Child Support Enforcement during COVID-19
Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Child Support in Texas
At Diggs & Sadler, we understand the essential nature of receiving child support, especially during the worldwide spread of the novel coronavirus (otherwise known as COVID-19). We know and understand that many of you have concerns during this difficult time, and we are here to help guide you through it.
I Have Not Been Receiving Child Support from the Other Parent. What Are My Options?
If you are not receiving court ordered child support, there are several ways to motivate the other parent to comply with the order through a Suit to Enforce Child Support (Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 157.001). In an enforcement proceeding, the Court may impose various penalties against the non-complying parent through incarceration, community supervision, payment of a fine, confirmation of child support arrearages, child support lien, levy on financial institutions, and/or license suspensions pursuant to Texas Family Code section 157.003.
An obligee (the party receiving child support) seeking to enforce a child support order should keep in mind that there is a possibility an obligor (the party ordered to pay child support) may seek to modify the amount of child support they are ordered to pay. See “How Do I Lower My Child Support?”for more information.
How Do I File Suit to Enforce Child Support?
You may file an enforcement action to collect the monies owed from child support against the other parent through the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) or through a private attorney.
While filing through the OAG is free, it usually takes longer for your case to be heard than if you were to file an enforcement suit through a private attorney. Furthermore, if you choose to file an enforcement suit through the OAG, it is extremely important to note that the OAG represents the state of Texas. Therefore, your wants and needs may get overlooked depending on the OAG’s goal in your case. On the contrary, a private attorney is able to customize the Suit to Enforce Child Support in order to meet your needs and goals and to give you immediate help collecting the child support owed to you.
If you are having a difficult time receiving child support, the lawyers at Diggs & Sadler are here to get you and your child the help you need.
My Ex is Trying to Reduce the Amount of Child Support They Pay During the COVID-19 Pandemic. 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 may 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 (Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 156.401(a)(1)). 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,” (Id. § 156.401(a)(2)).
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 their 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 their new income correctly. Child support is calculated based on a percentage of an obligor’s “net resources,” as defined by the Texas Family Code. Included in this calculation is all wages, salary, tips, bonuses, and self-employment income (Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 154.062(b)). Importantly, also included in calculating child support is any severance pay and any unemployment benefits received (Id. § 154.062(b)(5)). 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.”
If your ex files, it is important to request the proper documentation from them to calculate the amount of support your children are entitled. The lawyers at Diggs & Sadler are standing by ready to guide you through the process.
How Soon Will a Child Support Modification Go into Effect?
There is no set timeline for how soon a child support modification will go into effect, but the sooner that you act, the quicker that the change can happen. A modification of child support can be made retroactively, but not all the way back to the day of the job loss or reduction in pay. The modification can be retroactive back to the time that the other party is served with the lawsuit.
The Texas Family Code states, “A support order may be modified with regard to the amount of support ordered only as to obligations accruing after the earlier of: (1) the date of service of citation; or (2) an appearance in the suit to modify,” (Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 156.401(b)). Therefore, it is very important to meet with an attorney and take the necessary steps to file a Petition to Modify as soon as possible. This will allow the modification of child support to be retroactively applied to the earliest date possible. Even with the courts currently only hearing limited proceedings, you can ask that the change be made effective retroactively.
If you are ready to have an attorney evaluate your current child support situation, the lawyers at Diggs & Sadler are standing by, ready to guide you through the process.
Our office can be reached at (713) 766-5355. You may schedule a consultation by telephone, Skype, FaceTime, or other remote means during this time.
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