Child Support in a Bad Economy

keith's child support

keith’s child support (Photo credit: Sean Durham)

Everyone’s felt the pinch of the economic downturn. Budgets are tighter, purse strings pulled shorter. Now you’ve got a new line item in your budget, the extra expense of child support payments.

How do you find relief?

Many families are feeling the economy’s pinch. Noncustodial parents that have seen their wages decrease due to of lay-offs or a reduction in pay may be struggling to pay child support. On the other side of the coin, custodial parents that may have been getting by and making ends meet on their own may now feel the need for the extra contribution child support payments can provide.  Also, a child support order that was established three or more years ago might need to be modified to reflect a substantial change in a family’s situation.

Government offices like The Child Support Division of the Office of the Attorney General of Texas (OAG) establish, enforce, and modify existing child support payment orders when families need it. We’ll look at the Lone Star State as an example, but check the attorney general’s office in your state for more details.

First, the parent making child support payments that has had a change in income:

According to the Texas OAG, if you have an open child support payment case, your order might be eligible for a modification, provided you meet certain conditions:

  • It has been three or more years since the order was established or last modified and the monthly amount of the child support ordered differs by either 20 percent or $100 from the amount that would be awarded according to child support guidelines.
  • A material and substantial change in circumstances has occurred since the child support order was last set. Generally, this means that at least one of the following things has happened:

    • Your income has either increased or decreased.
    • You are legally responsible for additional child(ren) since the last order.
    • Your child(ren)’s medical insurance coverage has changed.
    • Your child(ren)’s living arrangements have changed.

The Texas OAG (as do most states) has an online child support payment modification calculator you can use to see if you’re eligible for modification.

Second, the parent receiving child support, or would like to:

The qualifications for child support payment modification for the Texas OAG are the same as above. Further, one of the following conditions must be met before you can enter a request for review:

  • It has been three or more years since your order was established or modified and the monthly amount of the child support ordered differs by either 20 percent or $100 from the amount that would be awarded according to child support guidelines.
  • If you, your child, or your child’s other parent has experienced a material and substantial change in circumstances.

The request for review can be made online on the Texas OAG website, and these details are important. Make sure that you:

  • Provide all the information requested — missing information slows down the process.
  • Show up to any appointments or court hearings that may be scheduled — if you fail to appear, the court or the OAG may not be able to complete the modification process.
  • Keep in touch with your local child support office until a final decision has been made on your case.


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