Currently in Texas, parents owe nearly $11 billion in unpaid child support. Here in Dallas County, about 46% of child support payments are past due. There are numerous reasons for these figures –high jobless rate, weakening economy, and parents who just refuse to pay. Whatever the reason, this child support issue should be addressed by both parents.
If you are a parent who is not receiving your court-ordered child support, your best remedy is to file an enforcement action with the court. In this type of proceeding, the court has many options to enforce the child support order including:
- Requiring employers to deduct child support from the paying parent’s paycheck through a wage withholding order
- Issuing liens against property or other assets
- Suspending driver’s, professional, and hunting and fishing licenses
- Sentencing a nonpaying parent to jail
- Entering a judgment for past due child support
If you are a parent who does not have a child support order, the first step is to establish the other parent’s obligation to make payments. Once that obligation is established with the court, the enforcement remedies above will be available to you.
Alternatively, if you are a paying parent and you have faced unemployment or a significant decrease in pay, you should petition the court to have your child support lowered. Under Texas child support law, child support payments are determined by calculating a percentage of the paying parent’s net income. The court will generally follow these guidelines unless the parents agree to a different payment amount. The percentage guidelines are as follows:
- 20 percent for one child
- 25 percent for two children
- 30 percent for three children
- 35 percent for four children
- 40 percent for five children
- Not less than 40 percent for six children
There are special calculations that apply in cases of multiple children in different households.
A paying parent can also get a deduction on their child support obligation if they are providing health insurance for the child(ren). At a minimum, the court will presume that a paying parent can make at least minimum wage and will calculate their child support payment according that the presumption.
If a paying parent feels they are entitled to a modification of their child support, they need to act quickly because the modification will only be effective at the time you initiate a modification case. Until that time, a paying parent is still obligated to provide the previous court-ordered amount. Any back child support amount cannot be modified; however, if your future child support payments are lowered, it will free up some money to make payments towards your back child support.
The attorneys at Cook & Gore represent clients in all areas of family law, including both enforcement and modification cases. Give us a call at 214-236-2712 for a free consultation.