There are two statutes that affect when and how child support can be modified. One applies to cases where the amount of child support was based on the child support guidelines or another amount set by a judge. The other applies when the parents agreed to an amount of child support that varied from the child support guidelines.
In the first case, where child support was set according to guidelines or any other amount selected by the judge, then child support can be modified if:
- The circumstances of the child or a person affected by the order have materially and substantially changed since the earlier of (A) the date of the order’s rendition; or (B) the date of the signing of a mediated or collaborative law settlement agreement on which the order is based; or
- It has been three years since the order was rendered or last modified and the monthly amount of the child support award under the order differs by either 20 percent or $100 from the amount that would be awarded in accordance with the child support guidelines.
The court cannot retroactively raise or lower child support payments. However, the court may raise or lower payments that occur after the date the other party was served with notice of the suit for modification or the date on which the party made an appearance (e.g. filed an answer, showed up for a hearing) in the modification suit.
NOTE: Release of a child support obligor from incarceration is a material and substantial change in circumstances if the obligor’s child support obligation was abated, reduced, or suspended during the period of the obligor’s incarceration.
In the second case, where the parents agreed to an amount of child support that varied from the Texas Child Support Guidelines, child support can only be modified if one of the parents or the child has experienced a material and substantial change in circumstances that was not anticipated at the time of the prior order.
Who Can File
A suit to modify child support can be filed by the person who receives child support (the obligee), the person who is ordered to pay child support (the obligor), or the Office of Attorney General (OAG). An obligee or obligor who wants to raise or lower child support but who can't afford a private attorney can apply for services through the OAG's website and they will pursue the case. The OAG does not charge for its services but due to their funding constraints and a huge backlog of cases, they are very slow to move on a case. Often, a private attorney can get a modification done many months faster than the OAG and those extra months of higher or lower support can be enough to pay the attorney's fees.
NOTE: When the OAG files, they do not represent either party. They represent the interests of the State of Texas. Therefore, if an obligee asks the OAG to file a suit to increase child support and it turns out that the obligor's (provable) income has gone down, the OAG will move forward with a REDUCTION in child support.
We Help Parents Modify Support Orders
Setting child support requires balancing between the child's needs, which only increase as the child gets older, and a parent's ability to pay. We help parents make sure they are receiving all they are entitled to receive under the Texas Family Code and that they are not paying more than they should be required to pay under the law.
If you need to modify child support, you need an attorney. Whether you start the process by working with the Attorney General or on your own, you need an attorney. We're here to help. Give us a call: 972-985-4448.