Understanding Child Support Modification in Texas
In Texas, child support is a legal obligation that is taken seriously, with both state and federal laws in place to ensure that children receive financial support from their parents. The amount of child support a non-custodial parent must pay is typically based on a percentage of their income, but what happens when there are significant changes in parenting time? Can these changes affect the amount of child support that must be paid?
Criteria for Modifying Child Support
Texas law allows for modification of child support orders under certain circumstances. According to the Texas Family Code, there are specific criteria that must be met before a court will consider modifying an existing child support order:
- The circumstances of the child or a person affected by the order have materially and substantially changed since the original order or agreement.
- It has been three years since the order was established or last modified and the monthly amount of the current order differs by either 20% or $100 from the amount that would be awarded according to child support guidelines.
Parenting Time and Child Support Adjustment
While Texas uses a formula to calculate child support obligations, it does not directly tie the amount of child support to the amount of parenting time. However, if a substantial change in parenting time can be shown to materially and substantially affect the needs of the child or the ability of parents to support the child, this can serve as grounds for modifying child support.
For instance, if a non-custodial parent becomes the primary caregiver due to unforeseen circumstances, this could constitute a material and substantial change. In such cases, the non-custodial parent could seek a reduction or even termination of child support obligations due to the shift in caregiving responsibilities.
Historical References in Texas Case Law
Historically, Texas courts have seen numerous cases where changes in custody and visitation have impacted child support orders. In In re P.C.S., for example, an increase in parenting time led to a decrease in child support payments after it was determined that the increased time spent with the paying parent substantially reduced the financial burden on the receiving parent.
Steps to Modify Child Support Due to Parenting Time Changes
- Gather evidence that demonstrates a material and substantial change in circumstances related to parenting time.
- Contact an attorney who specializes in family law to help navigate the legal process.
- File a petition for modification with the appropriate Texas court.
- Attend a hearing where both parties can present their case.
- If successful, obtain a new child support order that reflects any changes.
The Bottom Line
Changing child support based on parenting time adjustments is possible in Texas, but it requires proof of significant changes that affect the welfare of the child. Parents considering this path should consult with legal counsel and prepare for a process that demands thorough documentation and legal argumentation. It's also important for parents to act promptly upon any major changes to avoid accruing child support arrears under an outdated order.