When the Texas family courts issue a child support order, they expect the parents to pay in full consistently. Missing payments and falling into arrears can lead to enforcement activities.
Texas uses tools such as tax return interception, wage garnishment and even license refusal or revocation to push parents into compliance with child support orders. There are numerous enforcement options because there are some parents who go to great lengths to avoid their child support responsibilities.
Other parents may pay dutifully for years and then find themselves in a difficult situation outside of their control. If you recently lost your job and can’t afford child support payments, what can you do to protect yourself?
File a modification request before you fall behind
As soon as your income stops, you will be at risk of non-compliance with your child support order. Although you may feel optimistic about your chances of securing a new job quickly, there are no guarantees until you have your next paycheck.
Texas does allow those subject to support orders to request modifications. In a modification hearing, you need to provide evidence that your financial circumstances have changed substantially. Paperwork affirming that you recently lost your job can convince the courts that your circumstances warrant a modification.
Unfortunately, even total unemployment and a complete lack of income will not exempt you from child support payments. The state will expect you to pay a minimum amount despite your employment circumstances. Still, reducing how much you owe until you can get back to work will make it much easier for you to catch up when you start working again.
Waiting too long could be a mistake
Instead of waiting until you receive a notice from the courts about your past-due child support or your ex starts expressing concern, it is typically better to act as soon as your circumstances change. The courts will typically not apply child support changes retroactively. Even if you can show that you lost your job weeks ago, the courts may still hold you accountable for any past due amounts that have accrued up until you’re hearing. You will then need to modify the order again when your income increases.
Understanding how to protect yourself as the parent paying child support will reduce your issues of enforcement issues and the penalties that non-compliance may generate.