According to the 2013 Preliminary Report issued by the Office of Child Support Enforcement, Texas ranks first in the nation when it comes to the total amount of annual child support payments due – reaching more than $4.1 billion in the fiscal year of 2013 alone.
Sadly, however, the same report also found that Texas is first in another less coveted category: child support cases in arrears. In fact, according to the preliminary report, in 2013 there were 1,050,863 cases of unpaid or delinquent child support payments in the Lone Star State. Consequently, in the fiscal year of 2013, a staggering $13.1 billion of back child support payments were owed in Texas – second only to California.
However, it is important to mention that circumstances of unpaid child support are not always as simple as deadbeat dads electing not to pay. Indeed, there are often several factors that may contribute to the accumulation of back child support payments – some of which the parties have no control over. In circumstances such as these, the parties may want to see if a modification of Texas child support obligations is warranted.
Modifying Texas child support payments
In Texas, there are primarily two situations in which parents can seek a modification of child support obligations:
- There has been a material and substantial change in circumstances for a parent or a child since the date the child support order was established
- It has been at least three years since the child support order was rendered, or last modified, and the current amount paid differs from the amount that would be mandated under the Texas child support guidelines by either 20 percent or $100
Interestingly, many child support disputes involve the first option listed above, a material and substantial change in circumstances. For example, if the parent responsible for making child support payments experiences a prolonged period on unemployment, a Texas court may find that a reduction of child support is necessary. However, if it is shown that the period of unemployment is at least partially intentional, the court is far less likely to order a child support modification. Furthermore, if it is discovered that the parent is somehow shielding the true amount of his or her income, child support obligations may even be modified upwards.
Additionally, an increase in child support payments may also be warranted in circumstances in which a child’s need increases, such as when health issues arise that require long-term medical care.
Ultimately, given the complicated nature of child support disputes, it is typically best to seek the counsel of an experienced attorney if you are involved in such a quarrel. Regardless of whether you are seeking to decrease or, alternatively, increase obligations related to child support, a knowledgeable attorney can help explain your rights.