrate that the amount that would be ordered under current guidelines would different by a minimum of 20% or $100 from the amount initially ordered. Accordingly, a payer seeking a change must show a 20% reduction and a recipient must be able to show a 20% increase.

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, our family law attorney brings more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at 281-761-6042 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Child Support in Texas

Frequently Asked Questions about Child Support in Texas

If you are involved in a divorce in Texas and there are minor children involved, you need to understand your rights with respect to child support, whether you are the payer or the recipient. Our Baytown family law attorney answers some of the most common questions parents of divorce have with respect to the payment of child support in Texas.

How Is Child Support Calculated?

The first step in determining the amount of child support to be paid is to establish net income for the payer. Net income includes wages, salary, rental income, retirement income, disability income, commissions, tips, bonuses, dividends and interest and trust income. It can also include alimony from a previous marriage. The following expenses are then deducted from that total:

  • Social Security and federal income taxes
  • Union dues
  • Health insurance costs and medical expenses incurred for minor children

Once the net income is calculated, you multiply that number by a specific percentage, based on the number of children for whom support will be paid. For one child, it’s 20% of the net income, and it increases by 5% for each additional child, up to a maximum of 40%.

Child Support in Texas

How Long Does It Take Before Child Support Payments Start?

The amount of time it takes depends on a variety of factors. If the payer is employed and can be located, and you have a Social Security number, you can ask the court to issue an administrative withholding order. This goes directly to the payer’s employer, who then withholds the amount due from the payer’s wages and pays it directly to the state’s child support enforcement agency, or to a local registry, which then sends it to the custodial parent. Customarily, that will happen within two t0 four weeks. The child support order is retroactive to the date the divorce is filed, so it’s not unusual for a payer to start with an arrearage, which can typically be paid off over time.

If I Am Being Denied Visitation, Do I Still Have to Pay Support?

Absolutely! Under Texas law, support is not conditional on access to your children. If your ex is in violation of the court order regarding visitation, you need to file an enforcement action.

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas.

To learn how we can help, call our office at 281-761-6042 or contact us online. Our family law attorney offers an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

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Texas Implements New Process to Improve Payment of Child Support

Texas-Implements-New-Process-to-Improve-Payment-of-Child-Support

Earlier this month, the state Attorney General’s office sent out notices to every non-custodial parent in the state who is behind on child support payments. It’s all part of a new process whereby delinquent parents can have their vehicle registration blocked if they are behind in child support payments by more than six months. Officials at the Department of Motor Vehicles say they will start denying delinquent parents in December.

Under the Texas Family Code, a delinquent parent may lose his or drivers license, as well as a professional license. This approach, however, is not without its critics, as many family law attorneys say that non-custodial parents typically need to drive to be able to work and pay child support. They also say that the Attorney General’s office can be very slow in reinstating parents who get back on track. Opponents of the measure also say that it makes visitation extremely difficult when the non-custodial parent cannot drive.

The state of Texas is typically at or near the top in terms of collection of child support payments, leading the nation for the last decade.

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at 281-420-8020 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

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Millions of Dollars Stuck in Texas Child Support “Purgatory”

A recently released report shows that, during the third quarter of 2015, the Texas Attorney General’s office held onto more than $55 million in child support payments that had been made by non-custodial parents. Officials say that amount has nearly tripled in the last four years. Unfortunately, in most cases, nobody really knows why.

A spokesperson for the state attorney general’s office said that there are often good or valid reasons for withholding payment, including:

  • The filing of a dispute by either party to a divorce—officials are reluctant to distribute funds until the legal dispute is resolved
  • The state may have inaccurate information for one of the parties, including address of the recipient
  • There may be a change in the payer’s employment

According to advocates for custodial parents, the money is frequently withheld from families with little or no other resources to meet daily expenses. When funds are not distributed in a timely manner, those families are often forced to seek TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) payments, which cost taxpayers a substantial amount of money. Advocates say that most recipients can get the state to release funds by hiring an attorney, but that’s a luxury most cannot afford.

An employee in the AG’s office said that the agency works hard to get dollars to recipients in a timely manner, but also acknowledged that the state has no way of tracking how many recipients have money that’s being withheld.

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to family law clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at 281-420-8020 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

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Harris County Works with AG’s Office to Collect $150 in Child Support

The Harris County FOCAS program—an acronym for Focus on Collection and Services—worked in partnership with the Texas Attorney General’s office in 2015 to collect more than $150 million in child support payments.

The program, which has been in place for more than a decade, uses a range of legal tools to collect and enforce child support orders. Officials may legally withhold or garnish the wages of a non-custodial parent to pay child support. The county also uses state and federal tax refund intercepts, as well as liens and contempt proceedings. Federal tax intercepts make up about $2 million in annual receipts.

The FOCAS program is not mandatory in Harris County, but parties to a divorce will automatically be included unless they opt out. For custodial parents, there’s a real incentive to participate, as the average monthly support amount collected per case through FOCAS is $766.65, whereas individuals outside the program recover only an average of $530.64. Approximately 85% of parents in the FOCAS program pay their support in full and on time. Only 58% of those outside the program are compliant with court support orders.

Though the program is 12 years old, there are still many older support orders that are not subject to FOCAS. Authorities expect that, over the next few years, the number of non-FOCAS cases in the system will fall dramatically.

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to family law clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at 281-420-8020 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

 

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Getting Temporary Support While Your Divorce is Pending

When your marriage has fallen apart, one of the most pressing immediate concerns is meeting the financial needs of you and your children (if you are the custodial parent.) Whether you realize it or not, as the custodial parent, you are entitled to child support from the time a divorce complaint is filed. There is no requirement that your divorce decree be finalized before your ex must provide you with support.

As a general rule, when you file a complaint for divorce, you also ask the court to issue what are known as pendente lite (pending litigation) orders. These are temporary orders that can address any number of issues, including:

  • Conservatorship and parenting access to minor children
  • Child support obligations
  • Spousal support obligations
  • The use of marital property, including who may reside in the marital home

The court can also enter an order that prohibits both parties from “wasting” marital assets, incurring any new debt or destroying marital property.

To determine the amount of child support, the court will use a formula that takes into account the incomes of both parents. The judge can also make modifications based on any special needs of the children or the parties.

If the court has issued orders granting child support, spousal support, custody or visitation, and your ex is not in compliance with those requirements, you can return to the court to seek enforcement of the decree. Your ex can be held in contempt of court, subject to certain criminal penalties.

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at (281) 420-8020 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

Se Habla Espanol | ASL and ESL Services Also Available

What Happens to Child Support if My Ex Moves to Another State?

When your divorce is final and you have a permanent child support order in place, you can usually relax, knowing that state enforcement officials will help you collect support, should your ex fall behind or stop paying. But what happens if your ex moves out of state? Does the state of Texas have the authority to collect child support payments from a non-resident?

A federal law, the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA), governs the enforcement of child support orders across state lines. Under the UIFSA, a party does not need to go to court in another state to enforce a child support order. Instead, the child’s home state has the authority to enter an initial support order and can obtain jurisdiction over a payer in another state.

Under the UIFSA, the court in a child’s home state must register the original support order with the court in the state where the non-custodial parent resides. Once that is done, though, the courts in the non-custodial parent’s state have full legal authority to take a number of actions to recover support, including:

  • Garnishment of wages
  • Suspension of business or professional license
  • Suspension of driving privileges
  • Seizure of property
  • Attachment of any tax refunds

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at 281-420-8020 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

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Divorce Won’t Necessarily Set You Free

One of the Big Divorce Myths—Divorce Will Set You Free

When you are stuck in an unhappy marriage, you can mistakenly believe that a divorce equates with freedom…that you’ll be able to do many of the things that you couldn’t, that you won’t have to structure your life around someone else for a change. If you have no children, that might be true. But you could still be hit with alimony payments or find yourself unable to sustain the lifestyle to which you’ve become accustomed.

The Many Losses of Freedom that Come with Divorce

Some of the losses are pretty straightforward. If you have minor children, you will quickly lose most of your control over what you do with your time. If you are the custodial parent, you’ll find that you have to spend a lot more time parenting. You won’t be able to let your spouse take over every other night or on the weekend if you have other plans. Accordingly, you’ll discover that taking care of your children takes priority over your social life. You may have been involved in a lot of activities, with an arrangement with your ex-spouse that allowed you to be gone some evenings. Now you’ll either have to get a sitter, or arrange to do things only on those nights that your child is with your ex.

If you are the non-custodial parent, you’ll need to get used to having your children with you every other weekend, alternating holidays and maybe a night a week. When events you want to participate in fall on your weekend, or a night when you have your children, you’ll be faced with a choice.

Divorce can result in the loss of financial freedom as well, for both parties. If you were the primary provider and a good saver and investor, with a well-organized system for managing family finances, you’ll have to give up a lot of that. You may be ordered to pay child support and/or spousal support, but you won’t have any control over how the money gets spent. In addition, your support obligations may make it difficult to build an investment portfolio, buy the things you used to, or make decisions about what your children wear and how their needs are met.

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at 281-420-8020 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

Se Habla Espanol | ASL and ESL Services Also Available

What Does ‘Potential Income’ Mean in Texas Child Support Cases?

In Texas, child support is determined by following strict guidelines set by Texas lawmakers. The guidelines declare that the noncustodial parent shall pay child support as a percentage of income, after certain expenses are deducted. If a parent’s income varies over time, then the guidelines state that child support shall be determined by calculating the noncustodial parent’s income over a period of time.

But what about a situation in which the noncustodial parent is not working at all during the divorce process, or later becomes unemployed and claims he or she cannot pay child support? What about a noncustodial parent who leaves a well-paying job during the divorce and enters an industry with lower wages?

It is in situations like these that the concept of “potential income” applies. In cases where evidence shows that the noncustodial parent is not earning according to his or her full potential, the court may calculate child support based on that parent’s potential income, or potential earnings. The court will calculate potential earnings based on education, past work and salary history and other factors. Potential income can be used in both an original child support proceeding or in a proceeding to modify a child support order based on changed circumstances.

Texas Statutes sec. 154.066 covers the issue of calculating a parent’s potential income when a parent is intentionally unemployed or underemployed in an attempt to avoid a child support obligation.

Stewart Law, PLLC, located in Baytown, Texas, has provided legal counsel to men and women in divorce and other family law cases for 8 years. If you have questions about getting or paying child support, we can give you advice that will help you decide how to proceed. For an initial assessment and consultation regarding default and uncontested divorces, contact our family law firm online or call our office at (281) 420-8020, at a reduced fee of $50.

 
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