If you are a divorced parent ordered by a Texas court to pay child support or spousal support it is critical that you ensure that you have an understanding of your requirements and obligations per the terms of the Order of the Court. If you do not feel you have a command of the details, make sure to ask your attorney to slow down and explain them in detail. If you do not or did not have an attorney, pay for a consultation with an experienced family law attorney and get “learned up”.
The consequences of failure to comply with an Order of the Court obligating you to pay child support or spousal support can serious. Sanctions including attorneys fees, loss of professional licenses, levying on bank and other financial accounts or even jail time can be ordered by the Court. And, don’t think that the trust fund set up by your parents is not actually completely safe either.
Of course, it’s best to anticipate your circumstances and know that you are likely to fall behind and get ahead of the situation. Consult with an attorney, develop a plan, and work on a strategy. Often times a little work behind the scenes prior to any court proceedings being filed can save you from a dire outcome in court.
Payment of court ordered support is not considered optional, but if you are falling behind you do have options. Each case is different and the courts will view them individually as the situation presents. Often times the reason for falling behind is the most significant factor. For example, if you lose your job or suffer some other financial catastrophe that was completely outside of your control and renders making your payments essentially impossible, you would want to immediately inform the court and petition for relief as soon as possible.
Of course, if you were earning $100,000 per year in a professional career at the time your support obligation was initially determined and you’re currently earning a low hourly wage, then the court has the discretion to order your payments based on your actual earning capacity. As a result, it is important to know that merely switching to a low or even a lower paying job will not necessarily result in a corresponding drop in your support obligation. If the court determines that you are intentionally earning a minimal amount that doesn’t reflect what you’re actually capable of earning, it may adjust your payments downward by only a small percentage, if at all; even if you’re making a tiny fraction of your former salary.
In this situation, as long as the Order of the court remains unmodified, except in rare exceptions there is no option but for the court to render a judgment against you for the amount ordered and there is really no offset available in the family code. If you “let it go” and work with the other parent and hope that things will get better and improve, you are still obligated to pay the same amount that is in the Order of the court. It’s often misunderstood that both parents can reach an informal agreement in this regard – but this is not the case. Only a modification of the court order can reduce the obligation as the court has very, very little discretion in this situation.
The court has the power to enforce unpaid child support or spousal support obligations via coercive means such as jail, levy, and garnishment of wages, tax refunds or other payment streams. The Attorney General’s Office can issue an “administrative writ” and levy tax refunds and report the matter on your credit. In short, the Court’s support order must be carefully complied with and actively managed if there is a change in the ability or need to pay.
Parents and former spouses often ask if they can file to terminate child support or alimony options on the grounds of unemployment. In the experience of this law office, the court will evaluate the ex-spouse’s employment history carefully instead of simply throwing out a support obligation. It is possible to reach agreements between parents to modify, abate, not order or terminate a child support obligation depending on the Court and the circumstances of the parents and the Child.
A parent who remarries and adopts their new spouse’s children or is blessed with a new child may also qualify to receive from the Court a reduction in child support.
The experienced family law attorneys at Evans Family Law Group are prepared to meet with you to provide the counsel you need to navigate the these challenges successfully.