If your circumstances have changed, you may be able to modify your child support order. With our current volatile economy and high inflation, many parents are struggling to pay for ordered child support. A parent may face a job loss, a decrease in hours, or another significant change in their income or earning capacity.
If your living situation or financial situation has changed significantly since the court-ordered child support payments, you can petition the court to modify your child support order. When both parents agree to the requested modification, they can pursue an uncontested child support modification. Uncontested child support modifications are typically easier to obtain than contested modifications.
When Can I File a Child Support Modification Petition?
Child support orders issued by the court can be modified so that a non-custodial parent can make lower or higher child support payments. The parent requesting a modification will need to provide evidence that a material and substantial change in circumstances justify modifying the child support payments. Many parents will seek legal representation when they need to modify a child support order. Still, when the custodial and non-custodial parents agree on the modification, they can submit an uncontested petition for modification.
It is also important to understand that the court will not automatically lower child support payments when the parent paying child support loses a job or experiences a decrease in income as he or she did previously. Parents need to be proactive about seeking modification. There is no automatic relief when a parent loses a job. Even if you lose your job, failure to pay according to the current child support order can result in your wages being garnished and potential criminal penalties.
Requirements for Modifying a Child Support Modification Attorney
Even if both parents agree that a child support modification needs to occur, the parent petitioning for the modification needs to meet several different requirements for the court to change the child support order. Chapter 156 of the Texas Family Code addresses the modification of child support. There are two grounds upon which a court will modify a child support order. The first occurs when the circumstances of the child or person affected by the order have materially and substantially changed since the child support settlement was signed. Additionally, a parent can pursue a modification when:
- It has been three years since the court rendered or last modified the child support order and the monthly amount of the support, and
- The monthly amount of the child support award differs by either 20% or $100 from the amount that would be awarded under the child support guidelines
An increase in the standard of living, the lifestyle, or the needs of the parent receiving child support is not enough to warrant an increase in child support payments.
What is a Material and Substantial Change in Circumstances?
Suppose you would like to pursue a modification of the child support order within three years of the court issuing the order. In that case, you will need to prove a material and substantial change in circumstances, even when both parents agree on the change. There is no specific definition of this phrase under Texas law, and courts can interpret it differently. However, in most cases, a material and substantial change involve one or more of the following factors:
- Changes to the child’s medical insurance
- An increase or decrease in the payor’s income
- Changes to the child disability benefits
- Changes to the child’s daily needs or living arrangements
- A parent remarries
- A parent relocates
Can Parents Agree to an Uncontested Child Support Modification?
You may be surprised to learn that parents can agree to their child support order or to modify that order. In uncontested divorces, parents can agree on whether one parent should pay child support and the amount of monthly support. Parents can submit the proposed agreement to the court. If the judge agrees, he or she will enforce the agreement as part of the divorce settlement. The agreement needs to show that both parents understand their rights, neither was forced to agree, the agreement is in the child’s best interest, and that parents have not applied for and do not currently receive public assistance.
Similarly, when parents agree that a modification needs to occur, they can submit a petition to modify the child support order. The judge may require the parents to attend a hearing. The parents can state that they both agree to the modification and can present evidence that the modification is necessary at the hearing. In other cases, the judge may not require a hearing and rule on the petition.
If the judge agrees to the proposed modification, they will enter an order, and the new child support arrangement will become enforceable. It is essential that you do not begin changing the child support payments until a court has ruled on the petition. Even if you and your co-parent agree that a change needs to occur, you must abide by the current child support agreement until a court rules otherwise.
What if My Co-Parent Disagrees With the Child Support Modification?
If your co-parent disagrees that a change needs to occur, the child support modification will be considered contested. You can file a petition to change the child support order. Your co-parent will likely contest the changes, and you may need to attend a hearing to present your arguments.
Affordable, Flat-Rate Legal Services for Uncontested Child Support Modification
Have you experienced a material or substantial change in your income? Would you like to petition the court to modify your child support order? If so, the attorneys at Divorce Concierge are here to help. We offer clients affordable, flat-rate legal services in uncontested matters related to divorce, child custody, and child support. If you and your co-parent agree on the need for a modification to your child support order, we can help you file a petition for an uncontested modification, saving you time, money, and stress. Contact Divorce Concierge today to schedule your free case evaluation and learn more about our legal services.