In my family law practice, I regularly come across people who are way behind on their child support because their current child support is based on higher wages from years ago. While this situation can happen to moms, most of the time, it is dads who find themselves in this pickle, so I will refer to dads in this essay for convenience’s sake. Here is how it usually goes down.
The couple splits up, and dad is ordered to pay child support. Child support is based on dad’s wages. In Texas child support is generally a flat percentage of dad’s monthly income so the amount dad earns directly affects the amount of child support dad pays. If dad earns a big monthly paycheck, his child support burden is higher. This all makes sense, and is easily calculable.
Say dad, in 2008, was working in the oil field making $90,000 per year. If there was one child, dad would be assessed $1123.27 per month (using the current Child Support Chart). Things go well for a couple of years, but the oil industry takes a huge hit, and by 2016, dad is behind by $20,000.00 in child support. How did this happen?
When dad lost his job when the oil industry crashed a few years ago he likely assumed he would just get another high paying oil field job. But six months goes by, and dad has not found work. But now he owes over $7,000.00 in back child support. So now he’s way behind, still has no job, and he can’t pay his monthly amount, much less the $7,000.00 he already owes so the arrearage keeps adding up and drawing interest at 6%! Getting to a $20,000.00 arrearage is easy when you owe $1123.27 per month, and your arrearage draws 6% interest as well.
The court has no sympathy for dads in this situation. Why? Because dad should have had his child support adjusted down when he lost his good-paying job. When he went from $7500.00 per month to $1200.00 per month he should have had the court modify his child support burden then, not years after the fact. So when dad is facing the possibility of going to jail for unpaid child support, it may be too late to undo years of disproportionate child support burden.
Of course child support is a worthwhile endeavor. At Youngblood Law, PLLC we never recommend a parent dodge his or her duty to pay child support. It should be noted that child support is a duty under Texas law, not a debt. If you or someone you know is in trouble with the courts over unpaid child support, seek a lawyer right away to help resolve the matter.
Certainly if your child support burden is set too high based on wages you used to make, you should get to work right away to have the correct amount assessed based on your current income. Typically, the court won’t bother with raising or lowering a child support order unless the change would affect the amount by $100.00 or 20% up or down. But in every case I have seen where the Texas Attorney General is trying to throw a dad into jail over unpaid child support, it has been when a dad should have had his child support amount adjusted down months or years ago but never did.
This essay is intended for educational use, and is not a substitute for competent legal counsel. For more information on this or other topics visit our website at www.youngblood-law.com and check out our blogs.
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