Paying child support is a fact of life for many Texans. If you are reading these blog posts and are yourself a person who is obligated to pay child support then you likely have mixed emotions over this fact. For one, you may be frustrated to an extent by having to pay an ex-spouse money under any circumstances. Money fights and money problems may have been the root cause of your divorce is having to pay him or her money after the divorce may be more than annoying to you. 

By the same token, you are likely happy to be able to contribute to the well-being of your child. Remember that child support is not intended to help your child live an extravagant life but is rather intended to ensure that your child has all the basics as far as a place to live, food to eat, and clothing to wear. If your child spends more of their time with your Co-parent than they do with you then this is the reason why you have been ordered to pay child support. Child support intends to level the playing field between you and your Co-parent so that each of you shoulders your fair share of the financial burdens of raising a child. 

The past year may have seen you experience some uncertainty when it comes to your finances. That uncertainty may have been centered around the loss of an income or health problems that prevented you from working. The pandemic has taken a dramatic hold of the economy and only now are we seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. To be sure, if you have experienced economic insecurity over the past few months then your whole life has been impacted. For this blog post, I would like to focus our attention on your ability to pay child support. 

What happens if you lose your job during the pandemic? 

At the beginning of the pandemic, Texas was hit by a double whammy of negative news. For one, the pandemic hit our shores resulting in sickness, loss of life in a general disruption to everyone’s daily activities rather abruptly. It seemed like we were all living our lives and then all of a sudden everything came to a screeching halt. We had no opportunity to prepare or to make plans to avoid problems when it came to our employees or our personal lives. For the first time that I can remember nearly everyone in our area was focused on the same subject. 

On top of that, the travel restrictions in other impacts of the pandemic directly led to people traveling much less often. As a result, people needed much less fuel, and oil and gas companies were having to store more fuel than normal. As a result, the price of oil dropped and we saw oil and gas companies layoff and furlough workers better pace that was dizzying. Our area’s number one employer was knocked to its knees and the impacts were felt throughout the economy. Not only were oil and gas workers looking for work but those of you who work in areas of the economy that service oil and gas were also taken by surprise and oftentimes they go from work. 

Needless to say, we are all looking forward to 2021 where not only does the world begin to resemble a pre-pandemic lifestyle but one where the economy begins to bounce back in jobs begin to return. By some estimates, it looks like the economy should bounce back rather quickly. How that plays out, in reality, is another question altogether. All we can do in this setting is speculate in an attempt to tide together with the loss of income to the inability to pay child support after a divorce or child custody case. 

If you lost your job as a result of the pandemic then you likely faced some challenges in paying child support. No matter what, even if you already had a strong commitment to paying child support then the loss of your income likely cause you to suffer when it came to paying for your essentials and paying child support. If he found that you were unable to pay child support on time and info then you likely experienced some of the following conditions in your life. 

For one, your Co-parent likely reached out to you fairly quickly to see what was going on. The best advice that I could provide you with in regards to speaking with your Co-parent about an inability to pay child support would be to address the subject directly. It pays to be honest with your Co-parent in to communicate honestly any problems you were having from a financial standpoint. Most people and no matter how hard-headed you think that they might be are willing to work with you if you were honest with them. The devastation brought about by the pandemic was so widespread that I can’t think of a single person who wasn’t impacted in some way by the virus and the government’s response to it.

You may have been able to work out a payment plan with your Co-parent as far as how to get back on track once some income was coming into your house. Otherwise, there may have been some problems when it came to getting child support paid while you were working multiple part-time jobs or simply looking for work. Your Co-parent may have even threatened to withhold the Visitation of your children during the time. Those child support payments were not being made. Hopefully, this did not occur as the failure to pay child support cannot be met by withholding Visitation or vice versa. 

The office of the attorney general child support division has on its website a Ledger where you can keep track of the Child Support payments that you have made. This allows you to keep it an accurate and up-to-date total of what your payments were supposed to be and where you are currently as far as having in arrearage reviewed. This is a nice bit of information to have at your disposal as you will not have to rely upon yourself or your Co-parent to determine how much money he is currently outstanding in child support. 

Regardless of the reason why you owe child support, it is still a nerve-wracking position to find yourself in. The next question that you may want to ask yourself is what are the chances you have modifying the amount of child support that you owe. As with any modification case in Texas, a substantial or material change but the silver card in your circumstances, those of your Co-parent or one of your children to justify the modification of child support. 

Can you modify the amount of child support that you oh are apart of losing your job? 

If you have lost your job they are currently not working or earning any income then it is reasonable to what to decrease the amount of child support that you have to pay in the future. For one, even if you are not working you will still need to pay some degree of child support. Wages based on a person earning minimum wage will be imputed into your case even if you are not working right now. The idea that you will not have to pay child support in the future due to a job loss is not realistic. 

However, if you have a master’s job or have had a decrease in your income then you may want to consider working with your ex-spouse or with the attorney general directly to reduce the amount of child support that you have to pay. If nothing else, even if your child support obligation is not decreased, you may be able to have your arrearage put on hold and not be made to pay anything also until you could get your job back or find steady employment. This will be much better than having your arrearage immediately have to be paid back when you have no income. 

As I mentioned a moment ago, the best plan may be to simply work directly with your co-parent in devising a strategy to have you pay back this money over time. Not only would you not have to pay an attorney to represent you when speaking with your co-parent but you may be able to have something go into effect sooner rather than later with no delays that are often seen in a court case. This would require you to be able to have a direct conversation with your Co-parent. if you all are not on speaking terms then this probably is not an option for you. However, if you all can be civil with one another then working with him or her to come up with a strategy for you to pay your child support arrearage over time maybe your best bet in this situation. 

What can happen if your child support is not made timely? 

Child support is for many families the main way that bills are paid and the ends are kept together each month. For that reason, the Texas family code allows for significant penalties to be assessed against persons who failed to make transport payments on time. If you are wondering, there are no excuses or exceptions made for the failure to make child support payments in a timely fashion within the Texas family code. With that said, let’s walk through some of those penalties that you could find yourself facing if you failed to make child support payments on time and in full. 

First of all, your Co-parent could hire an attorney to file an enforcement lawsuit against you. The enforcement lawsuit would note to a judge that you failed to make your child support payments as agreed to in your final decree of divorce is in a suit affecting the parent-child relationship. If you are found to violate your court orders then you not only could end up having to pay the Child Support arrearage but may also end up facing fines from the court for having violated the prior order and being made to pay your Co-parents attorneys fees in the process. 

A court is also able to impose jail time or community supervision punishments upon you if you fail to pay child support as ordered. Your tax returns, bank accounts, and other financial instruments may be attacked for The Child Support payments to be made. This means your paychecks, disability payments from the government and other sources of income may be tapped by a Texas family judge to make sure your arrearages are paid upon in a timely fashion. Especially frustrating can be a situation where your paychecks are intercepted by the office of the attorney general and a portion of them are allocated for back child support payments.

Finally, a court may order that your licenses may be suspended. These would include driver’s licenses, professional licenses, hunting, and handgun licenses. These licenses may be ways that you earn money or generally enjoy your life recreationally and so the court wants to be able to make you feel the burn so to speak when it comes to enforcing its prior orders. If you want to be able to continue to operate your business or utilize the licenses provided to you by the state then staying current on your child support would be a smart move on your part. 

Can child support arrearages be eliminated in Texas? 

Now that we have covered all of these topics regarding child support in Texas we can then get into the meat and potatoes of today’s blog post. Is it possible to have child support arrearages dismissed in Texas? 

It will be up to your Co-parent to forgive the amount of child support that you owe and have the arrearage dismissed from court. the arrearage can be dismissed either in full or in part. And that process begins by contacting the office of the attorney general child support division. The government will send you a form called a request for a review. That form will need to be filled out and sent back to their offices. A meeting would be set up between you, your Co-parent, and a representative from the office of the attorney general. You all we’ll get together to see if a settlement can be negotiated. 

Negotiating a settlement on old child support is a little bit like talking to a debt collector. You can work with the representative from the state of Texas to see if a lump sum payment could be acceptable to all parties. So, if you can work extra or pocket a little bit of money before this meeting that could save you a great deal of time and money in the long run. Keep in mind that agreeing to a settlement in this context is the only way to officially have your child support obligation dismissed if you have an arrearage. 

Simply going to your Co-parent and asking her to ignore any child support that is owed still leaves you with an arrearage with the state on an official basis. If you first go to your Co-parent and speak to her about waiving any amount of child support that is owed I would then go back to the state to let them know that you have worked out this type of arrangement. You may be able to subsequently set up a meeting to formalize the settlement negotiation that you had just completed with your Co-parent. Either way, you need to be able to communicate well with your Co-parent and with the state about any plans to have your child support arrearage dismissed. 

What you can also do in one of these meetings is ask the state to decrease the amount of child support that you owe every month moving forward. Typically this type of request must be made to a family court judge via a modification case. This process can take time but if your circumstances have been materially changed since your last order was issued it is the most direct and simple way to have your child support modified downward. For instance, if you have suffered a disability since the time have your last child support order or have run into another kind of financial problem then this is a route you should consider, as well. 

Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultation six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.